Unions agree to meet with Grayling to discuss Southern dispute
A glimmer of hope has appeared in the industrial dispute on Southern Rail after unions accepted transport secretary Chris Grayling’s invitation for a direct meeting.
RMT has held a series of strikes on Southern to try to stop the introduction of driver-only operation (DOO), which removes the function of guards opening train doors.
Aslef is also about to launch several drivers’ strikes, taking place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week and then 24, 25 and 27 January, during which Southern will cancel all trains.
Grayling wrote to the heads of unions RMT and Aslef today after the ORR published a report judging DOO to be safe with specific measures in place, asking them to call off the strikes and “come to the table” with him to resolve the dispute.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, wrote back saying: “I am happy to meet with you so that we can discuss these pressing matters. Do contact my office to arrange a meeting at your earliest convenience.”
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, told Grayling that he would meet with him any time to discuss the union’s concerns, but that the transport secretary’s letter did not provide a rationale to call off the strike. No date has yet been set for the meeting.
Furthermore, both men rejected the idea that the ORR report guaranteed DOO is safe. Cash called the report “a complete whitewash” and said the ORR was “no longer fit for purpose”. Whelan added: “It doesn’t say [DOO] is safe, merely that it can be safe”.
(Image c. RMT)
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