Commenting on the outcome of today’s talks with the RMT, Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said:
"Yesterday, the RMT leadership asked to meet with me and I cleared my diary this morning to listen to what they had to say. I made it crystal clear to the union yesterday, once again, that we are moving forward implementing our proposals and any agreement with the union had to be on the basis of these principles. (See content of Mr Horton’s letter to Mick Cash in Note to Editors below).
“In the space of a week, we've now met twice for face-to-face talks to try and reach agreement but, incredibly, they have absolutely nothing new to say - today, last week, last month - which helps us move forward. They raise everyone’s hopes by stating they want to end the dispute but then dash them by their continued head in the sand position.
In its proposals, Southern has guaranteed that every train which has a conductor today will have a conductor or on board supervisor in the future. However, on trains where the driver has full control of train, if for any reason an on board supervisor is unavailable we want the flexibility to still run the train for the benefit of our passengers.
“Now what the RMT is asking us to do if that second person is not available, is to guarantee we’ll cancel the train. That is simply not an option. Customers will come first, not the union, and we are not allowing them to maintain the power to control when a train is cancelled”, said Mr Horton.
“We are modernising our railway and want the driver operating the train with the guaranteed second member of on-board staff looking after customers, not doors. My number one priority is to introduce these changes to improve the customer service we give our passengers and, after months of horrendous travel misery, get them where they want to be on our trains, safely and on time.
“There is a full and fair offer on the table that most workers would love to have – a guaranteed job for five years, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed overtime. The union has advised its members to accept the new role and they can be assured this change is happening.”
Note to editors:
An example of when we might run without a second person would be at times of disruption if an on-board supervisor was delayed on an inbound train and couldn’t get to his next train on time. In this circumstance we might let the train leave with the no second person, and arrange for an on-board supervisor to join part way through journey at an intermediate station. The RMT would expect us to cancel the train entirely, unnecessarily inconveniencing hundreds of passengers.
Below is the full content Charles Horton sent to Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, yesterday:
11 October, 2016
Thank you for your letter this morning.
To be clear, our proposals remain unchanged from 8 August when we set out to you our full, fair and comprehensive 8-point offer, on top of previous assurances made to you. These were supplemented by the offer of a lump sum payment on the 3 October, which you rejected on 5 October.
I concur with you wholeheartedly that this dispute needs to end, and end now. Everyone – the travelling public, our staff and the regional economy - have faced months of misery and disruption, and again today. We have to end this dispute now and move forward.
You are well aware from our actions of last Friday that we are taking the necessary steps to implement our proposals. It would be beneficial to everyone if we can do so with the agreement of the RMT, but this has to be on the basis of the principles we have made clear to you throughout:
- that those services that currently run with a conductor, and will run DOO(P) in future, will have a safety trained OBS diagrammed on each service, however on occasions the train may leave without the OBS on board.
- that the OBS will have no operational responsibility for the movement of the train.
With this in mind, I would be happy to meet with you for face-to-face talks to find a way in which you can agree to the above and end the dispute and, importantly, agree a way forward to implement our proposals as quickly as possible.
I’m prepared to free my diary from tomorrow morning onwards to meet and to show your serious intent, I would like the RMT to call off the rest of the strike action planned for this week.
I think our talks would be more productive if we limit the number of people in the room. For my part, I will be joined only by Andy Bindon. I would suggest that with you are accompanied by Mick Lynch.
I hope the four of us can sit round a table and, once and for all, find a solution to move forward.
I look forward to hearing from you.