South Western Railway workers are set to be balloted for strike action by the RMT union

Courtney Goldsmith
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24 Hour Train Strike Impacts On Commuters
More strikes could be on the way (Source: Getty)

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) today announced it will ballot workers on the new South Western Railway franchise for strike action as the union presses on with an ongoing battle over the role of guards on trains.

South Western Railway, formerly South West Trains, was taken over by FirstGroup and Hong Kong company MTR on 20 August. The group plans to provide 90 new trains, rolled out from 2019, with doors that can be operated by the driver.

RMT argued the new franchise holder has failed to give clear assurances over the future of the guards on their trains after months of talks.

"They have refused to give us those guarantees and it is that failure which leaves RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to move towards a ballot for action," said Mick Cash, RMT general secretary.

RMT will ballot workers for strike action and action short of a strike in the form of a ban on overtime and a rest day working ban.

This will affect guards, commercial guards and driver members on South Western Railway and Island Line.

South Western Railway spokesman said: “This dispute is unnecessary, we have made it perfectly clear that we plan to retain a second person on our services as we know that our passengers value the assurance and assistance a second member of on-board staff provides.

"During our franchise we will increase the numbers of drivers and guards so we can deliver more services for passengers."

Cash continued:

This dispute can be easily resolved if the company are prepared to stick to existing agreements, give staff and passengers alike a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services and an assurance that safety and access are the absolute priority.

RMT remains available for talks.

South Western Railway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Southern and Southeastern trains face cleaner strike

RMT has had a busy day today.

Earlier, the union announced it would ballot cleaners on train lines including Southern and Southeastern for strike action over two disputes on pay and working conditions.

One dispute was with Wettons and another was with Churchills cleaners.

“These two separate disputes have a common thread and that is the attempt to lock in low pay levels for cleaners and the continuing refusal to upgrade working conditions to a humane and acceptable level," Cash said.

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