Talks to resolve Southern Railway dispute break down as RMT strike continues

PUBLISHED: 12:47 12 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:36 12 October 2016




The three day strike, which began yesterday, will go ahead

Talks aimed at resolving a dispute over the role of guards on Southern Railway have broken down without agreement.

It means thousands of commuters will continue to face disruption as rail workers yesterday began the their first day of strike action against rail operator Southern, where industrial action will take place until Thursday.

Southern has been forced to cut services by more than a third as a result of the strike action, including those from Tonbridge and Ashford.

The union has held a series of walkouts since April over the role of conductors on Southern services. Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, wants the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of its trains, but the RMT is determined to retain the role of conductors.

The chief executive of Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway, Charles Horton, met briefly with Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in a bid to break the deadlock.

Mr Cash said: “RMT entered talks with Charles Horton this morning in good faith and with every intention of trying to reach an agreement.

“However, it became clear right from the outset that Mr Horton is refusing to stick by the assurances he gave to the media yesterday that he can “absolutely” guarantee a second member of staff on all current Southern services with a conductor.

“This dispute isn’t about who open and closes the doors, it is about that absolute guarantee of a second safety-competent member of staff on these Southern services.

“RMT is angry and frustrated that a golden opportunity to resolve this dispute has been wrecked because Mr Horton has reneged on commitments he has given through the media.

“Passengers will rightly share our anger. The programme of industrial action goes ahead with the union remaining committed to genuine and meaningful talks.”

Mr Horton said Southern was modernising the railway and wanted the driver operating the train with the guaranteed second member of on-board staff looking after customers, not doors.

“My number one priority is to introduce these changes to improve the customer service we give our passengers and, after months of horrendous travel misery, get them where they want to be on our trains, safely and on time.

“There is a full and fair offer on the table that most workers would love to have - a guaranteed job for five years, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed overtime.

“The union has advised its members to accept the new role and they can be assured this change is happening.”

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