Southern guards have been offered £2,000 to stop striking and accept new customer service roles – but if they haven’t done this by Thursday, the rail company will press ahead with the changes regardless.
The offer comes ahead of 14 days of strike action in protest at driver-only operated trains and the downgrading of the guard’s role, spread across autumn in five chunks and kicking off next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
In a letter to Mick Cash, the RMT’s general secretary, Southern’s parent company GTR sets the union a deadline of midday this Thursday (October 6) to agree an eight point offer and previous assurances made to conductors, tabled by the train operator on August 8, to end the dispute.
The offer includesguarantees on conductors’ jobs until 2021, the life of GTR’s franchise agreement, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed levels of overtime.
GTR is also calling on the RMT to accept the offer in full or, as a minimum, to put its offer to a vote by conductors and suspend further unnecessary strike action.
The letter to Mr Cash also makes clear that if the union does not agree in principle to the full offer by midday on Thursday, it will “regretfully proceed without the RMT’s involvement” terminating guards’ existing contracts and inviting them to sign up to the new OBS role to be effective from January 1st. Previous assurances may also be rescinded.
Mr Cash has today also been invited by GTR management to meet for urgent face-to-face talks with them directly or through ACAS to discuss their offer and how to implement their modernisation proposals.
Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said: “Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless and unnecessary dispute and we now need to bring a swift end to these strikes which have caused months of misery for hundreds of thousands of workers, children going to school, family days out and retired people.
“We have a responsibility to the travelling public and our staff and, after 10 months of dispute, these strikes are plaguing people’s lives and enough is enough.
“The union and conductors have had an incredibly fair and comprehensive offer on the table for nearly two months with job security for at least five years, pay increases and overtime guaranteed.
“Today we are going the extra mile and offering our conductors a lump sum cash payment to be paid just after Christmas when they are getting on with their new roles giving fantastic service to our customers.
“We’ve given the RMT and our striking conductors a fair, clear and unambiguous plan that we intend to implement if they won’t do a deal. It’s an incredibly reasonable offer and the union’s arguments about safety and accessibility for disabled passengers are contrived.
“Independent experts have said that running trains with the driver closing the doors is safe and as a responsible operator we have always looked after customers with disabilities, and always will.
“The RMT needs to understand that this change is happening and we would prefer to work with them to ensure that it’s achieved in a way that best protects the interests of our customers, our employees and the business.
“But no one should be in any doubt that the deadlines are fixed and immutable and we will press ahead if there is no deal by Thursday lunchtime. This dispute has to stop, and stop now.”
The strikes are currently scheduled to take place on the following days:
00:01 BST Tuesday 11 October to 23:59 BST Thursday 13 October
00:01 BST Tuesday 18 October to 23:59 BST Thursday 20 October
00:01 BST Thursday 3 November to 23:59 BST Saturday 5 November
00:01 BST Tuesday 22 November to 23:59 BST Wednesday 23 November
00:01 BST Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 BST Thursday 8 December.