Posted 11th October 2016 | No Comments

New war of words on Southern strike day

THE RMT and Govia Thameslink Railway have clashed over the meaning of statements made by GTR chief executive Charles Horton today, with Mr Horton accusing the union's general secretary Mick Cash of 'deliberately distorting' what was said in a BBC radio interview.

The union, which is staging the first day of a new three-day conductors' walkout on Southern over DOO proposals, claimed that a controversial element of Southern's modernisation plans -- a list of 'exceptional circumstances' in which a train could run without an on-board supervisor -- had been dropped.

In a letter to GTR chief executive Charles Horton, Mick Cash of the RMT said: "I heard your comments on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning in which you stated that 'absolutely' there would be a second member of staff on board every train. This, however, is in total contradiction to what I was told by your passenger services director Angie Doll at a meeting on 6 October.
"To explore your comments further, therefore, and to break the obvious deadlock that our organisations have reached during this dispute, it is imperative that we both meet personally to find a way to end this dispute and get your services running to the benefit of both your staff and the travelling public."

The provisions for driver-only working, which Southern has said are only intended for very occasional use at most, appear to have been a critical cause of the deadlock between the two parties.

A spokesman for GTR told Railnews: "The RMT has used the words 'safety-critical' in its press release, where 'safety-trained' is meant. The difference is that a train to Uckfield lacking a conductor cannot run unless another conductor with Uckfield route knowledge is available. On-board supervisors will not need route knowledge, and it would much easier to find a replacement so that the train could still run."

Charles Horton said: “We have always said we will have a second safety-trained person rostered on every train that has one today and have guaranteed these jobs until the end of our franchise in 2021. Mick Cash is deliberately distorting what was said on the Today programme in response to a question regarding guarantees over the on-board supervisor role in the future. There has been no change in our position. However if the RMT’s position has changed since they rejected our generous offer last week we will be pleased to hear from them.”