Posted 31st October 2016 | 3 Comments

New ultimatum in Southern DOO dispute

GOVIA Thameslink Railway has warned the RMT that any further strikes on Southern over driver-only operation will result in the withdrawal of the current offer to conductors and that there will be no further negotiations with the union.

The company is planning to replace most conductors with on-board supervisors, who would not control the doors nor dispatch trains.

The dispute has already led to a number of conductors' strikes, and another walkout has been called for 4 and 5 November. The RMT and ASLEF are also balloting their driver members over strikes or action short of a strike on the same issue this month.

However, GTR human resources director Andy Bindon has now written to the RMT, setting out the company's position.

He told general secretary Mick Cash: "I wrote to you on 3 October setting out a full and comprehensive offer to settle your dispute.

"We have left this offer available, in the hope that you would further consider, once it was clear that we are continuing to implement our plans and your advice to members of 7 October that those conductors affected by the move to OBS should sign their new contracts by 4 November.  However, this offer cannot continue to be available indefinitely whilst you continue to call strike action.

"Therefore, the offer will remain available until the commencement of any further strike action.  

"For the avoidance of doubt, should your next planned action proceed at 00.01 on 4 November the offer is withdrawn in its entirety and will no longer be available for the RMT to accept.

"We will subsequently confirm arrangements direct with our employees.  Please be clear that any future attempt by the RMT to reopen negotiations will not result in this full offer being repeated."

Mick Cash of the RMT said: “This is just more threats and bullying from Southern Rail and does nothing at all to resolve the current safety dispute. It is also completely meaningless as the union has already rejected the £2000 bribe to sell out safety and the company are well aware of that.

“The action later this week goes ahead due to intransigence of the GTR bosses and their cheerleaders in Government who are pulling the strings in this dispute. RMT will be holding a national rally at Parliament tomorrow lunchtime in support of the fight for safe services on Southern Rail.

"The union remains available for serious talks and we would repeat the call to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to get out of his bunker, get hold of the Southern management and get round the table.”

The transport committee of the House of Commons has recently criticised both the Department of Transport and GTR for their management of the changes, also citing 'poor management of the franchise from the beginning; inadequate staffing; rolling stock issues, mismanagement and prolonged industrial action complicated by the huge Thameslink infrastructure programme'.

GTR has also been facing calls for its franchise to be terminated on the grounds that it has been in breach of its contract because of poor performance, which GTR does not accept.

Chief executive Charles Horton responded: "GTR has submitted claims for force majeure to the DfT caused by the unprecedented industrial action and we have co-operated fully with what’s been asked of us at all times. We have been in discussions with the DfT to agree what and how they wanted to allow them to assess and evaluate our claims. It’s an extremely detailed process which the report accepts is 'complex and painstaking'. These claims are currently being reviewed by the Department."

Reader Comments:

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

  • Philip Russell , Carlisle

    Unfortunately it's maybe time to consider a change in the law so disputes in essential services. like Railways have to go to forward to binding arbitration after a certain length of time,with no agreement, as presently we have GTR trying to make changes , whilst the RMT does little more than prolong the dispute as long as possible in anticipation of ASLEF joining in

  • Jim elson, Southwark

    DOO is widespread all over the world & 30% of U.K. trains are driver only operated & most have been DOO for 20 years. It's outrageous that the unions are fighting its use on further southern services. Drivers have a better view of the doors than from any other situation & the safety figures prove it. That's is why DOO is used everywhere & increasingly so. The next step is completely u staffed operation as on quite lengthy metros in Spain,France,Hungary,Singapore,Denmark & Canada to name but a few.

  • Thomas Jacobson, London

    If Horton / DFT / Chris Grayling want DOO, they can serve the prison sentence when someone is trapped and dragged, passengers are killed or injured, or fall down the side of the train.

    The sooner these people making these decisions are personally liable for them - both financially and in terms of their liberty, the sooner they may think twice. After all they are quite happy to put the guard on the dole, the driver in the dock and their associated assessors and line management under intense police questioning - the people who are the fall guys for the insanity of dispatching a 1/4 a mile long train single handedly with useless CCTV (the bulk of serious dispatch incidents have been with DOO self dispatch with CCTV on long trains) , or having one bloke deal solely with disruption, faults and evacuations (Kentish Town anyone).