GTR agrees to fresh talks with RMT over Southern dispute
Representatives of Southern and the RMT union have agreed to hold further talks in order to resolve the current strikes crippling the network.
Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), and RMT’s assistant general secretary Mick Lynch are understood to have held informal talks after both appeared on a TV debate hosted by the BBC, despite previous talks between the parties breaking down.
The organisations are expected to enter into further discussion today after agreeing on the need to resolve GTR’s dispute with Aslef and RMT over the introduction of driver-only operated (DOO) trains, which has seen commuters inconvenienced by strikes and cancellations.
Lynch said that he wanted a settlement “based on a common sense approach from both parties” after Horton said that RMT’s actions in the dispute had been “grossly disproportionate”.
“We think that is available right now – this afternoon if Charles wants to go outside and draft something up with me – that settlement is available immediately,” Lynch said.
Last week the ORR reiterated that Southern’s proposals to introduce DOO on its trains would be safe, providing suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff are in place.
While Horton said that the ruling gave the unions “no credible argument” for their “unjustified and pointless” industrial action, RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash called the ORR’s report a “whitewash that proves conclusively that the regulator is no longer fit for purpose”.
Cash said that the union would continue the “fight for safety on Southern and across our railways and genuine, independent scrutiny free from the stranglehold of central government”.
Drivers on the Southern network represented by Aslef are due to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of this week after splitting their planned six-day strike into two smaller three-day actions. The second half of the strikes is now planned for 24, 25 and 27 January.
Earlier this month the Association of British Commuters (ABC) said that it was close to submitting its full judicial review into how the dispute has been handled by the DfT, saying that the government has allowed the economy of the south of England to be brought “to a standstill”.
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