Support the RMT Action on Merseyrail 

09-08-2019 \\ England and Wales

Hugh Caffrey

Many people will have been surprised to see Merseyside’s ‘metro-mayor’ Steve Rotheram in the news attacking the RMT for going on strike to keep the guards on the trains. Most people thought this had been settled, with the guards being kept on.

For months, Merseyrail has been trying to get out of simply keeping the guards on with their current duties, terms & conditions. Rotheram had nothing useful to say in all this time. Now, when the talks have failed to deliver what the public wants—which is the guards kept on—he attacks the union for ’moving the goal-posts’.

The actual double-standards are from Labour politicians like Rotheram who ultimately oversees MerseyTravel and MerseyRail.

Labour’s national policy is for renationalisation of the railways, bit by bit. So why is Rotheram so determined to press ahead with driver-controlled operation, a policy based on profiteering? He should instruct MerseyTravel and MerseyRail to keep the guards on in the full guard’s role to ensure public safety.

Lobby Steve Rotheram

Contact him on 0151 330 1467, No 1 Mann Island,
Liverpool, L3 1BP

Support the strikers, and visit the picket lines at Birkenhead Central, Lime Street, Kirkdale, and Southport. The strike dates are as follows:

  • Saturday 24th August
  • Tuesday 3rd September
  • Thursday 5th September
  • Monday 30th September
  • Wednesday 2nd October
  • Friday 4th October

What the dispute is really about, by an RMT member on Merseyrail:

At the heart of this dispute is the fight to keep guards on all Merseyrail trains from start to end of service so passengers can feel safe knowing that a highly trained safety critical person is aboard their train and he or she can take control of any eventuality which may occur.

The safest way to dispatch a train, contrary to what Merseytravel and Merseyrail claim, is for the train guard to close the train doors which would alleviate any fears passengers would have about ‘trap and drag’ incidents which continue to happen during DOO operation. It is vital that Merseyrail Guards keep control of the train doors for obvious safety reasons.

Merseytravel refused to let train-builder Stadler put door-control panels for the guards to use in the new trains even when Stadler stated they could put the panels into the new trains at no added cost before they started construction. Now Merseytravel are quoting figures of £10-12 million for the new trains to be configured with a panel, whilst Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham sits on a £40 million underspend.

The guards’ strikes last year forced the employer to concede the principle of a second person on each train, something they previously said was impossible. The guards need and deserve the full support of the trade union and labour movement and the public as a whole. A massive campaign of well-supported strike action can force the employers and politicians to agree to keep the guards on and find the money to fund that.

Socialist policies for rail

  • No driver-only operation. Stop cutbacks & fragmentation of the network.

  • Renationalise the railways entirely in one go. Pay compensation only on the basis of proven need. Run as a public service under the democratic control and management of rail-workers and the travelling public, as well as central/local government.

  • For a socialist transport policy to meet the needs of people and the environment, based on a massive and sustainable expansion of public transport.

Labour members vs Labour politicians over Tory policy!

Driver Only Operation (DOO) of trains is a national policy enthusiastically pushed by the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to DOO. However, the decision over whether or not to keep the guards, as with some other cuts on the rail network, is in the hands of local Labour politicians.

Merseyside Labour councillors decided to get rid of the guards. Labour metro-mayor Steve Rotheram says he supports Corbyn but won’t support the guards, and appointed key MerseyTravel figures to his team.

Several Labour councillors who support removing the guards were voted out by left-wing Labour members which is something we argued for and welcome. Still, many pro-privatisation Labour councillors remain and need to be removed. Steve Rotheram’s rotten role in the guards’ dispute, after posing as a left-winger during his campaign to become metro-mayor, is a warning: either the political ’old guard’ are replaced with real socialists, or in practise little changes.

Labour MPs have had to reflect the public mood a bit more over the disaster of privatised rail. But there can be no doubt that when push comes to shove, the Blairite MPs will not be keen on renationalising the rail industry! Right now is the time when Labour members need to get organised to use the trigger ballot and reselection procedure to vote out the Blairite MPs and replace them with genuine socialists who will fight to renationalise everything that has been privatised by Tories and New Labour.

Public transport can help address climate change

There is a global environmental crisis. Extremes in weather are increasing. The 10 hottest years on record in this country have taken place since 2003 and this reflects the process of global warming. The UK government has a target of cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by the year 2050 but is not expected to reach that target. Renationalising the railways and all public transport would help reduce the amount of pollution caused by cars and trucks on the roads.

The global crisis has been met by protests and strikes of school students and young people around the planet. Popularised by Greta Thunberg, these demonstrations have shown the anger that exists for the future of the planet and the desire for action and change. A Global Strike has been called for 20th September which we fully support. We link the climate strike with the rail strike and all the other struggles of young people and workers:

• For massive public investment to provide free public transport and a full-scale shift to renewable energy.

• Take the wealth and resources in society out of the hands of private profiteers and into public ownership under the democratic control of working-class people.

• For a socialist economy that is democratically planned to cater for our environment and people’s needs.