Posted 3rd October 2016 | 6 Comments

New deadline set to end Southern dispute

A NEW attempt to end the ten month driver-only operation dispute on Southern has been made by Govia Thameslink Railway.

GTR has given the RMT until midday on Thursday to agree fresh terms, which include a one-off 'implementation' payment of £2,000, plus previous assurances over job security until the end of the GTR franchise in 2021.

The RMT is being urged to allow its conductors to vote on the offer.

The new proposals have come ahead of a series of mainly three-day strikes which the RMT has called this autumn.

GTR said its eight-point offer includes guarantees on conductors’ jobs until 2021, the life of GTR's franchise agreement, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed levels of overtime.

The operator described its latest move as 'one final attempt to secure your engagement' to the migration of conductors to the new job of on-board supervisor – which includes responsibility for closing doors transferring to the driver.

GTR is also calling on the RMT to accept the offer in full or, as a minimum, to put its offer to a vote by conductors and suspend further 'unnecessary' strikes.

In a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, GTR emphasises that if the union does not agree in principle to the full offer by midday on Thursday, it will 'regretfully proceed without the RMT's involvement' and serve notice letters to conductors affected, terminating their existing contracts and inviting them to sign up to the new OBS role to be effective from 1 January.

GTR has warned the union that the eight-point offer, the assurances made previously and the £2,000 lump sum payment may be withdrawn after Thursday's midday deadline.

Mr Cash has also been invited by GTR management to meet for urgent face-to-face talks with them directly or through ACAS to discuss their offer and the modernisation proposals.

Southern Railway has also launched a major public information campaign to inform passengers of its offer.

GTR chief executive Charles Horton said: "Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless and unnecessary dispute and we now need to bring a swift end to these strikes which have caused months of misery for hundreds of thousands of workers, children going to school, family days out and retired people. We have a responsibility to the travelling public and our staff and, after 10 months of dispute, these strikes are plaguing people's lives and enough is enough.
"The union and conductors have had an incredibly fair and comprehensive offer on the table for nearly two months with job security for at least five years, pay increases and overtime guaranteed. Today we are going the extra mile and offering our conductors a lump sum cash payment to be paid just after Christmas when they are getting on with their new roles giving fantastic service to our customers.

"We've given the RMT and our striking conductors a fair, clear and unambiguous plan that we intend to implement if they won’t do a deal. It's an incredibly reasonable offer and the union's arguments about safety and accessibility for disabled passengers are contrived. Independent experts have said that running trains with the driver closing the doors is safe and as a responsible operator we have always looked after customers with disabilities, and always will.

"The RMT needs to understand that this change is happening and we would prefer to work with them to ensure that it's achieved in a way that best protects the interests of our customers, our employees and the business. But no one should be in any doubt that the deadlines are fixed and immutable and we will press ahead if there is no deal by Thursday lunchtime. This dispute has to stop, and stop now."

The RMT has yet to comment.

Meanwhile, the RMT has described a 24-hour strike on Virgin Trains East Coast today as 'rock solid', following claims from the union that 200 jobs have been put at risk by changes to train staffing arrangements, although VTEC said it was maintaining a full service.

Mick Cash hit out at VTEC for using 'scabs' to keep trains running, He said: "If the company had put half the effort into resolving this dispute that they have piled into their scabbing plans we could have sorted the core issues that led to this strike. The union will be taking ‎part in further talks later this week."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Lutz, London

    This great news, long over due. Go ahead with the dismissals, and get rid of the activists hold passengers to ransom for benefit of the union leaders.

  • Lee, Manchester

    There seems to be a degree of hysterical scaremongering going on here. Southern are trying to guarantee a member of customer-facing staff will be on board trains, however, in some circumstances this may not be possible, however every attempt will be made.

    Where do you get the idea the government has unlimited funds from Tony Pearce? In case you haven't noticed there is an annual budget every year based upon tax revenue and loans from the world bank. There is very far from a bottomless pit of cash. However private companies will always seek to operate with an excess, in other words make a profit through over-charging for the benefit of shareholders and attracting investment. It also means cutting costs and concentrating on providing the minimum requirement for the maximum revenue.

    As for the role of guards, as long as there is a customer-facing member of staff to assist passengers and the driver, does it really matter if they are called a guard or not. Incidentally, how do Victoria line, Docklands, San Francisco BART, etc. accident figures compare to those of railways where a guard is provided on trains? Are accident rates similar, worse or better?

    Lets have cold-hard indisputable facts rather than scaremongering and personal opinions based upon suposition, assumption and rumour. maybe then both parties in this dispute will come to an irrefutable agreement?

  • Jeff Williams, Devon

    I am a serving train driver who is completely opposed to DOO in all forms. In the last month I have four or five times had guards stop the dispatch because of dangerous behaviour on the platform - things I would have struggled to see but would have put me in the dock had I not have done. I have had two breakdowns, one where the guard could help out with the fault, and the other where they could deal with keeping the passengers informed and arranged alternative travel options, whilst I could be left alone to deal with the signaller, control and fault diagnosis. I have had the guard deal with someone trying to force a door open, sort out drunks and stag party misbehaviour, help a lost child, lock out carriages and isolate defective equipment, ensure our disabled customers are treated properly, and a whole host of other important duties which if left alone to me as a driver would either be ignored or at best take twice as long.

    At the end of the day when driver distraction and PTI incidents time and time again come up as the major risk areas, and passengers demand (and rightly so) greater levels of customer service, removing the guard is sheer madness, dictated by those who have never had to work on the front lines, who will always be highly remunerated in the revolving door between governments, regulators, companies and NGOs, no matter how disastrous their decisions are,

  • James palma, London.

    I wonder how many will take the lu p sum. I suspect many.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    Its very sad that the Railway is run with so many strikes and confrontations. Unfortunately its because the Railways are owned by Government - like Schools and the NHS - and they have unlimited Funds and Voters to worry about. Private Organisations where Bankcrupcy is always a fear have a much more realistic approach to Business. There the phrase 'The World doesn't owe us a Living' is the key to all dealings. No-one staff of management upset customers because they basically pay everyone's wages and salary.

  • Dave, Durham

    Southern cannot offer guarantees of a conductor (or other mber of staff) on every train if they are trying to agree in principle to run trains without them "in exceptional circumstances" that is a complete contradiction, especially as they offered exactly the same guarantee on Gatwick Express which fizzled out within 6 months. Throwing the baby out with the bath water hasnt worked with their #southernbackontrack campaign and has blown up in their face in spectacular style on twitter. Even the RSSB is seriously looking into the provision of safety critical staff on board in light of the experience on the WCML derailment recently.

    Looks like Charles Horton's tenure will be remembered but sadly for all the wrong reasons.