Southern: RMT Strike Update

SHRIMP has received the below update from Southern:

“Following industrial action over recent months, you may be aware that we released figures showing the level of conductor sickness absence currently causing significant disruption to the rail service. Ordinarily, we would not release such information, but we have received a high number of enquiries on this and believe that passengers deserve to know the reasons behind the unusually high level of train cancellations they are currently experiencing. Below are the headlines of the data released on 25 May for your information:

  • In the last 32 working days, we have recorded 1066 days of conductor absence. The rate of absence has more than doubled since the first conductors strike on 26 April.
  • In the two weeks prior to the first strike, conductor sickness absence ran at an average of 23 conductors off sick each day. Since the strike, that number has nearly doubled to 40 conductors off sick each day. In the last ten days, that figure has increased still further to 45 conductors off sick each day.
  • In the last month, 74 conductors have had at least one day of sickness absence. This amounts to one-in-six conductors having had a day’s sickness in that period.
  • On a daily basis, an average of 83 Southern services are being cancelled due to the current on-going sickness problems.

Please be reassured that GTR is offering all the support to conductors who are ill and working out how they can get back to work. But these figures show a remarkable and unprecedented level of sickness absence which commenced at the time of the first strike.

We continue to remain open to talks with the RMT Union. We have met with the union about the changes eight times and written to them repeatedly. As the RMT Union are refusing to enter into meaningful discussions, further strikes are likely. However, we are committed to doing everything we possibly can to avert further unnecessary strikes which just cause misery for our passengers.

We are not removing conductors from trains. Under our plans, everyone who wants a job will have one, with no reduction in salary, whilst passengers would benefit by having more visible staff on trains. The changes are the right thing to do for our customers and from a modern railway perspective.

ASLEF – legal action 

Reluctantly we felt GTR had no option but to seek an injunction following discrepancies in the ASLEF drivers’ ballot. On Thursday 2 June, the court agreed with GTR that the ballot was flawed and granted us the injunction. This means that the ballot is void.

As you may remember, GTR gained an earlier injunction against ASLEF over the introduction of 12 car trains on Gatwick Express services. An appeal by ASLEF against this injunction was also refused by the court, meaning that drivers must continue to drive 12 car Gatwick Express trains.

We hope that these two decisions will result in ASLEF returning to meaningful discussions with us and we can invest time in improving and modernising the railway rather than spend time in court. Around 40 percent of the Southern network already operates DOO and we are urging ASLEF members, many of whom already drive DOO services every day, and have done for many years, to ask their union to work with us to deliver the benefits which we know new and longer trains bring for our passengers.