Rail union RMT has confirmed staff on South Western Railway will stage nine days of strike action in October in November in a dispute over the role of guards on trains.

The strikes, to be staged by guards and train drivers, will begin with a five-day walk-out from 0001 on Tuesday, 23 October until 2359 on Saturday, 27 October. This will be followed by 24-hour strikes on 3, 10, 17 and 24 November.

RMT claims South Western has ‘refused’ to engage in serious talks over the future role of guards on trains. The union believes companies such as South Western and Northern are putting profits ahead of passenger safety by planning to introduce driver-only trains.

Although it has yet to respond to the latest announcement, South Western has said in the past that RMT’s strikes are ‘unnecessary’ because new train stock does not pose a threat to guards’ jobs or passenger safety.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, commented: “South Western Railway has stalled the talks process and has failed to provide any sort of offer that comes close to resolving this dispute which matches the widespread best practice in the industry, underpinned by the guard guarantee.

“With shocking new figures from the British Transport Police showing a surge in violence on our railways, it is frankly appalling that South Western Railway are looking for a green light to throw the guard off their trains as and when they see fit in the name of profit. SWR might think it’s acceptable to play fast and loose with passenger safety, security and access but RMT members, who have stood firm throughout this dispute despite appalling harassment from the company, will not accept a dilution of the safety regime on the railway.”

Cash says RMT has already struck deals with train operators in Wales, Scotland and England and is calling on South Western to “get out of the bunker and start talking with us seriously”.

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