Govia Thameslink Railway, the parent company of Southern Rail, has launched legal action against Aslef union to stop industrial action.
The union has planned strikes on the Southern Rail line in the days before Christmas, and will also stage a walk out in January next year. In the vote, the results of which were announced on Monday, 87.3 per cent of Aslef members voted in favour of the industrial action.
Govia has now gone to the High Court, arguing that the strike infringes consumers' rights under EU law. The dispute is likely to be heard in court in the next few days.
Charles Horton, chief executive of Govia, 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."
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: "Once again, we see that GTR/Southern is a company desperate to seek to prevent the voice of their put-upon employees being heard. The company that has lost the confidence of the travelling public, taxpayers and staff - and which should have lost its franchise by now - seeks to do anything to prevent the right of free association."
In a letter to Simon Kirby MP for Brighton Kemptown, he said: "We cannot allow the unions to dictate how or whether the railways should be modernised or not. They are seeking the right to determine when a train should be cancelled to inconvenience passengers, even in circumstances when this doesn't need to be the case."
Aslef has been approached for comment.
When are the strikes?
- 48 hour strike on 13-14 December
- 24 hour strike on 16 December
- Week-long strike 9-14 January