Southern rail staff make further strike threats over new disputes

TSSA plans to ballot staff over ticket office closures while Aslef cites breakdown in relations with management

The crisis at Southern Railway is set to intensify with further strike threats by workers involving two new disputes.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said it planned to ballot more than 250 station staff in protest at ticket office closures and members of the drivers’ union Aslef will also vote for industrial action.

Aslef said there had been a breakdown in relations with management at Southern and Gatwick Express. The TSSA said 47 jobs would be lost if the plans to close 34 offices and reduce hours at 49 others go ahead.

The ballot was announced before talks between Southern and the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union in a separate dispute over the role of conductors.

The RMT is planning five days of strikes from Monday if the deadlocked row is not resolved with Southern, which operates services from London to southern counties.

Southern, which is a brand name used by the Go-Ahead group and Keolis of France, said a strike timetable would be put in place if the action was not called off by Thursday afternoon.

Angie Doll, the passenger service director at the railway company, cricitised TSSA and said Aslef had twice tried to block plans to improve the railway and the courts had twice ruled this unlawful.

“To call a strike ballot now is a cynical and desperate attempt to heap even more misery on passengers, especially as we have met with Aslef on two occasions and have a further meeting with them next week on this specific issue,” said Doll.

RMT wrote to the new transport secretary, Chris Grayling, asking for direct talks after he said tackling Southern’s issues would be a priority in his new role, but the union said the request had been ignored.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said the “arrogance and inaction” of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Southern’s train operating company, and the government demonstrated that they had no interest in resolving the dispute. But the rail minister, Paul Maynard, said the move showed the union “had decided that it is not on the side of the passenger”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, told a rally on Tuesday evening in Brighton – one of the cities most affected by the Southern crisis – that renationalisation was the answer. “If there’s one thing that can unite this party, and indeed this city, it’s campaigning to get rid of the Southern franchise and bring the railways into public ownership.”


Terry Macalister and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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