Monday, June 20, 2016

Sick train staff 'really on strike', boss says

Southern Railway services will be badly disrupted by the strike on Tuesday 

Telegraph Reporters 20 JUNE 2016 • 

Some train drivers and conductors calling in sick appear to be taking unofficial industrial action to cripple services during a bitter rail dispute that has caused chaos for commuters, a rail executive has alleged.

An average of 39 conductors on Southern Trains are calling in ill each day, according to Charles Horton, chief executive of the firm’s operator, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), as the company is locked in a bitter dispute with unions.

Sick leave has risen sharply since the dispute began and increased by almost 40 per cent in the past month.
The bitter rail dispute is over plans to downgrade the role of conductors and give drivers control of doors CREDIT: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

Mr Horton told The Sunday Times the absences were "pretty compelling" evidence that some staff were carrying out unofficial industrial action, although he stressed this could not be proved.

Southern is locked in a bitter dispute with unions over plans to downgrade conductors and give the control of train doors to drivers. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) says the plan will risk safety and has held a series of strikes.

Tens of thousands of longsuffering commuters will face more disruption on some of the busiest routes in the country on Tuesday in the latest walkout.

The RMT said it was untrue staff were taking unofficial action and said the sickness figures were "bogus". Aslef, representing drivers, said it was unaware of any increase in sickness among members.

Meanwhile it was claimed Govia has "only" been fined £2 million for poor performance in the past two years despite a spate of cancellations.

The RMT said parliamentary answers showed the level of fines, which it added were less than the £3.4 million paid to just two GTR bosses for just one year - chief executive officer David Brown (£2.16 million) and recently resigned finance director Keith Down (£1.26m).

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: "On the eve of the Southern guards strike, a strike in defence of jobs, services and safety, we have new evidence that proves the Government have bent the franchise rules to minimise penalties on the company and allow the top bosses to pay themselves fat cat bonuses while services are in chaos. It is outrageous.

"RMT knows that when Southern talk about 'changing the role of the guard' what they really mean is axing the guards altogether as they put their profits above public safety.”


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