The industrial dispute which is blighting rail commuters’ lives on a daily basis is a long way from reaching the end of the line.
After a week in which Govia Thameslink’s social media appeal to passengers back-fired spectacularly, forcing the company which operates Southern Rail to withdraw station posters just one day into its attempt to vilify its own staff, its has now started handing out redundancy notices to conductors, gambling that its staff will accept revised contracts to work from 2017.
For a company that has failed to deliver on its contracted timetable because of staff shortages, it’s looking like a high-stakes gamble that will not pay off.
With another round of industrial action to come in the dispute over driver-operated doors on trains, Govia Thameslink this week offered a £2,000 sweetener to its conductors to accept a deal, with a deadline of midday on Thursday.
For those who refused, the redundancy notices started going out yesterday, with contracts terminated on December 31.
The railway operator is gambling that many of the staff it is sacking this week will happily accept the revised contract, as “on-board supervisors”, starting on January 1.
But many Southern staff are so angry off with what one has called the “vile” company’s management and their ham-fisted attempts to demonise them, that some may not be coming back at all – potentially leaving Southern with another, self-imposed staffing crisis.
A posting on social media overnight, apparently from an erstwhile Southern guard, said bitterly that they are walking away from the network, and the crass mismanagement to which they have been subjected.
Southern Rail, they wrote, “I regard with almost limitless contempt. A company with no apparent regard whatever for either its staff or its customers.”
And they continued: “Southern I shall wave farewell to with joy and relief – and would like to offer my deepest sympathy to those left to work for this vile company.”
Politicians of all persuasions, from Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp, to Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, have called for Govia Thameslink to be stripped of its contract with the Department for Transport, with most advocating that Transport for London assumes control of its commuter rail services within the M25 area.
Negotiations between management and the unions broke down on Thursday. The next day of strike action is due to be on Tuesday, October 11.
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