Southern Rail conductors change Sussex strike dates

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

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

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Southern Rail conductors have cancelled plans to hold two 24-hour strikes next week, replacing the action with a one-day walkout later this month.

Rail union RMT said today (Wednesday, May 4) it will not go ahead with strike actions from Tuesday, May 10 to Wednesday, May 11 and from Thursday, May 12 to Friday, May 13 and will instead hold a one-day walkout on Friday, May 20.

The union is taking strike action over plans from Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to replace all its conductors with on-board supervisors – a new role with fewer safety responsibilities.

RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said: “We have reassessed the tactics of the dispute and, recognising the hostile and aggressive stance taken by the company as we fight for the basic principles of rail safety, RMT’s executive has decided to switch the next phase of action to May 20.

“Southern GTR should be under no illusions, the union will not bend to their bullying and threats and we will be out there building on the huge public support we have already mobilised in a campaign that pitches the demands for increasing private profits against safety on our railways.

“Southern GTR fleeces its passengers for a fortune in fares for unreliable and overcrowded services and RMT will not allow safety to be the next thing sacrificed in the dash for fatter and fatter profits on this rail franchise.”

The union also said it is taking legal advice over Southern’s decision to withdraw pay and benefits from striking staff.

A spokesman for Southern said: “We are naturally pleased that next week’s strike has been postponed, but remain concerned that the threat of further strike action hangs over our passengers with a new date announced for 20 May.

“While it would be good to think the RMT has changed its position, we believe they have taken this action after members rebelled at the prospect of losing a significant sum in pay and benefits due to the union calling three strike days in the same pay period.

“This strike is totally unnecessary. All we are doing is making our staff more accessible and more able to give better customer service to passengers on board our trains, by removing the need for them to close the doors. This is how 40 per cent of Southern services operate already. No one will be made compulsorily redundant and no one will lose salary.

“We hope this additional time will offer the RMT the opportunity to pause and reflect on the impact their action is having on people and engage in meaningful discussions with us.”

Earlier this month the union opened another strike ballot over plans to reduce ticket office hours at a number of stations in Sussex.

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