Rail union RMT has announced plans for a five-day strike on South Western Railway (SWR) starting 18 June – the week of the week of the Royal Ascot horseracing meeting.
The walk-out is the latest in a series of strikes carried out by RMT members in a row over the role of guards. The union claims SWR is “dragging their heels” in reaching an agreement on the issue.
RMT called off industrial action in February “in good faith on written assurances over the rolling out of driver-only operation”, but now it says the company has “failed to move forwards”.
According to RMT, SWR pledged that “each passenger train shall operate with a guard with safety critical competencies”.
Beginning a 0001 on Tuesday, 18 June, union members employed as guards, commercial guards and drivers are being instructed to not book on for duty until 2359 on Saturday, 22 June.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members are angry and frustrated that despite suspending action in good faith and entering into talks in a positive and constructive manner, South Western Railway have dragged their heels and failed to bolt down an agreement that matches up to our expectations on the guard guarantee.
“For more than three months we have sought to negotiate a conclusion to this dispute and it is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been signed off. It is because of that crucial failure by SWR that we have had no option but to lift the suspension and move back into strike action.”
If the five-day strike goes ahead, it could mean difficulty for those travelling to Royal Ascot, one of the biggest racing fixtures in the UK, during which around 300,000 people are expected to make their way to the racecourse.
A South Western Railway spokesperson commented: “With further ACAS talks already in the diary for 17 June, for the RMT union to call a week of strikes starting the following day shows there is not a genuine commitment to finding a solution. The union has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train, which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. Now we want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.
“We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for our customers and colleagues alike. If these strikes go ahead, they will cause needless disruption. We are calling for the RMT to call off this unnecessary industrial action so that planned ACAS talks can go ahead.”