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Saturday 3rd
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Railway ‘on thin ice if it wants to stop strike’

BRITAIN’S worst performing railway is on thin ice in its latest attempt to block strikes in the court, sources told the Star yesterday.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) announced on Thursday night that it would seek an injunction against walk-outs by drivers on its chaotic Southern division.

The company has been locked in a bitter dispute with its conductors in the RMT union over its attempts to de-skill their jobs.

Drivers’ union Aslef has also been attempting to take action over driver-only operation since June, but has been hit by a series of injunctions and legal threats from bosses.

Earlier this week Aslef announced a 48-hour strike on December 13-14 and a 24-hour walkout on December 16, followed by a week-long strike from January 9.

GTR chief executive Charles Horton said he believed Aslef’s industrial action “breaches our and our customers’ rights under EU law” and said the company had “no choice” but to take it to the High Court.

“It will severely disrupt all our customers, including the tens of thousands of customers a day who use our services for travelling to and from Gatwick Airport,” he said.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan blasted: “Once again, we see that GTR/Southern is a company desperate to seek to prevent the voice of their put-upon employees being heard.

“The company that has lost the confidence of the travelling public, taxpayers and staff — and which should have lost its franchise by now — seeks to do anything to prevent the right of free association.”

Neither Aslef nor GTR would comment on the specifics of the legal challenge when approached yesterday. The company’s reference to Gatwick has led to speculation that GTR’s lawyers will argue that the strikes would infringe people’s right to provide services across borders with other member states.

The company could also invoke pro-business legislation protecting companies’ rights to operate.

But a source familiar with industrial disputes suggested that GTR was in “wanky wonderland” if it thought the courts would side with bosses this time.

“If they win in the High Court then every strike in Britain will be illegal,” they said. “GTR don’t have a case and have been looking around desperately.”

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