‘Give staff a fresh say on ending dispute’ say Southern

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Southern staff should be given a fresh say on an offer to end a dispute over changes to their roles, rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway has said.

This week the RMT union is set to hold its seventh strike of 2016, with a three-day walkout starting on Tuesday (October 18).

Another three strikes are planned before Christmas in the union’s long-running dispute with GTR over its plans to change the role of conductors to on-board supervisors, with drivers opening and closing train doors.

The rail operator has called on RMT members to be given a fresh vote on the deal currently on the table, which includes a £2,000 lump sum per staff member.

Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, said: “The RMT needs to reflect on the hardship, distress and frustration being experienced by our customers and employees. Everyone wants to see an end to this dispute, but it is clear that, as things stand, there is currently little prospect of a negotiated settlement between us, however much we’ve tried.

“There have been significant developments since the union tabled the original ballot to conductors over six months ago. In order to move things forward, I am asking to union to let conductors - the people at the heart of this matter - determine whether this dispute comes to an end or continues.

“Nearly a third of conductors are now coming into work on strike days and we expect that to increase. There is a full and fair offer on the table and it’s time to stop the strikes and move forward.”

According to GTR’s figures just 17 per cent of conductors reported for work during the first strike in April, a figure that rose to 27 per cent for the first strike in October.

But Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “This latest letter from Charles Horton does not move this dispute on a single inch.

There is no offer whatsoever to start engaging in serious talks about the safety and access issues at the heart of this matter.

“Instead, Southern have rehashed the £2000 bribe to our members even though the company have been told repeatedly that money is not the issue and that the safety of passengers and staff is not for sale.

“RMT disputes the figures on the number of staff working. Our reps at all locations report that morale is high and that support for the strike action remain rock solid.”

The RMT has objected to the proposed changes on safety grounds, as it fears they will lead to the loss of a guaranteed second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.

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