As guards, and RMT drivers, at five Train Operating Companies (TOCs) strike again on 8-9 November to resist the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO), rail workers have received the demoralising news that Aslef members on Southern have voted by 79.1% to accept a deal that will see Aslef retreat from the dispute and accept a settlement introducing a limited form of DOO on certain services.
The deal, which tied a settlement on DOO to a five-year pay deal representing close to a 30% pay increase, allows Southern to run services without a second safety-critical member of staff on board in certain circumstances.
Let's call this what it is: a bribe. Southern has bribed Aslef members into accepting DOO, potentially selling out their guard colleagues in the process.
But the solid strikes across Southern, Greater Anglia, South Western, Merseyrail, and Northern show that there is still a will to fight amongst the guards. This dispute must be fought through to the end, without Aslef if necessary.
RMT members should heap the pressure on their Aslef colleagues locally to respect picket lines. The 20% of Aslef members who voted to reject the deal represent a core that could be built on. Let's remember that Aslef members twice rejected their leadership's attempts to settle the dispute; there is clearly still a minority who understand the situation. Aslef members who have respected RMT pickets at Merseyrail and elsewhere must continue to do so, and work to spread that action.
The rest of the labour movement must rally round the RMT to ensure the industrial fight against DOO is taken up as a political campaign for properly staffed, publicly-owned railway. The work of Disabled People 4 Guards, set up by Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) activists and others, shows what is possible. Local Labour Parties must also act, particularly in areas where Labour mayors or councils have input into rail franchising and could block the imposition of DOO.