Southern to move forward with plans after losing patience with union

GOVIA Thameslink Railway, the parent company of Southern trains, has said it is to move forward with modernisation plans to introduce wide use of Driver Only Operation (DOO) after the latest talks at Acas with the RMT ended without agreement. In short, GTR has lost patience with the RMT in a dispute that has been running for several months and disrupted the travel of thousands of passengers every day.

Last week, five days of planned strikes by the RMT were called off as talks to settle the dispute re-started, but have failed again after the union rejected the company’s proposals.

Angie Doll, GTR Passenger Services Director, said: ‘’We have been talking to the union for nine months now and, despite several visits to Acas, the union won’t agree a deal. Passengers will be rightly exasperated that the RMT won’t agree to what most fair-minded people would believe is an incredibly good offer.  We are guaranteeing jobs, pay and a second person on as many trains as we do today and also offered to work with the RMT to agree modern working practices to reduce cancellations and passenger disruption.

“The RMT’s position does not help our passengers at all.  We have guaranteed to have a second person on as many trains as today, but the union is rigidly refusing our offer to agree a list of exceptional circumstances when we would be able to run our trains without a second staff member on board, such as during disruption to still get people home.  This would create the crucial flexibility we need to ensure fewer cancelled trains for our passengers.

“The RMT has repeatedly tried to play the safety card as the issue but it did not raise this issue at all during these latest talks, confirming this dispute is purely about union power and control. The fact is that, day in, day out for decades, up and down Britain’s railways and the Tube network, we’ve had the driver operating the doors, safely.  This is backed up by independent research and expert opinion, including that of the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

“We will now move forward with our modernisation plans which will deliver better customer service for our passengers.  Our eight-point proposal is still on the table and we urge the RMT to give this serious consideration. Over the coming weeks, we will be working closely with our staff we start to implement these vital changes. After so much unnecessary industrial action, we must all get back to the job of giving our passengers the service they expect and deserve.”

A statement from the RMT said the proposals rejected out of hand by the company, would have met the three core objectives;

• The delivery of the customer service objectives of the company.

• A safe and efficient operating system of operation, without the dilution of safety critical competencies, standards or processes, and to create a framework in which the TSM role will operate trains in conjunction with the Train Driver.

•  High levels of accessibility to all train services for all passengers, enabling the disabled, elderly, vulnerable and others to be provided with assistance from on-board staff on all services.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;  “Our proposals covered all the three main areas requiring agreement to allow us to move forwards and we are bitterly disappointed that they have been rejected out of hand. We know that the public who use these services will share our anger and frustration. ”

The RMT will consult its executive committee on the next move.