The management at South Western Railway (SWR) has wilfully sabotaged an agreement over preserving the safety-critical role of on-train guards.
Last minute talks at Acas to avert a month-long strike broke down as CEO Andy Mellors obstinately persisted in reneging on the deal previously reached with the RMT. The strike consequently has gone ahead as planned, starting from Monday 2 December.
Only days earlier SWT had announced the impending departure of Mellors “for another role”, with his place being taken by the current boss of Great Western (GWR), Mark Hopwood. (First Group owns Great Western and also runs South Western as a joint venture with global transport giant MTR Europe, an incestuous arrangement within the First Group ‘family’ which apparently allows SWR to ‘borrow’ the GWR boss.)
This precipitate move speaks volumes about the chaotic state of affairs within a company which has endeared itself as little to the travelling public as it has to its own workers, with chronically late and overcrowded trains making for a hellish commute.
The RMT is making it clear that the issue at the heart of the strike is the safety of passengers, which can only be secured by the presence of a fully-qualified guard on every train, responsible, among other things, for closing the doors safely.
Whilst SWR pays lip-service to the safety-critical role of the on-train guard, in practice it dilutes this role beyond recognition, stripping away crucial safety responsibilities and leaving the guard as, in the RMT’s felicitous phrase, “a glorified porter”.
This strike deserves the full support of workers and passengers alike.