Govia Thameslink Railway: a view from the frontline

Posted in Off The Rails's blog on Mon, 21/01/2019 - 19:12,

The DOO strikes on Southern have been over for a while now. The next big battle will be over proposed cuts to platform dispatch jobs, which are likely to be targeted on Brighton mainline stations. Lots of managers have been trained as "contingency" dispatch staff in the event of a strike. But as always the issue will be what Aslef drivers will do.

On the Great Northern and Thameslink side it's a more peculiar picture. When that was West Anglia Great Northern, and then First Capital Connect, they had a management policy of no strikes - which meant they conceded almost any demand Aslef made. The RMT have very little power as guards and platform dispatch staff were largely cut on those routes in the 90s. So workers have no real experience of being involved in a prolonged dispute involving industrial action, and the management have an ingrained culture of not wanting confrontation. The whole point of the GTR franchise is to drive through DOO, new routes through the London core, and bring in new trains. So we have a peculiar cold war going on at the moment over the 717 units that are being introduced on the Great Northern metro route (which will no doubt at the end of this franchise all be parcelled off as a new London Overground of TfL Rail route).

Aslef health and safety reps have decided they can use this introduction to try and fight DOO. So they're pushing for more and more platform staff. But Aslef on GN route have accepted DOO for nearly 30 years, so it's all a bit muddled. They're objecting to various bits and pieces they've been happy to accept until no. And the Aslef full timers won't touch it. Normally this would be an untenable position for a union. They're not organising around this at all at workplace level, just sending reps to meetings to object. But the management have no concept of how to push back against it, as their long-standing policy has been to just give in. So the 717s, which were due in November, are nowhere near introduction and its not clear how it will all pan out.

There are rumours circulating that GTR will be given a two-year extension on its franchise. The optics of that will be appalling after what happened in May but the rumour is that the franchising system is in such a mess the Department for Transport don't want to actually touch it if they can avoid it. All round… a complete shit show of incompetence!

Trade Unions

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