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15 Oct 99

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Guards' safety protest outlawed

  : Saturday, October 23, 1999
Railway guard's planned industrial action over a dimunition in their safety role on trains has been outlawed in a decision in the High court yesterday (22 October).
Three Train Operating Companies have succeeded in obtaining an injunction again the rail union RMT to prevent its members from taking industrial action over a change in the rule book which removes their responsibility for safety in the event of an accident or breakdown. In a ballot held earlier this week, 84% of the 13,000 guards voted in favour of the action. The planned 24 hour stoppage would have affected all 23 of the Train Operating Companies. Most trains are legally required to have a guard.

The train companies who brought the action, Virgin, South West Trains and Connex South East said that they had to implement the rule change brought in by Railtrack. The dispute was therefore not with the employers of the guards. The judge, Mr Justice Turner granted an injunction in favour of the rail companies, but gave the RMT leave to appeal. He will give his full judgement on Monday 25 October 1999.

Guards employed by Scotrail initially believed that their protest would go ahead as judgements in English courts do not apply in Scotland. After discussions however, the RMT decided that their Scottish members north of the border should not pursue the industrial action as a Scottish court would almost certainly reach the same decision.

Railtrack introduced the rule following consultation with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Railtrack says that safety would be improved by clarifying the roles of crew on trains.

The RMT believe that the move is part of a wider agenda and say that the reduction in guards responsibilities' on trains will lead to them becoming food and ticket vendors.
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