Socialist Worker

Southern rail bosses lose court bid to ban strikes—now workers must turn up the heat

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2533

Striking guards earlier this week

Striking guards earlier this week (Pic: Socialist Worker)

A High Court judge threw out a request from Southern rail owners Govia Thameslink Railway to ban train drivers’ industrial action today, Thursday.

The judge said Govia’s legal team had made a “novel” attempt to override the democratic 87 percent vote of Aslef union members—but it's injunction “must fail”.

Tory anti-union laws have successfully been used twice this year to block drivers from striking and Aslef was ordered by the court to pay nearly £1 million in costs.

Charlie was “over the moon” at the result. The Southern driver and Aslef member told Socialist Worker that it was now “time to get on with the business”.

Drivers began an overtime ban on Tuesday as train guards walked out for a three-day strike. Now is the time to ramp up the pressure on the Tories’ favourite rail firm and build for the strongest possible drivers’ strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.


The action can turn the screws on the bosses who have repeatedly victimised striking train guards opposed to the imposition of driver only operation (DOO). In their fight for safety guards have even seen bosses try to stop them striking by withholding holiday pay.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said, “‘DOO is inherently unsafe. The company—which cares only about profit, not about passengers—knows, as we know, that there are serious problems with the platform/train interface.

“It has been our policy for more than 15 years to try to eradicate driver only operation.”

Striking guard Angie, a RMT union rep, said the failed injunction attempt was “good news for us—now the drivers are joining the fight”. She added, “The company needs to back down.”

Victor, another RMT guard, said, “This should sharpen everyone’s minds—this is not just an issue for the guards. The drivers striking is a victory for us.”

Meanwhile most of the press looks the other way, focusing on travel “chaos” and “misery”, instead of pointing to the grubby relationships at the heart of this dispute.


Tory ideologues at the Department for Transport (DfT) busily pursue policy to hand more public money to train bosses, while undermining the safe running of the railways. They have also handed tidy jobs, and handsome salaries, to rail executives to achieve their objective.

The DfT official in charge of rail franchising wants “punch ups” with the unions. He has answered questions from MPs about his job with “I don’t know”. But he still trousers over £260,000 a year.

Govia blames infrastructure failures, among other things, for its woeful service. But transport secretary Chris Grayling’s £20 million bailout fund, supposedly to “get to grips with things” is found wanting.

Chris Gibb won’t mind, though. The former Virgin Trains executive appointed to spend the money and run Grayling’s “hit squad” still grabs himself £1,500 a day in the job.

Passengers are increasingly irate with the state of affairs. They have faced miserable journeys for well over a year now. Instead of having a go at the unions, as some do, they should wake up to the fact that the Tories have a political project to further privatise the railways.

Trade unionists and supporters of publicly run railways need to build solidarity for the drivers and guards leading the fight against the Tories privatisation nightmare and say no to DOO

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