DPAC on the need for Guards
The guard is there for everyone’s protection; terrorist incidents can only remind us of this. Deaf and Disabled passengers rely on an adequate number of well-trained staff and accessible facilities. Environmental barriers, service provider policies and attitudes lead to our isolation and exclusion from work, education, volunteering and involvement in our communities.
Guards have months of training and 35 different safety-crucial competencies. The government is encouraging the extension of Driver Only Operation (DOO). Southern introduced an On Board Supervisor (OBS) with just 2 days very basic training. Southern negotiated, with the exclusion of the RMT,an agreement with ASLEF leadership, not to send an OBS under a high number of “exceptional circumstances”. ASLEF membership voted against this discriminatory deal. Southern has announced 33 stations where Disabled passengers can no longer arrive on the same Turn-Up-&- Go basis that non-Disabled travellers enjoy. There will be no second member of staff and Disabled people requiring assistance to board and exit the train face abolition of the Right to Ride.Private companies are creating longer trains with up to twelve carriages and the impossibility of drivers seeing anyone trying to board at the back of the train along curved platforms. Lack of maintenance staff leads to the break-down of lifts, lack of or out-of-order toilets and unservicable help-points in lieu of safety trained staff.The two minutes allowed at many stations for all passengers to board/exit trains discriminates against Deaf and Disabled People and puts staff under intolerable pressure. The DOO dispute has spread from RMT members on Southern GTR to Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and now to South Western Railway and Greater Anglia franchises. Momentum Disabled Caucus have been campaigning to “Make Rail Accessible.” Attacks on the rights of Deaf and Disabled People are often also an attack on trade unionists. We need to work together for a socialist Labour Government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, whose pledges include public ownership of the railways.This article was first published in the Summer 2017 issue of the NOR4NOR Newsletter.