RMT leaders yesterday responded defiantly to Southern rail’s threat that if guards strike and do not sign new contracts by Friday, they will be considered to have sacked themselves.
At a 300-strong national demonstration opposite parliament against driver only trains, they called for a general strike. RMT president Sean Hoyle told News Line: ‘The biggest scandal is £4.8bn has been handed to the private train operating companies.
‘Yet they want more, they are trying to sack our members and have unsafe railways – all to make bigger profits. If any of our members are sacked on Friday, I’d like to see national strike action across the country in solidarity – every worker uses the railway at some point, it affects them too. This dispute is government-driven. There needs to be a general strike. If Southern win this, they’ll attack every other rail worker and trade union. The government are already attacking unions. The Trade Union Act is about attacking the right to strike, it makes it more difficult to take legal action, therefore turning honest working class people into criminals.’
RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley added: ‘I agree with Sean. If any of our Southern members are sacked on Friday there should be a general strike. The trade unions should organise national action, don’t wait for the TUC.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Southern’s threat is part of the attack on working people – an attack on one is an attack on all. At the end of the day it’s the government behind this. We’re a member-led union, if the members decide on action, that’s what we do. Southern’s is a managment contract with the Department for Transport. If the DfT said “settle this dispute” they’d settle it tomorrow.’
RMT member Matthew Wear from mid-Wales, a conductor on Arriva trains, said: ‘The Southern guards are fighting for the safety of passengers. The Southern threat is an attack on the right to strike and on the trade unions. If a single guard is sacked there should be a national strike by all the unions. This has to be nipped in the bud or nobody is safe.’