Southern have called for face-to-face talks with the RMT union to end a dispute between the two after a three-day strike began today (Tuesday October 11).
The union has objected to plans by rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors, which would see drivers open and close train doors.
The RMT has raised concerns about the potential loss of a second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.
It has already held five walkouts this year, and this week is the first of five planned between now and Christmas.
This afternoon Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, has offered to meet RMT general secretary Mick Cash tomorrow (Wednesday) for face-to-face talks to try and find a solution to end their six-months dispute.
He has informed Mr Cash: “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.”
Mr Horton said: “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. The union is 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 them throughout.
“Our proposals remain unchanged from 8 August when we set out 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 the RMT rejected last week. Let’s hope sense prevails and we can shake hands on a deal.”
Meanwhile in a letter to Mr Horton, Mr Cash said: “Our organisations have now been in dispute for over six months and we are now in the middle of the first part of a new wave of strike action. Our organisations have held many talks and discussions and I have personally met many of your most senior staff.
“Your negotiators have also now stated quite clearly that they will no longer attend any further talks organised by Acas, while your company has also now issued three legal challenges to my union’s ballot and strike action over recent days.
“Up till now – and despite my previous requests – I have yet to meet you face to face to discuss ways of resolving this dispute and avoiding strike action.
“I heard your comments on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning in which you stated that ‘absolutely’ there would be a second member of staff on board every train.
“This, however, is in total contradiction to what I was told by your Passenger Services Director Angie Doll at a meeting on 6th October.
“To explore your comments further, therefore, and to break the obvious deadlock that our organisations have reached during this dispute, it is imperative that we both meet personally to find a way to end this dispute and get your services running to the benefit of both your staff and the travelling public.
“We really must end the war of words being waged over the media and sit down together to resolve this issue and your comments this morning provide an opportunity to do just that.
“I therefore look forward to a positive response to my request for a meeting as a matter of extreme urgency and your urgent confirmation that you are now guaranteeing a second member of staff on board every train.”
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