RMT calls another 24-hour strike in dispute with Southern

Posted On 22 Jun 2017 at 5:25 pm

The RMT guards’ union has called another 24-hour strike in its long-running dispute with train company Southern.

The union said that guards and drivers would strike “over the safety impact of the extension of driver only operation (DOO) and the removal of guards from services”.

The strike will take place from 12.01am to 11.59pm on Monday 10 July.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT members on Southern Rail have been fighting for safety and access for well over a year now.

“The franchise continues to lurch from crisis to crisis as the real impact of hacking back on safety and access hits home.

“We have seen absolute chaos at Victoria and East Croydon this week in the hot weather which has reinforced the need for safety-critical staff on our trains and platforms.

“The government cannot spin their way out of this chaotic situation which is wholly of their making.

“It is now down to Southern/GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) and the contract holders in the minority government to face up to their responsibilities and engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues.”

Southern said: “Once again the RMT is refusing to play its part in the modernisation of the railway.

“Southern is the most congested network in the UK with passenger numbers into London doubling in just 12 years so modernisation of infrastructure, trains and working practices is essential to provide the service levels passengers need and deserve.

“While we have been willing to negotiate and have made four comprehensive offers, the RMT has not demonstrated any serious intent to resolve its dispute.

“It has not put any of our four offers to its members, including our latest of (Tuesday) 16 May, to which we’ve had no formal response.

“This offered guarantees on job security, staffing ratios, rostering and enhanced training.

“The RMT is relying on an outdated 14-month-old ballot for this action.

“There have been very significant changes in the situation so it no longer provides a mandate for strike action.

“We can only speculate about the true reasons for the RMT’s actions and its desire to continue making passengers suffer.”

The company added: “Southern ran 95 per cent of its services during the last RMT strike, on (Saturday) 8 April. This will be the union’s 32nd day of strike action.

“The dispute to which the RMT’s April 2016 ballot related was whether conductors employed on the Southern network should be required to migrate to the on-board supervisor (OBS) role.

“On (Friday) 7 October 2016 the RMT advised its conductor members affected to volunteer to take the OBS role and this happened on (Monday) 2 January 2017.

“Furthermore, the RMT advised its members ahead of the ballot that Southern was, in effect, making 300 conductors redundant.

“No one has been made redundant.

“The RMT has not formally responded to our latest offer of the (Tuesday) 16 May. This offer was formulated after intensive talks with Mick Cash and his team and provided

  • Guarantees on job security
  • Guarantees on staffing ratios
  • Guarantees on rostering of on-board supervisors
  • Enhanced training for new and existing staff and existing staff

“The RMT announced industrial action on the day they received this offer which Southern can only regard as a full rejection of its latest efforts to settle the dispute.

“Four formal offers have now been rejected by the RMT not one of which has been put to referendum.

“Southern has invested 18 months of its time negotiating with the RMT and met for a total of 24 days to try to resolve this dispute which contrasts starkly with the RMT’s repeated media comments that GTR needs to ‘engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues’.

“The grounds of the RMT’s dispute have shifted over time, with many inconsistencies. For example

The RMT worked with GTR’s predecessors to remove on-board staff from Gatwick Express trains

In March 2016 they stated that their ballot for industrial action was about the extension of DOO (Southern’s plans have been implemented), the introduction of the OBS role (now in place since (Monday) 2 January and that Southern would make 300 conductors redundant (no one was made redundant)

The RMT advised its affected members in October 2016 to accept the new OBS contracts

Former ‘revenue’ employees in Southern migrated to the OBS role and those in Thameslink and Great Northern have taken on a comparable role, with no objections from the RMT

The RSSB (Rail Safety Standards Board) and ORR (Office of Road and Rail) have stated that this is a safe method of operation

The OBS role improves Southern’s ability to look after customers, including disabled, elderly and vulnerable passengers – people whose needs the RMT claim are of paramount concern.”

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