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Union offers suspension of industrial action over deadlocked rail dispute

Published 08/07/2016

Southern services have been disrupted because of industrial action and a shortage of train crew
Southern services have been disrupted because of industrial action and a shortage of train crew

A rail union involved in a bitter row over the role of conductors has offered to suspend industrial action for three months in a bid to break the deadlocked dispute.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union made the offer to Southern Railway, but only if the rail operator pulled back from making the changes.

Southern services have been disrupted for weeks because of industrial action, and a shortage of train crew, leading to daily delays and cancellations, causing misery for passengers.

The company is cancelling 341 trains a day from next week as a temporary measure aimed at making services more "resilient".

Southern's owner, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), has apologised to passengers for the disruption, and officials told a committee of MPs this week they were receiving complaints from people who had lost their jobs or were not getting home after work to see their children because of the delays.

In an open letter to GTR Chief Executive Charles Horton, RMT leader Mick Cash said: "I refer to the recent hearing at the Transport Select Committee, where we were both asked: What could be done to help resolve the current impasse?

"You will also be aware that we will have both had numerous conversations with passengers and their Members of Parliament who are asking that we go the extra mile in seeking a resolution to the dispute.

"I would therefore wish to develop the offer of the new approach I made at the Transport Select Committee.

"The RMT will suspend calling any further industrial for the next three months if you will also suspend your proposals for a similar period.

"This will then allow us the time and space to sit down together and try and explore options that will seek to deliver the lasting improvements to service and reliability we all want.

"I do hope that you can respond positively to these proposals and I look forward to hearing from you."

The company plans to make the changes next month, so that drivers will be responsible for closing doors.

Southern say there will be no job losses, and no-one will take a cut in salary, while the union believes conductors should retain a safety critical role.

A Southern spokesman said: "We welcome the offer of talks and a new approach from the RMT. We have been trying to actively engage them for the last six months.

"We welcome the suggested suspension of industrial action, but we don't need three months to resolve this.

"We are ready to sit down with the RMT and discuss a way forward that we believe that they, our employees and customers will welcome, and can bring an end to this dispute.

"In the meantime we would ask the RMT to work with us, as previously requested, to address the main cause of the current service problems, which is the remarkably high levels of sickness amongst some RMT members."

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