Posted 12th October 2016 | No Comments

‘Customers come first not the union’

UPDATED 12.44

GOVIA Thameslink Railway chief executive Charles Horton has accused the RMT of having its 'head in the sand', following today's breakdown of talks in the driver-only operation dispute, which had been requested by the union.

The RMT's move had followed a radio interview early yesterday, in which Mr Horton said: "We will still have a second safety-trained person on board on all trains which have one today. In fact our plans are to put even more safety-trained people on to trains ... we've guaranteed jobs, pay, overtime right through until 2021, when this current GTR franchise ends."

However, GTR later explained that Mr Horton had been referring to rostering arrangements, and the list of 'exceptional circumstances' when just a driver would be allowed was still part of the proposed deal.

The RMT, however, interpreted his remarks as implying that no train would ever run without a second crew member, and its general secretary Mick Cash said that with the failure of the latest talks this week's strike would continue. Conductors are not set to return to work until Friday morning.

Following the breakdown of the talks, Charles Horton said: "I made it crystal clear to the union yesterday, once again, that we are moving forward implementing our proposals and any agreement with the union had to be on the basis of these principles.

“In the space of a week, we've now met twice for face-to-face talks to try and reach agreement but, incredibly, they have absolutely nothing new to say -- today, last week, last month -- which helps us move forward. They raise everyone’s hopes by stating they want to end the dispute but then dash them by their continued head in the sand position.

"In its proposals, Southern has guaranteed that every train which has a conductor today will have a conductor or on board supervisor in the future. However, on trains where the driver has full control of train, if for any reason an on board supervisor is unavailable we want the flexibility to still run the train for the benefit of our passengers.

“Now what the RMT is asking us to do  if that second person is not available, is to guarantee we’ll cancel the train. That is simply not an option. Customers will come first, not the union, and we are not allowing them to maintain the power to control when a train is cancelled."

“There is a full and fair offer on the table that most workers would love to have – a guaranteed job for five years, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed overtime. The union has advised its members to accept the new role and they can be assured this change is happening.”