Next week’s strike on Southern has been suspended after the rail company agreed to the Aslef union’s offer of talks chaired by the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef were due to walk out next Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday but today Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan made the offer to suspend the strikes if Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) agreed to new talks.
And within an hour of the offer being made, GTR said that it would take up the offer, adding that it unequivocally supported the talks, which are an “important and significant development”.
Mr Whelan said: “I am today proposing a new process to try to find a resolution to our industrial dispute with Southern Rail. We propose that Aslef and Southern engage in intensive talks under the auspices of the TUC and as soon as possible.
“Given the implications of this dispute for the wider railway industry, I am also asking the Secretary of State for Transport to support this new process.
“Aslef believes that the best way to resolve the dispute at Southern is for all parties to engage in meaningful talks – without preconditions – aimed at finding an agreed way forward.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “The DfT welcomes Aslef’s offer to suspend industrial action on Southern Rail to allow for a new round of intensive talks aimed at resolving the current dispute.
“However, in order to aid this process, the Secretary of State for Transport has suggested that these talks be jointly chaired by Andy Meadows, group HR director at Abellio, and Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC.”
GTR chief executive Charles Horton said: “We’ve always made clear our willingness to engage in meaningful talks with Aslef to find a route forward to end their dispute.
“So, together with our passengers and businesses, we warmly welcome their decision to suspend next week’s planned industrial action.
“This is an important and significant development for the travelling public and the regional economy and our focus and efforts now will be on productive talks with the union and trying to find a solution and a way forward.
“We are grateful to Frances O’Grady and Andy Meadows for agreeing to chair jointly this important new round of talks and they have our unequivocal endorsement and support.”