Talks today to resolve a dispute between Govia Thameslink Railway and the RMT union have failed.
GTR, the parent company of Southern Railway which runs the Uckfield Line, has said it will now give notice to conductors in their existing role and offer them the chance to transfer automatically to new on-board supervisor role.
It is to press ahead with its proposals to modernise its services after the RMT rejected its offer to settle the six-month-old dispute with talks today ending without success.
Charles Horton, CEO of GTR, said: “I’m deeply disappointed that the RMT leadership have rejected our offer – their counter-proposal didn’t come anywhere near our goals of modernising our train service for the benefit of passengers. All they have offered is a superficial re-badging of the conductors as on-board supervisors in name only.
“What the RMT want to do is retain their power and control by insisting that our trains cannot run under any circumstances without a conductor on board, leading to more delays and cancellations.
“I am incredibly sorry about the months of misery our passengers have suffered. Our aim is to make a significant change to put services back on track and get our passengers where they want, safely and on time.
“We will now press ahead with our plans to modernise services to give customers what they expect and deserve – a train service fit for the 21st century. “
GTR listed the following as key points in the dispute:
• GTR and independent safety experts say it is perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train – that is what drivers are trained for and competent to do, and that is how a third of the trains in this country already operate.
• There will be a second person on every single train that has one today – and more still – trained in safety and ready to help passengers with all their needs.
• The RMT senior leaders asked GTR today to roll back improvements already made: GTR already has 80 people in its new on board supervisor roles, working on trains where conductor had never worked before, and over 100 additional services are now operating with the driver in sole charge of the train.
• GTR had a full, fair and comprehensive offer on the table for over two months for the RMT to agree. The offer guaranteed a job until 2021, above-inflation pay rises and guaranteed levels of overtime. GTR improved that offer last Monday by offering a £2,000 payment to all those in the new role in January.
• The union leadership did not put this fresh proposal to conductors to vote on. Instead the RMT rejected that offer before walking into the room today.
• The mandate on which the RMT is now set to strike on again is now over six months old.
GTR says there is a legal obligation to serve notice to employees in their existing roles and, at the same time, they will be asked to automatically transfer to the new role – if they want a job, they are guaranteed one.
The company says some 40% of Southern’s current population of conductors will be staying in their current roles and a large portion have already volunteered to move into the new on-board role.
• The RMT has threatened strikes on a series of dates. The first are scheduled for next week, from Tuesday, October 11, to Thursday, October 13. See all the dates in a previous Uckfield News story: Rail strikes: Yet more misery for Uckfield Line passengers.