The RMT union has lodged an official complaint with Twitter accusing Southern Rail of ‘targeted harassment’ – a complaint that could see the rail firm’s account suspended, or even permanently banned from the social media site.
Twitter rules state that:
This follows a tweet by Southern Rail that encouraged their passengers to send messages to the RMT Twitter account with their opinions on the on-going dispute and strike action. They went further by placing posters at stations and commissioning adverts in newspapers, titled ‘Lets Strike Back’, followed with the RMT’s Twitter account details. It is believed that the adverts cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Unfortunately for Southern Rail the campaign backfired somewhat as many of the people who took to Twitter to voice their concerns blamed the employers and management, rather than the workers and the RMT.
The Chief Executive of Southern Rail, Charles Horton, was far from conciliatory about his organisation’s campaign, stating that:
We make no apologies about our social media campaign. Its aim was to get the debate going and let people know how we are trying to modernise the train service for our passengers. We maintain this is a political dispute with the RMT hierarchy over their policy position, not a genuine trade dispute, otherwise the generous deal we’ve offered would have been accepted or, at the very least, put to members to vote on.
The dispute over the role of conductors on trains has been raging for many months and has impacted on services that link Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Kent with London. Southern Rail intend on de-skilling conductors which has led to concern that it will ultimately lead to conductors being phased out altogether.
The next scheduled strikes announced by the RMT are on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 13th October. Southern Rail are becoming increasingly desperate to bring the dispute to an end. Not by a negotiated settlement, but by engaging in brazen strike-breaking activities. As well as their newspaper and twitter offensive Southern Rail have attempted to bypass the RMT and bribe conductors back to work by offering each of them a £2,000 lump sum.
The RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
These are the tactics of a company that is out of control and which has declared war on its staff and passengers alike as they put their profits above safety while levelling a gun at the heads of the workforce.
Southern Rail management has vowed to ‘impose’ the new changes without being agreed by the RMT, unless a deal can be struck over the coming days.