The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has announced a five-day strike next month in its ongoing dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway over the role of guards on Southern services.
The union claimed that both the company and the Government had ‘point blank’ refused to engage with it as a deadline of 21 August approached, after which the company’s proposed changes, which would remove the responsibility of conductors (guards) for opening and closing train doors, would ‘be railroaded through’.
New transport secretary Chris Grayling
It said it had offered a three-month pause in industrial action if GTR ‘took the gun away from the guards (sic) heads and agreed to suspend their proposals and allow space for talks to take place’.
‘That request has been kicked back in our faces,' the RMT said.
The RMT said it had also asked new transport secretary Chris Grayling for direct talks after he said it was a priority to resolve ongoing problems with Southern. ‘That letter has been ignored,’ it said.
The union has instructed members not to book on for any shifts between 0001 on Monday 8 August and 2359 on Friday 12 August.
GTR chief operating officer Dyan Crowther said: ‘It is unacceptable that passengers are being made to suffer five days of disruption all because the RMT is refusing to accept necessary change. We are offering all our onboard staff a job, as valued members of our future operation, with no reduction in salary.
‘The sooner we can introduce the essential modernisation that our railways desperately need, the sooner we can stop the RMT from holding passengers to ransom.’
He added: ‘Contrary to the RMT’s accusation, we have always been open to talks and remain so. Only this week we spoke with the general secretary Mick Cash about further talks and he has been unwilling to enter into discussion.’
The Department for Transport did comment on the allegation that Mr Grayling had ignored the RMT's letter. However, new rail minister Paul Maynard said that the union had 'decided that it is not on the side of the passenger'.
On Wednesday (27 July) the RMT announced a ballot for industrial action over proposed changes to the role of ticket office staff.
Update: On Friday morning, GTR said it had asked Acas, the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, to facilitate talks with the RMT. However it gave no indication that it was prepared to delay the changes to the role of conductors.