17 May 2016
RMT Press Office
MPs and Passengers back Southern Guards and condemn rail bosses.
MPs have tabled a motion in parliament saying that at “a time of record growth in passenger numbers passengers want more staff, including a guard on every train and keeping ticket offices open.” The news comes the day before RMT Southern rail guards take a further 24 hours of strike action in defence of their safety-critical role.
The MPs also say they are “dismayed that as GTR is partly owned by the French state railways profits will be going to support French railways while UK passengers endure staffing cuts”. The parliamentary motion also expresses concern that GTR are “aggressively threatening staff rather than attempting to reach a negotiated settlement.”
The MPs intervention has come as a poll of southern passengers also found that three quarters (73%) are concerned about the safety of travelling on trains that no longer had an on-board train guard and a similar percentage believe Southern Rail should not allow trains to operate without at least one member of staff assisting passengers and protecting their safety (70%).
The majority of Southern Rail weekly users (61%) would oppose the plans to remove guards from the service so that it became a driver only operation. This number increases to 69% of those who use the service every day.
This figure echoes the findings in the latest Transport Focus national survey which saw the overwhelming reason for concern over personal security on trains being anti-social behaviour by other people (69% with lack of staff at 43% being the next highest concern).
In a clear show of support for bringing GTR Southern back into public ownership in the UK over two thirds (68%) supported ending privatisation.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“It is clear from the polling evidence that the public support RMT’s safety case for the retention of the guards and an end to the outrageous profiteering on Southern services which sees these vital services used as nothing more than a cash-cow by French state railways to subsidise their operations over the Channel.
“Our members have been backed into a corner by this aggressive and unpopular company and have had no option whatsoever but to fight to defend the safety-critical role of the guard on these rammed-out and unreliable Southern routes. That is why we are striking on Wednesday. This dispute is a battle between the very basic principles of rail safety and the relentless drive by Southern/GTR to milk the franchise for every penny they can get.
“It is scandalous that the company have blocked attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and it’s about time they stopped the bullying and the intimidation of their safety-critical guards and started serious and meaningful talks with the union.”
“That this House expresses its concern that GTR are proposing that all its train services will be driver only operation with no guards; is further concerned that GTR have not withdrawn proposals to close scores of ticket offices; is dismayed that as GTR is partly owned by the French state railways profits will be going to support French railways while UK passengers endure staffing cuts; is also concerned that these developments have now led to industrial unrest and strike action with GTR management aggressively threatening staff rather than attempting to reach a negotiated settlement; believes that at a time of record growth in passenger numbers passengers want more staff, including a guard on every train and keeping ticket offices open; and therefore calls on GTR to withdraw its staffing cut proposals and reach a negotiated settlement.”
A summary of the polling report can be found here:
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