Strike action will go ahead on the trains in Eastbourne next week, after last minute talks between the RMT Union and Govia Thameslink Rail to avert them collapsed this lunchtime (6 October).
It had been hoped the two sides would come to an agreement over the future role of guards on Southern trains across the network, but no deal was reached. This means conductors, who are members of the RMT Union will start a three-day strike on Tuesday (11 October).
The dispute, which has now gone on for ten months, sees the Union claim that changing conductors to onboard supervisors will compromise passenger safety. This is strongly denied by Southern, who say driver-only trains are a tried and tested method of operation.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary said, “The union is angry and disappointed that a fresh set of proposals put forward by the union today that address both our issues and the company agenda have been rejected out of hand with barely a cursory glance. The travelling public will be rightly angry that the company have kicked back in our faces a chance to resolve this long-running dispute.
“There was a real chance of getting a negotiated solution on track today but Southern have not only slammed the door on that but they have also rejected RMT’s offer to draft in ACAS immediately to try and close the gap and broker a settlement. That is scandalous.
“This week we have seen Southern launch a botched attempt to incite the public against their front line workforce. 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.
“Attempts to bribe and bully the Southern Rail staff with the threat of the sack leave an indelible stain on Britain’s railways. The union now awaits confirmation on exactly what the company propose to do next and we will be taking guidance, and offering our members advice, once we know exactly what Southern’s intentions are.”
Govia Thameslink Rail say they’ll now press ahead with their plans to modernise Southern. Charles Horton, CEO of GTR, said, “I’m deeply disappointed that the RMT leadership have rejected our offer – their counter-proposal didn’t come anywhere near our goals of modernising our train service for the benefit of passengers. All they have offered is a superficial rebadging of the conductors as on-board supervisors in name only.
“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.
“I am incredibly sorry about the months of misery our passengers have suffered. Our aim is to make a significant change to put services back on track and get our passengers where they want, safely and on time.
“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. “