On the eve of a month-long walkout by train crews on South Western Railway, Geoff Kite, SWR guard and RMT transport union executive council member, addressed a recent Southampton Socialist Party ‘Tories out’ election rally. The RMT is resisting attempts by SWR to axe the vital safety-critical role of train guards and move to driver-only operations.
“Most accidents happen during the dispatch of trains”, Geoff explained. “I could tell you of hundreds of incidents, passengers trapped in doors and dogs left on platforms. We want to keep the guard on the train because that is the safest way to run our railways. Our members have taken 42 days of strike action and are up for the fight.
“The company has said this is not a political issue, but it has now written to every prospective parliamentary candidate promoting the company lie that they have ‘guaranteed a guard’.
“If that was the case we wouldn’t be on strike. We have written from the RMT to make our case.
“Politically, where we are, is to back Labour’s call to renationalise the railways and the manifesto pledge to guarantee a second safety-critical person on every train.
“We are preparing to take 27 days of strike action through December, though not on election day. This will be the longest strike in national rail history. We have set up a hardship fund for our members and ask trade unions to support us.
“Recently we have recruited another 100 guards to the RMT, taking our membership density to over 90%. We are strong.”