Southern staff are to go on strike again as the dispute over the driver-only operation of new trains enters a third calendar year.
The RMT union announced the latest industrial action yesterday (Wednesday 20 December) while Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said: “Call off the strike and come to the negotiating table.”
Train guards or conductors, now called on-board supervisors by Southern, have been instructed to strike on Monday 8 January for 24 hours from midnight.
The union is also taking action in similar disputes with five other train companies – Northern, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces.
“We are left with no option but to confirm a further phase of industrial action in the new year.
“No one should be in any doubt, these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies
“It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.
“This suspension of normal industrial relations by the employers has to end if we are to make progress towards a solution that guarantees safe rail travel for all.
“RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory government that is interfering in these disputes and that their influence is a factor in preventing the union from reaching negotiated settlements.
“With fare increases kicking in on (Tuesday) 2 January it is outrageous that Theresa May and Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip off the British passenger with eye-watering far increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.
“RMT is demanding today that the blockade on talks is lifted in these separate disputes to allow us to negotiate freely with the companies and give us the opportunity to pursue the objective of a guard guarantee that puts British passenger safety before the rank exploitation of our rail network by fare-jacking private companies who are laughing all the way to the bank.
“If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first then it’s good enough for the rest of the UK.
“RMT stands ready for talks in each of these separate disputes.”
GTR human resources director Andy Bindon said: “We are very disappointed by today’s announcement of a further RMT strike in the new year.
“Their decision is even more regrettable as it comes on the same day that we had invited them to talks in the hope of reaching a resolution to their long-running dispute.
“We ask them to call off the strike and come to the negotiating table as we have suggested on many occasions.”