3 October 2017
RMT Press Office:
RMT members vote overwhelmingly for action in dispute over threat to guards on South Western Railway.
RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that members on South Western Railway have voted overwhelmingly for action in a dispute over rail safety.
Over 80% of members on SWR have voted to strike on a turnout of over 76% with even higher numbers voting for action short of a strike.
The votes come after a failure by South Western Railway franchise holder First MTR to give clear, cast-iron assurances over the future of guards on their trains triggered a formal dispute with the company.
Ballots covered guards, commercial guards and driver members on South Western Railway and Island Line.
RMT has spent months since First MTR won the SWR franchise from Stagecoach trying to get a water-tight pledge out of the new owners on the guards but we have been met with a barrage of spin and prevarication. A final attempt to pin the company down to a straight answer to a straight question this week has failed leaving RMT with no choice but to take the issue into dispute.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said:
“RMT has given repeated opportunities for First MTR to give us the assurances we have sought over the future role of the guards on their trains throughout the length of the new South Western franchise. They have refused to give us those guarantees and it is that failure which left RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to conduct a ballot for action.
“Our members have now voted overwhelmingly for both strike action and action short of a strike and that massive mandate will now be considered by RMT’s executive who will decide the next steps.
“This dispute can be easily resolved if the company are prepared to stick to existing agreements, give staff and passengers alike a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services and an assurance that safety and access are the absolute priority.
“Guards on SWR have been hailed as “legends” in company publicity material. It is time for First MTR to stand by those legends and to withdraw the threat to throw them off the trains. That is the message that RMT will be taking out to the fare-paying public as we step up our campaign.
“RMT remains available for talks.”