Southern strike chaos
Trade union dispute causes most disruptive strikes in 20 years. When will it end?
A STRIKE by drivers belonging to the ASLEF union halted all 2,242 daily Southern Railway services on December 13 and 14, making it the most disruptive industrial action on the railway in more than 20 years.
Normally busy stations across south London, Surrey and Sussex were deserted as passengers worked from home, took the day off or attempted to drive.
As this issue of RAIL went to press, talks were taking place at the conciliation service, ACAS, to find common ground between the ASLEF and RMT unions and the train operator. However, an overtime ban and a further 24-hour strike by ASLEF on December 16 remained on.
Southern advised its passengers not to attempt to travel, and most passengers stayed away. No buses were laid on instead, and the company estimated the strike stopped 150,000 commuters each day.
ASLEF drivers and RMT conductors are protesting about further use of Driver Only Operation on Southern Railway, whereby the driver (and not the guard) would be responsible for closing the train doors at stations. The working method is used
on one third of the national rail network, and is used throughout the London Underground.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “The unions appear to have little interest in resolving the dispute unless the management cave in totally to their demands.
“These are not just to stop the current modernisation process, but to start reversing 30 years of working practice changes right across the country.
“When I met the general secretary of ASLEF, with virtually his first breath he promised me ‘ten year of industrial action’.”
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan accused Grayling of being “less than honest on all counts”.
He said: “We have been forced into this by an intransigent company that is not prepared to negotiate.
“Their definition of negotiations is to sit down and tell us what they want to do. It’s up to the company and the Government to be flexible.”
Each side said it was ready for fresh talks, but each then accused the other of failing to take part.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The truth is that these strikes are not about safety, not about jobs and not about customer service.”
The strikes on Southern have been the most disruptive in 20 years. Govia Thameslink Railway failed in its attempt to stopping the strikes via the courts. On November 29, Southern 377110 arrives at East Croydon.