Rail jobs, staff issues and training


GTR sets RMT deadline to end Southern conductor dispute

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has tried to stamp out its industrial dispute with RMT, which has contributed to widespread delays on the Southern network, by making a final offer to the union.

The operator repeated its eight point offer (listed below) to RMT, and said that if the union accepts the deal by the deadline of midday on 6 October, it will pay a lump sum of £2,000 to all affected conductors. The payment would be paid in January 2017, following the full implementation of GTR’s DOO programme.

However, if RMT rejects the offer, GTR will proceed with terminating conductor contracts and inviting them to take up the new on-board supervisor (OBS) role.

Charles Horton, CEO of GTR, said: “The RMT needs to understand that this change is happening and we would prefer to work with them to ensure that it's achieved in a way that best protects the interests of our customers, our employees and the business.

“But no one should be in any doubt that the deadlines are fixed and immutable and we will press ahead if there is no deal by Thursday lunchtime. This dispute has to stop, and stop now.”

RMT has held a series of strikes in protest at GTR’s plans to introduce driver-only operation (DOO) services, contributing to delays that saw GTR’s PPM fall below any other company, before it made a small recovery last month.

The union says the reforms will lead to job losses and threaten passenger safety and disability access, despite the Rail Safety and Standards Board judging DOO to be safe.

The latest strike is due to start on 11 October as part of a planned 14-day programme of strikes.

GTR has insisted it will press ahead with the plan to introduce DOO after the RMT first rejected its offer, which includes guarantees to ensure that the OBS will receive safety training, retain their role beyond 2021 should GTR retain the franchise, and review the role in 12 months.

Mick Cash, general secretary of RMT, rejected the offer, saying: “RMT is making it clear this morning that jobs, safety and access on Southern rail services are not for sale for £2,000. This dispute has never been about money, it is about guaranteeing that there is a second, safety-critical member of staff on-board the current Southern rail services.”

GTR warned that if RMT rejects the offer, it can no longer guarantee the concessions promised.

As part of its efforts to win the dispute with the union, GTR also produced press and online adverts and posters informing passengers about its offer. It asked them to ‘strike back’ by urging RMT on Twitter to accept the offer.

However, the campaign backfired when passengers overwhelming sent tweets attacking Southern services and supporting the union.

Emily Yates, a campaign co-ordinator for the Association of British Commuters, called the campaign “a staggering misjudgement”.

A Southern spokesperson said the aim of the campaign was to “get the debate going” and raise awareness of the “very fair and comprehensive offer”.

The eight-point offer:

  1. Southern will guarantee that every train currently operated with a conductor will continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second member of on board employees diagrammed/rostered.
  2. Southern guarantees that traditional conductors will retain current competence and will guarantee that the second member of on board employees will be trained to a ‘safety competent’ level including track safety training, train evacuation, traction competence and full commercial route knowledge (excluding train dispatch).
  3. Southern will propose a list of exceptional circumstances, to be agreed with the RMT, whereby a train can continue in service without a second member of on board employees, for the benefit of customers.
  4. These proposals, including the above guarantees, are dependent upon agreement that services with a second member of on board employees (rather than a traditional conductor) will have the driver in full control of train dispatch. Agreement for this to be implemented will be ratified at local level.
  5. Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS role will be agreed with the RMT, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights.
  6. A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development.
  7. A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT.
  8. A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise.


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Lutz   03/10/2016 at 18:55

GTR has taken a very long time to get to this point; it has inconvenienced it's customers far too much in attempting to accommodate for these activists. GTR will pay the price for damaging this relationship with it's customers. It is always a mistake to try and engage in a conflict with activists via social media; all they will do is deploy their supports to delude the stream with confrontational comment; normal people will not waste their time in engaging. Best to make the case via more mature channels and leave the social media to the children. P.S. Should n't it be "Driver-Only Operated" (DOO) in para 6?

Neil Palmer   04/10/2016 at 03:32

I agree with Lutz. It's taken GTR far too long to get to this point, and RMT will just get their members, and fellow union members, to flood Twitter with their view of things, which the facts (including the report from the RSSB) do not agree with.

Nigel   04/10/2016 at 10:24

I agree with the comments above, and like many fellow commuters, have avoided engaging on social medial due to the risk of abuse. The issue ISNT about safety, and the RMT failed to provide any evidence whatsoever at the Transport Select meeting 5th July. Indeed, when questioned about safety, and the lack of conductors on the London Underground etc., there was no repsonse. The issue is about the risk of declining union membership.

Neil Palmer   04/10/2016 at 14:21

To add to Nigel's comment, it appears that the generals at the RMT are prepared to sacrifice a few hundred of their infantry in a doomed attempt to try and maintain their ability to cause future disruption. That's why the RMT leadership sitting back in HQ doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to allow those on the front line to vote on the final offer, they know they'd accept it. Come on guys, time to accept you've lost your battle to maintain 19th century working practices and join the 21st century.

Martin T   04/10/2016 at 17:51

I agree 100% with Nigel and Neil (pity they are not called Nick!). It has *nothing* to do with safety. RMT wants as many members as possible and wants maximum bargaining position, since that attracts more people to join them. The RMT has lost. There is nothing it can do to win the dispute with GTR as long as the Government stays firm. Time is on GTR's side. New train staff will have DOO/OBS contracts and new trains will have cameras. I am just astonished that GTR has offered such a good deal to staff given that it cannot lose. In my view RMT is using the dispute to show other TOCs not to mess with it. However, the government has already mandated DCO on 50%+ of Northern services and will do so in other new franchises. In time the whole of England will be either DOO or DCO. The ScotRail cave in to the RMT, who can still stop trains running, will not survive many years. Once DOO and DCO are widespread in England it will introduce it as well.

Jerry Alderson   04/10/2016 at 18:42

I've not seen anything like this dispute since the 1980s' ones such as New International's move to Wapping and TVAM using secretaries to operate the cameras. It looks like GTR will service notice to terminate contracts after Thursday. I can't see them delaying the action. Reading the statement it seems like the effective date will be early January. I don't know the Southern area well, however, I've just read on a discussion board that Southern's new DOO trains are arriving so that they will be able to operate as DOO or DCO on routes that currently require a guard/conduutor and therefore reducing the impact of strikes and/or dismissing staff. It lists Horsham – Dorking, the Horsham to London Bridge and Victoria services between Three Bridges and London Terminals, Victoria to Bognor Regis, Southampton and Portsmouth, plus more of the Brighton to Victoria services. I understand that Southern expects 86% of services to be DOO or DCO by the end of the year leaving just 14% that would still need a guard/conductor.

Martin T   06/10/2016 at 18:32

As I wrote above "the RMT has lost." GTR has announced that conductors will be sent a letter on Friday 7 Oct terminating their contacts on 31st Dec 2016 and offering them a new on-board supervisor role from 1st Jan if they want it. As 14% of trains will stil need conductors it is unclear if 100% of conductors will be served notice. Worst case scenario for passengers is that some routes will not have trains from 1st Jan but unlikely. GTR saying that it expects 61% of trains to run during 11th-13th Oct strike. That percentage will increase on later strike dates as more new trains arrive that allow the driver to operate doors. Aim is for driver to operate doors on 86% of trains by 31st Dec.

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