Congratulations to RMT members on South Western Railway who have taken strike action again this weekend to defend the role of the guard.
At the start of 2019 it looked like strike action was reaping rewards when South Western Railway said that they would guarantee a second safety critical person on each train. RMT suspended strike action to allow talks to progress. But without the pressure of strikes, progress stalled; after a few months, the guards were back on strike.
We are hearing concerning reports from this weekend's picket lines. Apparently last week SWR sent a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, which said that platform staff and guards will have no role in the dispatch process. Off the Rails hasn't seen the letter. We are not sure when this change is intended to take effect.
But, in essence, such a letter is a declaration that SWR intends to introduce driver only operation. If the second safety critical person plays no role in dispatch, then they are a nice-to-have. The train can still run without them. Their jobs will be vulnerable in future. Any strike action they take in future will have limited effect if the driver can run trains without them.
SWR's position is also a threat to platform dispatch staff's jobs. It has often been forgotten that the government's drive for DOO has seen platform staff's jobs disappear - often without much of a fight.
For example, when new Thameslink trains were introduced last year, the route already operated without guard. The main consequence was that platform dispatch staff were no longer required.
RMT must be clear about what it is fighting for. Is RMT aiming for a second safety critical person on board? Is that enough? What will that second person's duties involve? Will RMT hold firm and fight for the guard to be crucial in dispatch? Will RMT take a similar stance to defend the role of platform staff, and will Aslef on SWR rouse themselves sufficiently to get into the fight?