Strike action by Southern guards is ‘rock solid and determined’ this morning (Tuesday October 11) according to the RMT union.
The three days of industrial action is the first of five planned between now and Christmas and is part of dispute between the union and rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway over plans to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors.
Drivers would open and close train doors instead and the RMT has raised concerns about the potential loss of a guaranteed second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.
Passengers faced even more disruption this morning as engineering works by Network Rail over-ran in the Balcombe tunnel area.
Andy Derbyshire, Network Rail’s chief operating officer for the South East, said: “I’m really sorry for the unnecessary disruption to the passengers on the Brighton mainline this morning.
“As part of our ongoing track and signalling improvement work, we were undertaking track work in the Balcombe tunnel area last night.
“One of our heavy engineering machines suffered a break down late into the works, causing the delay to opening the line this morning.
“I will be investigating the cause of breakdown but sincerely apologise for this delay to your journey.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The RMT can confirm that the strike action is rock solid and determined again this morning across the Southern Rail network as we fight to put rail safety and access before the profits of the failed Govia Thameslink operation.”
He added: “RMT’s fight is with the company and the Government who have plunged this franchise into total meltdown. We share the anger and frustration of passengers and we cannot sit back while jobs and safety are compromised on these dangerously overcrowded trains. The union remains available for talks.”
While the RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash was reported to have written to his members urging them to volunteer for the new roles, however the union then criticised GTR for launching a formal legal challenge to stop the strikes.
Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, said: “It is welcome that the RMT has finally seen sense and recommended their members take the excellent roles on offer.
“They reject an offer one day, tell conductors to sign up to the role the next, but then still issue a clarion call to strike about it a few days later.
“Their own union has lost them each a £2,000 bonus which was on offer last Thursday only to tell them to sign-up 24 hours later. Their mandate, like their position on this six months old dispute, is built on quicksand.
“Now to go ahead with these strikes just days after telling conductors to accept our offer sets new standards in union militancy. They don’t care that hundreds of thousands of commuters will face yet more travel misery this week; it’s clear this is all about the union trying to hang on to power and control.
“We’re guaranteeing a job till 2021 and no loss of pay or overtime. Our aim is to modernise our operations to give passengers better customer service with a dedicated second safety-trained member of staff working each and every train where we currently have a conductor and the driver in sole control operating the train.
“I urge them to call off what is a pointless and unnecessary dispute, as it always has been.”
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