SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: RMT strike affecting Southern

RMT pickets outside London Victoria station

RMT pickets outside London Victoria station

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My assessment is that many other employees would look with some envy at the guarantees on offer to rail staff.

On Tuesday at London Victoria I saw pickets outside, passengers arriving looking harassed, and the large board showed a limited departures list.

Sir Peter Bottomley

Sir Peter Bottomley

Station staff tried to give helpful information though not all were familiar with Southern services.

How could I reach Worthing? I was asked if there were usually direct services.

I could take the train to Brighton, hoping that there would be a coast train every 30 minutes.

This article aims to be balanced and helpful. I want the unions and the operators to reach agreement.

I do not think it helps to argue to abolish the legitimate role of unions representing the interests of members.

It achieves nothing to push for a change of operator. The sides are not far apart.

This week I have talked with RMT members.

The person from maintenance, like half the national media, did not know the proportion of services that presently have drivers operating the doors. Few knew which services have no conductor.

I said to the pickets that the differences cannot justify the difficulties imposed since April on pregnant passengers, on the elderly and on visitors to Britain.

There are many commuters who earn less than rail staff.

It is true that Southern has been understaffed – there has been too much reliance on rest day working and overtime.

Additionally, occupational health need to look at the sickness rate.

The high levels are at the least an indicator of low morale and shows perhaps that not everyone feels needed and valued at work.

What are Southern putting forward? The key points are on the website – see the guarantees.

Every train that now has a conductor will have a second member of staff trained to safety-competent standards, including track safety, train evacuation and full route knowledge. Train dispatch passes to the driver.

There needs to be joint agreement on a proposed list of exceptional circumstances when a train can run without a second member of staff on-board.

The on-board supervisor (OBS) role would be kept after 2021, should GTW retain the franchise. After the first year a joint review would include development of the OBS role, training and staff progression.

There are already commitments: no compulsory redundancies, no cut in salary, above-inflation pay-rise for two years, additional salary for voluntary overtime and no compulsory location moves.

The operators and the union members know the opening and shutting of doors has never been the key issue.

I represent rail staff and travellers, and I politely ask the union and their members to respect train users, people of all ages, who need to be able to rely on scheduled service every day.

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