RMT in dispute with SWR regarding ‘guardian angels’

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pompeyfan

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not entirely sure how I feel about this, in normal times I’d completely back this sort of action, that said RMT seem to have suspended the guards dispute due to COVID.


USE OF VOLUNTARY UNPAID LABOUR ON THE RAILWAY NETWORK – SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAYS
To All RMT South Western Railways Members


Our Ref: BR2/13/4

17th June 2020


Dear Colleague

USE OF VOLUNTARY UNPAID LABOUR ON THE RAILWAY NETWORK – SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAYS

I write with regards to the above matter and to inform you that South Western Railways has taken the decision to introduce a volunteer workforce known as ‘Guardian Angels’ across the SWR network, due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Your Union Representatives have advised me that SWR has introduced 185 station volunteers across the network for 3 hours AM and 3 hours PM which will be funded by the DfT. As you may be aware, the RMT has already raised our objections on this issue with the DfT, RICF and the ‘Volunteering Matters’ Organisation direct and the Union remains strongly opposed to the use of such unpaid workers on the railway.

These unpaid volunteers are no substitute for hard-working and fully trained members of rail staff and the RMT believes that SWR should not be actively participating in these unsafe and dangerous practices. The deployment of these unpaid volunteers is putting the volunteers, our members and the travelling public at risk, with serious concerns for the health and safety of the entire network.

As a result of the above, I have informed SWR that a dispute situation now exists between our two organisations and I will be balloting our SWR members for industrial action.

I will, of course, keep you fully advised on any further developments.

Best wishes.
Mick Cash
General Secretary
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Tetchytyke

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Quite right too. Getting unpaid staff in to do a paid staff member's job just undermines everyone.

SWR are not a charity. Their directors are not unpaid. So why should their staff be?

If the job needs doing, pay someone to do it. There's no shortage of people who'd be glad of the cash.

hope the Government, given the special circumstances, passes a law outlawing any such action.
Covid or no Covid, it's a professional industry and should be treated as a professional industry. It's not the Titfield Thunderbolt.
 

Ashley Hill

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Indeed,after being shouted at a couple of times I doubt they'd be back the next day. GWR are using stood down buffet staff,perhaps SWR could use paid staff who have been stood down if they have any.
 

Swimbar

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Clearly some people not behaving in a Professional Manner.
This is a National Emergency and requires all members of society to pull together at this time.
A typical reaction from an industry where unions pull the strings not management.
 

StephenHunter

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These are volunteers just there for the current situation right?

Also, if the RMT are concerned about safety, how is going on strike going to improve that? It will just force people into buses instead.
 

alxndr

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There are enough instances of people ending up on here asking for help after being given incorrect information without random volunteers hanging around and giving it out.
I'm not sure why this situation means that more people are needed—surely if anything now is a time for less people to be around not more. If it's to control people then surely that's a job that people deserve to get paid to do.
 

infobleep

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These are volunteers just there for the current situation right?

Also, if the RMT are concerned about safety, how is going on strike going to improve that? It will just force people into buses instead.
Well during engineering works people have to take buses and that included the Easter Bank Holiday works. In Guildford the works lasted for 10 days. Admittedly less people were travelling then.

Im in two minds over this. The Olympic Games had volunteers so is this not just like that?

Obviously if volunteers are used to cut staffing numbers then I'd object.

Is similar action being taken against other TOCs?
 

Ianigsy

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A friend was a volunteer ambassador at Leeds Bradford Airport until recently- in his case it was something to do which got him out and meeting people one afternoon a week while his wife was running a church event. In his case the airport's new management decided that they'd rather have paid people contracted to work when needed rather than volunteers who worked at times that suited them.

I find it hard to believe that many people would volunteer to spend a few hours at Waterloo or Wimbledon pointing people to the Underground for nothing, though.
 

Swimbar

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These are volunteers just there for the current situation right?

Also, if the RMT are concerned about safety, how is going on strike going to improve that? It will just force people into buses instead.
During the 2012 London Olympics 100's of volunteers we stationed at London termini to assist people. This is no different, its a short term solution. Presumably the union didn't like that also?
 

185

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Unpaid Volunteers
and
3 hours AM and 3 hours PM which will be funded by the DfT
Does the money evaporate when it hits FirstGroup's bank account? The RMT does have a point, SWR should stop scrounging and pay them *something*.
 

infobleep

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How does one become a Guardian Angel? I tried to look this up online but I only found this thread and the RMT press release.
 

TEW

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There's been an increase in the number of agency staff at stations the past few weeks, and especially this week. Are they all going to lose their shifts in favour of unpaid volunteers now? Even if none of the current agency staff lose out, it doesn't usually seem to be an issue getting more casual labour in for this kind of thing.
 

O8yityityit

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not entirely sure how I feel about this, in normal times I’d completely back this sort of action, that said RMT seem to have suspended the guards dispute due to COVID.

What a surprise. The teachers unions and the RMT are nothing if not predictable.
And as some one says further down the thread what does going on strike achieve apart from reducing further the little support they might receive from the travelling public.
 

Bald Rick

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Presumably the RMT feel the same way about all the volunteers in Community Rail Partnerships who help out at stations all over the network. Or the St Johns Ambulance. Or parents who help out at their kids school.

And before anyone says ‘but this is different’ - no it isn’t.
 

Bletchleyite

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If the RMT wanted to campaign for something useful in this area, it would be to take the poorly-trained contract "rentathugs" in house and stop the use of contract security for what are essentially customer service and management roles.

I would expect these volunteers to provide far better quality of service than any such security guard ever did.
 

Tetchytyke

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And before anyone says ‘but this is different’ - no it isn’t.
Volunteering at your kid's school is very different, unless your kid's school is part of a multinational corporation with a £7.2bn revenue stream?

If the RMT wanted to campaign for something useful in this area, it would be to take the poorly-trained contract "rentathugs" in house and stop the use of contract security for what are essentially customer service and management roles.
The RMT repeatedly and consistently demand the end of casualisation of railway work.

Getting unpaid labour in is just the next step of casualisation. Why get someone in for a wage when you can persuade some mug to do it for free.

This is a National Emergency and requires all members of society to pull together at this time.
And that includes SWR paying an honest day's wages for an honest day's work, rather than exploiting unpaid labour.

I note Mark Hopwood hasn't agreed to forego his salary for The Greater Good.

Does the money evaporate when it hits FirstGroup's bank account?
Quite.
 

the sniper

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I find it hard to believe that many people would volunteer to spend a few hours at Waterloo or Wimbledon pointing people to the Underground for nothing, though.
I find it very easy to believe there are all sorts of people who'd like to wear a TOC branded hi-vi and pretend they work for the railway. Some could even bring their own 'Station Master' badge and second hand train crew backpack to properly look the part...
 

InOban

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The NHS would collapse without volunteers who deliver a lot of front of house services. For example in our smallish hospital the RVS staff the reception desk.
 

mmh

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The NHS would collapse without volunteers who deliver a lot of front of house services. For example in our smallish hospital the RVS staff the reception desk.
It wouldn't collapse, the cost of it would just increase by a completely insignificant amount.
 

PupCuff

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I agree that the RMT would be failing as a union if it didn't raise issue with non-union volunteers being used in place of employed staff, and therefore I don't hold any issue with them balloting.

Nevertheless, I wish they'd cut the nonsense:

These unpaid volunteers are no substitute for hard-working and fully trained members of rail staff and the RMT believes that SWR should not be actively participating in these unsafe and dangerous practices. The deployment of these unpaid volunteers is putting the volunteers, our members and the travelling public at risk, with serious concerns for the health and safety of the entire network.
If you're going to suggest this has 'serious concerns for health and safety of the entire network' then there really does need to be some evidence as it is not obvious what, specifically, is unsafe or dangerous about the practice.

Perhaps the volunteers aren't being CRB checked so there could be a risk of an unsavoury character getting involved. But there's no evidence to say this is the case.
Perhaps the volunteers are getting an A4 sheet of paper instead of a training programme. No evidence to say this is the case.
Perhaps the volunteers are going to be juggling machetes blindfolded whilst walking tightrope along the conductor rail. Again, no evidence.

If safety corners are being cut I'll be the first to call someone out on them but the union need more than simply saying "it's dangerous" to justify kicking off on H&S grounds. I hope more details will be provided to their members with a better justification of the supposed safety failings to justify the members voting to lose pay by walking out.
 

Swimbar

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Volunteering at your kid's school is very different, unless your kid's school is part of a multinational corporation with a £7.2bn revenue stream?



The RMT repeatedly and consistently demand the end of casualisation of railway work.

Getting unpaid labour in is just the next step of casualisation. Why get someone in for a wage when you can persuade some mug to do it for free.



And that includes SWR paying an honest day's wages for an honest day's work, rather than exploiting unpaid labour.

I note Mark Hopwood hasn't agreed to forego his salary for The Greater Good.



Quite.
This has nothing to do with the £7.2bn revenue stream. That is a total red herring.
This is about giving fare paying passengers help at a time when they need it.
It's one solution to a short term problem.
LNER have chosen to make seat reservation compulsory for passengers meaning they can manage the situation with existing staff.
I would suggest that this is not an option on SWR.
Clearly as a long term solution it would be unacceptable but nobody is suggesting that.
No SWR employee is going to loose their job by this move
 

43066

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If the RMT wanted to campaign for something useful in this area, it would be to take the poorly-trained contract "rentathugs" in house and stop the use of contract security for what are essentially customer service and management roles.

I would expect these volunteers to provide far better quality of service than any such security guard ever did.
Agreed but, as noted above, they have campaigned for that pretty consistently
(as poor as their messaging often is).

I’m not clear on what the purpose of these volunteers is, or why they’re suddenly deemed necessary, at a time of record lows in railway passenger numbers!?
 

mmh

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This is about giving fare paying passengers help at a time when they need it.
It's one solution to a short term problem.
Which is what? There doesn't seem to be any information in this thread about what these volunteers are for.
 
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