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Union recommends drivers accept deal to end Southern Rail dispute

Leaders of the Aslef union are recommending that their members accept the deal.

Southern Rail drivers are to be balloted on a proposed deal to end their long-running dispute about driver-only trains, and a five-year pay deal worth 28.5%.

Leaders of the Aslef union are recommending that their members accept the deal, saying it guarantees a second, safety-trained, person on every train, except in “very exceptional” circumstances.

Two previous attempts by Aslef leaders to reach an agreement were rejected in ballots, but general secretary Mick Whelan said the new proposal offered a “complete resolution” to the 18-month-long dispute.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has not been involved in the latest talks between Aslef and Southern’s owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, and remains in dispute over the role of guards.

Mick Whelan said the proposed agreement would resolve their issues with Southern.

Mr Whelan said: “Aslef members now have the opportunity to decide on the new proposed resolution we have negotiated with the company on the three outstanding issues we have with GTR Southern.

“In separate, but parallel, talks our negotiating team discussed three distinct issues, driver-only operation (DOO), terms and conditions, and pay.

“The proposed agreement on DOO means we will have a second safety-trained person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances.

“That person will have all the relevant safety competence including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency.

“The proposed agreement confirms and underpins the terms and conditions under which our members at Southern are employed.”

An Aslef picket line at London Bridge station during the 18-month dispute.

The proposed deal includes a 28.5% pay increase over the next five years, from last October, to the end of Southern’s franchise, said Aslef.

Mr Whelan said the proposed agreement has the full support of the union’s negotiating team, and Aslef’s executive committee.

“This is, we think, a complete resolution of our long-standing issues with Southern but it is, I must stress, company-specific and does not have implications for any other company on the railway network.”

Ballot papers will be sent to members on October 24 and the result will be announced on November 8.

Nick Brown, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We welcome the Aslef executive’s endorsement of the proposals we have negotiated to resolve the dispute.

“We have concluded negotiations on pay, productivity and driver only operation in a package that will now be put to a referendum of Aslef members.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Once again, RMT has been excluded from these negotiations and from what we have seen so far this is exactly the sort of deal that Southern and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have been hoping for and which drivers and guards have been fighting against.

“This is just a rehash of earlier company and government proposals that have been roundly rejected as unsafe.

“That trains can run without a second safety critical member of staff on board in any circumstances is DOO, pure and simple.

“It is shocking that Southern and the Government believe that drivers can be bought off in this fashion. You cannot put a price on the safety and welfare of passengers and drivers.

“The proposals also fly in the face of agreements reached in Wales and Scotland that give the guarantee of a guard on our trains.

“RMT will continue to fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all and our dispute remains on.”

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