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GTR seeks brokered talks with RMT in bid to stop fresh strikes

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is calling on RMT to cancel a five-day strike on the troubled Southern line and has invited Acas to broker fresh talks.

Acas first tried brokering talks last month, but they failed to reach a resolution in the ongoing dispute over GTR’s plans to introduce driver-operated only (DOO) services on the network.

RMT, which insists the plans will threaten jobs and passenger safety, announced its longest strike yet yesterday, which will run from 8 August to 12 August, ahead of the planned introduction of DOO on 21 August.

Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer of GTR, said: “The RMT’s claims we have refused to engage with them are simply not true and we are calling on them to come to Acas and sort this out for the sake of our passengers.”

The strikes have contributed to severe disruption on Southern services, which have forced the company to cancel 325 services (originally 341) a day.

London TravelWatch has recommended that Transport for London takes over the franchise if services aren’t restored within a month.

Yesterday, RMT also announced further strikes in a separate dispute with ScotRail over the introduction of DOO.

There will be two two-day strikes on 7 and 8 August and 13 and 14 August, and an additional strike on 11 August.

RMT has already held a series of strikes, with the latest due to take place this Sunday.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Abellio/ScotRail continue to ignore the strength of feeling amongst their staff and passengers over the extension of DOO. That is why we have no choice but to announce further strike dates.”

Like Southern, ScotRail accused RMT of lying about the company’s refusal to negotiate with the union.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “Sadly, this type of behaviour from the RMT has been all too common during this dispute.

“They say that they are open to talks, but their words are not matched by their deeds.”

The operator added that it held talks with the union yesterday (28 July), which it described “as encouraging”.

“We talked through some ideas and we agreed to come together again to discuss them further,” said the spokesperson. “It really is the most extraordinary act of bad faith for the RMT to leave these positive talks and to immediately announce another round of strikes.”

12.30pm UPDATE

RMT has accepted GTR's offer of fresh talks.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: "RMT will be at ACAS to discuss the full range of detailed issues at the core of this dispute."

He also repeated "in good faith" RMT's offer to suspend the strikes for three months if GTR suspends the planned introduction of DOO.

(Image c. Rui Vieira from PA Wire)

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Jason Rice   29/07/2016 at 13:40

Has Mick Cash been binge watching Carry On At Your Convenience I wonder?

Alycidon   29/07/2016 at 13:56

As part of their emergency timetable Southern have also cynically stopped all services on the Beckenham Junction link which didn't have guards and now forces passengers to pay a lot extra to go via London on their other crowded and unreliable trains. I am avoiding them now and buying my tickets from other operators - why does nobody hold them to account? Incidentally in a well planned system the Beckenham Junction to Clapham Junction link would be a very useful and busy connection... When can we hope for a rail industry that has coherent forward planning?

Lutz   29/07/2016 at 14:04

Time for the Government to declare the industry an essential service and outlaw strike action, bankrupt the strikers, and bankrupt the union.

Jerry Alderson   29/07/2016 at 16:29

RTM repeats RMT's claims that DCO (that's DOO+1 - two people on board) threatens passenger safety but does not mention the view of any of the non-union industry players who say it does not. How about some balance RTM?

James Palma.   29/07/2016 at 19:55

Hear hear, Lutz! Absolutely right. I wonder how many commuters really are concerned about removal of guards from opening doors, and would want that guard checking tickets. From discussions with friends and colleagues i have so far found none out of 11 actually care. They and i just want our trains to run. Of course there are going to be those that say 'wait until something happens', but at the end of the day progress is progress.

Midland Traveller   29/07/2016 at 21:07

Do the Southern guards have any duties for the time that they are not closing the doors? A regular Victoria to Brighton run has 5 closures (15 minutes maximum work) in 65 minutes! Is that really what RMT is trying to protect?

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