Talks Fail To Avoid Strike Action

5 August 2016, 18:59 | Updated: 5 August 2016, 19:00

Govia Thameslink says passengers now face 'misery' after talks aimed at averting strikes on Southern Railway from Monday- broke down.

3 days of meetings between the RMT union and the rail group have failed to resolve the bitter dispute over the role of conductors.

The two sides blamed each other for the continued deadlock, while the union accused the Government of ``sabotaging'' the talks.

Govia say it made the following offer to the RMT union which was rejected:

1.      Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS role, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights
2.      A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development
3.      A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT
4.      A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise
5.      Southern guarantee 2nd member of staff rostered to those trains that have them today
6.      Conductors and OBS to retain safety competence including PTS and evacuation training, including non-dispatch route knowledge
7.      Southern and RMT to agree a list of circumstances whereby a train would continue in service without a 2nd member of traincrew on board, in the interests of the customers
8.      RMT to accept transfer of door-operation to the driver
This is on top of the commitments GTR has already made to the RMT, which include:

o       No compulsory redundancies
o       No reduction in salary
o       No compulsory location moves
o       A guaranteed, above-inflation pay-rise for the next two years
o       An increase in the existing 'shift premia' (which is additional salary paid to staff for working voluntary overtime) to 20% over the next three years
o       A promise to increase the number of back-up staff to help manage unplanned disruption - thereby ensuring the railway is staffed more in the future than it is today

The company's Passenger Service Director Angie Doll said: ``We have gone the extra mile with our compromise offer, but the RMT has made it clear they are not prepared to negotiate. They did not want to discuss the role of the on-board supervisor and remain rigidly opposed to evolving the role of on-board staff to focus more on customers.

``We are deeply disappointed and angry on behalf of our passengers at this stance, which will cause misery for our passengers and untold damage to the local economy in the south east.

``The RMT's strike is unnecessary, unacceptable and unjustified.''

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ``It was clear right from the start of these talks that there was no serious intent from Govia Thameslink to engage in genuine negotiations and that their script was being written from behind the scenes by their Government paymasters.

``I have been involved in countless negotiations and have never witnessed a farce like this.''

The union said it was told by industry sources that Transport Department official Peter Wilkinson, who told a public meeting he wanted a ``punch up'' with rail unions was responsible for ``wrecking'' the talks.

Southern, part of the huge Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise, said an offer by the union to suspend industrial action if the company agreed to terms put forward by ScotRail to resolve a separate dispute, was a ``complete red herring.''

Ms Doll said: ``This amounts to a continuation of the current operating model and delivers none of the punctuality and customer service benefits we are determined to deliver to our passengers''.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: ``This unjustified strike action from the RMT will do nothing other than cause five days of misery for passengers. It is deeply disappointing that union bosses continue to overlook the impact they are having on hardworking people who want to get on with their journeys.

``The changes GTR are proposing will modernise services and provide better journeys. Rather than working with the operator to resolve these issues, the RMT has clearly decided that it is not on the side of the passenger.''