Rail jobs, staff issues and training

05.01.17

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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Comments

Jerry Alderson   07/01/2017 at 20:54

I believe that the offer by the government is to give drivers immunity from prosecution - as close as it realistically can in terms of the law - if there is an incident, providing that the drivers have not behaved recklessly, were under influence of drink and drugs etc. This means that drivers will not be at appreciably greater risk by taking over the decision for the train to depart. The government ought to be able to guartantee the OBS staffing levels (as a proportion of trains run - obviously it cannot guarantee jobs if the service shrinks for whatever reason) over the long term, rather than only up to 2021, when GTR's concession ends. If the RMT still insists on retaining the ability to bring the entire service to a stop if its members go on strike then the dispute will not get resolved anytime soon.

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