UK: More strikes on the way as Southern rejects RMT offer

by Conrad Landin

Morning Star | 07 October, 2016

BRITAIN’S worst-performing railway will be hit by a fresh wave of strikes from Tuesday after talks broke down yesterday.
Rail union RMT said Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR) Southern division had rejected a “perfectly reasonable” proposal to meet bosses halfway.

The privateer has been locked in a bitter dispute with conductors over plans to deskill their roles — which unions warn will lead to on-board staff being taken off trains altogether.

At yesterday’s talks, RMT offered a plan which would have allowed bosses to move conductors to the new on-board supervisor grade.

But managers rejected a clause that would require the supervisors to maintain all their current safety responsibilities.

Currently conductors are responsible for closing the train doors.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said he was “angry and disappointed” that Southern had rejected the plans “with barely a cursory glance.”

Southern were landed in hot water this week after a publicity campaign encouraging passengers to tweet their anger at the union backfired.

Messages poured in from commuters blaming Southern for the dire service and backing RMT strikers.

“This week we have seen Southern launch a botched attempt to incite the public against their frontline workforce,” Mr Cash said.

“Today that same company have shown that they have no interest in negotiating with the staff union and are hell-bent on having a punch-up with the rail workers who keep the travelling public safe.”

GTR chief executive Charles Horton said the RMT proposals amounted to “a superficial rebadging of the conductors as on-board supervisors in name only,” saying he was “incredibly sorry” for travel misery on Southern.

“What the RMT want to do is retain their power and control by insisting that our trains cannot run under any circumstances without a conductor on board, leading to more delays and cancellations,” he said.

“We will now press ahead with our plans to modernise services to give customers what they expect and deserve — a train service fit for the 21st century.”

RMT was engaged in a parallel dispute over the role of conductors on ScotRail, but staff voted 10-1 to accept a negotiated settlement this week.

The union had hoped the compromise — where drivers will open the doors but conductors will close them — would have offered a precedent for a deal at Southern.



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