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RMT calls for urgent talks with Southern to end guards dispute

Rail union RMT has called for urgent talks to be resumed with Southern in a bid to bring its long running dispute about guards on trains to an end after months of the bitter feud.

The news comes as RMT executives prepare to meet next Tuesday 28 February to consider the future of the dispute, with a view to even more strike action by their members being anticipated.

The union’s call for further talks came in a letter penned to Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink (GTR), this morning that stressed the importance of coming to an agreement to avoid further disruption to services caused by strike action.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We are seeking clarification on what emerged from the recent discussions Southern had during the TUC meetings and the outcome reached as we have been informed this was misrepresented to us at Acas talks last week.

“RMT continues to seek a guarantee on a second safety critical member of staff – something our members have been fighting for nearly a year on. Passengers rightly demand and deserve a safe, reliable and accessible service.”

The dispute first came about due to Southern’s proposed plans to move to driver-only operated trains, which would not require a guard to open and close carriage doors, but would instead make this the driver’s responsibility.

RMT argues that this would compromise safety on trains for both driver and passenger.

Last week, talks between the operator and the union broke down as the RMT described Southern as “pig-headed” in their approach to the dispute.

Commenting on this week's strike action and the letter sent by RMT, a Southern spokesperson, said: "We ran nearly 9 in 10 train services during the RMT strike two days ago and over half (54%) of our on board supervisors (OBS) and conductor staff reported for work on the day too.

"The RMT leadership should recognise these facts and that our passengers are noticing that the RMT's action against them is increasingly impotent and ineffective. The union should now bring their saga of strikes to an end.  We are reviewing their letter and our response to it".

The union staged a 24-hour strike this week on Southern services, causing major disruption on services around London and the south east.  Fellow union Aslef also voted to reject a resolution with Southern last week despite having reached a truce with the rail operator at the start of February.   

(Top image c. Nick Ansell, PA Wire)

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H. Trevor Jones   24/02/2017 at 12:45

I'd prefer the driver to open the doors as that can be done more quickly if the guard is in the wrong place and/or busy collecting an unpaid fare (by a passenger who is not yet a customer) or giving travel advice to a customer. Also if there doesn't have to be a guard on a very lightly loaded train, then it would be easier to afford two guards on a very busy train where they might be more useful. But guards must get out and about up and down the train.

Tom201090   24/02/2017 at 12:55

1) There is going to be no loss of jobs. 2) There is going to be no reduction of pay. 3) Many stations have some form of visual aid(s) for the train crew, ranging from mirrors to dispatchers. 4) Several operators have used DOO for years with no breaches of H&S. 5) A lot of Southern's trains are already designed for DOO operation. 6) When DOO was first conceived do they not think it was tested first with various scenarios in order to clarify whether or not it is safe to use?

Jimbo   24/02/2017 at 13:57

7) All Thameslink trains runnning in the Southern area are DOO 8) The Safety experts have all said DOO is safe 9) The RMT are not safety experts and finally, there have been at least 2 reported incidents where people have died in car accidents because the RMT strikes had stopped them using the trains. There have been no deaths directly attributable to DOO. Exactly in what way is this dispute about safety ? This is purely a political fight about the RMT losing its power to stop trains and so for this reason, the RMT have no room for compromise. GTR and the government are not going to cave into their demands, so what are they going to do ? The only point of contention should be about ensuring that the equipment required for DOO is sufficient and properly maintained, which is not always the case. The unions could have a big positive impact here, instead of wasting their time in politically motivated strikes.

John Baker   27/02/2017 at 15:02

Today, I paid £4,300 to renew my annual travel card from Bletchley to London. And for the next year, I will regularly observe 'guards' doing little - down to reading a book on some quieter stopping services. The costs of rail travel can only be brought down by controlling expenditure. Guards are no longer required on all services - and in a couple of decades - train drivers won't be required either. Equally, on some busy services, two guards may be useful. It's all about flexibility. The unions behave as if we're still living in the Victorian era of steam rail travel.

Martin T   27/02/2017 at 16:36

I agree 100% with all four previous responses. It's good to see consensus - and based on passengers too!

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