'˜Beyond childish' Southern calls on passengers to '˜strike back' at rail union

Southern has called on passengers to '˜strike back' at rail unions over five separate walkouts planned between now and Christmas.

The RMT union has already held five strikes this year over rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors.

This would see drivers open and close train doors and guards have objected to the changes on safety grounds.

Fresh three day strikes would start on Tuesday October 11, Tuesday October 18, Thursday November 3, Tuesday December 6, while a two-day walkout would begin on Tuesday November 22.

This morning Southern tweeted: “Time to get back on track. Tweet @RMTunion & tell them how rail strikes make you feel.”

Their banner poster explained that the RMT ‘won’t listen to us, but they may listen to you’.

However Southern has faced a backlash for its tactics, with Twitter users calling Southern ‘beyond childish’, a ‘joke’, and criticising their ‘ridiculous behaviour’.

Passengers have faced months of disruption due to staff shortages, and this newspaper has called on the Government to strip GTR of its management contract, which also includes Thameslink and Gatwick Express services.

One Twitter user wrote: “So @SouthernRailUK asking commuters to publicly slate their staff. Disgraceful! Solidarity with @RMTunion.”

Another said: “@SouthernRailUK fire whose shameful idea this tweet campaign was, listen to @RMTunion, start respecting passengers/staff & get more staff.”

The rail operator has set a deadline of Thursday (October 6) for the union to accept its latest offer to end the dispute, which it described as ‘fair, clear, and unambiguous’.

In a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, it has also offered a lump sum payment of £2,000 to all guards if the dispute ends and GTR’s proposals are fully implemented.

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said: “Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless and unnecessary dispute and we now need to bring a swift end to these strikes which have caused months of misery for hundreds of thousands of workers, children going to school, family days out and retired people. We have a responsibility to the travelling public and our staff and, after 10 months of dispute, these strikes are plaguing people’s lives and enough is enough.

“The union and conductors have had an incredibly fair and comprehensive offer on the table for nearly two months with job security for at least five years, pay increases and overtime guaranteed.

“Today we are going the extra mile and offering our conductors a lump sum cash payment to be paid just after Christmas when they are getting on with their new roles giving fantastic service to our customers.

“We’ve given the RMT and our striking conductors a fair, clear and unambiguous plan that we intend to implement if they won’t do a deal. It’s an incredibly reasonable offer and the union’s arguments about safety and accessibility for disabled passengers are contrived.

“Independent experts have said that running trains with the driver closing the doors is safe and as a responsible operator we have always looked after customers with disabilities, and always will.

“The RMT needs to understand that this change is happening and we would prefer to work with them to ensure that it’s achieved in a way that best protects the interests of our customers, our employees and the business. But no one should be in any doubt that the deadlines are fixed and immutable and we will press ahead if there is no deal by Thursday lunchtime. This dispute has to stop, and stop now.”

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