30 August 2018
RMT Press Office:
RMT demands urgent talks in SWR dispute as rail safety regulator confirms serious breaches by scab Guards during earlier action
On the eve of the next phase of industrial action on South Western Railway rail union RMT has demanded urgent talks after the safety regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), confirmed in a letter a number of serious and potentially lethal safety breaches during earlier strike days as a result of the company winging it by deploying scab “contingency guards” in a desperate effort to break the workforce.
In the letter from the ORR, responding to a catalogue of incidents raised by the union, the safety regulator confirms that:
“During the 11 days of industrial action so far, SWR confirmed that they have experienced:
• 13 ready to start against Reds incidents
• 2 Stopped Short and Released Doors
• And 3 Door Irregularities”
Behind the jargon it means that there have been a total of 18 identified incidents during strike days where signals could have been passed at danger or passengers dumped out on the tracks and the live rail as doors were opened on the wrong side or short of the platform.
RMT says that the confirmation of the incidents, each of which could have had potentially disastrous consequences, shows that SWR is far more interested in employing an untrained and inexperienced army of scab managers – dressed up as “contingency guards” - to try and break the workforce than it is sitting down with the union and negotiating a settlement to the dispute that protects safety, security and access in line with best practice elsewhere in the rail industry.
The SWR workforce will be striking again for 72 hours from midnight tonight in the fight to retain guards and put public safety before private profit. There will be two further 24 hour strikes on Saturday 8th September and Saturday 15th September.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said; “It is outrageous that South Western Railway would rather compromise public safety on their trains through deploying this highly-paid scab army of “contingency guards” than sit down with the union and negotiate a deal which guarantees a real guard on their services. This confirmation from the rail safety regulator exposes the level of risk that the company are prepared to run to break this action by our members - action in defence of safe, secure and accessible rail services.
“I am calling again this morning for the company to drop this dangerous, high-risk approach and start taking with us as a matter of urgency around the principle of the guard guarantee that the union has secured elsewhere in England and across the whole of Scotland and Wales.
“You cannot play fast and loose with passenger safety in this cavalier fashion and it is SWR’s contemptuous approach to staff and passengers alike which has left us no option but to continue our programme of industrial action. We know that passengers will share our anger. There will be serious disruption throughout this weekend and the responsibility for that lays squarely with SWR and their Hong Kong and Aberdeen based paymasters who appear to have no interest in negotiating a settlement.
“We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union stands ready for genuine and serious talks.”