ASLEF delays train drivers strike ballot

Posted On 07 Nov 2016 at 3:08 am

The train drivers’ union ASLEF has delayed a ballot of its members who work for Southern one day after it started.

Bosses at the train company Southern said that they were told at the weekend that this was down to “technical” reasons.

Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has now called on the guards’ union – the RMT – to abandon its own series of strikes.

Only last week guards or conductors belonging to the RMT walked out for two days – Friday 4 and Saturday 5 November – and announced more strike dates over Christmas and the new year.

Southern’s passenger services director Angie Doll said: “We’re pleased that ASLEF has called off this ballot.

“This welcome development gives us the time and opportunity to sit down with union officials to resolve their dispute.”

The company said that 215 conductors – 96 per cent – had signed up to the new onboard supervisor role and would take up the new role in January.

They will focus exclusively on customer service, the company said, leaving the responsibility of closing the train doors to the driver.

They were given until last Friday (4 November) to agree to transfer to the new job. A further 222 people will remain in their existing roles as conductors on certain Southern services, the company said.

The train company added that it would recruit a further 100 onboard supervisors to work across Southern and Gatwick Express services with an advertising campaign starting this week.

GTR said that its formal offer to the RMT to settle the dispute, which it said had been on the table for three months, had now been formally withdrawn.

According to GTR, a letter confirming this was sent to RMT general secretary Mick Cash on Friday.

Train guards on strike outside Brighton Station

Train guards on strike outside Brighton Station

The company said that it had warned the union at the start of last week that the offer would be revoked if any further strike action went ahead.

But members went on strike on Friday and Saturday (5 November) while the union prepared for 11 more strike day.

The RMT has called strikes from Thursday 22 December until Christmas Eve and then from New Year’s Eve until Monday 2 January.

The union already had strikes planned for Tuesday 22 November and Wednesday 23 November and Tuesday 6 December to Thursday 8 December.

On Saturday (5 November) about 200 protesters marched through the centre of Brighton in support of the striking Southern guards.

The protest march was organised by the Brighton and Hove TUC and it coincided with the 17th day of strike action by guards since April.

Mick Cash accused GTR of putting profits before public safety while Southern urged the union “to see sense and bring an end to this soap opera of strikes”.

Mick Cash

Mick Cash

Angie Doll said: “We’ve now got over 200 conductors signed up to the new onboard role and over the last two sets of strikes nearly a third of conductors turned up for work, disproving the union’s claims that support is rock solid.

“Drivers having sole control of the train has been shown over decades of operation to be entirely safe and 15 years of research by independent rail safety experts corroborates this.

“We’ll have a second member of safety-trained staff on more trains than we do today so the RMT’s arguments are baseless and vacuous.

“The union leadership has stooped to a new low by calling strike dates over the Christmas period and we know of some conductors who have now resigned their union membership over this selfish, shameful and spiteful act.

“The union’s leadership is maintaining a clear and blatant disregard for workers, families, the elderly and the disabled seeking to be with loved ones over the holiday season.

“It’s a time for Santa and mistletoe, not strikes and misery. The union must think again about their vindictive desire to see Christmas cancelled for the travelling public.

“These past eight months of strikes have had a profound effect on both passengers and our staff.

“The travelling public is sick and tired of the continuing disruption to their lives and are very angry, and rightly so.

“But I’d ask them to consider the very difficult position that many employees have been put in during these strikes.

“A large number have defied the picket line to work during the strikes and many others that join the strikes do so under significant peer pressure and with great reluctance.

“The public are now seeing through the union facade and recognise that this saga is all about them hanging on to outdated working practices and power.

“These strikes are utterly pointless and have to stop and stop now for everyone’s sake.”

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