Southern rail guards to take 14 more days of strike action

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Southern rail guards are set to take 14 days of strike action in five blocks between now and Christmas.

The RMT union has been locked in a bitter dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) for most of 2016 over plans to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors, which would see drivers open and close train doors on most of its network.

Staff have already held five walkouts this year totalling eight days.

Three day strikes would start on Tuesday October 11, Tuesday October 18, Thursday November 3, Tuesday December 6, and a two-day walkout would start on Tuesday November 22.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Yet again our members are being forced to take industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern.

“Govia Thameslink and the Government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute. Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation (DOO) without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access.

“Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains. The guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances. If the train had been DOO and without a guard the consequences would have been far worse.

“This week we reached a deal with Scotrail that we are recommending for acceptance in a referendum of our members, that guarantees a fully competent conductor/guard on every new train. This agreement protects passengers, and guarantees a second safety trained member of staff on board a train, who can assist if there is an incident such as we recently saw near Watford.

“If an agreement can be reached on Scotrail, then an agreement can also be made on Southern.

“In the light of these recent developments it is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are continuing to attempt to impose DOO in the interests of putting profit before safety. We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority.”

But GTR’s passenger services director Angie Doll said: “The RMT’s desire to heap yet further travel misery on the public and affect the everyday lives of so many people is shameful.

“A comprehensive and fair offer has been on the table for weeks and the union leadership’s claims about jobs, pay, safety are trumped-up make believe.

“This scaremongering by the RMT union is a contrived attempt to gain public support when it knows its spurious arguments about jobs, pay, accessibility and safety have been demolished by independent experts and analysis and are falling on deaf ears.

“As a responsible operator, our priority is to make our services more accessible, not less, and we will not be shaken in that commitment.

“We care deeply about those of our customers who are less mobile and help thousands of elderly and disabled customers week in, week out, to travel with us.

“We will do everything we can to ensure those needing help getting on and off our trains receive our care and attention to get them where they want to be, promptly and hassle-free.

“We’ve always said we are ready, willing and able to sit down and discuss how best we implement our modernisation plans and give our customers the services they expect and deserve.

“The RMT has to stop being the problem and get on board - finally - and be part of the solution. Everyone is sick and tired of the union’s posturing and it has to stop, and stop now. It’s what the public want.”

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