Overground Guards Strike Back

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 27/08/2013 - 08:44,

Two days of solid strike action have seen London Overground guards seriously crank up the momentum of their fight to save their jobs.

There was well-organised picketing at all three booking-on locations - Willesden, Gospel Oak and Stratford - and very little scabbing. At least two drivers refused to cross the guards' picket line. (There is now a minuted agreement that people will not be disciplined for respecting picket lines - remember this when the next strike is held!).

Pickets - and union activists who leafleted in the the preceding week - reported high levels of support from the travelling public. Not surprisingly, passengers do not want the guards removed from their trains. Some said that the reason that they use this Overground line is that it has guards. They are concerned about personal security, about disability access, about trains leaving platforms in safety, and about serious incidents. Indeed, less that 24 hours after the strike, there was smoke on a Southeastern train, and in the absence of a guard and the driver apparently not knowing what was happening, passengers scrambled out of the train onto the track!

On London Underground, we are supposed to believe that guards are some quaint antiquity and that we are managing fine without them. But those who remember guards generally would prefer to have them back. There have been numerous horrific (or near-horrific) PTI incidents since we went OPO, which the company has somehow got away with leading to calls for guards to be restored.

The London Overground guards' strike had a strong impact, closing whole sections of the line. Management are now under pressure, so we must step things up - we can not allow the bank holiday strike to be a token gesture that lets off steam but does not stop the jobs cull. RMT had, rightly, already decided before this strike to ballot all grades of London Overground members - after all, the plan to scrap guards affects everyone. The union needs to get on with that ballot promptly; we can be confident that other grades will support the guards, especially now that they have seen them stand up for their own jobs with a two-day strike.

We must also remember what this strike is demanding - keep the guards! It is not about getting management to offer a better severance and redeployment deal, and our union officials must be clear that we do not want it to be nudged in that direction.

Having escalated the fightback to all Overground workers, we also need to escalate it to all other workers who face similar attacks - in particular, all companies in the TfL orbit, and all guards across the country. Several mainline companies went 'DOO' (Driver-Only Operation; what the Underground calls 'OPO') several years ago. But many still have guards, who can easily see that if London Overground succeeds in scrapping guards, they will be next. Similarly, this move by London Overground results from the 12.5% cut in TfL's funding; but on its own, it will not save all the money, so the cutters will soon be coming for the rest of us.

With unity and solidarity, we can stop them in their tracks!

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