THE series of strikes called for almost every day throughout December on South Western Railway is on, after two days of last-ditch talks at ACAS broke down on Thursday afternoon.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety-critical role of the guard at the point of despatch, and which would have cost the company absolutely nothing, have been kicked back in our faces. There is no rational explanation for the company position and we can only assume that either they or their paymasters in Government want this strike action to go ahead for politically motivated purposes.
‘The union also believes that cutting the guard out of the despatch process reduces the second person on the train to little more than a passenger in the longer term which would give the company the option of axing them all together at some point down the line.’
South Western Railway responded: ‘We have done everything we can and more to meet the RMT’s outdated demands with our promise of a guard on every train, and a safety critical role for that guard. What we are not prepared to compromise on is the much needed modernisation of the service with improved performance, safety and customer service that our new fleet of modern suburban trains will vitally deliver for customers. We know our passengers will welcome over 10 million more passenger journeys a year arriving on time and this much needed improvement to our service is too important to compromise.
‘Throughout negotiations we have tried repeatedly to find ways meet the RMT’s aspirations. However, every time we find a way forward on one point the union has moved the goalposts by changing its position. They said at the outset this was about keeping the guard on the train, that is exactly what we have offered. They said they wanted a safety critical role for that guard, that is what we have offered. Unfortunately it is clear to us that the RMT is unclear on what this dispute is about and intent on striking no matter what.’
The first walkout is now set to be staged on Monday, and they are planned to continue almost without a break until 1 January 2020.