Belfast Telegraph

Aslef agreement in Southern Railway row 'old deal in new envelope' says RMT

A deal aimed at resolving a long-running dispute on Southern Railway has been attacked by another union ahead of a meeting of train drivers to hear details of the agreement.

Leaders of Aslef are recommending acceptance after saying that drivers' concerns have been met.

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said it was an "old deal in a new envelope" which still did not guarantee a second, safety-critical person on all trains.

Aslef said it would not make any further statements until after the result of a ballot of its members on April 3. But it is understood the union believes the deal gives a guarantee of no extension of driver-only trains on Southern.

The agreement still sets out exceptions to a train leaving without a second member of staff on board, such as last-minute sickness or delay or having to deal with an emergency. But it is believed there are fewer exceptions than in a previous deal which was rejected by Aslef members, and these are no different from ones already in use.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "We have now had a chance to look at the detail and this is basically the old deal in a new envelope and RMT does not believe for a moment that drivers and guards will be hoodwinked.

"Drivers and passengers have still lost the cast-iron guarantee they once had of a guard on the train, which means they will now be more exposed and left vulnerable when something goes wrong.

"Disabled passengers will be seriously disadvantaged as access to train services is compromised.

"GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) bosses will be delighted at this proposed deal as no juggling or fiddling with words can disguise the fact that it gives the bosses the whip hand to continue to drive down safety and hammer down on the workforce.

"The fact is that GTR have deliberately done this deal behind the backs of guards and their union.

"The real agenda here is to undermine the jobs and skills of a loyal and dedicated workforce regardless of the cost to safety and accessibility."

RMT members on Southern have taken 30 days of strike action over the dispute.

Aslef leaders are meeting drivers later to explain details of the new agreement.