By Phil Marsh

Widespread London and Southeast station staff strikes announced by the RMT

Published: 28th August 2016

Govia again targeted by the RMT on same day as train operating staff are taking industrial action

The RMT union has announced a strike by station staff on 7 September, the same day as operating staff are not reporting for work. But unlike the other strike which will only hit Southern services, the RMT’s station staff strike applies to Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern services, or much of the Southeast rail network.

Govia, the company that operates these franchises, plus London Midland and Southeastern not included in the industrial action, says that their proposals for their station modernisation programme would affect only eight stations.

They want to trial a new role of Station Host which would affect ticket office and gateline staff which the RMT says would bring closures of ticket offices. The RMT has called a strike for all its station based members includes platform train dispatch staff who are required to safely dispatch trains. So even if trancrew report for duty, some trains would not be able to run without these platform staff.

They said:

Alex Foulds, GTR’s Passenger Services Director, said: “This is a cynical and deliberate stunt by the RMT to try and bring our trains to a standstill by co-ordinating strike action on two fronts on the same day to cause maximum disruption, delay and damage to our passengers’ everyday lives and the economy. The RMT leadership is playing politics with innocent people who are simply seeking to go about their business with employers, family and friends.

“During face-to-face discussions with local union officials from the RMT and TSSA last Monday, we took our original proposals off the table, and agreed new proposals with them - a six months pilot at eight stations using volunteer staff to test the new Station Host role.

It was a very productive meeting and the RMT officials present were content to put the revised pilot proposal forward to the RMT leadership for endorsement. We are therefore perplexed that they have decided to call this strike day in protest at proposals that no longer exist and when a solution had been found. The only conclusion is they are determined to strike even if there is no longer any justification.

“The Station Staff who voted in this ballot may now be asking, like us, why there is no mention of the revised pilot proposals in their statement today. They have ignored the will of their members, with only one in four voting for strike action and are now attempting to drag station staff out on strike over proposals which we have already withdrawn.

“These pilots would be manned by volunteers on a secondment basis and would allow concerns around personal safety and cash handling to be addressed. Staff would keep their jobs, get more money and many would work fewer hours.

The RMT says that the strike against Govia Thameslink Railways over a threat to jobs, pay and safety from the impact of ticket office closures and the reorganisation of the workforce. The impact of the Govia proposals cannot be underestimated. GTR want to close ticket offices, or cut them to morning peak only, at 83 stations from as far afield as Kings Lynn and Bognor Regis.

Curiously the RMT claims that ticket office closures, and cuts in hours will have a devastating impact on the safety and services offered to the travelling public. But the RMT does not quantify how this claim is substantiated. But the one thing that they do have support over is that passengers do not want ticket offices to close because ticket machines do not offer every sort of ticket and cannot offer travel advice. And if you are reading this, you can obviously buy rail tickets for all journeys on but for those without the internet, rail travel arrangements will become more challenging.

They said:

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said; “The Govia Thamelink franchise is in meltdown and not fit for purpose. Not content with axing catering services, closing ticket offices and attacking the role of their guards they now want to threaten 130 station jobs and compromise the safety of both their passengers and staff alike.

“These cuts fly in the face of the response from the thousands of passengers who objected to the closure of ticket offices and the de-staffing of stations as Govia drives on with plans for a “faceless railway” where the public are left to fend for themselves on rammed-out, dangerous and unreliable services.

But again, the RT does not qualify why services are dangerous.

GTR want these Station Hosts to sell a full range of tickets, to help passengers with ticket machines, operate the gate line and undertake station cleaning and security duties by themselves and all in the same shift!

These staff will be out on the concourse with a ticket machine and cash, from first thing in the morning to late at night, and often working alone. They will be a target for muggers and robbers.

GTR say they will give an alternative job to those gate line staff who do not get a Station Host position. But in the Southern metro area, with almost all stations going over to this method of working, where will these alternative posts be?

Who is Govia?

In their own words, Govia is a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%) and it has it says, extensive experience running complex and challenging rail operations, managing significant change programmes, and it has introduced more new train fleets in the UK than any other operator. Govia is the UK’s busiest rail operator, currently providing c.35% of all passenger journeys.

It has run Southern since 2001 (in 2015 this was integrated into the GTR franchise), Southeastern since 2006, London Midland since 2007, and GTR since 2014. Go-Ahead has a turnover of £3.21billion and some 26,000 employees.

Govia’s vision is to be a leading provider of high-quality, innovative, customer-focused passengers transport - delivering the needs of passengers and communities.

Queues at ticket offices do not 100% support this though.

Perhaps buy your rail tickets from and avoid the queues.

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