A ten-car train sits at the extended Uckfield railway station platform with an 07:05 service to London Bridge.

Efforts to avert next week’s rail strike fail

Proposals to settle the conductors’ dispute and avert next week’s five-day long strike, which will hit the Uckfield Line and other Southern services, were today rejected by the RMT union.

Talks at Acas have broken down after three days of discussion at which Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – the owner of Southern – tabled an eight-point compromise plan to settle the dispute and stop the strike action.

A press release from GTR says the company offered the following new assurances, which the RMT rejected:

  1. Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS role, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights
  2. A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development
  3. A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT
  4. A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise
  5. Southern guarantee second member of staff rostered to those trains that have them today
  6. Conductors and OBS to retain safety competence including PTS and evacuation training, including non-dispatch route knowledge
  7. Southern and RMT to agree a list of circumstances whereby a train would continue in service without a second member of traincrew on board, in the interests of the customers
  8. RMT to accept transfer of door-operation to the driver

This is on top of the commitments GTR has already made to the RMT, which include:

  • No compulsory redundancies
  • No reduction in salary
  • No compulsory location moves
  • A guaranteed, above-inflation pay-rise for the next two years
  • An increase in the existing ‘shift premia’ (which is additional salary paid to staff for working voluntary overtime) to 20% over the next three years
  • A promise to increase the number of back-up staff to help manage unplanned disruption – thereby ensuring the railway is staffed more in the future than it is today

Passenger Service Director Angie Doll said: “We have gone the extra mile with our compromise offer, but the RMT has made it clear they are not prepared to negotiate.

“They did not want to discuss the role of the On-Board Supervisor and remain rigidly opposed to evolving the role of on-board staff to focus more on customers.

“We are deeply disappointed and angry on behalf of our passengers at this stance, which will cause misery for our passengers and untold damage to the local economy in the southeast.

“The RMT’s strike is unnecessary, unacceptable and unjustified.

“We plan to have just as many services staffed with On-Board Supervisors as we do with Conductors today.

“We simply want the flexibility to be able to run a train without a second member of staff on board, if they are unavailable so we can get our passengers on their way.

“To provide assurances that we would do this only when absolutely necessary, we said we’d agree with the RMT a list of binding rules to dictate when this could happen – such as during severe disruption.

“Their refusal to even discuss this demonstrates their complete unwillingness to compromise.”

“Our proposals match modern-day customer service to modern-day trains. The only difference is drivers will close the doors, freeing up our on-board staff to provide the best customer service.

“Our On-Board Supervisors will also be able to work on any service, which means more efficient working and fewer cancellations for our passengers.

“RMT’s plan to cease the dispute should GTR agree to the terms agreed in Scotland recently is a complete red herring.

“This amounts to a continuation of the current operating model and delivers none of the punctuality and customer service benefits we are determined to deliver to our passengers”.

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