LETTER: Strikes are not about money

The following letter has been sent to the Daily Telegraph:

It is simply not true that RMT conductors on Southern Rail are striking because proposed changes mean that they will lose commission from selling ticket sales (Patrick Foster, Daily Telegraph December 16: “Southern rail strike: conductors against driver-only trains ‘because they earn £2,000 in commission from on-board ticket sales’.”)

Our members are not on strike for financial reasons and would gladly agree to a change in the method used to calculate commission paid on ticket sales in exchange for the guarantee of a safety critical trained conductor on all services.

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Southern conductors are in dispute to defend safety standards, to ensure access to train services for disabled, elderly and vulnerable passengers, and to protect passengers. RMT is fighting for a fully staffed, safe and efficient railway. We are not against new technology, but it should be implemented through agreed developments so there is no lowering of safety standards.

The article also cites a report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch into a fatal accident in Liverpool, in 2011, when a 16-year-old girl fell between a train and the platform and claims that “the report concluded that the guard, who was in charge of door operation, had been unable to stop the train, and suggested placing responsibility for dispatching the train with the driver”.

This is not true. There is no reference in the recommendations to giving dispatch responsibilities to the driver. For Patrick Foster to use this incident – which resulted in the death of a young girl – to attack our members, who are fighting to defend their safety critical role, by inaccurately citing that the report recommends removing dispatch responsibilities from the conductor, is reprehensible.

In fact, a series of recommendations were made for Merseyrail to reduce train dispatch accident risk. The report called for the company to “evaluate equipment and operational arrangements”, the outcome of which “should be a plan to implement appropriate measures to improve safety at the platform/train interface”.

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If Southern will guarantee a second person on each service then we can work up a solution to this dispute without the need for further strikes. RMT achieved a solution on Scotrail along those lines and we believe that something similar can be achieved on Southern.

The Transport Minister, Chris Grayling, needs to bring his contractors, GTR/Southern, back to the negotiating table so we can bring that about.


General Secretary, RMT

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