Archive for category Industrial Action

Hilary Wainwright speaking on automation at the Birmingham TUC delegates meeting 1st Feb 2018

Hilary Wainwright in a Q&A session on automation with BTUC delegates 1st Feb 2018 Birmingham

Kate Hudson Regional Secretary CWU speaking at the BTUC Delegates meeting 4th January 2018

David Room Speaking at the Birmingham Trades Council Dec Delegates meeting

Derek Robinson Funeral Birmingham Trade Union Leader Nov 22 13:30

Wednesday, 22nd  of November 1:30 pm

Stourbridge Crematorium South Road, Stourbridge DY3 3RQ

TRIBUTES poured in from across the labour and progressive movement yesterday in response to news of the death of former British Leyland convener Derek Robinson.
Dubbed “Red Robbo” by the right-wing press, he led a militant campaign against mass sackings at the nationalised car company in the 1970s and was fired after refusing to withdraw his name from a pamphlet issued by the Leyland combined committee putting a socialist alternative to the cuts demanded by BL’s management.

Leyland’s Birmingham Longbridge was the world’s largest car plant in the 1960s, the centre of an empire employing 250,000 people and taking 40 per cent of the British car industry market. But it ran into financial difficulties in the 1970s and the company was bailed out by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1975 — a move that would now be impossible because of EU legislation.

The unions’ plan was to fight for a continuation of mass volume car manufacturing as an alternative to job losses, arguing that if it succeeded it would be a “political victory,” proving that ordinary working-class people could run industry.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Mr Robinson was a “stalwart of the movement” who was “unfairly maligned by the media” as he sought to find solutions to turn the car company around.

Midlands communist George Hickman called Mr Robinson a “tower of strength for shop stewards everywhere” and Graham Stevenson said communists active in Unite were mourning “their most distinguished mentor and guide.”

Former Communist Party industrial organiser Mick Costello described Mr Robinson as “an outstanding trade union leader” who was “a fighter and a thinker who also knew how to listen to people.” He explained that Leyland conspired with “Thatcher’s guru” industry secretary Sir Keith Joseph, who charged MI5 with gathering — and inventing — dirt as part of a witch hunt against Mr Robinson.

One Sunday newspaper printed notes concocted by one of the spies that were put across as minutes of a meeting of communist stewards at Longbridge. “To their credit, no other newspaper’s industrial reporters used it as they doubted what was, in fact, what these days is called ‘fake news’,” said Mr Costello.

Richard Hatcher speaking at the BTUC delegates Meeting Crisis in Social Services

RMT in dispute with Railway employers on Guards and safety of train users



RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that guards and drivers on Southern Rail will strike again on the 22nd February in the on-going disputes over the safety impact of the extension of Driver Only Operation and the removal of guards from services. Members will strike for 24 hours between 0001 hours and 2359 hours on Wednesday 22nd February 2017.

The announcement comes after talks between RMT and Southern in the guards dispute were deliberately wrecked yesterday by the company as they made a mockery of the negotiating process and chose to completely ignore the safety issues at the heart of the matter.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said:

“The abject failure by Southern Rail in yesterday’s talks to take the safety issues seriously has left us with no option but to confirm further action. These disputes could have been settled if Southern/GTR had listened to our case and given the guarantee of a second-safety critical member of staff on their trains.

“Instead they have shifted the goal posts even further and have now created a “strike breakers’ charter” where one of the numerous new conditions where trains can run driver-only is during industrial action. That is simply scandalous and a measure of the betrayal of our members as a result of the TUC-brokered deal with Southern in the drivers’ dispute.”

“The full detail of Southern’s plan is far worse than anyone could have anticipated. This is dire news, not just for staff, but for passengers who rightly demand a safe, reliable and accessible service. RMT will not walk away from the fight for a railway that puts public safety before private profit.

“It is now down to Southern/GTR to face up to their responsibilities and engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues.”


Further information:

Geoff Martin

07831 465 103




Referring to the Executive decision of 3rd February 2017, discussions have been held with GTR under the auspices of ACAS where it was confirmed that the deal with ASLEF is as damaging as we thought.

Despite public comments promoting the deal I can advise you that it is not the case that the deal simply repeats the agreement with ASLEF covering DOO operation on the Brighton Mainline. In fact the new agreement significantly expands the number of routes that will now be DOO operation. The number of trains that will operate in DOO mode on Southern will double from 900 to 1800 every day, an increase from 40% to 78% of Southern services being DOO. The company also made it clear that all of Southern could now go DOO and the only factor preventing this was there were insufficient trains with the required CCTV.

Also it is not the case that the list of circumstance in which a train can go without a Conductor on DOO route is the same as previously agreed with ASLEF. The list of circumstances has been increased and there is far more general flexibility to operate trains without OBS than there was with Conductors. Compared to previous arrangements not only has the number of routes on DOO operation been increased, the safeguards to ensure that the trains do not operate without a second person have been reduced. Previously the circumstances when a train could operate DOO without the Conductor did not include industrial action, now it does under the guise of OBS “absence.” contrary to public assertions by ASLEF that this is not a “strike breakers charter”, it clearly is.

Additionally the deal does not guarantee a safety critical person on every train. As described above there are far more circumstances when the train can leave without the second person but it has also been clarified the OBS will definitely not be safety critical. Instead the OBS must take the initiative themselves and can volunteer (it is not compulsory) to be trained in a safety critical task related to dealing with circumstances when there is degraded infrastructure. Therefore, even if the OBS is on a train they will not have the full range of safety critical competencies and if they have not volunteered will not even be trained in certain safety critical tasks.

The deal is essentially the same that was rejected by this union in August and October 2016.

The company informed us that despite the updated collective bargaining agreement agreed in 2009 which recognised the RMT for drivers, because we have small numbers in membership in the driver grade we would no longer be recognised for collective bargaining purposes for drivers, this is in effect a de-recognition of this union. This raises a dangerous precedent for other collective bargaining agreements where RMT is recognised for driver grades which the union may wish to guard against by being more active in the recruitment of drivers.

I would also advise you that as well as our concerns regarding safety the deal has been widely criticised by established disability campaigners who have warned that the extension of routes which no longer have the guarantee of a second person will prevent many passengers from embarking and disembarking at unstaffed stations and who will no longer be able to plan to “turn up and go” on the effected routes.

Finally, the deal reached with ASLEF was announced on Thursday 2 February 2017. The actual content of deal was leaked when it was sent to ASLEF members on 4th February. GTR had agreed with RMT that talks could take place on Tuesday 7th February and/or Wednesday 8th February 2017. It is now clear that the company pushed back the talks to prevent the true facts of the deal influencing the referendum of drivers and in doing so cancelled and delayed RMT pursuing effective negotiations with the company.

Birminghamat Trades Council Delegate from RMT speaking on the Railway Unions Dispute with Southern Railways

The Southern Rail/Govia Thameslink Railway Driver Only Operation (DOO) dispute

1. The Southern Rail/Govia Thameslink Railway Driver Only Operation (DOO) dispute from day one has
been about the guarantee of the second safety critical person on the train for safety, security and accessibility
reasons. It is not just about closing or opening doors.

2. 70 per cent of the rail services operate safely and efficiently with a guard which proves that it is a safework
method of operation. That means that the standard rail industry operation is with a guard.

3. This industrial dispute is not about the introduction of new modern trains. In 2016 Abellio Scotrail, First
TransPennine Express, Virgin East Coast and First Great Western all confirmed that they are introducing brand
new trains with the guarantee of a second safety critical person on every train.

4. For employers and the DfT the chief difference between the two modes is cost as it is cheaper to run
trains without a guard and that is the main driver for this change by the Department for Transport.

5. It is also objectively the case that if there is no longer the guarantee of a guard on all services, disabled
passengers will be disadvantaged, especially at unstaffed stations and on the train in the event of an emergency.
This is particularly the case when many Govia Thameslink Railway stations are unstaffed. Disability groups
have voiced their opposition to Driver Only Operation and it is not clear whether Govia Thameslink Railway and
the Government have met their equality obligations.

Role of the Department for Transport
6. Since the publication of the Government commissioned Rail Value for Money Study in May 2011 and its
recommendation for “early implementation of Driver Only Operation where practicable” it has been pursued by
the Department for Transport.

7. The Association of Train Operating Companies was set up after privatisation in 1993, to represent the
interests of employers. In 2011, it was joined by the Rail Delivery Group, which was responsible for policy
formulation and communications on behalf of the whole rail industry but was staffed by ATOC employees
seconded to the role. In October 2016, the two bodies merged to become one organisation, known as Rail
Delivery Group which sits at the heart of rail policy formulation at the Department for Transport. An employers’
association had essentially been co-opted into the public policy arena.

8. Peter Wilkinson, then managing director of rail passenger services at the Department for Transport,
publicly stated in 2016 that “over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see
industrial action and I want your support” and that railway workers “have all borrowed money to buy cars and
got credit cards. They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.” Anybody
who disagreed with the Department for Transport agenda could “get the hell out of my industry.”

9. To date, the Government has refused to intervene in the dispute despite possessing the powers to do so,
and the fact that it is ultimately losing the fare box revenue caused by the industrial action due to the type of
contract signed with Govia Thameslink Railway for the TSGN franchise. This contract ensures that the company
is not dependent on passenger revenue to be profitable but is simply paid an annual fee by the Government.

10. Instead, the Department for Transport has occupied itself with repeating the arguments of the employer
funded Railway Safety and Standards Board, the renamed employer association the Rail Delivery Group and
changing staff at the wholly discredited Office of Road and Rail (formerly Office of Rail Regulation).

11. It is clear from the statements issued by the Office of Road and Rail, Railway Safety and Standards
Board, Department for Transport and Govia Thameslink Railway that there has been systematic coordination by
all four, in relation to an industrial dispute over and above what would be considered normal industry practice,
making a mockery of the independence of the regulator and highlighting the partisan character of this
Government during an industrial dispute.
Role of Railway Safety and Standards Board

12. This is confirmed by the report Evaluating technological solutions to support driver only operation train
dispatch produced by the employer funded safety body the Railway Safety and Standards Board in March 2015.

13. The report identified cost savings which could be made by removing the guard over a 5 year period
without compulsory redundancy and replacing them by “cheaper Non Safety Critical On-train Staff”. It indicated
that guards numbers would be halved over 9 years and the number of trains operating with Non Safety Critical
On-train Staff would also be reduced.

14. It is important to note that both the Government and Govia Thameslink Railway were making promises
to passengers and MPs about keeping a second person on these services. However, the change is designed to
ensure trains can run without a second person on-board.

15. The Railway Safety and Standards Board report made clear that risk analysis had shown the best
technology to reduce the risk of unsafe Driver Only Operation operation on platforms was to install a platform
mounted camera. However, they recommended train mounted cameras as it is the cheapest option. It is clear
that an industry standard has been set because it is specified that the procurement of new trains must ensure
that they come equipped with train mounted cameras despite this not being the safety option as identified by the
risk analysis.

16. The Railway Safety and Standards Board report was published in March 2015, months before Govia
Thameslink Railway took over the Southern franchise and in February 2016, at the behest of the Department for
Transport, they started the process to introduce Non Safety Critical On-train Staff’s calling them On Board

17. The report had been freely available on its website until its existence became more widely known and
was subsequently withdrawn.

18. There have already been regular examples of trains running without the On Board Supervisors on-board,
despite the promises made by Southern clearly demonstrating that good faith is not enough to ensure the safest
running of the rail network.

19. The rail network has considerably changed since the first introduction of Driver Only Operation and
greater usage (1.7 billion rail passenger journeys a year), longer platforms and longer trains have all put greater
pressure on it’s safe operation and on infrastructure built during the reign of Queen Victoria. That is why getting
on and off the train is now considered one of the greater risks at what is called the platform train interface.

20. There has been 12 serious incidents since 2011 relating to the PTI most recently we have seen Hayes and
Harlington and West Wickham where trap and drag incidents (passengers getting caught in the doors) have
occurred and Driver Only Operation has been the mode of operation in the majority of the these incidents.

21. Southern Railways have offered train drivers “an indemnity package to be put in place to support drivers
who have operational incidents, subject to the problems not being a result of negligence or gross misconduct” if
there is an incident on a Driver Only Operation train. If Driver Only Operation is safe why is there a need to
give indemnity?

Role of the Office of Road and Rail
22. Since June 2016 RMT has been questioning the independence of the Office of Road and Rail when it
supported the Government’s position that Driver Only Operation is safe. However, the Office of Road and Rail
has continued to support the Government without addressing our concerns, and in our view has failed to
adequately regulate the industry.

23. Office of Road and Rail is funded by the rail industry through licence fees and safety levies. For
example, its economic regulation activities are funded almost entirely through Network Rail’s licence fee (a
public body). It is charged not just with over seeing the safety of the rail industry but predominately with
regulating the efficiency ie. the cost of the rail industry.

24. The Safety regulator was, until 1 April 2006, part of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) but the govt
decided to put it under the control of the rail financial watchdog called the Office of Rail Regulation a situation
that all rail unions opposed and continue to oppose due to the obvious conflict of interest between economic
and safety regulation.

25. The safety regulator is charged with overseeing and prosecuting for breaches of health and safety. How
can it continue in that role with regard to incidents relating to Driver Only Operation in future when it now says
it is safe. How can it prosecute the private rail companies when they can claim that they are doing something
that Office of Road and Rail has deemed safe?

26. The question of whether the Office of Road and Rail is really independent is now relevant both in terms
of its support for Department for Transport policy on Driver Only Operation and its ability to investigate and
prosecute on safety breaches relating to Driver Only Operation by the private train companies.

27. Government appoints the key people at the Office of Road and Rail and over the last 18 months both the
Chair and Chief Executive have been removed by the Government. It currently is operating with an interim
chief executive. It is clear that if you don’t do what the Government wants then you do not have a job at the
Office of Road and Rail.

28. The ten person board of the Office of Road and Rail, appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport,
has seen 6 changes in 2016 alone.

29. It is questionable whether the independent safety regulator should have allowed itself to be drawn into
this dispute by the government.

30. The issue is likely to continue as problems exist on Abellio Merseyrail, Arriva Northern Rail and new
franchises planned for London Midland and SouthWest trains.

31. Conductor/guard operation is superior to Driver Only Operation in terms of safety and approved by
Office of Road and Rail and used on 70% of services. Driver Only Operation is a dilution of that industry wide
safety norm.

32. This dispute has been entirely manufactured by the Department for Transport to increase company
profits and to confront the unions.

33. The passengers are the victims and the unions are fighting to defend them and safety standards.

34. A resolution to the dispute is available immediately if Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling
allows it to happen.

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