Belfast Telegraph

RMT and Transport Secretary in 'full and frank' talks over disputes

The biggest rail workers' union has held "full and frank" talks with the Transport Secretary in a bid to resolve disputes over staffing and driver-only trains at a number of operators.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said Chris Grayling now had a "clear understanding" of the union's position after the hour-long meeting.

The talks were arranged to try to break the deadlock over disputes on Southern Rail, Arriva Rail North and Merseyrail. Mr Grayling said more rail workers would be needed to cope with the increasing popularity of rail travel.

Mr Cash said: "RMT has met with Chris Grayling this afternoon and we have had a full and frank exchange of views and the Secretary of State has now had an opportunity to get a clear understanding of RMT's position on Southern Rail and the broader issue of how the extension of driver-only operation impacts nationally on other rail franchises.

"RMT will supply Mr Grayling with a copy of the union's clear and viable proposals for resolving the Southern dispute and the minister has agreed to meet us again.

"We will also be seeking further meetings with Southern and the other train companies as we seek to move forwards in the interests of safe and accessible rail services for all.

"Finally the Secretary of State agreed that we would also have further discussions regarding our concerns in respect of the loss of skilled rail jobs as a result of the scaling-back of network rails renewals programme."

Mr Grayling said he was happy to offer long-term guarantees for jobs in the industry.

A spokesman said the minister doesn't want passengers to be inconvenienced, adding that in some instances, what the RMT is asking for will inconvenience passengers.

"Mr Grayling is happy to meet the RMT again if that is helpful, stressing that the purpose of talks was to try and get RMT in the right place so they can reopen their negotiations with Southern's owners Govia Thameslink Railway," the spokesman said.

Mr Grayling said: "I was happy to meet with the RMT and re-iterate the offer of long-term commitments to staff who work in the rail industry.

"We want more people helping passengers on our trains, not fewer.

"I want staff to receive the right training, but above all passengers must receive the high quality services they deserve.

"I hope today's meeting paves the way for the reopening of negotiations between the union and Southern so we can sort out this situation and get services back to normal."