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RMT offers to suspend Southern strikes for three months

Trade union RMT has made a new offer to reopen talks with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) in the ongoing industrial dispute, but GTR has not yet agreed to accept their conditions.

In an open letter to Charles Horton, the CEO of GTR, Mick Cash, the general secretary of RMT, said the union would suspend strikes for three months if GTR suspended proposals to extend driver-operated only (DOO) services on the Southern line for the same period.

Cash said the proposals “will then allow us the time and space to sit down together and try and explore options that will seek to deliver the lasting improvements to service and reliability we all want”.

RMT has led three strikes this year in protest at the proposals, leading to services being cancelled.

A GTR spokesperson said the company welcomed the offer but did not confirm that it would suspend the proposals.

They said: “We welcome the offer of talks and a new approach from the RMT. We have been trying to actively engage them for the past six months. We welcome the suggested suspension of industrial action, but we don't need three months to resolve this.

“We are ready to sit down with the RMT and discuss a way forward that we believe that they, our employees and customers will welcome, and can bring an end to this dispute.”

GTR also asked RMT to work with the company to address the high rate of sickness absence among staff, which it said is the main cause of delays on the line.

In an appearance before the Transport Select Committee on Tuesday, Cash denied that the sickness absences were “being organised.”

The latest performance and punctuality measure (PPM) figures show GTR was the company with the biggest drop in June, with its PPM at 66.8% compared to 86.3% at the same time last year.

It also announced that it is cancelling 341 trains a day to try to reduce the impact of unpredictable cancellations.

Stripping GTR of the franchise

Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary and MP for Streatham, has tabled an early day motion urging the government to strip GTR of its franchise before the renewal date, and accelerating the transfer of Greater London services to Transport for London.

The motion has been signed by eight MPs, including Labour’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Conservatives’ Maria Caulfield, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Umunna has also launched an online petition for members of the public to call for the franchise to be taken away from GTR.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)

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Stephen Waring   08/07/2016 at 13:11

There has to be a way forward on this. Suspend the proposals and reach an agreement. Ideally such an agreement could become a national model. TOCs have to realise that not only drivers and guards, but also passengers have concerns about DOO/DCO. And if it's the Government pulling the strings to provoke a fight with the unions let's show the DfT a united rail industry, bosses and workers.

Rail Realist   08/07/2016 at 17:04

Chuka Ummuna has missed the point. If GTR are stripped of the franchise, the problem does not go away. The next company to take on the franchise will have to face exactly the same problem. The passenger train interface is a known risk area but retaining a guard is no guarantee of safety. DOO is successfully employed on many trains here and abroad. Having someone on board to really look after passnegers' interests and not be bothered with door operation is the ideal situation. Pity the RMT can't see that

Jerry Alderson   09/07/2016 at 16:56

I agree with Stephen Waring that any working agreement needs to be a national model becaus eit is very clear that DCO is the future. The government expects DCO to be the norm on all future franchises. We know that Arriva is required to have DCO on at least 50% of its services. The South West franchise specification recently announced requires the maximum dwell time at stations to be lowered from more than a minute to 45 seconds. That can only be done with DCO. Whilst passengers may have some concerns about DOO, especially on regional services where it is not really appropriate. but they ought to have no concerns about DCO providing it is implemented correctly. There's a detailed article about DOO/DCO at, which I hope people will consider impartial in terms of the dispute. In response to Rail Realist I'd say that DOO is very common around the world. I've spent three years working in Vienna where it is exclusively DOO (apart for the double-deck and cross-border trains) and it works very efficiently and it is a very safe city.

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