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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 September 2016

The guard stays on the train after the RMT defeats ScotRail bosses

RMT picket line in Glasgow, photo by Socialist Party Scotland

RMT picket line in Glasgow, photo by Socialist Party Scotland   (Click to enlarge)

Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland

After a major campaign of strike action over the summer, ScotRail guards have won a big victory in their fight to keep the conductor on the train. This breakthrough proves that determined strike action works.

The agreement will also be seen by members of RMT, the rail workers union, facing similar disputes with franchise holders across Britain, such as on Southern Rail and now Virgin East Coast, as a major boost.

ScotRail management had insisted that the conductor's role on new trains on the electrified parts of the Scottish rail network, due to be introduced from next year, should be removed. This was fully supported by the SNP-led Scottish Government.

This led to a 75% vote for strike action by RMT members who work as guards on ScotRail, which is owned by the Dutch rail company, Abellio. Rail unions in the Netherlands have also been involved in industrial action to defeat attempts by Abellio to remove trained guards from rail services.

In June and July ScotRail guards took a total of 12 days of strike action.

Following talks, which included the train drivers' union Aslef, management have now conceded that the skilled guard will be retained on all the new trains.

ScotRail bosses claim that as the driver has the necessary skills there is no need for another skilled staff member on the train. But as the RMT has consistently pointed out, what if the driver is injured or incapacitated?

The huge public support for the RMT's strike action was testimony to the fact that the passengers believed the union and not the bosses.

Scotrail/Abellio management behaved scandalously, attempting to bypass the union by resorting to social media and mailings in a campaign of misinformation with union members. They indulged in a campaign aimed at undermining the support from passengers claiming: "The public will be astonished to hear that this is a strike only about who opens and closes doors on trains, nothing more."

As the RMT explained: "The model that ScotRail wanted to follow delivers an unsafe method of operation for Scotland's rail users."

There was widespread anger among RMT members at the conduct of the Scottish Government during the strike action. Both Nicola Sturgeon and SNP transport minister Humza Yousuf read only from the prepared script of ScotRail management.

Socialist Party Scotland and Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) called for the ScotRail franchise to be taken back into public ownership two years ago, rather than handed to Abellio with profit going to shareholders instead of being invested into the service.

The RMT will now continue the campaign to "keep the guard on the train". Next in their sights is to fight for a guard on those services that currently run as driver only operation in Scotland.

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