Three Day Strike Planned on South Western Railway

Dispute intensifies as RMT accuses management of 'making a mockery' of talks

RMT members demonstrate outside the Department of Transport

The dispute on the South Western Railway network (SWT) looks set to intensify with a war of words developing between the RMT union and management.

Hopes that the prolonged series of strikes would come to an end after the suspension of a planned strike on Saturday 11 August were dashed with the RMT Union announcing further disruption ahead and proceeding with the strike the following week.

The next planned disruption is a three day strike beginning on Friday 31 August.

The union accused management of ‘making a mockery’ of the talks in the dispute over the role of guards and sabotaging a process that could have reached agreement.

They say the company of sent in a negotiating team with no authority and no support from the owners who they say had no intention of reaching an agreement.

In the statement issued by the union they say, “Company chief Andy Mellors to date has demonstrated disregard for all ACAS talks and instead chooses to spend his time on publicity stunts handing out ice lollies and sweets to passengers while services continue to lurch from crisis to crisis.”

Following the action form 31 August to 2 September there are two further strike days planned on Saturday 8 September and Saturday 15 September.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “RMT is angry and frustrated that the company’s cavalier and contemptuous approach to talks leaves us no option but to confirm additional strike dates. We know that passengers will share that anger.

“Today SWR have benefitted from a fares windfall that will pump up their profits. They have plenty of money to employ guards on their trains and to sign off the guard guarantee the union has achieved elsewhere.

“South Western Railway seem to think they can treat the union and their staff with utter contempt. They need to change that attitude, get serious and put a team in place that can talk with us with authority on the safety, security and access issues at the heart of this dispute.”

Commenting, a South Western Railway spokesperson said, “It is extremely disappointing that the RMT has yet again chosen to needlessly inconvenience our customers, and its own members, across our network.

“We are committed to resolving this dispute and earlier this week met with the RMT at Acas, reiterating our proposed framework agreement which centres around how we can better keep our customers moving during times of disruption.

“Despite the RMT agreeing to a similar deal with another train operator just a few weeks ago, the union has failed to explain to us, their members or our customers why such a deal is not acceptable on our network.

“The RMT executive’s answer to every question is strike - they need to start accepting that the railway is modernising and that their members can play a key part in that future if only they stop calling for action and work with us to deliver a better railway for our customers.

“This decision is totally unnecessary and pointless – we cannot make it any clearer that our plans mean more not fewer guards, we have guaranteed to roster a second person on all our trains and we have guaranteed terms and conditions.

“We will continue to do everything we can to minimise disruption to passengers while the RMT persists with these unnecessary strikes.”

The union claim that safety is compromised unless there is an absolute guarantee of a guard on all trains. South Western Railway say that they will roster guards on all services but that trains should be allowed to run in the event of one not being available. They argue that there is no evidence of any greater risk with a driver only operated train.

August 23, 2018