Southern Railway strikes to go ahead despite last-ditch legal action

Rebecca Smith
Talks between Southern and the RMT went unresolved last week
Talks between Southern and the RMT went unresolved last week (Source: Getty)

A three-day strike starting on Tuesday is going ahead, despite Southern Railway's late legal challenge. The company said it had ruled out further talks with the RMT union.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash confirmed the receipt of a legal challenge from the train operator over the guards safety row.

"It is appalling that rather than sitting down with us at ACAS today to seek a resolution the company have chosen to run to the courts under the cloak of the anti-union laws," he said. "The union intends to continue with the planned action and is examining the details of the paperwork. We will issue a further statement in due course."

A spokesperson for Southern said: "On Friday the RMT told their conductor members to accept a deal, and then tomorrow they plan to strike against it. It is a situation which will leave our passengers baffled. We have written to the RMT about the validity of their dispute in light of recent developments. We await their response and will consider all possible options to stop the strike and that includes a legal challenge."

The union had offered to bring in conciliation service ACAS as talks petered out last week with the two sides adrift of a resolution.

But Southern said ACAS was "no longer an option", as it had tried that "countless times without success".

Read more: Southern Rail bosses orders 'strike back posters' to be destroyed

Yesterday the RMT confirmed it had advised members to accept the new on-board supervisor role, but said strike action was still going ahead as planned.

Cash said: “Our dispute remains on and the fight for safety continues despite the bullying and threats from Southern. We have a duty to issue our members with clear legal advice that protects their position in the teeth of the threat of mass sackings. That is what we have done.”

However, Govia Thameslink Railway CEO Charles Horton said: “To go ahead with these strikes just days after telling conductors to accept our offer sets new standards in union militancy.”

The long-running row stems from a decision by Southern owner Govia Thameslink Railway to extend driver-operated trains across the network. That will involve changing the role of conductors – making it the responsibility of the drivers to operate train doors. Some trains could also run without a second person on board, which the RMT has said would be unsafe.

Conductors were asked to sign up to the new roles by November 4 or risk losing their jobs in the new year. Horton said the firm was guaranteeing a job until 2021 and no loss of pay or overtime.

Read more: #SouthernBackOnTrack: Govia offers conductors £2,000 to avoid more strikes

Customers have weathered months of delays and cancelled trains as a result of this dispute and as it stands, will be braced for further disruption over the next couple of months.

Current strike dates:

  • 00:01 BST Tuesday 11 October to 23:59 BST Thursday 13 October
  • 00:01 BST Tuesday 18 October to 23:59 BST Thursday 20 October
  • 00:01 BST Thursday 3 November to 23:59 BST Saturday 5 November
  • 00:01 BST Tuesday 22 November to 23:59 BST Wednesday 23 November
  • 00:01 BST Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 BST Thursday 8 December

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