Rail chaos ahead as guards vote for action in safety dispute

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers face widespread chaos after guards voted by two to one for industrial action in a dispute over safety.

Rail passengers face widespread chaos after guards voted by two to one for industrial action in a dispute over safety.

Train crews from at least 12 out of the 26 train operators opted for strikes in protest at changes to the network's rule book that they claim will undermine their safety role.

The executive of the RMT rail union, which revealed the result of the ballot of guards and conductors yesterday, will consult employees' representatives at the companies before drawing up plans for the most serious industrial action since privatisation. The strike could begin the week after next.

In a turn-out of just over 51 per cent 1,401 guards from 12 companies voted for action, while 745 voted against. South West Trains and C2C will escape disruption after only 36.5 per cent and 20 per cent respectively voted for the industrial action.

Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, said that new safety regulations introduced in 1999 reduced the role of guards and conductors to "Kit-kat sellers". He added:"Costs and profits are being put before safety." Mr Crow called on the rail industry to respect the recommendations of an independent risk assessment and restore important aspects of the guards' role in safety.

The employers said that 4,500 people were balloted and only a third of the workforce had voted for strike action.

¿ "The Government could be swamped in a legal quagmire'' of litigation unless it agrees to close pay gaps of up to £10,000 between civil servants doing the same work in separate agencies, the Public and Commercial Services Union warned yesterday. It said inequalities were a "national scandal'' and warned that it would use equal opportunities legislation to close the gaps by taking cases to employment tribunals.

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