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GTR brings back £2,000 offer for RMT members ahead of Southern strike

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has brought back a proposed £2,000 bonus for members of RMT who accept its proposals to extend driver-only operated (DOO) services as the union prepares to go on strike again.

GTR withdrew the offer on 6 October after RMT refused to accept it, clearing the way for a three-day strike last week.

The union is due to begin another strike on 18-20 October, with two further strikes planned in November and another one in December.

Charles Horton, CEO of GTR, said: “The RMT needs to reflect on the hardship, distress and frustration being experienced by our customers and employees. 

“Everyone wants to see an end to this dispute, but it is clear that, as things stand, there is currently little prospect of a negotiated settlement between us, however much we’ve tried.”

He said RMT should suspend the strikes and allow its members to hold a referendum on the offer. RMT is opposed to DOO services because it says thy will lead to train conductors losing their jobs and threaten passenger safety.

As part of the deal, GTR offered RMT the following concessions as part of its eight-point offer:

  1. Southern will guarantee that every train currently operated with a conductor will continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second member of on board employees diagrammed/rostered.
  2. Southern guarantees that traditional conductors will retain current competence and will guarantee that the second member of on board employees will be trained to a ‘safety competent’ level including track safety training, train evacuation, traction competence and full commercial route knowledge (excluding train dispatch).
  3. Southern will propose a list of exceptional circumstances, to be agreed with the RMT, whereby a train can continue in service without a second member of on board employees, for the benefit of customers.
  4. These proposals, including the above guarantees, are dependent upon agreement that services with a second member of on board employees (rather than a traditional conductor) will have the driver in full control of train dispatch. Agreement for this to be implemented will be ratified at local level.
  5. Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS role will be agreed with the RMT, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights.
  6. A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development.
  7. A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT.
  8. A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise.

GTR also said that higher numbers of conductors were rejecting the strike than in previous strikes, with 27% turning up for work compared to 17% in April.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “This latest letter from Charles Horton does not move this dispute on a single inch. There is no offer whatsoever to start engaging in serious talks about the safety and access issues at the heart of this matter.

“Instead, Southern have rehashed the £2,000 bribe to our members even though the company have been told repeatedly that money is not the issue and that the safety of passengers and staff is not for sale.”

He also called the figures for increased staff turn-outs “bogus”.

Equality Act warning over DOO

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) also said today that running DOO trains at unstaffed stations would be an offence under the Equality Act 2010.

The NPC ran a ‘mystery traveller’ experiment where three passengers – a wheelchair user, a blind passenger and a pensioner – travelled on services which will be affected by the changes.

They found a number of problems, including a lack of toilets, audible announcements and ramps on some journeys.

Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary, said: “This experiment clearly shows that without properly trained staff, both on and off the trains, these travellers would have some very difficult journeys.

“Some would be unable to get on where they wanted or get off at their chosen destination, and in many respects the Care Teams at stations are essential to enable the independent travel of older and disabled people. Our concern is that if a driver only train runs to an unstaffed station with a passenger who is unable to exit the train unassisted, an offence will be committed under the Equality Act 2010 by putting that person at a substantial disadvantage. This needs to be understood and acted upon by the Office of Rail and Road, the DfT and the train operating companies.”

A Transport Select Committee report, published last week, apportioned blame to GTR, RMT and the DfT for the widespread delays that have affected Southern since GTR took over the franchise last year.

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Neil Palmer   17/10/2016 at 15:36

The RMT won't put this offer to a vote by their members because they know they would accept it. The RMT doesn't care whatsoever about their members in this dispute or else it would have been settled already. Every single strike day over this pointless dispute is a failure for Mick Cash and the RMT leadership, so maybe THEY should also give up their pay on those days instead of just the front line soldiers? The RMT will sacrifice all their Southern guards in this dispute solely to maintain their power to cause future disruption to both their membership and the long suffering public. They are power mad and care about nothing else. It's time the guards in this dispute took their own best interests to heart and started ignoring the calls for future strikes, because you can bet your union leadership doesn't care about you.

James Palma   18/10/2016 at 12:40

Quite right Neil!! Though I do not see why the union members, who surely are supposed to be the owners of the union, do not just accept the payment, irrespective of what the union is saying. It is apparent that while the union claims to do what is in the interests of its members (like politicians), it only serves its own interests (like politicians) and benefits from the suffering of others (oh, hang on, like politicians!)

Jerry Alderson   20/10/2016 at 18:04

I do wish people would stop talking about driver-only trains. GTR are guaranteeing to retain a second person on board in all but exceptional circumnstances. I would like GTR to publicly give a percentage of the trains that would only have a driver (e.g. because the rostered OBS failed to turn up for duty without calling in and leaving GTR in the lurch - rememebring that GTR will have some spare staff to cater for this). GTR must have an idea of the proportion of trains, surely? If GTR publicly said that only it estimated an average of, say, 1% of those trains would run without an OBS (excluding a strilke, of course) then I think passengers would feel a lot more comfortable.

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