Fresh strike planned by Southern staff

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Southern staff are set to strike over the introduction of driver-only operation next week.

The RMT union has fought rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to transfer their members from the role of conductors to on-board supervisors, where drivers would be responsible for opening and closing train doors.

Train drivers’ union ASLEF has reached an agreement with GTR but talks between rail bosses and the RMT broke down yesterday (Tuesday February 14).

It has now announced a 24-hour strike on Wednesday February 22.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said: “The abject failure by Southern Rail in yesterday’s talks to take the safety issues seriously has left us with no option but to confirm further action.

“These disputes could have been settled if Southern/GTR had listened to our case and given the guarantee of a second-safety critical member of staff on their trains.

“Instead they have shifted the goal posts even further and have now created a ‘strike breakers’ charter’ where one of the numerous new conditions where trains can run driver-only is during industrial action.

“That is simply scandalous and a measure of the betrayal of our members as a result of the TUC-brokered deal with Southern in the drivers’ dispute.

“The full detail of Southern’s plan is far worse than anyone could have anticipated. This is dire news, not just for staff, but for passengers who rightly demand a safe, reliable and accessible service. “RMT will not walk away from the fight for a railway that puts public safety before private profit.

“It is now down to Southern/GTR to face up to their responsibilities and engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues.”

In response Nick Brown, chief operating officer of GTR, Southern’s parent, said: “We are disappointed that the RMT is going to heap yet further misery and disruption on the travelling public. We aim to run as full a service as we can.”

Yesterday Mr 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 £300m.

“Conductors in the RMT union transferred to the new customer service role (On-Board Supervisor) from the beginning of last month and are now operating effectively in that role.

“Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Rail - 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.”

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