Rail unions could strike for a fourth time this year, this time over cuts to station ticket office opening hours.
The RMT has already held three days of industrial action in between April and June over changes to the future role of conductors on Southern services, which are run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
The rail operator is also proposing to cut the opening hours at station ticket offices across Sussex and use ‘station hosts’ selling tickets on concourses outside of peak times.
The RMT confirmed today (Wednesday July 27) it will ballot station staff across the GTR area through August over the ‘threat to jobs, pay, and safety from the impact of ticket office closures and the reorganisation of the workforce’.
GTR said it was ‘disappointed’ by the RMT’s announcement, with the threat of further industrial action ‘entirely unwarranted’.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “These plans fly in the face of the response from the thousands of passengers who objected to the closure of ticket offices and the de-staffing of stations as Govia drives on with plans for a ‘faceless railway’ where the public are left to fend for themselves on rammed-out, dangerous and unreliable services.
“The union remains available for serious and meaningful talks but we will not sit back while Britain’s worst rail franchise moves to the next act in its on-going production ‘Carry On Carnage’.
“The company chiefs, and their cheerleaders in Government, need to start listening to what their workforce are saying and they need to start respecting the views of those at the sharp end.”
Ticket offices are due to close at Falmer and Lancing with passengers instead buying their tickets from self-service machines or ‘station hosts’ located on concourses.
Other stations will see ticket office opening hours reduced to 7-10am Monday to Friday, including those at Angerming, Barnham, Bexhill, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, East Grinstead, Eastbourne, Hassocks, Horley, Horsham, Hove, Lewes, Littlehampton, Polegate, Portslade, and Shoreham.
Crawley will be open from 8-11am, Portslade will be open from 8.55-10am, with Worthing open from 7.30-10.30am.
Station hosts will operate during the day.
The concept is due to be ‘soft launched’ at a small number of stations towards the end of the summer before being rolled across all the affected locations.
Keith Jipps, passenger service director at GTR said: “The RMT’s threat of further industrial action is entirely unwarranted and clearly another bid by the union to disrupt passengers and GTR across as many parts of our franchise as possible.
“We have listened to passengers and modified our proposals, addressing the concerns of both London TravelWatch and Transport Focus.
“Our new station hosts will be paid more, be able to work in safety and provide passengers with better customer service, but the RMT is not concerned with improving the experience for passengers and are dismissing significant improvements to the terms and conditions for staff.”
According to GTR the station hosts will provide assistance and help sell tickets for 2,600 hours longer a week than they do today across the franchise.
Ballot papers will go out to more than a thousand staff on Tuesday August 2 and the ballot will close a fortnight later.
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