Published: 25th September 2016
The RMT rail union has announced a series of strikes in their Southern Guards' safety dispute. Southern rail Guards have been instructed to go on strike by not turning up for works as follows:
Between 00.01 on Tuesday 11th October and 23.59 on Thursday 13th October
Between 00.01 on Tuesday 18th October and 23.59 on Thursday 20st October
Between 00.01 on Thursday 3rd November and 23.59 on Saturday 5th November
Between 00.01 on Tuesday 22nd November and 23.59 on Wednesday 23rd November
Between 00.01 on Tuesday 6th December and 23.59 on Thursday 8th December.
The further strikes have been called for what the RMT says is as a result of the blatant disregard for the safety and security of passengers. RMT General
Secretary Mick Cash said;
“Yet again our members are being forced to take industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern. Govia Thameslink and the Government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute. Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation (DOO) without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access.
“Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains. The Guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances. If the train had been DOO and without a Guard the consequences would have been far worse.
“This week we reached a deal with Scotrail that we are recommending for acceptance in a referendum of our members, that guarantees a fully competent Conductor/Guard on every new train. If an agreement can be reached on Scotrail, then an agreement can also be made on Southern.
"In the light of these recent developments it is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are continuing to attempt to impose DOO in the interests of putting profit before safety. We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority."
Angie Doll, GTR’s Passenger Services Director, said: “The RMT’s desire to heap yet further travel misery on the public and affect the everyday lives of so many people is shameful.
“A comprehensive and fair offer has been on the table for weeks and the union leadership’s claims about jobs, pay, safety are trumped-up make believe. This scaremongering by the RMT union is a contrived attempt to gain public support when it knows its spurious arguments about jobs, pay, accessibility and safety have been demolished by independent experts and analysis and are falling on deaf ears.
“As a responsible operator, our priority is to make our services more accessible, not less, and we will not be shaken in that commitment. We care deeply about those of our customers who are less mobile and help thousands of elderly and disabled customers week in, week out, to travel with us. We will do everything we can to ensure those needing help getting on and off our trains receive our care and attention to get them where they want to be, promptly and hassle-free.
“We’ve always said we are ready, willing and able to sit down and discuss how best we implement our modernisation plans and give our customers the services they expect and deserve. The RMT has to stop being the problem and get on board - finally - and be part of the solution. Everyone is sick and tired of the union’s posturing and it has to stop, and stop now. It’s what the public want.”
The strikes were announced just after Southern announced that all Brighton to Lewes and Seaford trains would commence running on 26 September. Most trains on this route have been substituted by buses since 11 July when the revised timetable was introduced. This means that the 300 cancelled trains a day are gradually being reinstated, with a few services now reaching Milton Keynes running via the West London Line. Tonbridge and Reigate to Redhill and London trains started up again on 19 September.
Alex Foulds, Southern’s Passenger Services Director, said:
“The replacement of many of the Seaford trains with buses was understandably hard-felt by the local community and we’re sorry for the hassle and inconvenience to everyone the reduced timetable caused, brought on by the RMT’s futile industrial action over small changes we are making to working practices. We are pleased now to be able to restore the town’s full service from Monday next week.
“We made a commitment at the start of the month to restore the full timetable of services incrementally and we’re on track to deliver on that promise and in the coming weeks other services will be back too.
“We are moving forward with our plans to improve customer services on board our trains which will deliver enhanced benefits to customers. We already have over 70 staff in the new on-board roles and the reaction from passengers has been excellent.”
The cost of the temporary timetable will be immense as cancellation thresholds will have been breached with the DfT and if they insist that the Direct Award contractual penalties are applicable, Southern will be paying heavily.
Because it is clear that the DfT is supporting the train company stance against the RMT otherwise it would have called in the franchise. As it is, Southern will have to pay millions in compensation to regular passengers and will be suffering revenue loss for those that now drive or just don’t bother to use rail anymore.