Off The Rails's blog

Govia Thameslink Railway: a view from the frontline

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 21/01/2019 - 19:12

The DOO strikes on Southern have been over for a while now. The next big battle will be over proposed cuts to platform dispatch jobs, which are likely to be targeted on Brighton mainline stations. Lots of managers have been trained as "contingency" dispatch staff in the event of a strike. But as always the issue will be what Aslef drivers will do.

Rail workers’ picket line attacked by far right

Submitted by Off The Rails on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 17:04

On 5 January an RMT picket line of striking Northern guards in Manchester was attacked by far-right thugs connected to the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and the rump English Defence League. It seems the attack may have been an opportunistic action by far-right activists mobilised for a demo of their own taking place in Manchester on the same day.

An Asian striker was specifically targeted, and was called a “nonce”, “child groomer”, and “paedophile”.

Drivers: don't sell your conditions!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Thu, 20/12/2018 - 18:04
A joint Aslef-RMT protest.

Rumours reach us that certain TOCs may be preparing offers to their drivers, via Aslef, aimed at heading off the possibility of united action against DOO.

These offers may include the promise of a substantial pay rise, in exchange for effectively selling conditions: that means concessions on DOO, and also potentially on other issues like the working week, with TOCs possibly moving to include Sundays in rosters.

An open letter to fellow ASLEF drivers: which side are we on?

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 19/01/2018 - 10:56
DOO strike

To download the article below as an A4 bulletin, click here.

“It has long been the tradition in ASLEF to respect picket lines whether they are our own or those of fellow trade unionists.” - ASLEF  members’ diary


Dear Driver,

I am writing to you, as a fellow ASLEF driver, because I want to persuade you that we need to change how we approach the current RMT disputes over DOO/DCO.

Aslef sells out on Southern: fight against DOO must go on

Submitted by Off The Rails on Wed, 08/11/2017 - 19:32

As guards, and RMT drivers, at five Train Operating Companies (TOCs) strike again on 8-9 November to resist the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO), rail workers have received the demoralising news that Aslef members on Southern have voted by 79.1% to accept a deal that will see Aslef retreat from the dispute and accept a settlement introducing a limited form of DOO on certain services.

'Third Party' Tyranny Against Catering Staff

Submitted by Off The Rails on Sun, 23/07/2017 - 11:18

Call to support and stamp out unacceptable working conditions for our members who are facing the tyranny of their scabby employers but the might of TOCs and their contractual arrangements with their suppliers.

Over two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a RMT reps course at Doncaster. What struck me was how, on the whole, the working conditions of the other course members differed to the members I represent - onboard catering hosts working for a contractor.

Disabled Activists' Strike Solidarity

Submitted by Off The Rails on Sun, 09/07/2017 - 21:58

Disabled activists will be joining picket lines tomorrow morning to support all three strikes against driver-only operation (DOO).

The companies' threat to remove guards is not just a threat to our jobs - for many disabled people, it threatens their right to travel on the railway at all. Many of us had helped disabled passengers access the train service, have intervened to stop harassment of disabled passengers, or - more ominously - have dealt with the fallout when the lack of a guard has left disabled passengers stranded and distressed.

New strikes in war against DOO

Submitted by Off The Rails on Thu, 29/06/2017 - 21:06

RMT members on Southern, Northern, and MerseyRail will strike again in July, as the fight to stop "Driver Only Operation" (DOO) continues.

Southern workers will strike on 10 July, Northern workers on 8-10 July, and MerseyRail on 8, 10, and 23 July.

Activists in the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) campaign are working with RMT to organise picket line support. Demonstrations in support of the strikes, highlighting the vital role of the guard in ensuring safe and accessible trains, are planned in several cities.

Grenfell Fire: Never Again!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 23/06/2017 - 17:01

This is a joint blog post from Tubeworker and Off The Rails.

The working-class people killed in the Grenfell Fire were killed because they were working-class. They were killed for being working-class — and, many of them, for being people of colour, and/or from migrant backgrounds — and not being able to afford better quality housing, or to afford legal representation to challenge the negligence of their landlords that tenants' groups had called out for years.

French rail workers say: end the silence on worker suicides! The bosses are to blame!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 27/03/2017 - 19:54

Off The Rails has translated statements from the SUD-Rail union in France, part of the Solidaires union federation.

As readers will see, it deals with a sensitive subject: the recent suicide of one of their comrades. SUD say it is time for rail workers to break the "omerta", the code of silence, around worker suicides. They point the finger of blame at the bosses, and their daily acts of repression, harassment, and victimisation against workers, particularly union activists.

How the ruling class sees the anti-DOO strikes: let's prove them wrong!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 20/03/2017 - 13:25

This blog is intended as a contribution to discussion. Let us know what you think: Off The Rails will publish replies we receive.

By a rail worker

The Financial Times is, or aspires to be, one of the more serious newspapers of the boss class. Reading it can normally give you a reasonable sense of what at least a section of "the establishment" is thinking about a given issue. And a recent article on the strikes against Driver Only Operation makes for rather grim reading for our side.

Solid First Day of Action at Northern and Merseyrail!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 13/03/2017 - 18:59

The RMT action on Northern and Merseyrail against Driver Only Operation on 13th March was very successful.

At Merseyrail, ALL Traincrew stayed out, including ALL Drivers, despite the majority of them belonging to ASLEF, which has not yet joined the dispute. The ONLY trains that moved at Merseyrail on the day were operated by managers.

That is a huge step forward in this dispute in terms of solidarity- let's hope this spreads to other depots as the dispute rolls on!

Northern strike: don't cross the picket line!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 13/03/2017 - 10:58

This article appeared in the bulletin On Guard, which can be downloaded here.

The majority of Drivers at Northern (and MerseyRail and Southern too!) will support today's strike by RMT Drivers and Guards against Driver Only Operation. ASLEF members will be asking all sorts of questions about the situation created by the strike and the picket lines that come with it.

Many will be reluctant to come into work even though their own union is not currently in dispute with the company.

Scab guards

Southern Drivers Set to Reject ASLEF Sell-out

Submitted by Off The Rails on Thu, 09/02/2017 - 22:19

We seem to be well on course for Southern ASLEF members to vote overwhelmingly to reject the DOO sell-out. The feeling in the depots is that the deal contains nothing new that GTR weren't offering before the strikes.

Tuesday's joint branches meeting was very opposed to the deal. The only defence the ASLEF negotiators would offer was that it was the best deal they could get, which no one buys.

Arriva Rail North: traincrew gear up to keep the guard on the train

Submitted by Off The Rails on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 18:59

On a late gloomy Monday evening in February something happened in Leeds, something unprecedented. The RMT Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Regional Council had the week prior made a decision to begin to mobilise its Arriva Rail North Guard and Driver members for the fight ahead, the fight against Driver Controlled Operation on their franchise.

Southern drivers: reject this sell-out!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Tue, 07/02/2017 - 12:26

This is the text of a special bulletin produced by supporters of Off The Rails, a platform for rank-and-file rail workers, urging ASLEF drivers on Southern to vote to reject the deal aimed at settling the dispute over "Driver Only Operation" (DOO).

To download a PDF copy of the bulletin for distribution, click here.

The settlement that has come out of the talks between ASLEF and Southern at the TUC represents possibly the worst sell out of workers in recent memory.

Network Rail pay: a no-score draw

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 03/02/2017 - 18:27

A track worker writes ...

RMT has accepted Network Rail's pay offer. It looks good on paper, but it's an award without a fight.

It's an inflation-proof settlement with the no redundancy clause extended for another two years (the duration of the deal).

It seems that the union has grabbed this with both hands as a way of avoiding a prolonged period of conflict with no confidence they would win. At work, people talk about Southern Rail as an example of a dispute that has dragged on.

Support Crossrail construction workers' strike!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 05/12/2016 - 19:05

Workers at the Crossrail construction site on Tottenham Court Road, Central London, are striking in protest at the forced displacement of Terry Wilson, their site steward, to a different workplace.

Terry was transferred after 200 workers protested at Crossrail's headquarters to demand increased "second-tier" (bonus) payments, and occupied the site offices of Crown House Technologies and Laing O'Rourke.

Southern: This Is War

Submitted by Off The Rails on Tue, 04/10/2016 - 02:43

In the history of workers' struggles in the early 20th century, and occasionally since, the term "labour war" has been used to describe an industrial dispute that reaches an almost military pitch. Such disputes saw workers mount armed pickets, to defend their strikes against the police, right-wing paramilitaries, or armed strike-breakers hired by management.

Towards a national rail strike, and a labour-movement campaign for public ownership

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 12/08/2016 - 00:15

This article was written before the recent suspension of the strikes on Southern. For comment on that, click here.

By a rail worker

Recent and ongoing disputes across several train companies represent the most significant levels of workers' struggle in the railway industry for some time.


Southern Strikes Suspended: Don't Let The Bosses Off The Ropes!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 12/08/2016 - 00:12

The RMT has suspended the rest of this week's strikes on Southern. Many striking guards will have received that news, which came after a day which saw a solid strike and well-supported pickets across the Southern network, as well as a lively demonstration at the Department for Transport, with disappointment and frustration. To many, it will feel like letting the bosses get their breath back at exactly the moment we had them on the ropes!

East Midlands Trains: reverse Sunday working deal!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 06/06/2016 - 12:57

An EMT driver reports...

In April 2016, after seven months of talks, East Midlands Trains (EMT) proposed a deal to its drivers that would guarantee a Sunday service.

Presently, and for many years previously, drivers have not had to work on Sundays. A lot of us are induced to work, in the main through individual bargaining with roster clerks. This usually results in enhanced pay above the normal rate for the job.

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