GTR, parent company of Southern Railway, has today (20 March), offered to meet the RMT union for fresh face-to-face talks if they now suspend industrial action in their year-long dispute.
Last Friday, the union announced a new strike on 4 April - which would be its 31st strike day on Southern - but said it would not go ahead if GTR gave a firm date for "genuine and meaningful" talks.
The train operator's CEO, Charles Horton, has today written to Mick Cash, the union's general secretary, offering Tuesday 4 April for talks but only if the union commits to suspending its industrial action.
In his letter, Horton tells the union boss, "Our passengers, staff and the regional economy want certainty and an end to your industrial action, not a 24 hour truce.
"It's disappointing that the RMT are now threatening a 31st day of strike action on 4 April. Over the past year, we have met with the RMT countless times to try and settle your dispute. Unfortunately, each time has ended in disappointment."
GTR has written to Mr Cash "respectfully requesting, for the benefit of all", that the RMT go further than calling off the 4 April strike and now commit to ending its industrial action on Southern to enable "constructive and goodwill talks aimed at finding a negotiated solution".
Southern has been able to run 90% of its normal service on each of the last two RMT strike days with over half of conductors and OBS staff signing on to work.
Responding to the letter, General Secretary Mick Cash said, “RMT has made it clear that we are looking for meaningful and constructive talks in respect of both the guards’ and drivers’ disputes on Southern Rail.
“On Friday we made a genuine and positive approach to the company to get that talks process back on track.
“This morning we have received a prompt response from Southern/GTR although we are surprised at the length of the timetable for talks that they are proposing. The company response to the RMT call for talks will now be given serious consideration by the union’s executive committee.”