War of letters as Southern strike goes on

 

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) bosses have offered to meet union leaders ‘any time, any place, anywhere’ as the five-day Southern rail dispute over the role of conductors (guards) entered its second day.

Charles Horton chief executive of GTR, which owns Southern, called on the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union to end the ‘pointless, needless and senseless strike’.

”Local
Southern runs services from London Victoria and London Bridge

He said: ‘I urge the RMT to come back to the table to talk, have constructive and productive discussions on the way forward and shake hands on a deal. We are prepared to meet them directly or through ACAS any time, any place, anywhere to let common sense prevail and give our customers back their trains and give them the service they expect.’

GTR claimed that ‘one-in-five rostered conductors defied RMT pressure and attended work on Monday’.

The company re-published its eight-point ‘compromise’ plan, which included a commitment that conductors and staff in the new role of on-board supervisor (OBS) would retain safety competence while the company and union would agree a list of circumstances whereby a train would run without a second member of traincrew on board.

In a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, GTR’s human resources director Andy Bindon said the offer ‘in full, remains on the table for your acceptance’.

He added: ‘As you know, our plans to implement the new role will commence on 21 August 2016 (although no conductor will move to the OBS role on that date) so the window for you to reach agreement with us is closing. If no agreement is reached by that date we will confirm our position direct with our employees.’

In a letter to Mr Horton on Tuesday, Mr Cash said that the RMT’s offer to end the strike, based on a potential agreement in a similar dispute in Scotland ‘still stands’.

The union repeated claims that ‘sabotage’ by the Department for Transport (DfT) was behind the two parties’ failure to reach a deal at ACAS last week and accused the DfT of ‘weaponsing’ the dispute.

Mr Cash said: ‘RMT can confirm that we were within an inch of making progress towards boxing off a deal with Southern in ACAS talks on Friday afternoon that was based on the offer from Scotrail, an offer that enabled us to suspend all industrial action in the Scotrail guards dispute.

‘We were just getting into the detailed wording when suddenly the plug was pulled and our legs were kicked from under us. We have it on good authority that the deal, which would have enabled us to suspend the Southern strike action this week, was sabotaged by the Government with their director of rail Peter Wilkinson directing operations from outside the talks. ‘

Transport Network approached the DfT for comment. It has not responded to an earlier request to respond to claims that transport secretary Chris Grayling had 'ignored' a request to meet the RMT.

 

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