New RMT offer on Southern is rejected

A PROPOSED six-month cooling-off period in the driver-control operation dispute on Southern has been rejected by Govia Thameslink Railway.

The RMT, which is in talks today with MPs on the Southern Rail Cross Party Group, has offered to ‘break the deadlock’ if GTR would agree that no trains would run without two members of staff on board. At the moment, trains can be operated by a driver working alone in ‘exceptional circumstances’, and the RMT claims more than 8,000 trains are running annually without a supervisor on board.

The RMT also proposed an ‘accessibility guarantee’, which would give guaranteed assistance to vulnerable or less able passengers from on-board staff on all trains, without the need to book in advance.

Southern services are currently being disrupted by an indefinite ban on overtime and rest-day working by ASLEF drivers.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We will be telling MPs that we are hoping the company will reconsider our proposal for a trial six month period of an accessibility guarantee.

“We would hope that they would agree to this sensible proposal as the Association of Train Operating Companies consultant’s report has said train companies should guarantee a second person to comply with their legal obligations. That there is no agreement yet points to the continued hand of Chris Grayling blocking a settlement as even the government-backed Gibb report into Southern Rail admitting that the Secretary of State is determining the direction of this dispute.

“The reason this dispute is now entering its fifteenth month is because the government have backed the employer. MPs now need to ask when the government is going to back a fair settlement instead.”

However, GTR has turned down the idea. "The guarantee the RMT wants is a guarantee to cancel trains,“ a company spokesman said. 

He continued: “We want to put the passenger first and keep trains running. Driver controlled operation is safe and provision for those who need assistance has not deteriorated while, at the same time, service levels have steadily improved."

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