Latest Rail News

04.08.16

Aslef and TSSA ballot staff over Southern strikes

The industrial action currently bringing Southern services to a standstill is set to get even worse as two further unions announced they are also carrying out ballets.

The company has been forced to cancel 341 services a day in a bid to stop widespread unpredictable cancellations on its services.

However, Aslef said that ongoing issues regarding the imposition of new rosters to facilitate the timetable constitute a breakdown in industrial relations.

It will now ballot drivers on Southern and the Gatwick Express, also owned by Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over whether to strike, with a decision due by the end of the month.

GTR has already obtained injunctions to stop Aslef drivers on Southern and the Gatwick Express from striking, like their fellow union RMT, over plans to introduce new driver-operated only services.

Angie Doll, passenger service director at GTR, said: “Twice Aslef has tried to block our plans to improve the railway and twice the courts have ruled their attempts unlawful. Aslef members have been successfully operating this timetable for three weeks to deliver more reliable services for passengers and staff in the face of traincrew shortages.

“To call a strike ballot against this timetable now is a cynical and desperate attempt to heap even more misery on passengers especially as we have met with Aslef on two occasions and have a further meeting with them next week on this specific issue.”

Southern is currently in talks in a bid to avert a five-day strike next week by RMT, but has said it will have to introduce a strike timetable if RMT does not call off the strike by this afternoon, which now appears unlikely to happen.

In addition, the TSSA has announced it is balloting station staff over proposed ticket office closures, which RMT is already doing.

Manuel Cortes, the leader of the TSSA, said the union’s goal is to ensure that GTR loses control of the Southern franchise and that passengers “may have to suffer short term pain to see a long term gain” in order to achieve this.

He said that any strikes would take place in September and would be co-ordinated with other unions in order to “maximise the impact”.

Janet Cooke, chief executive of London TravelWatch, said today that GTR and RMT “must resolve the dispute”, because “things can’t go on like this”.

London TravelWatch has also already said that Transport for London should take over the Southern franchise if the full timetable isn’t restored within a month.

(Image c. Lauren Hurley from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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Comments

Voice Of Reason   04/08/2016 at 14:54

What an absolutely disgraceful comment from Cortes, this is the reason I have no time for many unions these days. His job as union leader is to protect his members interests in regard to workplace safety and security etc, NOT, repeat NOT, to dabble in political posturing which costs his members money and job security. He is a complete disgrace and his members should remove him from office if the TSSA is to retain any semblance of respectability.

Jason Rice   05/08/2016 at 08:16

“may have to suffer short term pain to see a long term gain” I think you'll find us passengers have suffered enough pain in the long term due to the unions as it is. Yes GTR/Southern had its issues but at least there was a fairly reasonable service and not the utter mess that has been for the past couple of months

Jerry Alderson   05/08/2016 at 15:52

I'm disappointed by RTM's lousy reporting where one side's view is presented without any criticism or their claims or an attempt at balance. RTM wrote: "TSSA has announced it is balloting station staff over proposed ticket office closures." Factually that is correct, but in reality the three words "ticket office closures" does not represent the reality in any way. GTR has assured passenger groups such as Railfuture that there will be no staff cuts and in fact there will be a staff increase. Staffing hours will be extended, often substantially, with many stations seeing staffing from first to last train that haven't had it for decades. Some currently unstaffed stations will be staffed. Providing that GTR isn't lying and that it intends to focus on passenger service the changes will be a big win for passengers. The station hosts introduced by Chiltern Railways have been a great success and are offering a superb quality of service, including a proactive one. Railfuture has spent a lot of time looking at what the hosts do at stations like Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village and been impressed. For example, hosts have seen someone struggling at a TVM or even attempting to buy something unsuitable and stopped their transaction and helped them do it properly. On one occasion the host saw three people travelling together who were individually buying tickets from TVMs and came over to tell them to stop and get a group save ticket instead. I don't need the advice myself, but I do not enjoy having to speak to someone through a glass window and I'm sure I’m not alone. Many banks no longer have glass windows so why should stations?

Martin T   05/08/2016 at 16:00

"Manuel Cortes, the leader of the TSSA, said the union’s goal is to ensure that GTR loses control of the Southern franchise" If the reporting of that statement is factually correct then this destroys the union's (and unions') credibility. They exist to get beneficial outcomes for their members not political outcomes. Striking to change a franchisee is no different to unions striking to change a government. Only voters should do that, otherwise it's little short of a coup.

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