Posted 3rd June 2016 | 8 Comments

Govia wins injunction against union

A HIGH Court judge has ruled in favour of Govia Thameslink Railway after it objected to alleged 'discrepancies' in the way ASLEF had conducted a strike ballot of its driver members on GTR's Gatwick Express route.

The union is opposing the introduction of 12-car trains with only a driver on board on safety grounds, although the older trains on the route, with a maximum length of 10 cars, have been in use for many years without a conductor. GTR has pointed out that it already operates DOO (driver-only operated) 12-car trains successfully on its parallel Thameslink services, which also call at Gatwick Airport.

A provisional injunction preventing industrial action has been granted by Mr Justice Supperstone. This will continue until claims that ASLEF had acted unlawfully can be investigated at a full hearing, which has been set down for 27 June.

ASLEF had submitted that preventing industrial action in the wake of a ballot in favour would be 'oppressive', but the judge dismissed this, saying: "The potential disruption and inconvenience to the general public and damage likely to be caused by the industrial action significantly outweighs the suggested harm to the union."

It's the second time GTR has been to court in this dispute, Earlier, ASLEF had been accused of 'inducing' its drivers not to work 12-car Gatwick Express trains alone, and two services were cancelled before GTR obtained an injunction against such informal action.

The RMT is also in dispute with GTR over proposals to let drivers control the doors on many Southern trains, although a second member of traincrew would still normally be carried as an 'on board supervisor'. Again, the union is claiming that safety would be at risk.

A GTR spokesman said: “We are pleased that the Court has agreed with us and granted an injunction against the ASLEF ballot. This means that any industrial action the union was planning cannot now take place. This will come as a great relief to our passengers.

“Following this ruling, we now urge both RMT and ASLEF to return to the negotiating table. We have been seeking proper negotiations on the various disputes for six months, and both ASLEF and RMT have refused to engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue. Rather than continue these disputes, let’s instead sit down and talk about this properly. That is what every passenger would want."

Reader Comments:

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

  • Douglas , Edinburgh

    This whole DOO dispute at GTR seems to becoming toxic from all angles. I doubt safety is really at the heart of RMT's threat of industrial action as it's been around for decades in any case. Sabre rattling from both sides of the dispute as things appear to becoming petty

    Shame no-one thinks about passengers

    If the DfT weren't pushing DOO I doubt there would be the same impetus to change the guards role to an on-board supervisor (which to be honest seems much more customer friendly to me)

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    Are there cameras "suitable" to install on the nodding donkeys to run DOO, whether '80s or 21 century-style ones? If anyone knows, answer me on a postcard.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    The expression should be COO meaning "Conductor Only Operation" 😉.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    It seems intransigence is one of the "qualities" that somehow rail union members find desirable when electing their Luddites (er, Leaders). Rather than acting like selfish children maybe the two Mike's would get somewhere if they actually tried to enter into a reasonable dialogue on the issue, instead ft continual threats that hold the general public hostage to their little temper tantrums.

    I still say rail workers should be declared an essential public service and disputes like this settled through compulsory binding arbitration at ACAS or some similar organisation. If the Government/DfT is actually behind this DOO push then at least pass legislation to settle these disputes without crippling strikes that do nothing but inconvenience hundreds of thousands of commuters and damage the economy.
    [You may be certain that the DfT supports DOO on GTR. Train operators are not truly privatised, in the sense that they must run their businesses in strict accordance with their franchise contracts and do not have the commercial freedom enjoyed by the keeper of a corner shop. Even if DOO was not in the franchise bid (which I understand it was), it would have been agreed with the DfT first before anything was said to staff or passengers.--Editor.]

  • Derek Rimington, Brighton

    DOO is not the right expression. It should be DO: driver only door operation with a second person dealing with the passengers.

    From what I hear the travelling public are very much with the Company in this dispute.

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    A High Court judge rules in favour of DOO I just CANNOT believe it!
    [A judge has done nothing of the sort. He has said the union ballot did not follow the rules. The details of the judgment are not yet available.--Editor.]

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield


  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    I'm no fan on the RMT and I think they're massively over-reacting over DOO, but I don't like this tactic of taking unions to court over technical irregularities. Unless Govia has a good argument why a fair and square ballot would not have passed, I can't see any justification for getting your way just because you've got the better lawyers.

    Ultimately, industrial action is won or lost based on whichever side gets public support. Lawyering should not be a factor.