Posted 4th May 2016 | 2 Comments

Union postpones Southern conductors' strike

THE RMT has postponed strikes on Southern which were to start next week until later in May.

The union said it had postponed the action, which is in protest at planned extensions of driver-only operation, because it had 'reassessed its tactics', but Southern claimed that RMT members had 'rebelled' at the prospect of losing as much as 24 hours' pay.

The RMT said the strikes called for 10 to 11 May and for 12 to 13 May had been replaced by an instruction to its Southern members not to book on for conductors' duties between 00.01 and 23.59 on 20 May.

The union has also announced that it is taking legal advice about the company's stance towards its members over the issue of industrial action, which it alleges is 'threatening and abusive'.

The union's general secretary Mick Cash said: "“We have reassessed the tactics of the dispute and, recognising the hostile and aggressive stance taken by the company as we fight for the basic principles of rail safety, RMT’s executive has decided to switch the next phase of action to 20 May.
“Southern GTR should be under no illusions, the union will not bend to their bullying and threats and we will be out there building on the huge public support we have already mobilised in a campaign that pitches the demands for increasing private profits against safety on our railways.
“Southern GTR fleeces its passengers for a fortune in fares for unreliable and overcrowded services and RMT will not allow safety to be the next thing sacrificed in the dash for fatter and fatter profits on this rail franchise.”

A Southern spokesman responded: "We are naturally pleased that next week’s strike has been postponed, but remain concerned that the threat of further strike action hangs over our passengers with a new date announced for 20 May. While it would be good to think the RMT has changed its position, we believe they have taken this action after members rebelled at the prospect of losing a significant sum in pay and benefits due to the union calling three strike days in the same pay period.

“This strike is totally unnecessary. All we are doing is making our staff more accessible and more able to give better customer service to passengers on board our trains, by removing the need for them to close the doors. This is how 40 per cent of Southern services operate already. No one will be made compulsorily redundant and no one will lose salary.

“We hope this additional time will offer the RMT the opportunity to pause and reflect on the impact their action is having on people and engage in meaningful discussions with us.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Peter Carling, Crawley

    It was interesting to note that on the same day that the RMT decided to postpone its strike there were significant numbers of Southern trains cancelled. The Southern website said that this was because of "unusually high staff sickness" causing staff shortages. On the late and overcrowded train I travelled on to London this morning the guard said it was " due to unexpected cancellations by Southern controllers" and advised people to contact Southern customer service to find out why trains were being cancelled and delayed. As the message was identical at every station he appeared to be reading from a prepared script. As a regular traveller who had re-arranged my schedule to fit around the announced strike dates for next week it seems like a cynical move by the RMT to cause the maximum disruption to travellers to change the dates. Safety claims are a red herring; the same trains (377/387) are one-man operated over many of the same routes by Thameslink.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    Despite the original strikes being called off, I am pleased that a new date for strike action has been arranged. The safety of our railways must not be ignored just for profit passenger before profit must exceed here.