Southern accused of blocking negotiations before Sussex strike

web standing-images. Rail. (Hastings, but can be generic)

web standing-images. Rail. (Hastings, but can be generic)

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Conductors taking part in strike action in Sussex tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) have accused Southern Railway owners of refusing to negotiate.

Members of the rail union RMT say Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had “blocked” attempts to reach a settlement ahead of the 24-hour walkout.

Tomorrow’s strike, which begins at 12.01am, is a result of an ongoing dispute over Southern’s plans to replace its conductors with on-board supervisors – a new role with fewer safety responsibilities.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “Our members have been backed into a corner by this aggressive and unpopular company and have had no option whatsoever but to fight to defend the safety-critical role of the guard on these rammed-out and unreliable Southern routes. That is why we are striking on Wednesday.

“This dispute is a battle between the very basic principles of rail safety and the relentless drive by Southern/GTR to milk the franchise for every penny they can get.

“It is scandalous that the company have blocked attempts to reach a negotiated settlement and it’s about time they stopped the bullying and the intimidation of their safety-critical guards and started serious and meaningful talks with the union.”

GTR has denied it is refusing to talk to RMT and said there would be no reduction in salary for conductors who become on-board supervisors.

A GTR spokesman said, “We consider any suggestion of bullying or harassment completely outrageous. We are offering all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.

“We continue to urge the union to stop inflicting unnecessary strike action on passengers and to talk to us about jointly implementing these improvements.”

As a result of tomorrow’s strike action no Southern trains will operate in either direction on routes from Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes via Kensington Olympia or from Dorking to Horsham and from Preston Park to Hove.

All services from Chichester to Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton Central as well as from Redhill to Tonbridge have also been cancelled. Earlswood, Salfords and Faygate stations will not be served during the strikes.

Elsewhere there will be a limited service on a number of routes including services between London Bridge and East Grinstead as well as from Three Bridges to Chichester via Horsham, from Three Bridges to Victoria via Gatwick and from both Redhill and Brighton to Bognor via Littlehampton. There will also be a limited services from Brighton to Eastbourne via Lewes.

The limited services will run from approximately 7.30am to 6.30pm.

A recent poll of Southern passengers commissioned by RMT, found that 73 per cent of the 507 passengers surveyed said they were concerned about the safety of travelling on trains without conductors.

The poll also found that 61 per cent of those surveyed are opposed to driver-only services while 51 per cent said they would feel significantly less safe if the Southern proposals go ahead.

Mr Cash said, “It is clear from the polling evidence that the public support RMT’s safety case for the retention of the guards and an end to the outrageous profiteering on Southern services which sees these vital services used as nothing more than a cash-cow by French state railways to subsidise their operations over the Channel.”

For more details about the tommorrow’s strike action visit www.southernrailway.com.

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