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28.07.16

New five-day RMT strike to hit Southern

The protracted industrial dispute between Southern and RMT has been hit by its longest strike yet after RMT announced five days of industrial action.

RMT said it had been forced to hold the strikes, from 00.01am on 8 August to 23.59pm on 12 August, after Southern rejected its proposal to resume talks if the company suspended the introduction of driver-operated only (DOO) services for three months.

RMT has led a series of strikes over the proposals, insisting that the new operating system, due to be introduced on 21 August, will lead to job losses and seriously endanger passenger safety.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the government who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern.

“Our fight is with the company and the government who have dragged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains.

“It is disgraceful that neither the company or the government are prepared to engage and are looking to bully through the extension of DOO and the attack on the guards set for 21 August. They should wake up and get round the table now as an urgent priority."

The strikes will add to the misery of passengers on Southern services, which have been so widely disrupted that Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has had to suspend 341 services a day.

Former rail minister Claire Perry resigned after saying the Southern franchise felt “like a failure” and London TravelWatch has said that Transport for London should take over Southern if the services are not restored within a month.

Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer of GTR, said: "It is unacceptable that passengers are being made to suffer five days of disruption all because the RMT is refusing to accept necessary change. We are offering all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.

"We value the work of our staff, who are trying their best to deliver service levels that passengers expect. The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we can stop the RMT from holding passengers to ransom.

"Contrary to the RMT’s accusation, we have always been open to talks and remain so. Only this week we spoke with the General Secretary Mick Cash about further talks and he has been unwilling to enter into discussion."

RMT also announced yesterday that it is balloting GTR station staff over plans to close ticket offices, raising the possibility of more industrial action for the franchise.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Images)

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Comments

Martin T   28/07/2016 at 15:39

Dyan Crowther reiterated "We are offering all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary." However, she finally let the cat out of the bag: "The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we can stop the RMT from holding passengers to ransom" i.e. if the RMT members go on srtrike then a train service will continue unlike at present.

Neil Palmer   28/07/2016 at 21:13

Martin., Exactly - when the change goes through Mick will lose one of his avenues for blackmailing the country, and about time too. The change is needed to help reduce station dwell times and increase capacity on our overcrowded railway. Mick is still living in the 19th century when we had no CCTV, which on new trains makes it safer for the driver to operate the door, AND will help reduce station dwell times. It appears Mick Cash is a self-appointed expert on recognizing arrogance. Pity he can’t see it when he looks in the mirror. The utter garbage that spews forth from his mouth is simply sickening. A guarantee of no job losses and no pays cuts isn’t good enough for the greedy little sod, so obviously (as usual) it MUST be about extorting more money. It sure ISN’T about safety, as the RSSB has stated they have found no increased safety risk from DOO, and safety is THEIR job, not Mick’s. If his members can do without working for 5 days then maybe it’s time for GTR to bite the bullet and lock them out until that luddite starts living in the 21st century. GTR will have 5 days of practice running services with managers filling in, so they may as well just keep on doing it and to hell with Mick and his overpaid/underworked members. FYI - RSSB report: http://www.rssb.co.uk/industry-news/rssb-research-projects-find-no-increased-safety-risk-from-doo

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