THE RMT has taken an unusual step in the South Western Railway dispute, by setting out a ‘framework’ for talks to restart. The RMT has also asked for the help of ACAS once again.
The strike of RMT members on SWR has entered its third day, and unless a solution to the dispute over the future responsibilities of guards is found, the walkouts are set continue almost without a break until 1 January. The strikes have been causing disruption and serious overcrowding on the busy South Western Railway network.
In his letter to the company, RMT general secretary Mick Cash says: ‘I am writing to you today to ask for your agreement to reopen talks around an operational framework that would allow for the action called for December to be suspended. Obviously, it would be in the interest of all concerned to try and reach a negotiated agreement and I have today written to Sir Brendan Barber at ACAS asking him to use his good offices to conciliate.
‘In respect of dwell times – which you raised as a core issue in objecting to the union’s proposals in earlier talks – it is our view that adding three or four seconds’ dwell time at each station to ensure the safest method of working and despatch is surely a small price to pay to guarantee the safety and accessibility for all which is the issue at the heart of the dispute. Safety must come first in all instances which, as you know, is our guiding principle.
‘As the union has said repeatedly there is clearly a deal there to be done which would cost your company nothing and which would give the safety and accessibility guarantees at the platform/train interface that we have been seeking.
‘I would welcome your immediate confirmation of your agreement to attend these urgent discussions under the auspices of ACAS.’
South Western Railway said: ‘We’re pleased that the RMT wants to come back to the table. But we need the RMT to show they are serious about ending these strikes in a way that works for passengers.
‘They need to explain exactly what do they want instead of the written agreement they took away from ACAS last Thursday, and offer a new solution that safely delivers over 10 million more passenger journeys on-time every year.
‘We want a guard on every train with a safety critical role. But we want to enable guards to spend more time helping people in wheelchairs and with buggies get on and off the train, walking up and down all the carriages and ensuring the safety of passengers at times of need.’