Train drivers have hit back at what they have branded an attempt to intimidate them as they prepare to carry out the first of three 24-hour walkouts tomorrow.
The RMT union has called three separate strikes starting from 11am tomorrow, 11 am on Tuesday, 10 May and 11am on Thursday, 12 May.
A letter signed by Govia Thameslink Railway’s chief executive officer Charles Horton has warned them they will be docked two days’ pay for each walkout as they straddle two working shifts.
Meanwhile, the RMT has published a letter to passengers saying the plans to reduce the number of conductors on the trains is part of a new policy to shift the conductor role to lone ticket inspectors with an emphasis on fining “honest” customers who board trains without tickets because of long queues at ticket offices and machines.
The letter from Mr Horton says: “Please understand that taking strike action is pointless. GTR will not change its plans or proposals because of this. The RMT’s demands cannot be met and the only people who will suffer are our Southern passengers (who will be disrupted) and colleagues who take strike action (who will lose pay and benefits).
“So taking strike action will achieve nothing, but it will cost you and your family substantial sums should you strike. A sum of £268 will be withheld (this is two day’s average base salary) for each shift you participate in strike action.”
The letter went on to say that striking meant the company could, if it wished to, withhold a whole week’s pay.
A spokesman for GTR said: “This strike will be massively damaging for both our passengers and for our business. Taking part in the strike comes with consequences and we are simply setting out what those consequences will be.
“We hope that those who are thinking of taking part in the strike will think again and report for work, saving our passengers the misery of strike action.”
The RMT’s open letter said: “Under the terms of their franchise/management contract GTR is in line for a large bonus if they meet their targets for reducing ticketless travel and on the face of it a reduction in ticketless travel is a move which the majority of the travelling public would view positively.
“However, the way GTR intend to achieve their goal will be appreciated much less by the travelling public. It will NOT be those that travel on the network without any intention of paying that will be targeted. They are left alone as it is not viewed as cost effective to target them.
“It will be the HONEST passengers who will be targeted to achieve this ticketless travel goal and ensure GTR get their bonus.
“It will be the passengers that conductors at present provide with customer service that will be penalised under this initiative. The passengers who we as conductors take delight in helping, the customers who due to their busy lives have to board a service without a ticket, the customers who find themselves stuck in a queue at the ticket office or the customer young and old alike who have problems with the ticket vending machines.
“All of whom require us to sell them a ticket and always fully intend to pay for their tickets. These customers are not fare dodgers, they are not part of the don’t pay won’t pay grouping. They are customers who deserve to be looked after and sold the cheapest most appropriate ticket for their journey, something conductors do for them on a daily basis.”