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18 May 2016
GTR train conductors strike to keep their role
Sarah Welch, Portsmouth Socialist Party
Southern Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) conductors were picketing today - Wednesday 18 May - outside Barnham station. The reason why they are striking is the removal of conductors from trains. This is a prime example of a company putting profit before safety.
A conductor provides a vital role on our railways. Our safety is paramount to them. The conductor ensures everyone is safely on the train. They play a vital role should the train be involved in an incident.
If the driver was incapacitated the conductor would take control to ensure that all the safety requirements are met.
They also perform many other non-safety customer-focused tasks such as ticketing, dealing with enquiries and helping prevent anti -social behaviour. The conductor provides the travelling public with a sense of security on their journeys at all times of the day.
There are many people who won't use the trains in the evening for fears over personal security. As rail companies reduce staff this problem becomes exacerbated.
Also, if this goes ahead, disabled people who need assistance on and off the trains will be asked to give 48-hours notice before travelling.
Talking to the strikers their concerns are not just over safety but also the bullying tactics used by management. Letters have been sent out which have quite blatantly told the staff just to accept this. During the picket one of the managers came out and said that there were to only be six pickets and that the rest of us should go as we were 'blocking the pavement'. If we did not do so he would call the police. The strikers were defiant and the police were not called.
The general mood is that they are prepared to fight on, but they need public support. They feel that the public need information about the reasons why they are striking. They now await the outcome of the drivers' ballot. They may choose to work-to-rule or go for a strike. The conductors hope they choose to strike. United they could win this fight.
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