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GTR takes to the Supreme Court to block further Aslef strikes on Southern

After launching a failed legal challenge at the High Court in December and subsequently losing its appeal case at the Court of Appeal, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is now taking its legal action against drivers’ union Aslef to the Supreme Court in the hopes of finally curtailing further industrial action on Southern.

The TOC’s final roll of the dice came as the latest action by the union in a dispute over driver-only operated (DOO) trains concluded yesterday as part of a 48-hour strike. A further strike will be held this Friday, with three more walkouts by staff due to take place on 24, 25 and 27 January.

A statement released by the operator said: “GTR is determined to protect its passengers and its business from unlawful industrial action.

“GTR is therefore prepared to continue its legal claim to the Supreme Court, as it believes that it has an arguable case that the industrial action is unlawful under EU law.”

The industrial actions have brought most of Southern’s 2,200 daily services to a grinding halt, severely inconveniencing commuters – whose compensation applications for these delays were also held back by computer errors.

Last December, the Court of Appeal rejected GTR’s argument that industrial action would breach its customers’ rights, arguing that it would undermine workers’ right to strike “in a fundamental way”.

The operator had claimed that the strike action would breach Articles 49 and 56 of EU law, particularly in relation to the ability of people to travel to or from EU countries due to the impact that strikes would have on Southern’s services to Gatwick Airport.

Aslef described last month’s legal action as a waste of taxpayers’, shareholders’ and passengers’ money, but have made no immediate comment regarding GTR’s latest legal move.

Previous discussions between Aslef and GTR at Acas in an attempt to resolve the dispute before Christmas broke down without agreement.

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Jerry Alderson   12/01/2017 at 19:27

A colleague recently told me that in 2016 a passenger group in the Netherlands (group is called Rover) took the rail union(s) to court over plans to strike about working conditions and won. The court granted an injunction. I've Googled and found an article on 'dutchnews' from 22/12/2016 about a court in Breda said that drivers and conductors going on strike was a risk to public safety (too mnay passengers gathered at a station at the same time, apparently). Not sure if URLs can be posted here so haven't included it here. My view is that any risk to public safety occurs from putting more people on the road, which is less safe than going by train.

Martin T   20/01/2017 at 18:14

I wonder why ASLEF has suspended its strikes in order to have talks with GTR. Is DfT-GTR offering something new? Or is ASLEF concerned by legal action or are its drivers putting pressure on the union to end the dispute? We'll probably never know.

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