Posted 15th February 2017 | 2 Comments

DOO peace talks were ‘a mockery’ says RMT

NEW talks at ACAS between Govia Thameslink Railway and the RMT in the long-running DOO dispute on Southern broke down last night. No date has been set for discussions to restart.

The outcome raises the possibility of more industrial unrest on Southern, although ASLEF reached an agreement with GTR as far as its driver members are concerned at the start of this month, after talks at the TUC. ASLEF members are now voting on the proposed settlement, and the result should be known tomorrow.

But the RMT was angered by the failure to make progress, while GTR accused the union of obstinacy, saying that its attitude is 'increasingly destructive'.

The Southern changeover from safety-critical conductors to on-board supervisors has now taken place on most routes, and before the talks began the RMT claimed that 'exceptional circumstances' which permit trains to run without a second member of staff were now being applied to an average of three trains a day.

The RMT has remained firmly opposed to the reforms and continues to claim that safety is at risk. GTR denies this, pointing to widespread DOO elsewhere and recent industry reports which support it.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said his union had entered the talks 'in good faith'. He continued: “It soon became clear that the only thing Southern were interested in was bulldozing through driver only operation further and faster with safety and access to services not even on their agenda. That pig-headed attitude has today wrecked the talks process. 

"Not only have Southern refused point blank to give a guarantee on a second safety critical member of staff but the company have also made it clear that the deal set up by the TUC in the drivers' dispute is even worse than we first expected and gives Southern a free run to kick the legs from under our members who have fought for nearly a year on the principles of safety and access. 

"RMT's negotiating team is furious at the way this union and its members have been treated. This is dire news not just for staff but for passengers who rightly demand a safe, reliable and accessible service."

The outcome has also disappointed GTR. Chief operating officer Nick Brown said: “We came to today’s meeting hopeful we could find a way forward to end the RMT’s dispute and we’re saddened it’s ended so prematurely. The travelling public will find the union’s obstinate refusal to engage in meaningful and constructive talks disappointing, disheartening and increasingly destructive. Over the past year the RMT has had 28 days of strikes on this one issue, we’ve seen in excess 20,000 trains cancelled as a result,  thousands of journeys disrupted,  people’s work and family lives badly impacted and the cost to the regional economy is in excess of £300 million. 

“Conductors in the RMT transferred to the new customer service role from the beginning of last month and are now operating effectively in that role. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Railways – the highest industry authority in the land – also says that drivers in sole control of the train is a safe method of operation. 

“So the conclusion that most reasonable people will reach is that the RMT is seeking to hang on to its power to cancel trains. We’ve fully implemented our modernisation programme with the driver opening and closing the doors and a second person focused on customer service on our trains. Everyone is sick and tired of the RMT’s strikes and their pointless and intransigent stance needs to stop, and stop now.”

The deadlock has been followed by fresh calls for nationalisation from the Labour Party, while the consumer group Which? said that recent increases in complaints from passengers justify the appointment of an independent Rail Ombudsman.

Reader Comments:

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  • Lewis Downie, Glenrothes

    Everyone is sick and tired of the RMT’s strikes and their pointless and intransigent stance needs to stop, and stop now.”

    ......and that statement applies across the whole of the United Kingdom.

    They have pitched staff against management in such a way that it will take a decade to get back to where this relationship and trust was in 2010. What exactly have the RMT achieved over the last 12 months in this dispute?

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Mick Cash wouldn't know good faith if it hit him upside his head.
    So an average of 3 trains a day are being operated (out of thousands) without a second member of staff aboard. About what I'd expect. Of course Mick would rather cancel the service, inconvenience thousands of passengers (including many disabled passengers who don't require assistance - and even those who do have a fair chance of receiving it from station staff), and put the unit out of position for its next service causing a cascade effect of cancellations & service disruptions for the rest of the day.
    I'd say if anyone has a pig-headed attitude here it's Mick.
    On the other hand GTR's comment about the RMT's attitude being "increasingly destructive" sounds about right.
    Come on Mick, the true mark of a leader is knowing when to retreat, not continue leading your members over the cliff.