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GTR launches legal action to stop Aslef Southern strikes

GTR has launched legal action in an attempt to stop industrial action by the drivers of Southern trains. Aslef, the driver’s union, announced earlier this week three days of strikes later this month as well as a week-long walkout in the New Year.

Southern services have been disrupted throughout the year by conductor strikes and action by the drivers is likely to cripple Christmas services further, with the rail franchise already finding itself short-staffed due to the union’s imposed overtime ban starting 6 December.

GTR issued proceedings at the high court on Thursday to seek an injunction to stop Aslef’s industrial action, which was backed overwhelmingly by drivers this past Monday, citing its belief that strikes would breach customers’ rights under EU law.

Charles Horton, GTR’s chief executive, said: “We launch legal action reluctantly but now without any other choice. Obviously we would prefer to resolve this directly with Aslef. We asked the union to withdraw the industrial action and to re-enter discussions but they refused to do so, which means that we now have no choice but to go to court.

“We have a responsibility to our customers to do all we can to protect their interests and maintain services for them. Passengers now face the prospect of 40 days of continuous industrial action by Aslef and, on top of months of travel misery they’ve already suffered, it is totally unacceptable.

 “The proposed industrial action called by Aslef is unjustified, unnecessary and we believe unlawful. It will severely disrupt all our customers, including the tens of thousands of customers a day who use our services for travelling to and from Gatwick airport.”

GTR’s dispute with the RMT’s conductors and Aslef centres on the issue of driver-only operated (DOO) trains, which GTR insists are perfectly safe and are accepted by drivers already on a third of trains across the country.

However, Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, argued that the practice was unsafe as trains grow longer and the industry sees a sharp growth in passengers.

“Driver-only operation was designed for three-car 317s on the Bedford to St Pancras line in the early 1980s when it was all about managed decline at the fag end of British Rail,” Whelan said.

“An increase in the number of passengers we are carrying every day means there are now 1,100 passengers on a 12-car train and a driver will have just two seconds to check 24 sets of doors and that’s simply not adequate to deal safely and properly with the travelling public.”

The high court is expected to hear GTR’s case and make a decision in the coming days. GTR has said that they will not comment further until the decision is made

Yesterday, the RMT announced it would move the date of its planned strikes from 22-24 December to 19 and 20 December, in response to “daily feedback from passengers”.

Southern said the move was cynical and designed to cause maximum disruption with Aslef’s own strikes scheduled for 13, 14 and 16 December. The RMT’s conductors on Southern will also be striking from 6-8 December and from 31 December – 2 January.

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Theopsman   02/12/2016 at 12:29

Since the 317s have always been 4-car, not 3-car units, and they often ran DOO on the BedPan as eight-car trains, how can we believe Mick Whelan of ASLEF actually knows anything about the railway? And whence his "two seconds to check 24 sets of doors" (all on an in-cab CCTV screen, of course, as opposed to the mirrors first used for DOO, and on-station cctv presently used in many places)?

Neil Palmer   02/12/2016 at 17:30

As Theopsman point out, either Mick Whelan doesn't know what he's talking about, or he's telling deliberate lies. In that respect you can't believe a thing either he or the counterpart Mick at RMT (Cash) say. Also if the Aslef strike would breach customer rights under EU law, why wouldn't the same apply to the RMT strikes, and why hasn't GTR taken them to court?

Gary   02/12/2016 at 18:08

Everybody as the right to strike under EU law if the ballot was carry-out within the Law.

Gabriel Oaks   05/12/2016 at 07:59

Presumably RMT are striking over changes to staff (guards) role and working conditions whereas ASLEF are striking on the alleged basis of safety thus 'opening a door' to legal challenge? None of the reporting on such detail in the press is clear.

Neil Palmer   05/12/2016 at 20:40

Though isn't the meat of the RMT's argument that DOO is unsafe, therefore are they not striking on the basis of safety? We have the RSSB & ORR to deal with safety, it certainly isn't the RMT's job, and neither would I ever trust them if it was.

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