Southern Rail has faced a backlash from customers after attempting to use social media to attack the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union for on-going strikes.
The rail company angered travellers after sending out a tweet on Sunday urging them to tweet @RMTUnion saying: “Tell them how rail strikes make you feel.”
— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) October 3, 2016
The tweet is the latest move in an ongoing battle with the RMT, who recently announced a further 14-day walkout due to start on October 11 and held intermittently until December 8.
Though a huge number of responses immediately flooded in, Southern Rail did not in fact receive the reaction they might have hoped for.
Users began using the hashtag “#SouthernBackOnTrack” to instead criticise Southern Rail for their actions and to express their support for the RMT.
One Twitter user, Judith Good, replied: “Your arrogance is matched only by your incompetence. I support @RMUnion.”
Martin Cox, another user, tweeted: “You brought this on yourselves. We, your customers are suffering. Let’s be radical. Employ more staff.”
.@SouthernRailUK Whoever developed & signed off on this social media campaign is a bastard. Please tell them, they are a bastard.
— Cr O'Grizimov (@Mr_Ogrizovic) October 3, 2016
— Katie Shaw (@sewdarngood) October 3, 2016
A spokesperson for Southern Rail told ELL: “Our aim was to get the debate going and to let people know exactly what our very fair and comprehensive offer is and how we are trying to modernise the train service for our passengers which the RMT leadership is trying to block.
“Our service has not been good enough and the main reason for that has been the RMT union leadership’s refusal to talk and do a deal. Thousands of passengers are demanding to know what we are doing to bring this dispute to an end. We felt there was a need to let them know.”
Both industrial action against the role of conductors and staff shortages have caused huge disruptions on the network, which runs through Lewisham and surrounding areas, over the last few months.
Reports surfaced yesterday that the operator of the Southern Rail network has put forward an “8-point offer” to conductors with a lump sump of £2,000 in a bid to avert strikes and put an end to industrial action.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the parent company of Southern, has set the RMT union a deadline of midday on Thursday to accept the ultimatum, or conductors’ contracts will be terminated.
This change would leave drivers as the only staff on board Southern Rail trains.
The RMT said: “Jobs, safety and access on Southern rail services are not for sale for £2,000.
But GTR called their plan of action “fair, clear and unambiguous”.
During the row questions have also been raised as to whether Southern Rail are “wasting’ customers” money on expensive print advertisements.
One Twitter user, Matt Davis, tweeted his dismay at a recent double page spread in the Metro, suggesting that the money “could be spent on safety.”
“How DARE you presume the travelling public are idiots, when your primary concern is profit.”
— Matt D. (@mattydavis) October 3, 2016
— Rachael (@DesignTheFuture) October 3, 2016
Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT, said: “This is a pathetic attempt by the basket case Southern franchise to once again try to blame their front line staff for their own managerial incompetence.“Southern GTR have wrecked services across the South East and the passengers know that and that is why the
“Southern GTR have wrecked services across the South East and the passengers know that and that is why the commuters themselves are mounting a legal challenge against the company.
“RMT thanks the public for their continued support and understanding as we continue to fight for services and safety against this money-grabbing outfit.”