Guards working on Southern trains have announced fresh strike action today (Thursday January 12).
Members of the RMT are due to be transferred to the role of on-board supervisors and the union has battled rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway over plans to introduce driver-only operation on Southern services.
The changes would mean drivers would open and close train doors, with both the RMT and train drivers’ union ASLEF raising concerns about the potential loss of a second safety-critical member of staff on board.
The RMT held a dozen strikes in 2016 and has today announced another walkout on Monday January 23.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “Charles Horton [chief executive at GTR] has repeatedly promised publicly to retain a second safety-critical member of staff on his trains but as soon as it comes to direct talks the pledge melts away. That is the main reason why we are forced again to put on further strike action.
“In the BBC TV debate this week Mr Horton made that pledge again and also promised further direct talks with the union. Since then we have heard nothing. It is down to the company to end this posturing and to get back into the room with us to kick-start the negotiating process which is what the public are clearly crying out for.
“There is a golden opportunity between now and the next phase of action to get serious and genuine talks underway. RMT is available but is down to Southern/GTR to show that same commitment and to stick to the promises they gave on camera in front of TV audience across the region.”
A spokesman for Southern responded: “Our CEO Charles Horton spoke face-to-face with Mick Lynch, deputy general secretary of the RMT, immediately after their recording of a BBC debate last Sunday.
“Charles invited the RMT to fresh talks but we’ve had no dates or times from them.
“We’d also point out that on the morning of 14 December, our chief operating officer personally invited Mick Cash for talks with him later that day.
“Mr Cash did not show up. So the union are once again being disingenuous. We also made a formal written offer to ASLEF over a week ago and we have heard absolutely nothing.
“But it’s important we focus now on moving forward to end this sorry saga of strike misery. This wholly unjustified industrial action is causing utter misery and hardship to the travelling public and is having a significant impact on people’s work and family lives and the regional economy. We remain ready to meet the RMT leadership, as we do ASLEF, anytime, any place, anywhere to find a way to end their disputes.
“These strikes are not about safety; it’s purely about the unions trying to turn the clock back, hang on to outmoded working practices, which technology now eradicates, and union power. We need to modernise our trains and the services passengers want.
“Every train that previously had a conductor before 1 January now has either a conductor or a safety-competent on-board supervisor rostered to work. We need to end these strikes and end them now.”
ASLEF held strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, with another walkout planned tomorrow (Friday January 13).
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