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RMT announce strikes as talks with ‘pig-headed’ Southern break down

Talks between Southern and rail union RMT broke down once again yesterday without either party being able to agree on acceptable terms, as it was announced today that there would be more strike action taking place next Wednesday 22 February. 

Last time RMT took industrial action on 23 January Southern were only able to run around three-quarters of its normal service, and similiar disruption will be expected next week. 

In response, Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We are disappointed that the RMT is going to heap yet further misery and disruption on the travelling public. We aim to run as full a service as we can."

The dispute, which has lasted for 10 months, revolves around turning guards into on-board supervisors on trains, meaning responsibility for opening and closing carriage doors would fall to drivers.

Earlier in the month, ASLEF agreed a deal with Southern on the terms that there would be a second person (OBS) on trains that previously employed conductors – a move that RMT general secretary Mick Cash described as “a shocking betrayal” that had left drivers and passengers “alone and vulnerable”.

The parent company of Southern, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), had previously agreed to hold talks at the beginning of this year, talks which have now once again broken down.

Outspoken Cash described the most recent negotiations in strong terms, saying: “RMT entered today’s talks in good faith, but it soon became clear that the only thing Southern was interested in was bulldozing through driver-only operation further and faster with safety and access to services not even on their agenda.”

He blamed the operator’s “pig-headed attitude” for wrecking the chances of a deal being made that both sides were happy with.

Cash went on to say: “RMT's negotiating team is furious at the way this union and its members have been treated. This is dire news not just for staff but for passengers who rightly demand a safe, reliable and accessible service.”

Brown responded in equally disparaging terms, arguing: “We came to today’s meeting hopeful we could find a way forward to end the RMT’s dispute, and we’re saddened it’s ended so prematurely.

“The travelling public will find the union’s obstinate refusal to engage in meaningful and constructive talks disappointing, disheartening and increasingly destructive. Over the past year the RMT has had 28 days of strikes on this one issue.”

In his statement, Brown cited the 20,000 trains that have been cancelled as a result of the union’s strikes, allegedly costing the regional economy in excess of £300m.

He went on to add: “Conductors in the RMT union transferred to the new customer service role (on-board supervisor) from the beginning of last month and are now operating effectively in that role.

HM Chief Inspector of Rail – the highest industry authority in the land – also says that drivers in sole control of the train is a safe method of operation.” 

He rounded off his statement with a strongly-worded call for an end to RMT’s strike action: “Everyone is sick and tired of the RMT’s strikes, and their pointless and intransigent stance needs to stop – and stop now.”

(Top image c. Nick Ansell, PA Wire)

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Neil Palmer   15/02/2017 at 19:28

Considering industrial action is (rightly) listed as an exceptional circumstance for DOO then having the RMT call another strike blatantly proves the RMT does NOT care about safety and having a second staff member on board, because now these trains will operate with only the driver. And that is still FAR safer for passengers than alternative methods of transport where the risk of death or injury on the roads is far higher than on the rails. As any objective thinker realized from the start, these strikes by the RMT are SOLELY about retaining their power to bring services to a halt. Well you've lost that battle Mick. If you had any common sense whatsoever you'd retreat from your unsupportable position (and if we're lucky, resign so the RMT members can vote in a leader who knows how to negotiate without painting himself into a corner). Knowing how pig-headed you are though I'm sure you'll have all your members continue to lose pay and continue to follow as you jump off the cliff. To all Southern RMT members out there - you've lost more than enough pay as it is. Show your displeasure with your so-called leader by ignoring any further pointless strike calls on this lost cause.

Martin T   17/02/2017 at 17:40

I agree with what Neil Palmer has said. Also, the language used by Mick Cash ("pig-headed attitude", "furious at the way this union and its members have been treated") is like a little school kid running around screaming and stamping his feet. Clearly Mick Cash is the problem. His time is surely up.

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