RMT chief clashes with Andrew Pierce on the union's right to strike over guards

24 November 2019, 18:24

Leader of the RMT Mick Cash has defended his union's right to strike over guards ahead of 27 days of Christmas disruption on South Western Railway.

The union chief told LBC's Andrew Pierce the Conservative Party's plan for a minimum service requirement over Christmas would obstruct workers' "fundamental human right" to strike.

Mr Cash compared the policy to conditions in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, saying: "It was Hitler who banned workers from taking strike action; Stalin stopped it; so what sort of society are we becoming?"

Andrew Pierce quoted transport secretary Grant Shapps, who said a third of all trains on the national network are already "driver only" with full agreement of the unions, despite a doubling of the number of passengers in recent years.

Mr Shapps also claimed the number of passenger deaths and injuries on trains had fallen and only two passengers in the past decade had died while boarding or getting off a train, with both those trains having guards on them.

The RMT chief disputed the figures from the transport secretary, saying "that's not actually correct."

Mick Cash compared Tory plans that prevents some from striking to Germany under Hitler
Mick Cash compared Tory plans that prevents some from striking to Germany under Hitler. Picture: PA

"The reality is that we're in a situation where we are seeking to keep a second safety critical guard on every train to make the guard more safe, more secure and more accessible.

"We do not agree, nor do the train drivers, with getting rid of guards off trains. Nor do passengers by the way, so it's quite clear what's going on. We've got a bit of a class war going on with the Tories."

Several trade union leaders have been attacked for preparing a £600,000 war chest to support the strike that would cause 27 days of disruption to tens of thousands of commuters.

Workers in the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport who take part in the industrial action will be paid around £1,600 each.

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."

The Tory Party has pledged a "minimum service requirement" that will allow the strike to take place, but will give commuters some level of guarantee that trains will continue to operate in a safe manner.