Southern rail drivers have voted in favour of further industrial action over the Christmas period as part of a long-running dispute over driver-only trains – meaning commuters could be facing up to 18 days of strikes in December and January.
Members of the RMT union who work on Southern trains have already voted to strike on a number of separate occasions over the festive period, and Piccadilly Line tube drivers are set to add to travel problems with their own industrial action.
Of the 722 returned ballots, 87.3 per cent of Aslef members working at Southern rail voted in favour of a strike, while 95.6 per cent said they were prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike.
As such, Aslef is calling for strikes on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December, Friday 16 December and Monday 9 to Saturday 14 January – adding up to nine extra days of industrial action. In addition, drivers will not work any non-contractual work from Tuesday 6 December.
"We have done our level best to try and reach a sensible, workable compromise with Southern in the interests of passengers as well as staff," said the union's general secretary Mick Whelan.
"We have always been happy to talk to the company, and we have always believed it is, or should be, possible to do a deal – as we did with ScotRail in Scotland – but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate.
"The company – and I see the Department for Transport’s fingerprints all over this dispute, it’s as if the DfT is the ventriloquist and Southern the ventroliquist’s dummy – doesn’t want to talk, it wants to bully; it doesn’t want to discuss, it wants to impose. Because it doesn’t care about passenger safety, only about profits for shareholders."
|Strike dates already announced|
"We believe this ballot was wholly unnecessary and unjustified in the first place and we're disappointed that the union is now contemplating industrial action," said Charles Horton, Govia Thameslink Railway's chief executive.
"It’s perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train, and that's how a third of the trains up and down the country – with the full agreement and support of Aslef – already operate today.
"The travelling public has already suffered months of misery and hardship as a result of the RMT's pointless series of strikes. We urge Aslef to get round the table with us to continue our talks and resolve their dispute without causing further unnecessary grief to passengers."
Passengers will be rightly furious that these wholly unnecessary and unjustified strikes have been called in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year
The DfT has been contacted for comment.