A Southern train crew member was confronted by a passenger travelling between Haywards Heath to Eastbourne saying ‘strike back, strike back’ today, according to a rail union.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) launched a ‘major public information campaign’ on Monday (October 3) around its latest offer to the RMT union to end a long-running dispute over changes to the role of guards.
The rail operator urged passengers to ‘strike back’ on social media site Twitter and tell the RMT how they felt about plans for five strikes totalling 14 days scheduled between now and Christmas.
But the move immediately backfired with users calling Southern ‘beyond childish’, a ‘joke’, with others criticising their ‘ridiculous behaviour’.
According to the RMT, when a guard asked to see tickets on a Southern service between Haywards Heath and Eastbourne this morning (Wednesday October 5), they were confronted by a member of the public ‘getting in my face saying “strike back strike back”.’
A spokesperson for British Transport Police confirmed that it was aware of the incident but was not investigating further as no official complaint had been made.
In a letter to Charles Horton chief executive at GTR, Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “I am writing to you again asking you to discontinue your public and media campaign attack on your workforce.
“GTR have fed the passengers and public a line that railway staff working for GTR are to blame for the sorry mess that is Southern Rail.
“Your latest anthem is one of ‘strike back’ and I have already had indications that staff are taking the brunt of that and are being attacked and assaulted.”
He added: “Only this morning a report has been made to the BTP with regards to a conductor from Eastbourne - “a member of the travelling public refused to buy a ticket and then confronted me by getting in my face saying “strike back strike back” this was on the 07:10 Haywards Heath – Eastbourne.”
In an email widely circulated on social media, staff have been told to remove any campaign posters at stations ‘due to extremely negative public sentiment around the brand’.
The rail operator has set a deadline of Thursday (October 6) for the union to accept its latest offer to end the dispute, which it described as ‘fair, clear, and unambiguous’.
In a letter to Mr Cash, it has also offered a lump sum payment of £2,000 to all guards if the dispute ends and GTR’s proposals are fully implemented.
GTR has been approached for comment.
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