RMT guards win jobs fight
WORKERS, MAR 2008 ISSUE
MORE THAN 600 RMT guards and train drivers at First Great Western (recently dubbed Worst Great Western by passenger groups) have ended disputes with the company after winning an important victory in the protracted battle with employers following EU-inspired privatisation and fragmentation of British railways. The union has negotiated more than 40 new guards' posts and won unconditional commitments that managers will no longer be used to guard or drive trains, whether to maintain company profits, to mask rostering deficiencies, or to cover for staff shortages.
Guards at the company voted by 71.1 per cent to 28.9 per cent, and drivers by 81.6 per cent to 18.4 per cent, for two 48-hour strikes in January, but the union suspended action in order to allow talks to take place. "Our members are to be congratulated for the determination and solidarity they displayed during these disputes," said Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail union RMT.
Rail safety was a major factor in the disputes, not least because it was unclear what level of training managers had received. According to the union, the pressure on managers themselves to routinely act as guards and drivers caused them to go sick at an alarming rate. It now remains to be seen whether the company will honour its agreements. The RMT will not be holding its breath.