Southern rail workers to take 14 days of strike action from next month

Caitlin Morrison
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Southern rail workers will go on strike for 14 days starting from next month

Southern rail workers are to take 14 days of strike action in five blocks from next month as the dispute over role of guards continues, the RMT union said today.

The union said workers will take industrial action because of Southern's "continued insistence on removing critical safety trained guards from trains".

RMT said its members will take not book on for any shifts over the following dates:

  • 00.01 on Tuesday 11 October and 23.59 on Thursday 13 October
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 18 October and 23.59 on Thursday 20 October
  • 00.01 on Thursday 3 November and 23.59 on Saturday 5 November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 22 November and 23.59 on Wednesday 23 November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 6 December and 23.59 on Thursday 8 December

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said union members were taking action in protest at Southern's drive towards a wholesale driver only operation (DOO) "without agreement".

He cited an incident last week in which a train derailed near Watford, and said the guards on both trains involved in the accident "played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances".

"If the train had been DOO and without a guard the consequences would have been far worse," Cash said.

Read more: It's high time Southern Rail got its act together

“This week we reached a deal with Scotrail that we are recommending for acceptance in a referendum of our members, that guarantees a fully competent conductor/guard on every new train," he added.

"This agreement protects passengers, and guarantees a second safety trained member of staff on board a train, who can assist if there is an incident such as we recently saw near Watford.

"If an agreement can be reached on Scotrail, then an agreement can also be made on Southern. In the light of these recent developments it is disgraceful that neither the company or the government are prepared to engage and are continuing to attempt to impose DOO in the interests of putting profit before safety. We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority."

“The RMT’s desire to heap yet further travel misery on the public and affect the everyday lives of so many people is shameful.

Southern's response to the union

“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," said Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern operate Govia Thameslink Railway.

"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."

Doll added: “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.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is making a big push for Transport for London to take over the capital's suburban rail routes – including lines run by Southern, which has been plagued by problems over the last year. The decision to transfer control of train doors from guards to drivers, announced in April, gave rise to a long-running dispute, which has led to a series of strikes, causing chaos for London's commuters.

City AM Should TfL take over Southern's routes?

London Assembly response

“These 14 days of strike are a disgraceful attempt to cause public misery and use that to blackmail the government and Southern rail," said London Assembly member Keith Prince.

“It underlines why we desperately need new legislation to replace strike action with binding pendulum arbitration, so that disputes can be settled objectively by judges without major disruption.

“Londoners will expect the mayor to condemn this behaviour, but as he made clear in the past, he won’t ever condemn the RMT.”

Southern and the mayor's office have been contacted for comment.

Summer of strikes

Londoners have faced a number of strikes over recent months