Posted 17th May 2016 | 10 Comments

Southern conductors prepare for new walkout

CONDUCTORS on Southern are preparing to walk out for 24 hours starting at midnight tonight, as the dispute over extensions to driver-only operation appears to remain deadlocked.

Both the RMT and Southern have been voicing accusations, with the RMT accusing managers of 'threatening and abusive' behaviour, while Southern has labelled the timing of the strike -- called at the shortest possible notice and originally scheduled for Friday this week -- as a 'cynical ploy'.

If the walkout goes ahead, it will be the third day of disruption in connection with the DOO dispute. The first two strike days were on 26 and 27 April, when reduced services ran on many Southern lines and some routes had no trains at all. Other operators reported overcrowding, which became so acute on the second day that Clapham Junction station had to be closed for safety reasons.

The RMT has claimed that Southern has refused to negotiate, but the operator insisted that it remained open for talks.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:“Despite strenuous efforts from the union to get genuine and meaningful talks underway with Southern on the issues of jobs and safety the company have point blank refused and have instead have resorted to a campaign of threats and intimidation against staff fighting to put rail safety before private greed."

Southern's owner Govia responded: "We remain open for talks but the union refuses to entertain the idea of our evolved conductor role and has encouraged members not to take part in the process. However, we are pressing ahead with our plans to evolve the conductor role and doing everything we can to ensure our staff are fully involved in the process."

Friday is the deadline for affected staff to tell the company whether they wish to be considered for one of the reduced number of jobs as conventional conductors, who will still control the doors and give the starting signal. Those who do not respond will become new on-board supervisors, who will carry out ticket checks and be available to help passengers but take no part in operating the train itself. Southern said if it had more volunteers for the traditional role than jobs on offer, it would be 'first come, first served'. However, the operator has promised that there will be no redundancies or pay cuts.

Meanwhile, there has already been some disruption, with Southern reporting a 'high level of conductor sickness, which is leading to a reduced service on a number of routes'.

Members of the RMT are due to hold a demonstration outside the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster at 08.30 tomorrow, where the DfT is hosting one of its periodic Rail Industry Days.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    By "railways", I meant any franchises in the north of England Arriva Rail North, TransPennine Express etc.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    Ah, yes never knew they used DOO. Has there been any proposal to use DOO on the railways in the north?
    [See my previous reference to Tyne & Wear Metro.--Editor.]

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    I'm just used to the old-fashioned way of doing things as there are no trains up north which use driver-only operation. I haven't seen it in action, and it's just the south which seems to use this method. If I did see how it worked for real and saw its advantages, I would most likely be persuaded to say that DOO is a safe procedure.
    [None in the north? Try Tyne and Wear Metro.--Editor.]

  • Nigel Francis, Worthing, West Sussex

    As things stand at the moment non DOO trains have to have a Guard on them changing this to On Train staff and DOO operation will remove this obligation to have another member of staff other than the driver on the train. This is a cost cutting move by GTR who do not employ enough conductors now. it will not be long before large numbers of GTR trains are running with no members of staff other than a driver. How can this be better for the customer?

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Chris,

    Wouldn't you rather have the "guard" spend his time walking through the train, assisting passengers, selling tickets, engendering a feeling of safety among the passengers (especially those on late night services) etc. - with a guarantee of no loss of jobs or pay?

    DOO has been in use for decades (Bedford to London since 1982) - I haven't heard of any rash of passenger deaths over the last 30+ years due to this.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    I certainly am showing my support for the RMT driver-only operation is strictly for the birds.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    So Southern is being stubborn, and the RMT isn't?
    Your union colours are showing Chris.
    The RMT wants railway operations to continue as if this was still the mid 20th century, before train cabs had CCTV, radio, etc.
    The sooner Southern is successful with this the sooner the RMT's ability to blackmail other TOC's will come crashing to an end.
    They aren't doing themselves any favours with this "call in sick" game the day before the strike either.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    I couldn't bare to imagine Pacers being driver-only operation, even if they are being retired from service.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    The human eye does have its flaws in certain areas of life, but it can be relied upon for this duty.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    You know what, I can't see an end to this for as long as Southern keep being stubborn over this wretched policy, I really can't. Southern are breaking a basic human right (being safe) by endeavouring to put the management of rolling stock doors on some cameras over the human eye.