The RMT rail union announced today that it is moving its latest day of strike action to 8 April – the day of the Grand National – after Southern bosses offered talks on 4 April, the original date.
Southern’s parent company GTR offered talks on that day last week, on condition that strike action was called off. A spokesman said: “We have received no official confirmation from the RMT and will review our response when we do.”
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said: “RMT members on Southern Rail have been fighting for safety and access to rail services for nearly a year now and it is time for the company to get out of the bunker and to start making some progress.
“There is no reason for Southern/GTR to drag their heels and RMT is prepared to meet on the 4 of April as they have requested.
“We now have plenty of breathing space to get talks underway and we would urge the company to seize the opportunity that our decision today has opened up for both parties and the union would prefer for the talks to happen sooner rather than later.
“RMT guards and driver members on Southern have shown incredible strength and resilience throughout the past year and have been clear from the off that this is not a dispute about who opens the doors – it is a dispute about a safe method of operation and about the guarantee of that crucial, second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.
“It is time for that fundamental issue to be addressed at the negotiating table.
“If Southern is prepared to agree to talks on the 4th of April, or sooner, with meaningful proposals on the table that address the issues at the heart of the dispute, the union’s executive would be in a position to consider the suspension of the current planned action.”
The move comes as Southern said it had paid out £10million in compensation to passengers affected by last year’s industrial action.
A Southern spokesman said: “The one-off season ticket compensation scheme, announced last December by the Government, recognises the severe disruption on the Southern network during 2016.
“As of 20 March, over 40,000 claims have been approved totalling over £10m in compensation. The scheme closes on 30 April and we urge customers who believe they are due compensation to claim online at southernrailway.com.”