Five straight days of strike action on Sussex’s railways have been announced today.
The RMT union has been involved in a bitter dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway for months over plans to change the role of conductors on Southern services.
It has already held three days of industrial action between April and June, and has now instructed its members to take strike action by not booking on for any shifts from Monday August 8 to the end of Friday August 12.
The RMT said this was after GTR and the Government refused to engage with the union before the August 21 deadline.
Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “This action has been forced on us by the arrogance and inaction of Govia Thameslink and the Government who have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute or in tackling the daily chaos on Southern.
“Our fight is with the company and the Government who have dragged 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.”
But Dyan Crowther, GTR’s chief operating officer, said: “It is unacceptable that passengers are being made to suffer five days of disruption all because the RMT is refusing to accept necessary change.
“We are offering all our on-board staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.
“We value the work of our staff, who are trying their best to deliver service levels that passengers expect.
“The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we can stop the RMT from holding passengers to ransom.
“Contrary to the RMT’s accusation, we have always been open to talks and remain so. Only this week we spoke with the general secretary Mick Cash about further talks and he has been unwilling to enter into discussion.”
The union says it offered a three month pause to action if the company suspended proposals to allow space for talks to take place.
The RMT had written to new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling asking for direct talks, but he has not replied to its letter.
But today (Thursday July 28) RMT’s executive agreed to: “Instruct our members to take strike action by not booking on for any shifts between 0001 on Monday 8th August and 2359 on Friday 12th August.”
The Government has faced repeated calls to strip GTR of its franchise, which also includes Thameslink and Gatwick Express services, including from this newspaper, but has so far dismissed calls.
Passengers have faced months of disruption due to staff shortages, which both GTR and the RMT have blamed each other for.
What do you think of the announcement? Comment below or email the newsdesk.
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