Rail and Post Office workers stage second day of strikes

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Rail and Post Office workers will launch a second day of strikes as efforts continue to head off walkouts by British Airways cabin crew and airport staff.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern Railway will complete a 48-hour walkout in a long running row over the role of conductors.

Coupled with a continuing ban on overtime by drivers in Aslef, the action will cause fresh chaos for Southern's passengers.

Post Office workers in the Communication Workers Union will also remain on strike in a dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures.

The union is planning further stoppages later in the week. Talks between British Airways and Unite at the conciliation service Acas will continue today to try to avert strikes on Christmas Day and Boxing Day by cabin crew over pay.

The airline said it will operate all its flights if the action goes ahead. Unite is also involved in a pay dispute with Swissport which threatens strikes by baggage handlers and other ground staff at 18 airports. Talks between the two sides will also be held at Acas today.

The RMT said a Christmas truce in the Southern Railway dispute was in the hands of the Government.

The union highlighted recent agreements on new government rail contracts elsewhere in the country in which conductors have been retained.

The arrangements cover Great Western, East Coast, and Transpennine Express contracts and are in addition to the deal achieved on the Scottish Government's rail contract this year, said the RMT.

General Secretary Mick Cash said: "This year the Government has already agreed three new rail contracts in other parts of the country which have kept the guarantee of the guard while introducing new modern rolling stock. All we are asking is for them to authorise a similar deal on its Southern rail contract.

"This would provide a basis for a Christmas truce on Southern and negotiations that will deliver passengers a win-win of new safe modern rolling stock whilst keeping the guarantee of their guard."

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "I am deeply disappointed that this totally unnecessary strike action is to continue and cause thousands of passengers more disruption and misery. I have reaffirmed my offer for talks with the unions if they call-off strike action, but they have failed to come to the table.

"No jobs are being lost and no pay is being cut, but the unions are in dispute over who presses the button to close the train doors. Driver-only operated services have been safely used across the rail network for 30 years and the rail regulator has confirmed it is safe. The unions want to take the rail industry backwards and stop the roll out of new, modern trains, which are already in use in the UK and across Europe."

The Post Office said 50 Crown offices were closed by yesterday's strike, adding that the vast majority of its network remained open.

The CWU staged a protest outside the Business Department, handing in over 70,000 postcards from the public supporting its campaign.