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The News Line: Feature Merseyrail scabbing operation will ‘rip up the rule book’
RMT leaders hold the banner lobbying Parliament on November 1st
THE RMT has issued a warning that the privateer Merseyrail’s planned Grand National scabbing operation will ‘rip up the safety rule book’.


Rail union RMT warned on Monday that a scabbing operation set up by Merseyrail to run a skeleton service on Grand National day this coming Saturday, will put the public at risk – a fact openly admitted by Merseytravel Chairman Frank Rogers in his media briefings.

In a letter to Rogers RMT regional organiser John Tilley said: ‘I am writing to you in connection with the media release issued by Merseytravel on March 29, and specifically the following comment attributed to you, regarding the reduced service Merseyrail intends to run on April 8th:

“The RMT’s claim that this issue is about passenger safety falls apart when they are prepared to put the travelling public at risk by deliberately putting more pressure on a much reduced network.” You will be aware that it is Merseyrail’s legal responsibility – and not that of this trade union – to ensure the safe operation of its services, and that it is yours, as Merseytravel chief executive, to oversee the operation of Merseyrail.

‘It is astonishing, therefore, to see you admitting that the strike-breaking operation that Merseyrail intends to run, and that you presumably have approved, will result in additional risk to passengers using Merseyrail services on April 8th.

‘I am therefore seeking your urgent clarification on this remark, which strongly suggests that Merseyrail, with Merseytravel approval, is knowingly and deliberately putting Merseyrail passengers at additional risk. My union will also be taking this up as a matter of urgency with the Office of Rail Regulation. I await your urgent response.’

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Instead of ripping up the safety rule book, and scrambling round to run a high-risk, scab-operated skeleton service on the 8th April, Merseyrail should be back round the table with the union investing their time and energy in reaching a sustainable solution to this dispute which guarantees passenger safety.

‘The union is taking up the company plans for the 8th April with the safety regulator, the Office of Road and Rail. RMT will not stand aside and look on while the safety of the travelling public is compromised in this cavalier fashion.’

• The RMT warned on Monday that Britain’s railways risk sinking into further chaos as Network Rail – at the behest of government-controlled Office of Road and Rail – threatened to axe 1,000 safety-critical track renewal jobs.

If the cuts go ahead crucial track replacement work will be cancelled at a time when Britain’s rail infrastructure is already operating on a knife-edge, and at the very limits of safety tolerances. RMT has written to Network Rail demanding that the cuts be halted with General Secretary Mick Cash pointing out: ‘… the deferral or cancellation of critical renewals work will have an adverse impact on safety, the quality of services, employment levels, staff morale and the rail skills base.

‘Astonishingly, the union understands that the renewals work will not be delivered due to the fact that the devolved routes are claiming insufficient funds have been made available to deliver this essential safety work. This raises many questions and not least vindicates our concerns about the impact of Network Rail fragmentation and devolution on the safe and efficient running of the railway.’

Cash added: ‘These planned cuts are a scandal and would impact on services and safety at a time when our railways are already running right at the limit of safety tolerances. Track that is past its safe operational sell-by date would not be replaced within safe time limits running the risk of repeated failures and possible derailments.

‘That is the government, through the ORR, playing fast and loose with rail safety. RMT wants an urgent meeting with Network Rail on this issue and the union will use our political, industrial and campaigning tools to halt these cuts.’

• The RMT commenced balloting station staff across the London Bridge and Waterloo group for both strike action and action short of a strike last Thursday. The strike ballot follows the sacking of one member and disciplining of two others for intervening to stop a serious assault by a fare-dodger on fellow staff members including one who was pregnant. The ballot will close on April 18th.

In the incident, which occurred last November, a fare-dodger assaulted three members of staff, including pushing a pregnant colleague in the stomach. One staff member had his glasses stolen and another was punched twice. That member of staff has now been sacked in what the union describes as an ‘appalling miscarriage of justice’.

RMT has slammed LU for bogus and disgraceful claims that the female member of staff wasn’t assaulted – despite the fact that they admitted that crucial fact in the disciplinary hearings.
‘The staff member who initially challenged the fare-dodger to produce a ticket or oyster card was disciplined on the ludicrous, trumped-up charge of ‘inciting or provoking an incident’.

‘A third member of staff, who defused the situation after being repeatedly threatened with violence, has also been disciplined by London Underground when they should have been commended for their bravery. As a result, one member of staff has been sacked with the other two members receiving 52-week final warnings.

The sacked member of staff has since had his dismissal upheld on appeal leading to a warning from the union that it is actively looking at escalation of the dispute. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This is one of the most appalling abuses of the LU disciplinary procedure that RMT has ever come across. This was a shocking, violent incident and those that bore the brunt of it should have been supported and commended by the company. Instead they have been sacked or disciplined in what is the most appalling multiple miscarriage of justice.

‘The ballot for strike action and action short of a strike of station staff members at London Bridge and Waterloo opens today and the union is looking at a planned escalation if London Underground continue to pursue this outrageous vendetta against staff members set up and picked off for simply doing their job in a violent situation.

‘The union also intends to bring this matter to the attention of London Mayor Sadiq Khan who cannot sit back and ignore a travesty of justice that is taking place on his watch. LU have flouted their own zero tolerance policy, their own duty of care to their staff and have sent out a message to fare dodgers that staff can be treated as punch bags with impunity.

‘That is an outrage that has enraged every single tube employee who risks their neck on the stations and platforms against a backdrop of a growing pattern of abuse and violence. London Underground should do the decent thing – reinstate our member, lift the disciplinary action and send out the message that fare-dodging and violence will not be tolerated and that staff in the front line will get the support and assistance that they need.’
 
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