ASLEF concerned “fake news” might lead to passengers assaulting train drivers

southern-trainsASLEF has hit back at “fake news” peddled by Southern Rail bosses, warning it will take action against the company if staff are assaulted as a result of negative stories appearing in newspapers. 

Ahead of next week’s overtime ban by train drivers, Southern Rail briefed journalists that ASLEF members had rejected a pay offer that could lead them to earn £75,000 a year. The Tory press happily printed the story, perpetuating the image of greedy train drivers.

But they failed to report the total included overtime payments and, more importantly, that union negotiators had rejected the deal because it would have meant signing up to Driver Only Operation – effectively making redundant train managers and guards.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan is concerned the negative coverage could result in his members being abused by irate passengers.

He said: “If any driver is verbally abused, threatened or attacked after the company has deliberately and maliciously sought to inflame the situation by peddling lies then we reserve the right to do whatever is necessary to protect our members – on Southern Rail and nationally.

‘Those free newspapers which promote such a situation should be removed from all railway and underground stations which, of course, any good employer with a duty of care would support.”

Whelan also pointed out the overtime payments were not guaranteed, saying: “The company relies on drivers working voluntary overtime to run at least 25% of its services; while we, as a union, strive for full employment to help deliver a first class public service. There would be no requirement for voluntary overtime if Southern recruited staff properly – if the company recruited the right number of drivers to run the services it has promised passengers to deliver.

“I’m quite sure that if we sought a guarantee of these payments it would not be forthcoming. We are disgusted and will be asking for GTR/Southern to be stripped of the franchise as all stakeholders, employees, the travelling public, and taxpayers we talk to have lost all faith in Southern Fail to deliver.

“It is indefensible that GTR/Southern and the inept Department for Transport continue to peddle misinformation and attack those whose goodwill they rely on to run their services. The company has – with no censure from the DfT – kept driver complements artificially low.”

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