THE RMT has called its longest series of strikes yet since disputes over on-train staff and the role of guards first flared several years ago.
The union said its drivers and guards on South Western Railway will strike for 27 days next month, starting on 2 December and continuing until 11 December. The next wave of walkouts is to begin on 13 December and run until Christmas Eve, and the last sequence will be from 27 December to 1 January.
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Our members have been left with no choice but to call a further 27 days of strike action on South Western Railway.
‘At the last meeting we held with SWR principles in agreements were made in good faith with the company’s negotiating team and we now feel hugely let down again. As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard we will remain in dispute.’
South Western Railway said it was ‘extremely disappointed’.
A spokesman continued: ‘The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train. That is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement if the RMT work with us to agree a method of operation for our new trains which fully utilises the new technology to improve safety, security and accessibility as well as day-to-day performance. Instead the RMT appear purely focused on keeping control of train doors in a misguided attempt to hold power over the industry.
‘Whilst we have shown commitment to the role of the guard by introducing over 80 additional guard roles since the start of our franchise, the RMT do not have the long-term interests of either our customers or our colleagues, including their members, at the heart of their actions. We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone. We will do everything we can to keep customers moving.’
Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘Yet more strikes are being dumped on passengers who may have to cancel Christmas holiday plans or endure miserable journeys to work. This dispute has dragged on for far too long and is damaging trust in the railway.
‘Passengers have had enough of the on-going industrial action on South Western Railway services. They have faced lost time, money, more driving and deep frustration at not being able to rely on the trains.’