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Strike action on GTR has cost taxpayers £22m to date

Industrial action on Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink services to date has cost £22.2m in losses to the farebox, the government has this week revealed.

Jointly run under the GTR franchise, the loss was disclosed by rail minister Paul Maynard in parliament in an answer to a question from Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

All the money GTR is paid in tickets is passed on to the government, meaning that the £22.2m directly affects the taxpayer.

The problems rise from disputes between unions and GTR over the use of driver-only operated (DOO) trains, with union representatives saying the loss of a guard on trains compromises the safety of those on board.

Southern Rail – which has already been hit by strikes multiple times over the last year – was affected again over the festive period when the RMT took action against five franchises.

The union itself says the problem lies with the contract which GTR was offered by the government which means it receives a sum of money for its services rather than taking ticket sales.

General secretary Mick Cash, said it was “no surprise” that a deal between Southern and the union had not been reached because they were still received money.

“The company get paid whether they run trains or not,” he said.

However, strike action across GTR’s services has had an effect, with the government suggesting that it could break up the franchise in 2021 when the contract comes up for renewal.

Industrial disputes have also been blamed for GTR’s poor customer satisfaction and performance rankings as the annual Which? survey only this week found that passengers ranked Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink as among the worst UK services.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Much of the disruption on Southern Railway has been caused by union opposition to our modernisation programme which is being carried out to transform services on the most congested routes in the country.”

Top image: Victoria Jones PA Wire

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Jimbo   16/01/2018 at 13:58

Can we send the RMT a bill? Whether you agree with the RMT or not, this is the amount of money directly attributable to the RMT deciding to go on strike instead of using less confrontational methods of negotiation.

Huguenot   16/01/2018 at 14:41

Disgusting. Why should the taxpayer pay? It's not all strike action, of course. For several years we have had weekend cancellations on Thameslink and Great Northern because weekend overtime is 'voluntary', and if no driver volunteers ...

Lutz   16/01/2018 at 15:26

Tax payers are paying the cost because management of these businesses have been too soft.

Mark Hare   16/01/2018 at 17:04

Huguenot - and why should drivers volunteer to work overtime or come to work on their rest days? If a TOC doesn't employ enough drivers to cover the work without relying on overtime or has drivers on contracts that do not include Sundays in the working week then that's hardly the drivers' fault...

Jimbo   16/01/2018 at 17:25

@Mark Hare - rest day working is actually part of the drivers contracts. When one of the TOC's proposed to get rid of it and do normal rostering, the union threatened to strike!! This is a another tool that allows the union to control the railway and they guard it jealously.

Peter Evans   17/01/2018 at 08:42

TOCs like to run their services with overtime because it saves them money. Cheaper than employing more staff with all the costs that brings including pension contributions. I would argue that unions would prefer that the TOCs employ enough staff to cover the service because they get more members that way.

Jimbo   17/01/2018 at 09:31

@Peter Evans - most staff costs, including pensions are proportional to the salary and that includes overtime. Whilst there is a fixed cost for each member of staff, it is relatively small, so over the long term, paying overtime (at a higher rate) can easily cost more than employing more staff. Having overtime working gives the unions the power to disrupt the railway by getting their members to (temporarily) stop doing it. Just to be clear, working practises have not changed since BR days, and the unions would strike just as often then as they do now, using exactly the same methods. The dispute over having a second man in the driving cab (a carry over from having a fireman in steam days), went on for decades!

Mark Hare   17/01/2018 at 12:20

@Jimbo - there is nothing in drivers' contracts saying they are expected to work on their days off. ASLEF stance is that it is opposed to Rest Day Working, except in certain circumstances, and agrees to it only if a TOC meets certain criteria. Even if a TOC does have a Rest Day Working agreement in place with the Union, it is still voluntary and the drivers can quite rightly choose to have their rostered days off at home with their family and why shouldn't they? Many TOCs have no Rest Day Working agreement with ASLEF and presumably they cover all the work by employing enough drivers. Further, overtime payments do not form any part of pension contributions, they are calculated on basic pay only so a driver who works a rostered 35 hour week only pays pension contributions on the money he earns for those 35 hours, not on anything extra he earns by working overtime/Rest Days. However he will of course pay tax and NI on the extra income.

Peter Evans   18/01/2018 at 09:16

On the TOC I work for the overtime payment for all overtime including Sundays is time plus a quarter. So you can see how much money a TOC can save by running their services with lots of overtime. Some staff literally do the work of two people over a few weeks or so. This is all great for the TOCs involved until the summer or Christmas when staff might not want to work so many days & then the service collapses.

S&T Man   19/01/2018 at 11:30

Am I missing something here. If trains are timetabled to run at weekends then surely train crews should be rostered to work at weekends (with corresponding time off in the week). It's a bonkers situation, with train crews working extra shifts at weekends at enhanced rates at the very time that the service is often worse for the travelling public. Sure, more staff would be needed but that how other diciplines work where there is a round the clock requirement.

Gabriel Oaks   22/01/2018 at 08:27

This is a politically motivated strike action. The 1906 Trade Disputes Act should be amended to remove union protection for politically motivated strikes. If (as the RMT claim) it isn't politically motivated then they would have nothing to fear......

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