In Brief

What is behind the Christmas rail strikes?

RMT union plans industrial action for most of December over role of guards

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has announced 27 days of strikes during December as part of a long-running dispute over the role of train guards.

The union said South Western Railway (SWR) staff had “no choice” but to take industrial action because SWR “refuse to give assurances” on the role of guards, says the BBC.

SWR says it is “extremely disappointed” by the planned strikes, which will run over New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day.

A spokesperson for the train operator said: “The deliberate targeting of services up to, and during, the Christmas period is typical of the lack of concern the RMT continue to have for our customers.”

Strikes will last from 2 December until the end of New Year’s Day, breaking only for the general election on 12 December, and for Christmas Day and Boxing Day – “when there are no trains running anyway”, says The Guardian.

The strikes will start at one minute past midnight on the first day, and run until one minute to midnight on the last day.

Mick Cash, the RMT’s general secretary, blamed SWR for the union’s decision to strike: “As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard, we will remain in dispute.

“It is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been agreed.”

SWR provides a daily average of 600,000 passenger journeys, operating out of Britain’s busiest railway station, London Waterloo, to regions including Surrey and Hampshire, says the Guardian.

SWR released a statement saying it had offered to keep guards on all trains, and the union was “purely focused on keeping control of train doors in a misguided attempt to hold power over the industry.

“Whilst we have shown commitment to the role of the guard by introducing over 80 additional guard roles since the start of our franchise, the RMT do not have the long-term interests of either our customers or our colleagues, including their members, at the heart of their actions.

“We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone.”

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