Rail commuters’ glimpse of hell under Labour: John McDonnell tells militant RMT chiefs they will be ‘in government with us’ – as South Western passengers suffer third day of month-long strikes
- Labour’s John McDonnell assured RMT union it would be ‘in government with us’
- In a video he promised union they would be ‘key advisers’ on transport policy
- Millions are today suffering on third day of strike called by the RMT union
Labour’s John McDonnell assured the union behind rail strikes inflicting misery for millions of commuters that it would be ‘in government with us,’ it has emerged.
Video footage has emerged of the shadow chancellor last year promising the militant Rail Maritime and Transport union that they would be ‘key advisers’ on transport policy.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also gave a speech in 2017 asking the RMT to ‘work as closely as possible together’ to ‘take the fight to the Tories and win a Labour government.’
The RMT leadership announced the current 27-day strike, crippling South Western Railway services and causing misery for commuters, within a week of the general election being called at the end of October.
Millions are today suffering on a third day of strike action, with huge delays to services and overcrowded trains.
In a ‘special circular’ to members issued on November 1, the union also said: ‘It is clearly in the interests of RMT members… for the Tories to be defeated and for there to be a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.’
The only days when SWR will not face strike action are polling day, and on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when no services are due to run anyway.
The RMT was expelled from Labour in 2004 when Tony Blair was in charge of the party. It ‘realigned’ itself in support of the party last year although members rejected a formal re-affiliation.
Millions are today suffering on a third day of strike action, with huge delays to services and overcrowded trains
Video footage has emerged of the shadow chancellor last year promising the militant Rail Maritime and Transport union that they would be ‘key advisers’ on transport policy
Electoral Commission records show that in the last five years it has given £302,936 to the Labour Party and to individual Labour MPs. This includes £50,000 to Mr Corbyn’s office, £9,125 to his Islington North constituency party and £16,000 to Mr McDonnell’s west London constituency party, the Evening Standard reported.
RMT leader Mick Cash denied that the strike was timed for the election. In a statement to the Evening Standard he said: ‘The claim from the Tories that this strike action is politically motivated is total nonsense.
‘If anyone engineered this dispute it was the Tories themselves. That would explain why a deal agreed verbally with SWR was pulled off the table after a call was made to those calling the shots.’
A Labour spokesman, responding to the remarks by Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn, said: ‘All the rail unions, many passenger representatives and transport experts have helped develop our plans to bring the railways into public ownership, end rip-off privatisation, and invest so we can improve services.’
One commuter from Haslemere in Surrey posted this picture yesterday of an overcrowded train
Meanwhile it emerged the strikes causing misery for hundreds of thousands of rail passengers are about whether guards should have a few seconds more to ensure the safe despatch of trains, union leaders claimed.
The RMT union said it had set out a framework for renewed talks in a bid to resolve the long-running row over the role of guards.
In a letter to the company, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘I am writing to ask for your agreement to reopen talks around an operational framework that would allow for the action called for December to be suspended.
‘Obviously, it would be in the interest of all concerned to try and reach a negotiated agreement and I have today written to Sir Brendan Barber (chairman of Acas) asking him to use his good offices to conciliate.’
South Western Railway reveals the extent of the strikes and how they are affecting commuters
Commuters at Waterloo (pictured) were said to be ‘packed in like sardines’ during the evening rush-hour on the first day of the strikes
How will YOUR journey be affected by strikes?
- Basingstoke to London Waterloo (stopping service): Reduced service with one train per hour
- Alton to London Waterloo: Reduced service with one train per hour
- Woking to London Waterloo (stopping service): Two trains per hour
- Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier: Reduced service with two trains per hour
- Salisbury to London Waterloo: Reduced service with one train per hour
- Salisbury to Exeter St Davids: Reduced service with one train every two hours. Buses every hour between Honiton and Exeter St Davids
- Salisbury to Bristol Temple Meads: No service
- Ascot to Aldershot: Buses every hour
- Aldershot to Guildford: No service
- Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo via Guildford: Reduced service with two trains per hour
- Southampton Central to Fratton: One train per hour (not Swaythling)
- Portsmouth to Basingstoke (and Waterloo): One train per hour
- Epsom to London Waterloo: Two trains per hour
- Epsom to Dorking: No service
- Guildford to London Waterloo via Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon: One train per hour
- Effingham Junction and Epsom: Buses every hour
- Hampton Court to London Waterloo: Two trains per hour
- Chessington South to London Waterloo: Reduced service with one train per hour
- Kingston to Shepperton: One train per hour
- London Waterloo to London Waterloo via Strawberry Hill: Normal service with two trains per hour
- London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside via Hounslow: Two trains per hour
- London Waterloo to Reading: Two trains per hour
- London Waterloo to Weybridge via Staines: No service
- London Waterloo to Bournemouth: One train per hour
- Southampton Central and Bournemouth: One stopping service per hour
- Bournemouth to Weymouth: One shuttle service every hour
- Salisbury to Romsey via Southampton Central: No service
Mr Cash said SWR had raised the issue of ‘dwell times’ – the length of time a train is stationary on platforms.
‘It is our view that adding three or four seconds dwell time at each station to ensure the safest method of working and despatch is surely a small price to pay to guarantee the safety and accessibility for all, which is the issue at the heart of the dispute.
‘Safety must come first in all instances which, as you know, is our guiding principle.
‘As the union has said repeatedly, there is clearly a deal there to be done which would cost your company nothing and which would give the safety and accessibility guarantees at the platform/train interface that we have been seeking.
‘I would welcome your immediate confirmation of your agreement to attend these urgent discussions under the auspices of Acas.’
A South Western Railway spokesman said: ‘We’re pleased that the RMT wants to come back to the table, but we need the RMT to show they are serious about ending these strikes in a way that works for passengers.
‘They need to explain exactly what do they want instead of the written agreement they took away from Acas last Thursday, and offer a new solution that safely delivers over 10 million more passenger journeys on time every year.
‘We want a guard on every train with a safety-critical role, but we want to enable guards to spend more time helping people in wheelchairs and with buggies get on and off the train, walking up and down all the carriages and ensuring the safety of passengers at times of need.’
SWR managing director Andy Mellors wrote to Mr Cash asking him to explain where the RMT stands, saying the union took a written agreement away from talks last week.
He asked whether the RMT has new alternative ways of safely delivering over 10 million more peak-time passenger journeys on time every year.
‘Our focus is making sure our new trains leave every station on time, every time, and the proposal agreed last Thursday enabled that in a way that, as you know, the independent Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) has confirmed is at least as safe as our current train operation.
‘Every second at every station counts on a network as busy as ours, where stops on our suburban routes can be every two minutes and routes include a large number of stops,’ he wrote.
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