The home secretary Amber Rudd has waded in to the ongoing Southern rail dispute between the company and the union that represents their workers. She has stated that this weeks further rail strike is “unacceptable” as it is expected that it will shut down one of the country’s busiest commuter routes. She also went on to complain about a proposed further strike by workers of the Aslef union in the new year.
It is thought that this new strike will bring misery to half a million commuters each day the strike carries on for. The ongoing barrage of strikes has now rumbled on for over a year. The action brought by the RMT union has been over a dispute over the role of guard’s on Southern’s services.
These further strikes will only carry on heaping misery on the struggling operator, and will renew the calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to renationalise Britain’s railways once the current round of contracts come to an end. That call looked even more remote after last week’s call by Transport secretary Chris Grayling for the division of the work currently done by network rail to be passed out to the privatised operators. You can read the London Tribune story about that here.
It has also renewed calls from the right of the conservative party for Prime Minister Theresa May to look at changing the current laws around trade union activites. Henry Smith who is an MP sitting on a group regarding Southern Rail, has called on the Prime Minister to “review” current legislation. Though this hasn’t happened, it’s also hoped that Mrs May calls on the workers at Southern rail to return to work. Whilst a relatively unusual event, the extraordinary nature of the dispute means many are looking to the government to make a meaningful intervention in the case.
This all follows on from Southern’s failed attempt in the High Court to ban the walkout, Southern have appealed this decision, but due to current legislation, overturning the ban may be near impossible.
The ongoing misery currently affecting the commuters involved is unlikely to cease any time soon as both sides are still far away from reaching any meaningful agreement. Indeed Southern Rail have resorted to trying to win a hearts and mind exercise by advertising in the news media to frustrated onlookers, trying to explain their dilemma with the staff. All commuters will want is an end to the misery, but that certainly looks unlikely at present.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.