There's been uproar on South Western Railway (SWR) today, as workers received a threatening letter from bosses, attempting to intimidate them out of striking. The letter, which we reproduce below, suggests workers or the union could be liable for any losses incurred during the strike, saying SWR is "entitled to recover the loss and damage in sustains as a result of you participating in the strike." The legality of the letter's claims is dubious; what is not in doubt is that it is a clear attempt by a frightened employer to prevent workers from exercising their right to withdraw their labour.
As RMT guards gear up for what will be the longest rail strike in British history, taking place throughout December, except 12 December, a guard and union activist has written an open letter to their colleagues, responding to the bosses' threats.
I am writing in response to a letter, which you will have received by South Western Railway (SWR) to your addresses this week. This is nothing, but scaremongering nonsense. Firstly, let’s be 100% clear, this is legal strike action. It was completed legally with a ballot and two weeks notice. This strike action is to protect your job and terms and conditions.
SWR have not guaranteed a guard on every train, the last framework stated that a train could go without a guard on board in “extreme circumstances.” Southern Railway had stated this as well, with their OBS grade. Now over 50% of their trains run regularly without a second member of staff on board. There was a deal in front of Acas, which has been withdrawn by SWR and First Group up in Aberdeen. SWR are citing that they withdrew the deal because RMT told their members about it. That is complete rubbish. SWR are being peddled by the Department for Transport (DfT) because strikes will be a critical part of this General Election.
Don’t cross the picket lines. Don’t listen to the scaremongering.
SWR are scared that we are walking out because they don’t want their middle managers being bogged down in a months worth of paperwork in January. Therefore the people at the top of the business are bullying their workforce into trying to cross pickets.
All that SWR are entitled to do are withdraw pay for not signing on for a shift. Because of this legal strike, SWR cannot take any legal action against you personally.
In the letter they have graciously given us some scary sounding bullet points.
They say that thousands of people will be disrupted. If you look, our core routes are running with buses on ones that are not and alternative transport available. People won’t be disrupted. Our lives will be when we’re all made redundant.
You will not be paid. But you will receive hardship payments and any annual leave, which you are booked on. Please see your local guards rep and tell them what you are booked to work. Help us to help you.
You are entitled to swap shifts as per the 1999 GRI agreement. 6.4 Exchange of Duties. Please don’t listen to this false threat. (Attached)
If your rules and assessments are due in December, that’s not your problem. You will just come back to work on the 3rd of January to normal circumstances.
No legal action will be taken against you as a person or employee of SWR. It is illegal to take legal action against employees during legal industrial action.
Please take no notice of this letter from SWR. It’s four pages of wasted trees.
Support the strikes. Spend December with your families this year. Don’t cross the picket line.
An RMT member and guard