Talks between Southern Rail and the RMT Union over the introduction of driver-only trains have broken down at ACAS.
The RMT remains concerned that passenger safety will be compromised, should conductors be stripped from trains and replaced with onboard supervisors. However, Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Rail, continue to dispute this.
The latest round of talks, which started last Thursday (11 August) had hoped to put an end to the bitter row, which has seen commuters in Eastbourne suffer delays, cancellations and strike action.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, "We had a golden opportunity in these talks to make some serious progress on the core issue of a second person on the train who would have protected the safety of passengers, delivered customer service and ensured access to services for those with disabilities or needing assistance.
"It's a bitter blow that a firm set of union proposals that could have allowed us to move forward were rejected out of hand. The matter will be discussed by the union executive this afternoon."
With the talks once again failing to find a solution to the problem, GTR now vow to press ahead with their modernisation plans. Commenting, Angie Doll, GTR Passenger Services Director, said, ‘’We have been talking to the union for nine months now and, despite several visits to ACAS, the union won't agree a deal. Passengers will be rightly exasperated that the RMT won’t agree to what most fair-minded people would believe is an incredibly good offer. We are guaranteeing jobs, pay and a second person on as many trains as we do today and also offered to work with the RMT to agree modern working practices to reduce cancellations and passenger disruption.
“The RMT’s position does not help our passengers at all. We have guaranteed to have a second person on as many trains as today, but the union is rigidly refusing our offer to agree a list of exceptional circumstances when we would be able to run our trains without a second staff member on board, such as during disruption to still get people home. This would create the crucial flexibility we need to ensure fewer cancelled trains for our passengers.
"The RMT has repeatedly tried to play the safety card as the issue but it did not raise this issue at all during these latest talks, confirming this dispute is purely about union power and control. The fact is that, day in, day out for decades, up and down Britain’s railways and the Tube network, we’ve had the driver operating the doors, safely. This is backed up by independent research and expert opinion, including that of the Rail Safety and Standards Board.
"We will now move forward with our modernisation plans which will deliver better customer service for our passengers. Our eight-point proposal is still on the table and we urge the RMT to give this serious consideration. Over the coming weeks, we will be working closely with our staff as we start to implement these vital changes. After so much unnecessary industrial action, we must all get back to the job of giving our passengers the service they expect and deserve."
With the RMT Union meeting this afternoon (15 August) to discuss the outcome of the latest talks, there’s nothing to say commuters have seen the last of strike action over the row.