Friday, July 14, 2017

Southern rail passengers face more misery as drivers vote to strike in August

Southern rail drivers have voted to strike over pay CREDIT: PA  13 JULY 2017 •

Rail passengers face further misery this summer after train drivers on Southern Rail and the Gatwick Express voted to strike over pay.

Members of drivers’ union Aslef voted overwhelmingly for action on three days in the first week of August despite drivers being offered an improved pay deal worth up to £75,000 a year, including overtime. 

Thousands who use the beleaguered train network and the the airport service face travel chaos at a time when many families will be attempting to travel on holiday.

Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, which was fined £13.4million yesterday (THURS) for poor performance, had offered staff a four-year pay deal worth 23.8 per cent.

A spokesman branded the decision to strike “simply breathtaking” and said the 30,000 commuters who use the service daily and can likely look forward to much smaller pay rises would be “shocked and frustrated”.

The offer would have taken a driver's base salary from £49,001 to £60,683 for the existing 35-hour, four-day week.

Southern rail drivers have voted to strike over pay CREDIT: PAUL GROVER

Most of Southern's drivers also work a fifth day as overtime, which tops up their pay by 25 per cent, taking the potential total pay to over £75,000.

But some 61.8 per cent of voting members supported strike action, with 78.4 per cent voting to take part in action short of a strike.

The unions have argued that driver-only operation is unsafe, a claim denied by Southern and other industry chiefs.

Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said: "Now is the time for Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport to step in and assist in finding a resolution to a problem they caused."

The strike will take place on Tuesday August 1, Wednesday 2 and Friday 4.

A spokesman for GTR said the proposed action across one week "is a deliberate move to cause maximum disruption for passengers".

"To do so in protest against an offer to increase pay by 24 per cent is simply breathtaking,” he added.

"Commuters, the vast majority of whom are seeing pay rises many times less, will understandably be as shocked and frustrated as we are," he said.

"We absolutely need to modernise in order to increase capacity on this the most congested part of the UK's network, where passenger numbers have doubled in places in as little as 12 years.

"That requires modernisation of infrastructure, trains and working practices. The trade unions must join us in that endeavour."

In a separate dispute, Aslef members working for Southern and Gatwick Express introduced an overtime ban last month, which will continue until further notice.

Passengers endured severe disruption and rail cancellationsthroughout 2016 and earlier this year, as rolling strikes brought the south-east of England to its knees, with a walkout in January lasting three days.

Commuters were advised not to travel at times, with the Southern network at a complete halt.

In a separate development, the Department of Transport fined GTR £13.4 million for poor performance and ordered the operator to invest the money in its own infrastructure in a bid to prevent future ruined journeys.


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