Industrial Action Looms Already For SWR


Posted by News Editor

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South Western Railway is barely six weeks into the rail franchise which runs through Winchester after taking over from South West Trains.

However SWR already seems to be facing industrial action, with RMT members voting overwhelmingly for action in a dispute over a threat to guards.

The RMT union says over 80% of members on SWR voted to strike on a turnout of over 76% – with even higher numbers voting for action short of a strike.

The union claims the vote comes 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.

Mick Cash is RMT General Secretary: “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 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.”

In a statement given by SWR to Winchester Today, the company said it’s disappointed that some of the staff have chosen to vote for industrial action: “None of us want to be in this position and any potential action will cause unnecessary disruption for the customers we serve.

“We have been clear that we plan to retain a second person on our services, as we know that our passengers value the assurance and assistance a second member of on-board staff provides. That’s why, during our franchise, we will increase the numbers of drivers and guards so we can deliver more services for passengers.

“We aim to deliver improvements for passengers throughout the SWR franchise including more trains, quicker journeys, and earlier and later services. Today’s announcement undermines those efforts. We urge the RMT to avoid premature strike action and work with us to deliver for our customers, and we look forward to meeting them again to discuss our future plans on 5 October as already arranged.”

SWR refused to offer any interviews to the media.