The RMT Union has written to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling today (9 August), calling for him to step in, to broker round-table discussions with all parties involved in the Southern Rail dispute.
Talks between Southern and the RMT broke down on Monday. The union says Southern has issued “an entirely misleading communication to staff”, which they feel is an attempt to halt any further talks.
In a letter to Mr Grayling, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash says:
“I have now seen correspondence from the company to all GTR staff which is completely at odds with the facts.
They are deliberately misrepresenting RMT’s position as not having any proposals to try and resolve this dispute and are now indicating that they are not prepared to meet with us anymore. That is clearly at odds with the impression I received from you, when we sat down and talked together.
The statement to GTR staff makes no mention of the fact they have blocked our plans without any consideration and I cannot assume they are doing this at your request, given both you and the Prime Minister have called for talks.
This development clearly reinforces my call yesterday for all sides to now meet together, around the same table, to see if we can jointly find a resolution to this dispute.
I therefore, ask you to intervene and call for an immediate four-way discussion between all the parties involved so that genuine progress can be made.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “Southern Rail are spinning lines which are a complete misrepresentation of the facts. RMT attended talks with the company on Monday at the request of Chris Grayling and we set out a package of proposals for serious discussion that could have cleared the log-jam and paved the way for a solution to this long-running dispute. It was the company that knocked back our proposals flat and it is the company that are now selling the message that as far as they are concerned the talks process is over.
“It is crystal clear now that the only way forward is to get all parties around the table – the unions, the company and the DfT as the contract-holders – with everything on that table and with a clear will on all sides to resolve the dispute. Chris Grayling is in a position where he can broker those round-table talks and he needs to do so as a matter of urgency.”
Union members feel the introduction of driver-only trains would jeopardise passenger safety, whereas Southern insist it is a safe operation, which is already in use across other parts of the country.