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RMT cancels strike as Southern re-enters negotiations

UPDATE 4.30pm:

RMT has announced that it will suspend strike action after Southern agreed to return to ACAS to re-enter negotiations without any pre-conditions – but the current strike timetable will continue.

The strike, which today entered its third day and was expected to last until Friday, has been suspended with immediate effect “until further notice”, according to the union’s National Executive Committee.

All union members are being instructed to return to work for all shifts starting from 10pm tonight.

Responding to the decision, Southern said: “We are encouraged that the RMT has accepted our offer to resume talks at ACAS and has agreed to call off its strike action. For our passengers sake we truly hope these talks will be productive and bring this long running dispute to an end.

“At present, the strike timetable is still in the industry train planning systems for Thursday and Friday. Regrettably, this means tomorrow’s service will be based upon the present strike timetable but we will do our very best to add services in and extend the hours of operation wherever possible. On Friday we plan to revert to the revised timetable operating before the strike.”



Southern has rejected the RMT’s offer to suspend the ongoing five-day strike, which today enters its third day, against GTR’s plans to introduce driver-only operated (DOO) trains in the capital. 

The union offered to halt the industrial action if the GTR-owned operator agreed to get back to the negotiating table with no pre-conditions. 

Its general secretary, Mick Cash, stressed the importance of picking up where the two bodies left off when talks broke down on Friday afternoon – a phenomenon he has blamed on DfT ministers. 

But Southern said it was not prepared to resume talks unless union members were willing to discuss the company’s proposed eight-point plan deal. The key points of the offer are:

  • Guarantees that every train currently operated with a conductor will continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second member of staff on-board;
  • Guarantees traditional conductors will retain their current competencies and second members of on-board will be trained to safety-competent standards including track safety training, evacuation, traction and full route knowledge (excluding train dispatch) which will pass to the driver;
  • Joint agreement by both Southern and RMT on the driver having full control of train dispatch and joint agreement by both parties to a proposed list of exceptional circumstances whereby a train can run without a second member of staff on-board;
  • Guarantees to retain the On-board Supervisor role (OBS) beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise and minimum levels of voluntary overtime for all OBS staff, details of which would be agreed with the RMT
  • A joint review in 12 months’ time of the new OBS role to include role development, training and career progression;
  • Collective bargaining rights for OBS staff.

Its spokesman said: “We have made the RMT a fair and comprehensive eight-point offer and we'll meet them any time, any place, anywhere to talk about our offer on our network to settle this dispute.

“This strike has to stop and has to stop now.”

Today, Cash accused the TOC of “slamming the door” on talks which would have suspended a strike that is already affecting thousands of passengers due to over 900 cancelled daily services. 

“Their position is that we can discuss anything we like as long as it's only what they want to discuss,” he added. “That makes a mockery of the negotiation process and proves that they have no intention of ending this dispute regardless of the cost.”

The long-running dispute over introducing DOO services from 21 August has been slammed by central government, with new transport secretary Chris Grayling saying yesterday that there is “no excuse” for RMT’s action and urging union members to accept Southern’s “generous offer”. 

But service user groups have urged passengers to join them on a demonstration march at London Victoria this afternoon, where representatives from the Campaign for Better Transport and the Association of British Commuters will present a 6ft-tall letter to rail minister Paul Maynard.

The letter is expected to invite him to attend a passenger assembly to discuss potential improvements, including freezing fares and strengthening compensation schemes. 


Jerry Alderson   12/08/2016 at 20:56

"exceptional circumstances whereby a train can run without a second member of staff on-board" is good news for passengers, because it means the train will not be cancelled. Obviously the issue is what those 'exceptional circumstances' actually are. Passengers do not want to see deliberate reduction in contingency staff (i.e. to cover for holidays illness, late arriving). Unsure about retaining "full route knowledge" for the second person - to what extent is it really needed in the 2016? (With driver advisory systems [DAS and C-DAS] it's starting to become unnecessary for drivers, but let's not go there, yet.)

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