Southern rail bosses have today publicly said they will meet with the RMT union for fresh face-to-face talks – but only if industrial action, including a strike day next month, is called off.
Last week, the RMT announced its members would walk out on 4 April, but would reconsider if GTR, Southern’s parent company, agreed to fresh talks.
GTR this morning lobbed the ball back to the RMT, say it wanted constructive and goodwill talks on 4 April – but on condition that all industrial action is ended.
In a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, Horton said: “Our passengers, staff and the regional economy want certainty and an end to your industrial action, not a 24 hour truce.
“It’s disappointing that the RMT are now threatening a 31st day of strike action on 4 April. Over the past year we have met with the RMT countless times to try and settle your dispute. Unfortunately, each time has ended in disappointment.”
The strikes, which started in April, are over the safety impact of downgrading the guard role to an on board supervisor role, with no specific safety duties.
The RMT, which mainly represents the guards, has been joined by the Aslef union, which represents most drivers – but Aslef has drawn up a proposed agreement to end its dispute with GTR on condition that on board supervisors have safety training and trains can only run without them in specific circumstances.
Southern says it has been able to run 90% of its normal service on each of the last two RMT strike days with over half of conductors and OBS staff signing on to work.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said: “RMT members on Southern Rail have been fighting for safety and access for nearly a year now and it is disgraceful that we have continued to be carved out of the talks process. That is a kick in the teeth for our members.
“RMT has made it clear that we are looking for meaningful and constructive talks in respect of both the guards’ and drivers’ disputes on Southern Rail.
“On Friday we made a genuine and positive approach to the company to get that talks process back on track.
“This morning we have received a prompt response from Southern/GTR although we are surprised at the length of the timetable for talks that they are proposing. The company response to the RMT call for talks will now be given serious consideration by the union’s executive committee.”