Rock solid strikes by RMT ScotRail guards have put the arrogant Abellio bosses on the run, writes Richie Venton
After months of refusing to even consult or negotiate with the unions in their reckless gamble with safety, Scotrail Abellio bosses have now been forced to guarantee guards on all the new electrified multiple unit (EMU) trains, and agree no train will run without a guard on board.
That’s a massive retreat – and it’s only come about because of the courageous, tenacious, united strike action by the RMT members, plus the growing demand for a strike ballot against Driver Only Operations (DOO) by ASLEF members at several recent emergency union branch meetings.
This is actually the very first offer from Abellio! For months they simply tried to impose DOO whilst denying it, refusing to even discuss the EMUs or DOO at meetings they eventually turned up to with the RMT.
It’s come about because they are terrified of united action by the RMT and ASLEF – something which the SSP has consistently proposed – plus the impact the next set of RMT strikes would have on the prestigious Queen Street tunnel reopening, and lucrative special services for the Edinburgh Festival, at the height of the holiday season. Their hired scabs aren’t route trained to let Queen St open, so they were desperate to get the strikes called off.
KEEP CHASING THE BULLIES!
The unions have the bully-boy bosses by the proverbial short and curlies: it’s time to squeeze them harder in order to get full, satisfactory guarantees on the issues still left unanswered by Abellio at this stage of talks with both unions.
Questions like the role of guards on platform safety; the platform train interface; train dispatches. Since ScotRail now concedes trains are not allowed to move without a guard, why heap more responsibilities on drivers by making them operate the doors, instead of guards controlling the doors – whilst drivers focus on driving – after they conduct all the usual safety checks?
Strikes have been suspended, but they’re not ended, and the mandate from members is there to revive the action if Abellio don’t budge.Abellio have caved in to keeping guards on the EMUs. But the danger is they are delaying guarantees on the role of the guards on PTI and dispatch procedures so as to kill off the strikes’ momentum at precisely the time industrial action will hit them hardest.
They promised written proposals on these issues to ASLEF within a week. But within minutes of the RMT suspending the strikes, Abellio boss Phil Verster lied through his teeth about ALWAYS guaranteeing two members of staff, and making thinly disguised declarations about the guards having nothing to do with door controls.
If Abellio either delay further concessions, or refuse to budge on the outstanding concerns that both RMT and ASLEF share about guards’ control of doors and train dispatches, the RMT will need to rapidly reinstate the strikes to hit them hard as they seek to slurp down revenue from the Edinburgh Fringe and holiday makers – and ASLEF should help a complete victory for safety by initiating a ballot.
Strikes have been suspended, but they’re not ended, and the mandate from members is there to revive the action if Abellio don’t budge.
STRIKES HAVE FORCED CONCESSIONS
Nobody should underestimate the impact of the strikers and of calls for a strike ballot by ASLEF members. Don’t be conned by Abellio (or the Scottish Government) spin that what is now on offer has always been on offer. Quite the opposite!
The SNP government issued Abellio the franchise in October 2014 with the clause about cutting Glasgow-Edinburgh travel time to 42 minutes… by introduction of DOO. They claim this would cut dispatch time by 15 seconds; and to hell with the cost to safety!
Last March Abellio wrote to all staff with plans for DOO. Last month they accidentally leaked documents that made their plans to impose DOO absolutely explicit – and for good measure added this would be the best way to break the power of the unions.
If it was just about “who presses a button” – as Abellio’s spin doctors viciously claimed (to confuse the public) and as Nicola Sturgeon repeated in parliament (“This dispute is about who opens the doors”, she said) – then why has Abellio spent untold sums conscripting scab managers to strikebreak, and refused to even talk about EMUs and DOO at meetings with the RMT up until the last week?
The plain truth is that Abellio has been forced into concessions by workers’ determined strike action, and fear of escalated action at one of the busiest times of the year for passenger volume, but are combining this concession with trickery and repression. Why else has it taken them several weeks into the strikes before they threaten Court action against the RMT?
They wanted to bully the union into ending or suspending the strikes, take the momentum out of the action, and then offer the worst possible compromise in later negotiations – such as removing all control over the doors and dispatches from the guards. To their shame, the SNP government stood aside while Dutch-owned Abellio deployed Westminster Tory anti-union laws against Scottish workers – and piled in alongside Abellio with demands to suspend the strikes.
They must not and will not succeed. United action has already won immense retreats by the Abellio bully-boy bosses. And if they don’t concede PTI and dispatch arrangements demanded by the two unions, further action will force them to go back and think again!
Read the recent issue of the Railworkers Voice!