An Uckfield Line late afternoon train edges into London Bridge station

Uckfield Line: ASLEF dispute with Southern is ‘over’

Breaking news: The drivers’ strikes which have devasted Uckfield Line services on Southern are ‘over’.

The TUC has announced that agreement has been reached between the ASLEF union and the management. It will be put to a ballot of union members.

The dispute between the RMT union and Southern is still “on”.

A statement by ASLEF was headed:

Provisional agreement reached between ASLEF and GTR

General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “I welcome this agreement, which is a significant step forward in addressing the safety concerns of ASLEF members on Southern Rail.

“ASLEF has never been against changes to working methods.

“Rather,we believe any changes should be negotiated through agreed procedures. I am confident this this deal can provide a safer and appropriately staffed railway for passengers on Southern Rail and I will be recommending it to our members.’

ASLEF’s around 930 members on Southern Rail will vote in a referendum on whether or not to accept the deal. Ballot papers will be dispatched on February 3 and must be returned by 10.00am on February 16.

The TUC has issued the following statement with comments from all parties:

Following two weeks of intensive talks, the parties have now reached an agreement about the long-running dispute between ASLEF and GTR Southern.

This resolves the current dispute, subject to securing the support of ASLEF members, and no further industrial action is planned.

The negotiations have been jointly chaired by Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, and Andy Meadows, HR Director of Abellio UK, [another rail company].

Frances and Andy said:

“The negotiators from both sides have worked hard and co-operatively to achieve this breakthrough. We have particularly appreciated the positive leadership shown by Nick Brown [from Southern's parent company GTR] and Mick Whelan.

“This long-running dispute has clearly been extraordinarily difficult for both staff and passengers, and we are glad that the parties have reached agreement on a way forward.”

Frances O’Grady added:

“I welcome the decision of ASLEF to consult its members on the new offer that has now been made by GTR Southern. The TUC is pleased that we were able to play a part in finding a positive way forward.”

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said:

“I am pleased that we have finally been able to reach an agreement with the company which reflects the concerns of train drivers. I believe this deal can deliver a safer and appropriately staffed railway for passengers on Southern rail and I will be recommending it to ASLEF members.”

Nick Brown, GTR’s Chief Operating Officer, said:

“Our aim has always been to reach agreement with the unions on our proposals and we’re delighted to have secured a deal today with ASLEF to end their dispute. It’s good news for passengers, the regional economy and staff. After the misery and disruption to people’s work and family lives, we are pleased we can start to move forward and deliver a better railway for the travelling public.”

*Southern has issued the following statement with regard to its dispute with the RMT union.

Following the announcement from the TUC today regarding ASLEF talks, GTR Chief Operating Officer Nick Brown said:

“We are ready, willing and able to meet with the RMT.”

The RMT union issued the following statement:

General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT was not party to the talks brokered by the TUC with GTR. As a result of that, we have no details whatsoever on any deal that has been agreed by the parties who were granted a seat at the table.

“Consequently, we have no information on what impact any deal that may have been reached will have on nearly 500 guards who have been involved in an industrial dispute over safety for the best part of a year.

“That is an appalling way for that group of workers to be treated.

“RMT’s dispute remains on.

“The union is aware of the offer of further talks from the company.

“Once we have the full details of the deal that has been struck today, and an assurance that the terms of reference of those talks will focus on the retention of a second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services, we can agree an immediate date for negotiations to commence.”

Background

The dispute has centred on Driver Only Operation (DOO), where it is the driver who closes the doors and not a guard.

Last spring conductor-members of the RMT began a series of strikes because Southern wanted to change the role to onboard supervisor, with no responsibilities for door closing.

A number of strikes crippled the network throughout the rest of the year.

Services were limited most strike days to two up and two down from Uckfield. Buses provided a peak-time link to Tunbridge Wells and Haywards Heath.

This dispute has not been settled as the RMT did not take part in talks hosted by the TUC.

Just before Christmas, ASLEF members took strike action on a number of days which brought all trains to a halt.

Passengers were bussed from Uckfield to Tunbridge Wells.

Services returned to normal last Tuesday after ASLEF suspended action to allow talks to take place.

See also

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Eight-year-old Molly completes fund-raising challenge … and more

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