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Station staff employed by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have voted in favour of strike action.  GTR's operating franchise includes the Great Northern services, so Palmers Green and other Hertford Loop stations are likely to be affected by any eventual strike action.

palmers green stationGTR corporate identity at Palmers Green StationThe strike ballot, called by the RMT union, is a response to GTR's plans to close ticket offices or reduce their opening hours.  As well as Great Northern, the proposals cover Thameslink and Southern stations.  They would involve the replacement of ticket office staff at 83 stations by "station hosts", who would have various other functions in addition to selling tickets from portable machines.

An RMT press release claims that "GTR are totally ignoring the thousands of passengers who clearly indicated in our high profile public campaign that they are appalled by the planned closure of ticket offices and the swingeing cuts to opening hours. They have failed to address the views of station staff and have ignored the objections from RMT and our sister rail unions. If these changes come in the union believes it will mean all station staff could be forced onto flexible working with an increased workload without the prospect of reasonable compensation."

The union state that 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of a strike, and almost 80 per cent supported other industrial action short of a strike.  Around half of the staff who were balloted responded.

The RMT have not yet decided whether and when to take action.

The GTR station staff dispute is separate from that relating to proposed driver-only operation of trains on Southern.

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Paul Mandel's Avatar
Paul Mandel posted a reply #2246 18 Aug 2016 08:18
Very biased reporting. In fairness PGC should also give Govia Thameslink's reasons for the changes and their reaction to the RMT's announcement:

The beleaguered operator, which already endured three days of strike action – and potentially more soon – across its Southern branch, refuted the union’s allegations over job losses. It argued that affected staff would receive an uplift in salary or an increased allowance, that there would no compulsory redundancies, and that the operator would safeguard staff safety.

It also criticised RMT’s vote to strike, claiming that the decision was made on a 40% turnout.

An operator spokesman said: “We note that only one in four (26.9%) voted for strike action, with more than half of RMT station staff members ignoring the ballot.

“While disappointed we urge the union to stop this dispute and save our passengers and staff further pain by becoming part of the solution rather than the problem.”:
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #2248 23 Aug 2016 19:52

Paul Mandel wrote: Very biased reporting. In fairness PGC should also give Govia Thameslink's reasons for the changes and their reaction to the RMT's announcement

I have to concede that the report was unbalanced, but it wasn't because I'm biased one way or the other, it's because I was away from home, using someone else's computer and ran out of time. It would have been better not to quote either side than to just quote one.

As regards the dispute, I don't think that enough information is available to make a judgement about the rights and wrongs. The claims made by the two sides as to job losses are contradictory - possibly they are both right but talking about different things.

In the train company's favour is the fact that many stations, including PG, will be staffed for significantly longer times each day, which must be of benefit to travellers. However, the real reason for this isn't concern for the safety of passengers, it's because Govia won't be allowed to use the ticket gates unless there are staff present. And once the ticket gates come into use, I think it's inevitable that the side entrance into the car park will be closed, which will cause overcrowding at the top of the stairs and, more importantly, will make it more difficult for disabled passengers or those with baby buggies or heavy suitcases to leave the station.

As well as job losses, the unions are legitimately concerned about the safety of their staff - a person selling tickets on the concourse would be an obvious target for robbers. And the station hosts will have to hang around in the cold during the winter until after midnight.

A while back it was reported that under pressure from Travelwatch Govia had agreed to try out the station hosts concept at a small number of stations. That seems a sensible idea, but what has become of it?

As I've written before, I would like to see the contract taken away from Govia - they've failed to deliver what they were contracted to do, but the boss of Go Ahead has still taken a huge increase in salary. However, a strike on the whole of the Govia network, not just on Southern, would completely scupper the chances of this happening because it would be seen as a political challenge to the government, who in the final analysis hold all the trump cards. So I'm certainly not biased in favour of strikes.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #2276 17 Sep 2016 19:33
Whatever the reason(s) the local train service is awful and ultimately that needs to fall to management to rectify. Our train out of Moorgate today was cancelled; over 30 minutes wait for the next and just before leaving we were helpfully informed this would be the last going towards Hertford for one and a half hours so customers wishing to travel on the Hertford loop should get on it (…rather than…?).

In winning the bid for the franchise the winner seems to be able to do little more than overlay their new name stickers on the carriages, operate pretty much the same customer service and web facility and so can only generate savings to increase the fee to HMG - and so win the bid - by making savings on drivers. Weekends and evening’s seem prime candidates for such a move. Perhaps it’s a time + salary period.

A post British rail scheme designed to improve efficiency via competition seems instead to be perfectly tuned to dump passengers. Far better everyone focused on running a train service so people could get from A to B and C and D and back again, every time. “Getting our country back”; I wish we had started with the simple and worked on driving trains forward on parallel tracks before embarking on the truly complex management tasks.

And I saw from a poster while whiling away the minutes that there is a consultation on the 2018 timetable. Ha ha. I suspect they’ll cancel it and go direct to 2019 after a delay in 2017.