May Urges U.K. Union to End ‘Appalling’ Strike on Southern Rail

  • Tells Labour leader Corbyn to ‘get on the phone’ to union
  • Passengers stranded with drivers strike now in its second day

A sign by Southern Rail tells passengers of strike action at Victoria station in London, on Dec. 3, 2016. Hundreds of thousands of British commuters faced travel chaos today as train drivers went on strike in what is expected to be the worst rail disruption in decades. Southern Rail, which runs trains between England's south coast and London, warned of severe disruption as it cancelled all of its 2,284 services after workers launched three days of industrial action. / AFP / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Photographer: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May urged the union representing drivers on Southern Railway to end its “appalling” strike as tens of thousands of commuters were left stranded for a second day.

The plea came as labor union Aslef began talks with the conciliation service Acas in an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute over driver-operated train doors.

“This is an appalling strike,” May said during her weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons on Wednesday. “We’ve seen driver-operated trains on the rail networks in the U.K. for decades. I hope that the talks at Acas are going to lead to an end to this strike.”

May also took a swipe at opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his party’s links with the union movement.

“The leader of the opposition could do something to help members of the public,” she said. “The Labour Party is funded by Aslef. Why doesn’t he get on the phone and tell them to call the strike off immediately?”

The walkout has left passengers facing the worst rail disruption in more than two decades, with services halted throughout the network. Govia Ltd.-run Southern operates trains across the south of England, with tens of thousands of people using the network to travel into London every day.

Aslef members walked out for 48 hours on Tuesday. A further strike is planned for Friday, with more in January.

The dispute centers on whose job it should be to open and close train doors. Unions say having drivers perform the role, as Southern wants, would be unsafe and May’s government is under growing pressure to intervene. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which represents train conductors, has already staged a series of walkouts.

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