Valentine’s Day talks for Southern and rail union


Fresh talks between Southern bosses and rail union RMT are set to begin next week on Valentine’s Day.

Train drivers’ union ASLEF and rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway reached an agreement last week over the introduction of driver-only operation on the Southern network.

But the RMT union, whose members have been transferred from conductors to on-board supervisors as part of the changes, branded the deal a ‘shocking and historical betrayal’.

Now the union has agreed to meet Southern for talks hosted by mediation service Acas on Tuesday February 14, but it has challenged the company to publicly commit to a second safety critical member of staff on every train

In a letter to Charles Horton, GTR’s chief executive, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “I note that it has publicly been declared that the deal which was tabled and agreed at the TUC co-chaired talks secures a second safety critical member of staff on ‘every train’ and ‘guarantees a second person on Southern Trains’. Can you confirm that this is your interpretation of the same agreement?”

ASLEF is currently balloting its members on whether or not to accept the agreement, with Simon Weller, ASLEF’s assistant general secretary, suggesting there had been ‘serious misunderstandings about this deal’.

He said: “As drivers, we want a second safety-critical person on every train and that is what we have got. This deal guarantees a second person on Southern trains.

“There are some exceptions, to allow trains to run without a second safety-critical person, and they are the same as they are at the moment, with two exceptions: [i] unauthorised absence, such as when an OBS [on-board supervisor], who has been booked, has a flat tyre at very short notice on the way to work, and a train can be run driver only while they find another OBS; [ii] a pandemic, a sort of ‘zombie apocalypse’, but such mass sickness will, of course, affect drivers as much as other grades.”

He added: “The company wanted driver only operation, but that is not what it has got. Drivers might operate the doors but Southern Rail trains will run, with rare exceptions, with two safety-critical people on board.

“Looking to the future, we want to negotiate – we will do a deal – but we are not going to have new working conditions imposed. Southern knows that now.”

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