Southern Rail conductors are to hold three days of strike action in the dispute over plans to scrap conductors on all its services.
Southern says it wants to replace conductors with On-board Supervisors, a new role which would focus on helping passengers with service information and checking tickets instead of safety responsibilities such as operating train doors.
Rail union RMT opposes the new role, which will affect around 300 Southern employees, and any increase to Southern’s driver only services.
As result of a strike ballot which closed yesterday (Tuesday, April 19), RMT conductors have been told not to report for work on Tuesday, April 26, Tuesday, May 10, and Thursday, May 12.
Each strike will last for almost 24 hours, from 11am until 10.59am the following day.
The decision has been criticised. Dyan Crowther, Chief Operating Officer for Govia Thameslink Railway, the owners of Southern Railway, said, “This strike is completely unnecessary. No staff will lose their jobs or see a reduction in their salary, whilst passengers will benefit from having more visible staff on trains.
“Drivers have operated the doors on many trains for 25 years, and already do so on 60 per cent of our services. This is a proven, tried and tested way of operating rail services.
“Now that strike times and dates have been announced, we are working to finalise contingency plans for our services on strike days, but must warn passengers that disruption is likely to be significant.
“Finally, rather than making passengers suffer through a strike, we urge the RMT to return to the negotiating table and discuss the changes we are seeking to make.”
Speaking on Tuesday, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “RMT, supported by our ASLEF colleagues, is wholly opposed to the attack on the safety-critical conductor grades and the threat of Driver Only Operation. Our members on Southern GTR have given loyal and professional service to the company and are being rewarded by being forced into a new grade, having their role and responsibility reduced and their hard-earned terms and conditions attacked.
“The anger at the threat to RMT members’ jobs, their role and the safety of Southern services is reflected in this massive vote for action which will now be considered by our executive.
“This company has already axed catering services, threatened ticket offices and delivered appalling levels of customer service in their drive to milk these routes for every penny they can regardless of the impact on safety, reliability and quality. It is no wonder they are the most hated rail franchise in Britain and the threat to the conductors is just another twist of the knife. These trains are desperately over-crowded and the conductors are the eyes and ears preventing a major tragedy on the platforms and carriages.
“RMT’s demands could not be clearer and the union remains available for meaningful talks.”
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