RMT members have voted to strike on South Western Railway, in a dispute over what it calls a threat to guards on the new franchise.
The vote was announced on October 3, the first of two days when RMT strike action over guards affected the services of four other operators (see separate story).
The union said more than 80% of its members voted to strike, on a turnout of over 76%. It said there were even higher numbers voting for action short of a strike.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has given repeated opportunities for First MTR to give us the assurances we have sought over the future role of the guards on their trains throughout the length of the new South Western franchise. They have refused to give us those guarantees, and it is that failure which left RMT with no option but to declare a formal dispute with the company and to conduct a ballot for action.
“This dispute can be easily resolved if the company are prepared to stick to existing agreements, give staff and passengers alike a guarantee of a second, safety-critical member of staff on all current services, and an assurance that safety and access are the absolute priority.
“Guards on SWR have been hailed as ‘legends’ in company publicity material. It is time for First MTR to stand by those legends and to withdraw the threat to throw them off the trains. That is the message that RMT will be taking out to the fare-paying public as we step up our campaign.”
An SWR spokesman said: “We are disappointed that some of our staff have chosen to vote for industrial action. None of us want to be in this position, and any potential action will cause unnecessary disruption for the customers we serve.
“We have been clear that we plan to retain a second person on our services, as we know that our passengers value the assurance and assistance a second member of on-board staff provides. That’s why, during our franchise, we will increase the numbers of drivers and guards so we can deliver more services for passengers.
“We aim to deliver improvements for passengers throughout the SWR franchise, including more trains, quicker journeys, and earlier and later services. Today’s announcement undermines those efforts. We urge the RMT to avoid premature strike action and work with us to deliver for our customers, and we look forward to meeting them again to discuss our future plans on October 5 as already arranged.”