Southern’s train drivers could strike over a ‘breakdown in industrial relations’ with the rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
The company is already facing the prospect of a five-day strike starting on Monday (August 8) by the RMT over the future role of conductors on Southern services.
The dispute has led to strikes in April, May, and June, with staff shortages over the past few months causing misery to passengers due to constant delays and cancellations.
Meanwhile both the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association are balloting their members in August over the possibility of strike action relating to GTR’s plans to cut opening hours at railway station ticket offices across Sussex.
Now ASLEF, the union representing train drivers, has said that rostering issues brought about by the revised weekday timetable, which started in early July and cancelled more than 300 services a day, ‘remain unresolved’.
ASLEF’s executive committee considers this ‘amounts to a breakdown in industrial relations’ and it will ballot its members employed by GTR Southern and Gatwick Express on both strike action and action short of a strike.
In response, Angie Doll, passenger service director at GTR, said: “Twice Aslef has tried to block our plans to improve the railway and twice the courts have ruled their attempts unlawful.
“Aslef members have been successfully operating this timetable for three weeks to deliver more reliable services for passengers and staff in the face of train crew shortages.
“To call a strike ballot against this timetable now is a cynical and desperate attempt to heap even more misery on passengers especially as we have met with Aslef on two occasions and have a further meeting with them next week on this specific issue.
“Passengers should remember that Aslef and the RMT signed a pact last year to fight any extension of driver-only operation tooth and nail.
“The news of this ballot comes at the very moment we are trying to find a resolution with the RMT at Acas and is premature and opportunistic.”
The Government has faced repeated calls to strip GTR of its franchise, something this newspaper has endorsed.
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