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RMT Industrial action over the future of the role of the train guard

27 October 2017

RMT has called on its guard members in Arriva Rail North (Northern), Southern (GTR), Merseyrail, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line to take strike action over the future of the guard’s role.

 

Strikes in Southern, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, 8/9 November. Strikes in Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North (Northern) will take place on Wednesday 8 November. 

It has become apparent that train operating companies are doing their utmost to persuade other staff to cover the duties of guards when they strike, and in at least one case cover guards’ duties because of staff shortages created by refusing to allow their guards to work overtime. Staff in companies not directly involved in the disputes are being asked to cover striking guards in other companies.

The tactics that some employers are resorting to are not acceptable to TSSA, and in such circumstances the union has sought assurances that such tactics are ended.

However, some TSSA members are willingly volunteering to undertake guards’ duties. Those members are asked to think carefully about doing so, particularly those that are not contractually obliged to do so. There have been a number of serious safety issues that have arisen when guards’ duties have been covered by other staff, and our members should be clear that they place themselves (and others) at great risk if they are not fully competent to perform such duties. Not only could they be involved in an accident that results in injuries to themselves, but they may very well be held responsible and liable in a court of law – and imprisonment is a big price to pay for showing loyalty to one’s employer!

TSSA would also ask members to carefully consider the moral and ethical issues that arise when a group of workers stands up for safety and jobs, and their colleagues step in to cover for them.

TSSA’s view is that trains running without a fully trained guard are not as safe as those that do. The rail safety regulator does not disagree with that view.

And there are clearly passenger safety and security concerns about trains running without staff on them.

And TSSA fully supports RMT’s rights to defend their members’ jobs. Greedy private train operators have come for the jobs of the guards, and if they are successful, they will be coming for the jobs of other staff in the near future. Experience shows that misplaced displays of loyalty by individuals to their employers count for nothing when the axe is being wielded!

So what is TSSA’s advice to members that are asked to cover for staff taking industrial action?

TSSA members are advised to carry out their normal duties and attend for work at their normal times of work and for their normal rostered shifts. Members should decline to change their rostered hours of duty except in circumstances where their contract of employment allows their employer to change them. Should members need advice as to what their contract of employment allows their employer to instruct them to do, they should contact the TSSA Members’ Helpdesk (see below).

TSSA members are strongly urged not to agree to work extended hours, or carry out different or additional duties to those normally undertaken by them, if the need to do so arises directly out of or in consequence of industrial action, unless their contract of employment allows their employer to require them to do so. Regular rostered overtime should be worked as normal. Should members need advice as to the extent to which their contract of employment allows their employer to change their hours of work, they should contact the TSSA Members’ Helpdesk (see below).

It must be stressed that TSSA members should not at any time act in breach of their contracts of employment except in circumstances where TSSA itself calls on its members to take industrial action. To do so may result in their employer taking disciplinary action against them (including dismissal).

What about safety?

Should members, particularly those in management grades, undertake work that they do not normally carry out they should be entirely satisfied that they are qualified and competent to undertake that work. Members should not agree to undertake any duties where there is any doubt as to their individual competence in respect of safety matters.

Recent safety related events in particular have highlighted the very serious consequences for individuals that can result from their involvement in an accident or serious safety incident. Two Merseyrail staff have recently been prosecuted over safety incidents, and one of them is serving a prison sentence. Don’t let it happen to you!

TSSA members should invoke their legal right to refuse carry out work in circumstances where they believe there is a serious and imminent danger to themselves or others. This applies where members are instructed to carry out

duties for which they believe they do not have the necessary safety competencies. It also applies if members are asked to work with others that they believe do not have the necessary safety competencies.

And managers that knowingly allow unsafe working practices are also likely to be at risk of prosecution and imprisonment if something goes wrong!

For TSSA staement regards the role of the guard - click here

Keep TSSA informed

In the event that the employer seeks the agreement of, or instructs members to undertake duties normally performed by members of other unions, members are urged to report the circumstances immediately to the TSSA Members’ Helpdesk (see below). This applies regardless of whether or not the individual’s judgement is that they are competent to undertake the duties in question.

The TSSA Members’ Helpdesk should also be immediately informed should a member invoke their legal right to refuse carry out work in circumstances where they believe there is a serious and imminent danger to themselves or others.

Picket lines

TSSA may not lawfully encourage members to take part in secondary industrial action. Members may however choose as a matter of individual conscience not to cross a picket line.

Members who choose not to cross a picket line and are therefore absent from work should be clear that such action is likely to be viewed by their employer as a breach of their contract of employment, and this may result in their employer taking disciplinary action against them (including dismissal).

TSSA will of course provide advice, support and representation to any member facing disciplinary action in such circumstances.

Further information and advice

Should members have any questions or queries about the advice contained in this circular, they should contact the TSSA Members’ Helpdesk for further advice and assistance - by email at helpdesk@tssa.org.uk, or by phone free on 0800 328 2673. 

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