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GTR sets RMT deadline to end dispute

Press Release   •   Oct 03, 2016 21:48 BST

  • 8-point offer, previous assurances & new £2k implementation lump sum payment on table
  • "Immutable" deadline of midday Thursday to agree deal and call off strikes
  • Union asked to let conductors vote on full offer
  • Conductors set to be asked directly to sign-up to new on-board roles

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has today set out "a fair, clear and unambiguous" plan of action to the RMT union to settle the 10 months-old dispute over the role of conductors on Southern trains.

In a letter to Mick Cash, the RMT's general secretary, GTR sets the union a deadline of midday this Thursday (October 6) to agree to the comprehensive 8 point-offer and previous assurances made to conductors, tabled by the train operator on August 8, to end the dispute.

And today, to try and bring an end to months of travel misery for hundreds of thousands of customers, it has made a new proposal to the union of a lump sum payment of £2,000 to all conductors to be paid once the dispute is settled and GTR's proposals are fully implemented.

GTR's 8-point offer includes guarantees on conductors’ jobs until 2021, the life of GTR's franchise agreement, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed levels of overtime. [The full letter to Mick Cash of the RMT is below].

Now, in its new improved offer to the union, which GTR describes as "one final attempt to secure your engagement" to the migration of conductors to the new on-board supervisor (OBS) role – which includes responsibility for closing doors transferring to the driver, the train operator has offered conductors who move to the new OBS role a one-off £2,000 lump sum payment which would be paid in January.

Citing their understanding that many of the conductors are asking for a chance to express their views before further strike action, GTR is also calling on the RMT to accept the offer in full or, as a minimum, to put its offer to a vote by conductors and suspend further unnecessary strike action.

The letter to Mr Cash also makes clear that if the union does not agree in principle to the full offer by midday on Thursday, it will "regretfully proceed without the RMT's involvement" and serve notice letters to conductors affected, terminating their existing contracts and inviting them to sign up to the new OBS role to be effective from January 1st. GTR has also informed the union that the 8-point offer, assurances made previously and the £2,000 lump sum payment may be rescinded after Thursday's midday deadline.

Mr Cash has today also been invited by GTR management to meet for urgent face-to-face talks with them directly or through ACAS to discuss their offer and how to implement their modernisation proposals.

The letter to the RMT comes as Southern Railway today launches a major public information campaign to inform passengers of its offer to settle the strikes. Press ads, online ads, outdoor, station and train posters across the network entitled 'Let’s strike back' and 'Let's move forward', call on commuters to tweet @RMTunion #southernbackontrack to tell the union how they feel about the strikes.

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said:

"Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless and unnecessary dispute and we now need to bring a swift end to these strikes which have caused months of misery for hundreds of thousands of workers, children going to school, family days out and retired people. We have a responsibility to the travelling public and our staff and, after 10 months of dispute, these strikes are plaguing people's lives and enough is enough.

"The union and conductors have had an incredibly fair and comprehensive offer on the table for nearly two months with job security for at least five years, pay increases and overtime guaranteed. Today we are going the extra mile and offering our conductors a lump sum cash payment to be paid just after Christmas when they are getting on with their new roles giving fantastic service to our customers.

"We've given the RMT and our striking conductors a fair, clear and unambiguous plan that we intend to implement if they won’t do a deal. It's an incredibly reasonable offer and the union's arguments about safety and accessibility for disabled passengers are contrived. Independent experts have said that running trains with the driver closing the doors is safe and as a responsible operator we have always looked after customers with disabilities, and always will.

"The RMT needs to understand that this change is happening and we would prefer to work with them to ensure that it's achieved in a way that best protects the interests of our customers, our employees and the business. But no one should be in any doubt that the deadlines are fixed and immutable and we will press ahead if there is no deal by Thursday lunchtime. This dispute has to stop, and stop now."

ends

GTR letter to Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary 3 October

General Secretary

RMT

Unity House

39 Chalton Street

London

NW1 1LD

Dear Mick

Role of the Conductor - Southern (GTR)

I refer to previous correspondence on this matter and to the RMT’s press release announcing its intention to call further strikes in October, November and December, for which we have yet to receive formal notification.

In our letter of 5 April 2016, responding to the Ballot Notice, we set out our concerns about the lawfulness of the Ballot. We referred to the evidence which made clear that this dispute was really about the RMT’s policy position over DOO and so was not a lawful trade dispute.

I refer in this context to my letter of 8 August 2016 in which, following talks at ACAS, I set out an improved eight point offer (on top of previous commitments given to you) which addressed all of the matters which could be of concern to our conductor employees over their migration to become OBSs as part of the extension of DOO(P).

For ease of reference I set these out again:

1. Southern will guarantee that every train currently operated with a conductor will continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second member of on board employees diagrammed/rostered.

2. Southern guarantees that traditional conductors will retain current competence and will guarantee that the second member of on board employees will be trained to a ‘safety competent’ level including track safety training, train evacuation, traction competence and full commercial route knowledge (excluding train dispatch).

3. Southern will propose a list of exceptional circumstances, to be agreed with the RMT, whereby a train can continue in service without a second member of on board employees, for the benefit of customers.

4. These proposals, including the above guarantees, are dependent upon agreement that services with a second member of on board employees (rather than a traditional conductor) will have the driver in full control of train dispatch. Agreement for this to be implemented will be ratified at local level.

5. Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS role will be agreed with the RMT, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights.

6. A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development.

7. A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT.

8. A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise.

These eight points were on top of commitments already made to the RMT including:

  • No compulsory redundancies
  • No reduction in salary
  • No compulsory location moves
  • Guaranteed above inflation pay rise for the next two years
  • An increase in the existing “shift premia” to 20% over the next three years
  • A promise to increase the number of back up employees

It is disappointing that the RMT has failed even to acknowledge the offer, or engage with us on its details. In the best interests of your members, I would have thought that you would have given them an opportunity to vote on this offer before calling further industrial action. I note in this context your union’s democratic credentials and our understanding that many of our conductors are asking for a chance to express their views before further strike action and questioning why you are denying them the opportunity to consider this offer? Similar questions are being asked by many of our employees and our customers.

It seems to me that the real reason you are denying conductors the opportunity to consider an offer which gives unprecedented assurances, and potentially end the dispute, is that the RMT is pursuing its own agenda, and not the interests of its members and our employees. Plainly the Ballot is defective and industrial action taken in reliance upon the Ballot is unlawful. I reserve all of our rights in this regard.

As you know we are proceeding with our DOO(P) plans and implementation of the new OBS role, with a significant number of OBSs already in post and continuing recruitment. However, I am writing once more, to make one final attempt, to secure your engagement with the migration of the conductors who are becoming OBSs, before we issue formal notice on 7 October 2016, in accordance with the consultations earlier this year.

Our proposal to the RMT is as follows.

1. We will make a lump sum payment of £2,000 (less tax and NI) to all continuing conductors; conductors who migrate to an OBS role; and revenue employees who have already moved to an OBS role / performing the duties, in consideration for their co-operation with the successful implementation and operation of our proposals to extend DOO(P). This payment would be paid in January 2017, following the full implementation of our DOO(P) programme.

2. This payment will be subject to clawback provisions if the RMT conducts a further ballot over the implementation of our extension of DOO(P) or there is any failure to work normally during the implementation period.

3. We will fully honour the eight point offer and commitments set out above.

4. The RMT will accept these terms in full resolution of this dispute and will withdraw the Ballot, and will not take any further industrial action in reliance upon the Ballot, including cancelling the strikes announced in its press release of 22 September.

5. The RMT will instruct its members to co-operate fully with the planned extension of DOO(P) and the migration of conductors to OBS.

This offer remains open for acceptance until midday on Thursday 6 October 2016.

I very much hope that the RMT will now quickly engage with us and accept this offer. At the very least, you should accept this deal in principle and put this further improved offer to a referendum of your members and suspend further unnecessary strike action whilst a referendum takes place.

If you do not accept our offer then we will regretfully proceed without the RMT’s involvement to implement our plans without delay, including the issuing of notice later this week to those conductors moving to the OBS role. If this happens, you will understand that we cannot guarantee that the eight point offer or all of the commitments can remain in place.

Please understand that this change is happening and the further extensive strike action you have announced will not change our plans. We would prefer to work with the RMT to ensure that our plans are achieved in a way that best serves the interests of our customers; our employees; and the business. Now is the time for your Union to display leadership and bring an end to this pointless dispute, which is causing undue disruption and hardship to our customers and employees.

In the interests of speed and transparency we are sending copies of this letter direct to all affected employees and will provide them with an opportunity to discuss with us any questions they have.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to urgently discuss the contents of this letter, either directly or in the presence of ACAS. For the avoidance of doubt, after 10 months of trying to meaningfully engage with you on this issue, the deadlines in this letter are immutable.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Andy Bindon

Human Resources Director

Ends

Notes to Editors

For more information email press.office@gtrailway.com or call

  • Southern and Gatwick Express press office: 0203 750 2030
  • Thameslink and Great Northern press office: 0203 750 2031
  • Govia Thameslink Railway

    Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – services between Bedford and Brighton, Luton/St Albans and Sutton, Wimbledon and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – Fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria
  • GTR is now the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff: GTR carries about 326 million passenger journeys per year, employs around 6,500 people and generates annual passenger revenues of approximately £1.3bn.

    The GTR investment programme for stations includes funding for more CCTV, toilet refurbishments, new retail facilities, help points and car park improvements – as well as plans for increased motorcycle storage and improved transport integration.

    southernrailway.com, gatwickexpress.com, thameslinkrailway.com greatnorthernrail.com