Looming industrial action at South Western Railway

SWR Train in sidings

Rail union TSSA is warning South Western Railway (SWR) that potential industrial action, including a strike could be on the cards after the two sides have formally failed to agree in an escalating dispute over the imposition of changed working arrangements among Control staff.  

The union has now officially served a ‘Failure to Agree’ notice to SWR —the first stage of an official process that, without an agreement in the short term, could lead to industrial action by its Train Service Managers. 

This is despite the union’s efforts to engage in meaningful dialogue over several months and because the company has undermined TSSA's Collective Bargaining Agreement with SWR.  

The core of the dispute lies in SWR’s proposed requirement for staff to source their own cover for Sunday shifts. TSSA members have raised numerous concerns about this unreasonable interpretation of their terms of employment, which disrupts employees' ability to plan consistent leave and leads to unpredictable and strenuous rostering practices.  

This change poses a risk to the operational safety and efficiency of SWR's services. Controller grade staff, including Train Service Managers, play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and reliability of train operations, and the added pressures from these changes could adversely affect their performance and overall operational safety. 

Gareth Theobald, TSSA Organiser for SWR, commented: “This isn't merely a shift in working patterns. It’s a stark deviation from well-established norms, and we urge SWR to return to the negotiating table without delay to resolve this issue.” 

“It’s vital that the company understand the seriousness of the situation—we want to avoid industrial action and ensure the continued provision of rail services to the public. However, SWR should be in no doubt that if staff need to take action, then trains will come to a stop.”

TSSA members attending a rally

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