Union offers to suspend rail strike if conditions met

A rail union due to strike on Southern services next week has offered to call off industrial action if its conditions are met.

Friday, 5th August 2016, 12:44 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:29 am
Mick Cash general secretary at the RMT appearing before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee back in July (photo from parliament.tv). SUS-160507-122550001

The RMT has been locked in a bitter dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway over the future role of conductors in many of its services for months.

Today (Friday August 5) the union has offered to suspend the five-day long strike set to begin on Monday (August 8) if rail bosses meet Scotrail’s offer that gives guarantees on jobs and the ‘safety critical role of guards now and in the future’.

It said the Scotrail offer ‘represented significant progress that enbaled the RMT to suspend all industrial action in that dispute’.

In a letter to Charles Horton, chief executive officer of GTR, sent this morning, RMT General Sectary Mick Cash said: “I am writing in response to your open letter to your customers and other publicity issued to your customers during the ACAS talks.

“We have had intensive talks under the auspices of ACAS over the past two days and I am hoping that you will be able to authorise your team, at the reconvened talks today, to accept the following. Should you do so then my Union will suspend the strikes called for next week. This would, obviously be welcomed by your customers and my members.

“The offer this union is making to Southern is as agreed with Abellio Scotrail this week, an agreement that enabled us to suspend our industrial action.

“So there can be no doubt I will set down the 4 key elements of Scotrail’s offer that was agreed.

1. Scotrail guaranteed a Conductor on every train.

2. Scotrail guaranteed that the Conductor will retain their full competency (rules, track safety, evacuation).

3. ScotRail confirmed that trains operating these services will not run without a competent Conductor on board.

4. These proposals, including the above guarantees, are subject to ScotRail and the RMT entering into discussion about, and agreeing to, a method of train dispatch for these services. Once this proposal and the method of dispatch are agreed it will be adopted for the Abellio ScotRail franchise and will apply beyond.

“This is a sensible way forward and would enable us, like I said, to suspend the industrial action. We would speedily meet to discuss and agree train despatch, something we are doing with Scotrail.

“I feel that this is a positive way forward that will bring an end to this dispute and enable Southern to start running a full service again. I will keep my National Executive Committee on stand-by today so that should you accept the above then a decision can be taken to, hopefully, suspend all industrial action.

“I await your urgent response.”

If the strike goes ahead Southern said it would have to cancel a third of the services in its revised timetable.

Earlier this week Angie Doll, passenger service director at GTR, said: “We are sorry that our passengers once again look set to suffer further disruption because of the RMT. The union must call this action off by Thursday afternoon if we are to avoid having to put in Monday’s strike timetable.

“This action is not necessary. Our new on-board supervisors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV. This will cost no-one their jobs, and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers.

“As many services will have staff on board as they do today and our on-board staff will have an improved role which better meets the needs of passengers, securing their valued position on the railway for the long-term.

“And there will be fewer train cancellations in future: currently, conductors are tied to specific routes and services, but the new on-board supervisor will be able to go anywhere on our network, significantly reducing the perennial problem of train cancellations due to conductors not being available when they’re delayed by disruption, for example.”

Other rail unions have raised the prospect of strike action this week.

Both the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) are balloting their members in August over the possibility of strike action relating to GTR’s plans to cut opening hours at railway station ticket offices across Sussex.

Meanwhile ASLEF, the union representing train drivers, has said that rostering issues brought about by the revised weekday timetable, which started in early July and cancelled more than 300 services a day, ‘remain unresolved’.

ASLEF’s executive committee considers this ‘amounts to a breakdown in industrial relations’ and it will ballot its members employed by GTR Southern and Gatwick Express on both strike action and action short of a strike.

GTR called the TSSA’s decision ‘pointless and ridiculous’, and ASLEF’s announcement a ‘cynical and desperate attempt to heap even more misery on passengers’.

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