RISE member, Gary Anderton, says support the railway workers
Tuesday 21st June saw the first of six 24 hour strikes taking place across Scotland. These strikes are taking place as Guards/Conductors working for Scotrail have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action due to the unsatisfactory responses given by franchise holder Abellio in regards to the continued roll out of DOO trains (Driver Only Operated).
Currently there are a select few services running in suburban central belt routes as well as Glasgow to Edinburgh which are DOO. RMT Union have continually demanded that Abellio rule out any more of these trains joining the current rolling stock yet their answers have been far from convincing. The purpose of these trains are to have the Drivers operating the doors rather than the Guards who currently do so. This results in two main problems above all else. First of these being that it could more than likely result in job loses, job restructuring and attack on terms and conditions. Secondly, DOO trains leave massive unanswered questions when it comes to public safety.
Guards have been a vital part of our railways. Hundreds work across our rail network and to lose them would be a blatant attack on workers in the name of modernisation. For too long businesses have used modernisation as an excuse to tear away at our workers rights and our conditions. Fortunately with RMT, railway workers have one of the most successful and militant Unions in Britain who have fought tirelessly not only for workers they represent but society as a whole with their many political campaigns.
Safety on trains must be number one priority always. Abellio have put forward evidence which suggests that DOO Trains are no more unsafe than that of one's which have Guards present. The problem with this though is that their evidence is focused on incidents involving the opening and closing of doors. Though, even this has proven to be dangerous. Only last year a woman in England got her bag caught in the closing door of a train and as it took off it pulled her off the platform. This train was a DOO and the driver never noticed the woman stuck. This also raises the question of whether DOO Trains are putting too much responsibility onto the Driver who already has many safety critical duties.
Outwith door incidents, there are many other safety concerns. Guards are the only other safety critical member of staff present on a train other than the driver. Should an incident occur which leaves the driver unable to lead an evacuation of the train then what is proposed that should happen? Trains late at night can also be a dangerous place, particularly for women. Guards present not only give the feeling of safety but they are the safety. Should an assault take place then they are there to intervene and phone the police.
With public safety in mind I urge everyone, regardless of how inconvenienced they are by these strikes, to support them with the hope that our railways will continue to be a safe space for all those who travel on them.