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RMT announces 14 days of strikes across Southern

Southern rail services will face 14 days of strikes between now and Christmas as part of an escalating dispute with RMT.

The union has called the strikes in protest against Southern’s plans to take away conductors’ powers to operate doors, which it claims are a safety risk and will lead to conductors losing their jobs.

The strikes will take place in five blocks: the first on 11-13 and 18-20 October, then 3-5 and 22-23 November, and finally 6-8 December.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, 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.”

He added that last week’s train derailment at Watford would have had “far worse” consequences if not for the actions of guards in protecting the passengers and trains.

The strike action programme is the biggest yet in a series of strikes RMT has held, or threatened to hold, this year, with the most recent taking place earlier this month.

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.”

Despite efforts at talks, Southern has pushed ahead in implementing DOO as planned, saying it has been found to be safe by the RSSB and that no jobs will be lost.

The strikes have contributed to severe delays on Southern, which had to cancel 341 services a day to try to get control of its timetable, although it has promised to restore them.

(Image c. RMT)

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Neil Palmer   22/09/2016 at 18:48

The job of the RSSB is safety. The job of RMT is to get as much money for their members as possible (even if that involves scaremongering, outright lies & half-truths) and apparently a political cause to re-nationalize the rail industry so they can cause even more chaos (remember the past!). So when it comes to DOO and safety I’d rather believe the RSSB when they state there is “NO evidence of increased risk of passenger harm from DOO”: Now emboldened by the recent cave-in by ScotRail to their blackmail they’re going to call 14 more days of strikes. Isn’t it about time to just bite the bullet and lock out those RMT members, denying them any pay until the RMT finally starts seeing common sense and accepts the more than generous offer on the table? Also Mick Cash trying to use the recent incident near Watford to try and prove his point is nothing short of despicable. A second member of staff on all trains that currently have one is already part of the proposal by Southern. They merely want the sensible option to run a train without one should the scheduled person not be available for the service (stuck in road traffic, on a late inbound service, suddenly taken ill) instead of, as now, cancelling the service and inconveniencing hundreds, if not thousands, of long suffering passengers. RMT simply doesn’t want to lose their power to blackmail the public in the future, they don’t give a damn about the travelling public at all, and anyone who thinks this strike is some sort of favour for the public in defending their “safety” needs to give their head a serious shake. Yes it’s time this nonsense was settled once and for all, but that doesn’t mean caving in to the RMT and giving them everything they want.

Kevinr   23/09/2016 at 09:05

Very well put Neil Palmer. The reason for choosing this network is because of the government link with income and that it impacts more passengers than other franchisees. RMT utterly deplorable. Mick Cash's "lazy sheep" be warned, you may end up being on the sick a lot longer than you thought - this is one the TOC & government will, & should, see out.

Martin T   23/09/2016 at 14:42

RMT members are not being well served by their union. The RMT has lost but it will not tell its members this, so they are being dragged out on strike and losing wages yet again. Fact: every new driver being trained (and there are lots of them) have DOO in their contract. Fact: no new guards or conductors are being recruited. Only on-board supervisors (OBS) are being recruitred. The number of OBS will keep increasing. The number of guards/conductors would keep reducing. If GTR use thier legal right (as they apparently intend to do) to impose the OBS role on them when it will reduce even faster (guards/conductors will be retained on some routes until DOO is possible). Time for the cannon-fodder to stand up to their union, perhaps?

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