First Great Western strike
RMT takes action to defend safety
RMT members working on First Great Western trains across South Wales brought most of the service to a halt yesterday and today as they struck against company attempts to cut jobs and change the terms and conditions of employment with the introduction of new trains.
Swansea RMT branch secretary Owen Herbert explained to Alec Thraves that this dispute is not just about jobs but also about the safety of staff and passengers:
"This dispute is about the changes First Great Western want to impose on our members and the implications they will have on both rail workers and the travelling public.
"First Great Western are using the introduction of the new Hitachi Super Express Trains to scrap the buffet car (except possibly for first class passengers), tender out the maintenance jobs of the new rolling stock, cut station and ticket office staff and most worryingly remove the train guard by introducing driver only operation.
"In Swansea, as with other maintenance depots along the line, around 80+ maintenance jobs are at risk with the building of a new depot to accommodate the Hitachi trains. First Great Western refuses to give any guarantee that staff will be transferred to the new depot with existing terms and conditions kept in place.
"Catering staff are obviously concerned over the threat to their jobs with a removal of the buffet service and its replacement with a trolley service.
"Train guards play an essential role in providing a professional service for the health and safety of passengers whenever any problems, concerns or accidents occur during the journey. The idea that trains could operate without guards would horrify passengers but this is the objective of First Great Western who believe that drivers could operate trains safely on their own because of automatic doors!
"The RMT and East Coast, which are also introducing the new Hitachi trains, have negotiated an agreement which satisfies all the concerns of our union, and our members on Great Western are determined to reach a similar deal otherwise future action will be on the cards!"
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