Off The Rails's blog

Merseyrail: no backing down

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 05/04/2019 - 21:24

Merseyrail still seem intent on making a deal that robs one group of workers to pay another, by cutting cleaners' jobs to retain guards' jobs. A second deal of this type was rejected by the RMT National Executive today (5 April). The deal also wanted to shift some door control functions to the driver.

How guards keep trains safe

Submitted by Off The Rails on Thu, 28/03/2019 - 23:35

A recently published Rail Accident Investigation Board report has again highlighted the important safety function played by the Guard. On 2nd March 2018 trains on the Kent suburban lines running through Lewisham ground to a halt in the icy conditions caused by the “Beast from the East”. One train was left unable to draw into Lewisham station, with the platform about 10 metres ahead of the front of the train. After an hour, with no food or drink or toilet facilities, passengers started to get out onto the track out of desperation.

Another win for rail workers

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 18/02/2019 - 22:05
South Western Railway

Workers on South Western Railway (SWR) have struck another huge blow against Driver Only Operation, winning an agreement that a safety-critical guard will be retained on all SWR services.

Guards in the RMT had recently returned a resounding 84% majority in favour of further strikes, in a re-ballot forced on them by the restrictions of the anti-union laws. RMT had planned a strike for 22 February, but has now suspended this following SWR’s offer.

Will Northern try to buy off drivers to undermine guards' victory?

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 11/02/2019 - 23:28
Northern rolling stock

The breakthrough in the anti-DOO dispute is a cause for celebration, but some caution must also be exercised. No formal settlement has yet been reached, and the "other stakeholders" referred to in Acas chair Brendan Barber's letter to RMT General Secretary Mick Cash must be drivers' union Aslef.

Aslef has past form selling out RMT members as well as its own members in the big DOO dispute with GTR Southern in 2016/17. In addition, Aslef reps on the Northern Company Council has been acting to aid the company in pushing forward its DOO agenda.

After Northern victory: don't let the bosses divide us!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 11/02/2019 - 23:17
"In unity is strength" graphic

Off the Rails has been covering the recent developments in RMT's dispute with Arriva Rail North, operators of Northern Railway over the company's plan to introduce Driver Only Operation.

In a letter from Acas chair Brendan Barber, RMT were informed that the company and Department for Transport were now willing to agree to a "Conductor on every train... ...for the remainder of the franchise". The letter invited the union to talks with the company and "other stakeholders" to discuss any necessary "changes to the operational mode".

Northern workers win!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 11/02/2019 - 23:09
Northern guards on a picket line

After nearly 50 days of strikes, Northern guards have forced their employer, Arriva Rail North (ARN), to scrap a plan to impose "Driver Only Operation" (DOO). ARN has instead committed to maintain a conductor on every Northern train, including on services using new or newly modified rolling stock.

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.

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