Tory plan to curb rail strikes will take away 'fundamental human rights', says union

23 November 2019, 15:01

By Maddie Goodfellow

The RMT said the strike was being "solidly supported"
The RMT said the strike was being "solidly supported". Picture: PA

A second weekend of strikes by rail workers over guards on trains has "solid support" as the Conservatives pledge legislation to force some services to run during industrial action.

The long-running dispute over guards on trains has run into a second weekend of strikes after receiving "solid support" from rail workers.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on West Midlands Trains have walked out for the second successive Saturday, with even more action planned over the next few weeks.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT members are once again standing solid, determined and united this morning across the West Midlands Trains franchise as we fight to put the safety-critical role of the guard at the platform/train interface top of the agenda.

"The safety and accessibility of the travelling public is this trade union's priority and should take priority over the profits of the train operator, and we believe that this is an important election issue for the people of the West Midlands.

He continued: "We will not allow the drive for profit to override the core issue of safe and accessible services for all on West Midlands Trains and we stand firm on that very basic principle. We will never compromise on the issues of passenger safety and accessibility."

A spokesman for West Midlands Trains said: "There is no need for this action, we have never proposed driver-only operation.

"We are committed to keeping a safety-critical conductor on every passenger train.

"We proposed a solution which meets the latest demands from RMT, in respect of our new trains when they are delivered.

"The solution means conductors retain responsibility for safe train despatch from stations."

Union leaders have also reacted with anger to an expected announcement from the Conservatives that they will attempt to curb all-out rail strikes.

The party's manifesto, which is being released on Sunday, is thought to include plans for legislation to force some services to run during industrial action.

The move comes ahead of 27 days of strikes over Christmas on South Western Railway for the same reason.

The RMT said the strike has "strong support"
The RMT said the strike has "strong support". Picture: PA

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Banning strikes is the hallmark of the right wing junta, not a democratically elected British government.

"RMT would fight any attempt to strip our members of their basic human rights."

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, said: "The right to strike, to withdraw your labour, is a fundamental human right. We are not slaves.

"Aslef has rarely called a strike and, when we have, it has always been as a last resort and as a result of management intransigence.

He continued: "We are not, however, surprised that Boris Johnson and his cronies want to make it even more difficult for hard working men and women to protect their jobs, pay, terms and conditions.

"Johnson only acts on behalf of the boss class in Britain."