RMT members are striking to defend services after First Great Western have failed to guarantee that there will continue to be a guard and buffet on every train. Steve Eason reports from the picket line at Paddington station.
Members of the RMT union – drivers, station staff and engineers on First Great Western – are striking for 72 hours this weekend over issues including the threatened introduction of driver only “super express” trains.
Over twenty strikers and supporters – including members of Ealing Trades Council and senior members of the RMT – joined the picket line at Paddington station in London on Saturday morning.
I spoke to Alex, assistant secretary of Paddington RMT branch, who told me “staff are concerned about their jobs, but also about the safety of passengers – accidents are regular and frequent on driver-only trains.” Alex said the RMT suspect the government are planning to reduce staffing ahead of putting the current franchise to tender.
The RMT are also concerned about cuts to station and ticket office staff, and have warned passengers that “your fares will go up when passengers are already paying the highest fares in Europe.”
A senior RMT official gave a short speech to the pickets on Saturday and reminded everyone “look at Boris Johnson and the night tube… that’s what you get when people stand up for themselves.” Tube managers backed down this week from launching the new “night tube” service on 12 September: after two successful strikes they have accepted that they have to negotiate the service’s introduction with unions representing tube workers.
On both Sunday and Monday of the bank holiday weekend there will be a picket at Ealing Broadway station from 8am, and at Paddington station from 6am.