Eastbourne MP '˜disappointed' as Southern train drivers reject deal

Eastbourne's MP has described being '˜incredibly disappointed' at Southern train drivers for rejecting a deal to end a dispute with rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway.

Monday, 3rd April 2017, 5:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:10 pm
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell speaking in Parliament SUS-160709-094144001

An agreement was reached between ASLEF’s leadership and GTR, but this was rejected by union members when they were balloted back in February by 54 to 46 per cent.

A fresh ballot on a second deal was held last month and this too has been rejected by the majority of the union’s membership by 51.8 to 48.2 per cent.

The dispute is over the introduction of driver-only operation on Southern services, where drivers are responsible for opening and closing train doors.

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell said: “I’m incredibly disappointed Aslef members have turned this deal down, especially when the union’s leadership recommended it to them.

“It was another chance to try and end this dispute and passengers will be frustrated this has happened and the spectre of industrial action has not gone completely away.

“The only good news is both sides are still committed to talks rather than having new strikes or returning to work to rule, and this is a framework both sides now must build on so this long-running dispute can be ended.

“I hope to hear an announcement soon that Govia Thameslink, Southern’s parent company, and the union are to resume talks as soon as possible.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: “We understand and support the decision arrived at in a democratic vote by our drivers and will now seek new talks with the company and work to deliver a resolution to this dispute in line with the expectations of our members.”

Andy Bindon, of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “It’s a hugely disappointing outcome for our passengers, particularly as the agreement carried the full support and recommendation of the ASLEF leadership.

“We have shown a willingness and desire to find a solution to their dispute and we will now, once again, sit down with the union, understand the issues which led to this regrettable decision by the drivers and try and find a way forward to resolving it.”

The RMT union, which is also in dispute with GTR over the changes, is due to hold its latest strike on Saturday April 8.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “This ballot was entirely a matter for ASLEF and its members. However, the result reflects the continuing and deep seated concern amongst drivers and the wider workforce over the extension of DOO and the safety impact on passenger services.

“Southern Rail cannot jam their heads in the sand any longer. We are in talks with the company tomorrow and we now expect the fundamental issues at the heart of our guards’ and drivers’ disputes to be taken seriously.

“There’s an easy solution to this long running industrial dispute and Southern Rail need to join with the unions in reaching an agreement that protects passengers and which recognises the safety critical issues our members have been fighting for over the past year.”

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