AS Northern and South Western Railway guards strike again this weekend, rail union RMT has raised new safety warnings with the regulator over the use of inexperienced, under-trained managers on fat bounty payments acting as guards to try and break the action.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Members on South Western Railway will complete five days of rock-solid strikes in their latest phase of action this weekend while RMT members on Northern Rail will embark on their 33rd day of action in the fight for safe, secure and accessible rail operation for all …
‘I have reports coming in that, due to the signal failure between Woking and Surbiton, trains have been re-routed via the new line (Surbiton to Guildford via Cobham). The Contingency Guards (PUG) are not trained on this route and therefore have no route knowledge. The company are quoting to my reps, “that as long as the Driver knows the route it is fine”.
‘It is appalling that, rather than settling their disputes, these train companies are prepared to throw huge sums of money at a scab-army of volunteer managers who are a clear danger to passengers. It’s about time the safety regulator, who is funded by the private train companies, stopped letting the piper call the tune and took action to stop this dangerous nonsense.’
• The RMT will ballot all guards and drivers at Paddington Depot for strike action and action short of a strike over the victimisation of Great Western Railway (GWR) rail guard and union activist Ben Frederick if he isn’t immediately reinstated after his disciplinary hearing, which took place on Friday 26 October.
Frederick has been suspended from duty after he was assaulted at Evesham Station by a member of the public while working his train as a guard (train manager) on Saturday 11 August 2018.
He reported the attack to his employer (GWR Duty Control) and to the British Transport Police (BTP) on the same day. He was told that the BTP would contact him to take a statement but this has never happened.
Subsequently, on 5 September 2018, Frederick was suspended from duty by his employer pending investigation of an allegation that he had assaulted a member of the public on 11 August.
He has been suspended for over a month in breach of GWR’s own guidelines and agreement with RMT that investigatory suspensions of staff should not exceed 28 days. CCTV footage shown by an investigating manager to Frederick clearly shows the member of the public carrying out an assault by spitting at him and hitting him with a mobile phone. He was also verbally abused by the same person using racist insults.
No complaint against Frederick has been received by GWR from the member of the public and it appears that the employer has instigated the current investigation and suspension of our member, who is a highly regarded union activist and health and safety officer.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said: ‘GWR must withdraw the charges against Ben Frederick and reinstate him immediately or we will be balloting our Guards and Drivers at Paddington depot for strike action and action short of a strike.’