Two more days of strike action have been called for Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September as the row between the RMT union and Southern over the role of guards continues.
The union is protesting against changes to the guard’s role, with a shift to customer services and the scrapping of a guarantee that every train will have one on board as drivers take on more safety roles on driver only operated (DOO) trains.
The dispute has been ongoing since April, with a series of walkouts. The last one, a week-long strike starting on August 15, was suspended after Southern’s parent company Go Ahead agreed to sit down with the RMT and ACAS.
But this failed to resolve the dispute, with Go Ahead saying last week it was pushing ahead with changes to the guard role from Sunday. A temporary reduced timetable to cope with staff shortages is still in force.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of the 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.
“Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access.
“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 from last Sunday regardless . They should wake up and get round the table now as an urgent priority.”
Southern Passenger Service Director Alex Foulds said: “Passengers and staff will once again be appalled by the RMT’s decision to hold yet another strike. We are moving forward with our plans for the benefit of customers after nine months of fruitless attempts to reach an agreement.
“This action is unnecessary, unjustified and futile – we have guaranteed all our onboard staff a job until the end of the franchise, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.
“And claims that safety is at risk are just untrue. The independent rail safety body has said so, and nearly half our trains run without conductors already.”