The RMT union and Southern are to resume talks next week as they try to resolve a year-long dispute over the role of train guards.
The two sides issued a joint statement this afternoon (Tuesday 25 April) after two days of talks – and the day before an “anniversary” demo outside Parliament to mark a year since the dispute started.
Southern guards – or conductors – have spent 31 days on strike over the past year and have effectively had new contracts imposed, turning them into “on-board supervisors”.
Staff shortages have added to the problems for Southern passengers. The company had come to rely on overtime – and goodwill – to staff all its advertised services.
The dispute centres on new “driver-only operation” trains with responsibility for closing the train doors switching from guards to drivers. The RMT also said that disabled people would be adversely affected by driver-only operation.
Separately, Southern is in dispute with the train drivers’ union ASLEF about the introduction of the new trains. Two deals agreed with ASLEF’s leadership have been rejected by members.
The RMT has repeatedly said that the dispute is about passenger safety although Southern’s owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) already runs many driver-only services.
The company said that it would continue to run trains with a second person on board and that the new role left them more time to look after passengers and their needs.
But the second person wasn’t crucial and trains could run without them, reducing delays and cancellations, according to the company.
Critics have said that the on-board supervisors will spend their time making sure everyone has a ticket and making sure that those who don’t have a ticket pay up.
The joint statement said: “GTR and RMT have completed two days of discussions which have now been adjourned and we are planning to reconvene next week.”