Southern Railway conductors announce plans for a five day strike

From The Argus

Conductors on Southern Railway will walk out on strike for five days in a row over the future of their roles.

Members of the RMT Union will strike from 0001 on Monday August 8th to 2359 on Friday August 12th.

It follows proposals from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the company which owns Southern, to change the role of the conductor which will remove the responsibility of closing the doors of the train.

The doors would instead be closed by the train’s driver using the CCTV system fitted to the outside of the train.

Southern is planning to implement changes to the role of conductors on August 21.

Services have suffered delays and cancellations for several weeks because of the conductors’ dispute and staff shortages blamed on high levels of sickness.

On July 11 the rail company cut 341 journeys a day from its timetable to enable it to operate a “robust” service.

The Argus revealed earlier this month that GTR is not considered to be in breach of its franchise agreement according to the Department for Transport.

The RMT said it had offered a three-month pause to industrial action if the company agreed to suspend its proposals for driver-operated doors and allow talks to take place.

“That request has been kicked back in our faces,” said a union spokesman.

“The union wrote to new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling asking for direct talks after he said it was a priority to sort out the chaos on Southern. That letter has been ignored.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the Government who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern.

“Our fight is with the company and the Government who have dragged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains.

“It is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are looking to bully through the extension of DOO and the attack on the guards set for 21st August. They should wake up and get round the table now as an urgent priority.”

Govia Thameslink Railway chief operating officer Dyan Crowther said: “It is unacceptable that passengers are being made to suffer five days of disruption all because the RMT is refusing to accept necessary change.

“We are offering all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.

“We value the work of our staff, who are trying their best to deliver service levels that passengers expect.

“The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we can stop the RMT from holding passengers to ransom.

“Contrary to the RMT’s accusation, we have always been open to talks and remain so.

“Only this week we spoke with the General Secretary Mick Cash about further talks and he has been unwilling to enter into discussion.”