Southern Rail hits back as engineers announce strike action

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Rail engineers are set to strike for five days, after union RMT balloted its members.

The union announced on Friday (July 3), its members at Southern Rail will take strike action from 5pm on Sunday (July 12), until Friday (July 17).

It said a “breakdown in industrial relations” is the reason for the strike.

However, a Southern Rail spokesman, said, “We do not understand why the RMT has decided to take strike action in July, when Southern has less than three weeks of its existing franchise left. The new franchisee, GTR has provided them with a written commitment to addressing their aspirations to include a shorter working week as part of pay talks to start this month. There is no benefit in inconveniencing our passengers or causing our employees to lose money through strike action.”

The ballot put to RMT members saw a nine to one majority voting for strike action.

The union said members want to reduce the working week to 35 hours, as well as issues with rosters.

It also said the Promotion, Transfer, Redundancy, and Resettlement (PTR&R) Agreement, which has been in place since the days of British Rail, protects the rights of workers if a depot is closed or there are job cuts. The union said management now claim staff are no longer covered by the agreement, which “seriously undermines our members employment rights”.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “RMT will not stand by while agreed policies, procedures and agreements are unilaterally ripped up by Southern and promises on the reduction in the working week are kicked aside despite increases in productivity through the LEAN project. As a result we declared a dispute and our engineering grades have now delivered a massive vote for industrial action and that programme of strikes and overtime bans will begin next week.

“In all of this, management have failed to show our members the respect they deserve as skilled and dedicated workers. We have made every effort to talk to the company about these issues, but have got nowhere. The only option we have is to use industrial action.

“Southern is a company intensively under the spotlight over its performance at the moment and RMT will not have our members left unrewarded as they hit work targets and then face a barrage of attacks on working conditions and procedures. RMT remains available for talks.”

The Southern Rail spokesman said, “Less than 30 per cent of our engineers voted for industrial action and if this strike goes ahead we expect the majority of our staff and managers to work as normal, and we will do everything we can to minimise the impact that any industrial action may have on our passengers.”

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