Planned strike action by guards at Eastbourne train station has been brought forward.
Members of the RMT Union that work for Southern, were due to walk out on Friday 20 May, but will now take industrial action on Wednesday 18 May.
They are walking out in an ongoing row over plans to introduce driver-only trains – something the RMT believes will jeopardise passenger safety. This is strongly denied by Southern. The RMT claims the company is ‘threatening’ staff and are forcing a deadline of 20 May for workers to sign up to the company plans regardless of the impact on jobs, working conditions and safety.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:
"The union has once again 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 the 18th May two days before Southern’s outrageous ultimatum to staff.
"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. The company know that they are losing the public battle and have resorted to some of the dirtiest tactics seen in an industrial struggle in Britain in many years. They will not get away with those attacks on basic human rights.
"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. RMT is now looking to build support from across the trade union movement for this important fight which defines the nature of industrial relations in Britain in 2016. "
A spokesperson for Southern has said:
"This is clearly a cynical ploy by RMT leadership to maximise the disruption their action will have on passengers by moving the strike, with the bare minimum of notice the law requires, from a Friday, when fewer people traditionally travel, to midweek. This action is completely unnecessary: there’s a job for everyone who wants one and no-one will have a cut in salary. The only difference is that conductors will no longer close a train’s doors.
"We totally refute the RMT's groundless allegations. The refusal of the RMT union to negotiate has left us with no option but to press on with our plans to evolve the role of the Conductor on many of our services."
Should the strike take place as planned, Southern are warning of a significant effect on services between Eastbourne and Brighton.