As expected the company (Arriva Rail North) has refused point blank to give any assurances that there will be a competent second man on passenger services, basically, the guard will be replaced by a non safety critical staff member.
In short the likelihood is that the guard who’s highly trained in emergency procedures and safe working methods as well as revenue collection will be replaced by a worker on minimum wage or even agency workers which are already used extensively throughout our region, whose role will be purely for revenue.
Two actual questions were asked and 837 votes cast for each question. The ballots are now in and have returned the following;
For strike action 696
Against strike action 137
With 4 spoilt papers
For action short of a strike 777
Against action short of strike 54
With 6 spoilt papers.
These men and women are about to go into dispute with Arriva Rail North which is supposed to be a private company over an instruction from government.
The first strike day being from midnight to midnight on Monday 13th March. This isn’t just a strike, this is a hand to hand fight to the death, it is a fact that if the guards lose this battle they will be no more. The companies, it is widely believed, want to keep the guards however the government wrote into the franchise brief awarded last year that the region would be Driver Operation Only on a minimum of 50 percent of services by 2020 and if the T.O.C.s didn’t provide a plan to this end they would not be considered for the franchise, make no mistake, this is an instruction from the government to a private company telling them how to run their business.
The companies are being forced into this and they are only too aware that this has huge safety issues attached. The dispute is about the deskilling the guards roll, at present door operation is done exclusively by the guards and this will be taken over by the drivers.
Aslef, the drivers union, are very vocally against this due to the added pressure when moving away from platforms whilst trying to watch a screen inside the cab and at the same time the changing environment outside the cab such as signals and points.
It would also mean that the driver would be the only competent person on board should there be an incident. The driver is often incapacitated during an incident, such as a collision, meaning that there would be no competent person to take charge and protect not only the train but also passengers from other trains moving at high speed in the immediate vicinity. As guards, we have been instructed for many years that while carrying out door duties, that and that alone is what we concentrate on, we don’t answer customer questions or deviate from the tried and tested procedure, suddenly its now safe to alter this and have the driver try to cover at least three operations at once.
It makes no sense until you realise its about reducing the wages bill. The guards are currently on wages of around 25k plus commission plus Sundays. The plan is to replace them with minimum wage workers, therefore creating more share holders profits and sacrificing safety. There are numerous cases of accidents that have occurred on railways already using 'Driver Only Operation' in this country that wouldn’t have happened if a guard had been on board operating the doors. There is also an economic side to this argument, why replace workers paying tax on 25k plus, with workers on minimum wage paying much less tax. Not only do we have profits before people but also we have share holders before our own treasury.
I propose that the Hull North secretary put together a letter of support for the striking R.M.T. members. I would also formally request that our M.P. raise these issues in parliament as the vast majority are confirmed labour voters and that she furthermore encourages other M.P.s from across the Northern region to do the same. Our region is the largest in Britain and extends from Hull to Manchester in the west and as far south as Sheffield and up to Newcastle in the north.
''Whilst I genuinely believe this is a fight the 'T.O.C'.s don’t want, my past experience tells me that once the battle lines have been drawn, they will go all out, using any method they deem fit.''
''This has begun and they have printed and displayed posters in all the mess rooms stating that the strike has been called off.''
''This is untrue and is easily disproved but it does set the tone in which this dispute will be fought. I suspect it be a long haul.''
Pat Brady for Political Provocateur