New four-day rail strike announced amid stalemate in guards dispute

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The dispute between the RMT union and South Western Railway is over the future of guards

A FOUR-DAY strike has been called by the RMT union on the South Western Railway network as both sides accused the other of intensifying the dispute.

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Members will walk out from Friday 30th August to Monday 2nd September on the regional network, which includes the New Forest line and links to London Waterloo.

The action is the latest in the ongoing dispute between the company and the union, which is demanding bosses give a guarantee that every train will carry a guard to maintain passenger safety.

It will coincide with the Bournemouth Air Festival weekend which brings thousands of visitors to the area. Previous walkouts have halved services.

Announcing the strikes, the RMT accused SWR of making a “mockery” of talks by breaking a promise in February for every train to operate with a “guard with safety critical competencies”. The union fears the company wants to get rid of guards completely.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have been left with no choice but to call a further four days of strike action on South Western Railway.

“They are angry and frustrated that SWR have kicked talks into the long grass and failed to bolt down an agreement that will guarantee the role of the guard on the train. Our members believe that they are being mugged off by the company in protracted talks and I think they are right.

“The company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard fuelling fears amongst our members of a stitch up.”

He added: “That situation has been compounded by an insistence that future operational models will be governed by the protection of company profits and not the safety of the travelling public.”

A spokesperson for SWR said the action would inflict more “misery” on customers. The news was “disappointing” as the two sides had been meeting talks, he said, with Mr Cash due to have joined discussions the day before the now scheduled strike.

“We are struggling to comprehend what this endless strike action is really all about. The RMT seems intent on ploughing on full steam ahead with more strikes, showing little regard for our customers or the communities we serve,” said the SWR spokesperson.

“The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement.

“We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.

“We remain committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone. We will do everything we can to keep customers moving during strike action.”

The strike announcement follows union members voting in July to renew the mandate for industrial action, which they are required by law to do every six months.

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