Southern dispute '˜has gone on long enough'

The dispute between Southern staff and management '˜has gone on long enough' according to our readers.

Southern strikes are set to go ahead next week
Southern strikes are set to go ahead next week

The RMT union has already held nine strikes this year over rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to introduce driver-only operation, changing the roles of conductors to on-board supervisors, with another three walkouts planned before the end of 2016.

Now members of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, have overwhelmingly backed strike action, alongside the decision not to do any non-contractual work from next Tuesday (December 6).

Passengers using Southern services have faced months of misery due a mixture of staff shortages, infrastructure failings, and train problems.

One reader wrote on Facebook: “Hasn’t this gone on long enough? Appoint an arbitrator, approved in advance by both sides. He/she listens to all the arguments from both sides then makes a decision binding to all.

“Employees not prepared to accept the decision, lose their jobs. Company not prepared to accept the decision, loses the franchise.”

Another added: “Enough is enough southern fail. These strikes are now getting beyond a joke.

“Totally heartless ruining Christmas travel plans for innocent commuters. Strip them of their franchise now before they can cause any more misery.”

Drivers are due to strike on Tuesday December 13 and Wednesday December 14, Friday December 16, and Monday January 9 to Saturday January 14.

Meanwhile the RMT is holding three-day walkouts starting Tuesday December 6, Thursday December 22, and Saturday December 31.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: “We have done our level best to try and reach a sensible, workable compromise with Southern in the interests of passengers as well as staff.

“We have always been happy to talk to the company, and we have always believed it is, or should be, possible to do a deal – as we did with ScotRail in Scotland –­ but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate.”

But Charles Horton, Govia Thameslink Railway’s chief executive officer, said: “Passengers will be rightly furious that these wholly unnecessary and unjustified strikes have been called in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year.

“The travelling public has endured months of misery and seen their work and family lives turned upside down by RMT’s futile industrial action with conductors.

“Now Aslef and the drivers want to compound that suffering by joining the fray in launching more pointless strikes.

“It’s perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train, and that’s how a third of the trains up and down the country - with the full agreement and support of Aslef - already operate today. “These strikes will have a devastating impact on the South East economy and people’s everyday lives which will bring Southern to a standstill.

“We urge the union to get round the table with us to continue our talks and resolve their dispute without causing further unnecessary grief to passengers.

“Passengers have made it crystal clear that they want an end to these strikes.

“Both the RMT and Aslef should take stock and listen, if not to us, then at least to the travelling public. Let’s end these strikes now without further suffering.”

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