Southern bosses have agreed to talks to end a dispute with staff if the RMT union calls off strike action planned for early April.
The union has announced a 24-hour walkout on Tuesday April 4, which would be its 31st strike day in less than a year, over Govia Thameslink Railway’s plans to extend driver-only operation to the Southern rail network.
The RMT has raised safety concerns about the potential loss of a second-safety critical member of staff on Southern trains, as its members are being transferred from the role of conductors to on-board supervisors.
Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, has written to Mick Cash, the union’s general secretary, offering April 4 for talks but only if the RMT commits to suspending industrial action.
He said: “Our passengers, staff and the regional economy want certainty and an end to your industrial action, not a 24 hour truce.
“It’s disappointing that the RMT are now threatening a 31st day of strike action on 4 April. Over the past year we have met with the RMT countless times to try and settle your dispute. Unfortunately, each time has ended in disappointment.”
He asked the RMT to commit to ending industrial action to enable ‘constructive and goodwill talks aimed at finding a negotiated solution’.
Southern has been able to run 90 per cent of its normal service on each of the last two RMT strike days with more than half of conductors and OBS staff signing on to work.
In response Mr Cash said: “RMT has made it clear that we are looking for meaningful and constructive talks in respect of both the guards’ and drivers’ disputes on Southern Rail.
“On Friday we made a genuine and positive approach to the company to get that talks process back on track.
“This morning we have received a prompt response from Southern/GTR although we are surprised at the length of the timetable for talks that they are proposing.
“The company response to the RMT call for talks will now be given serious consideration by the union’s executive committee.”
Train drivers’ union ASLEF agreed a fresh deal with GTR last week and will now ballot its members on the fresh deal.
A previous agreement negotiated by the union’s leadership was rejected by the majority of its members.
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