Talks between union leaders and Southern bosses to solve a long-running dispute over driver-only operated trains have ended ‘prematurely’.
The RMT union has been fighting Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to change the role of its members from conductors to on-board supervisors, with drivers opening and closing train doors instead.
Train drivers’ union ASLEF came to an agreement with GTR over driver-only operation earlier this month and the RMT returned to talks today (Tuesday February 14).
However GTR confirmed this evening that the negotiations had ended without the stalemate being broken.
Nick Brown, chief operating officer of GTR, Southern’s parent, 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.”
But Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “RMT entered today’s talks in good faith but 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.”
He added: “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. I will now take a full report back to the union’s executive.”
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