Safety on Southern services is ‘not for sale for a £2,000 bribe’, according to a rail union.
The RMT has already held five strikes this year over rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to change the role of guards to on-board supervisors, and is due to hold another five walkouts totalling 14 days between now and Christmas.
This would see drivers open and close train doors and guards have objected to the changes on safety grounds, which they argue would lead to the removal of a second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.
In an attempt to end the dispute, GTR has tabled a new offer which it described as ‘fair, clear, and unambiguous’, including a £2,000 lump sum payment to all guards if the dispute ends and GTR’s proposals are fully implemented.
But Mick Cash, RMT general secretary said: “RMT is making it clear this morning that jobs, safety and access on Southern rail services are not for sale for £2000. This dispute has never been about money, it is about guaranteeing that there is a second, safety-critical member of staff on-board the current Southern rail services.
“The union is ready for talks and has been throughout. There is a ready-made solution to this dispute and that is based on the Scotrail deal that guarantees that second member of staff on all services with the safety competencies to deal with incidents like the recent landslip and derailment at Watford where the guards were crucial in averting a major disaster.
“Despite the Southern spin, this dispute is not solely about the doors, it is about giving passengers that safety guarantee that goes with the second member of staff on the train. If that guarantee is good enough for Scotland it should be good enough for Southern.
“RMT will be responding positively to the call for talks but we will not be caving in to ultimatums that put a £2000 bounty on our members heads and which try to bribe us into selling out on the core issues of rail safety and disabled access.”
Earlier today 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.”
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