18 August 2017
RMT Press Office
RMT calls for further meeting with Transport Secretary over Southern Rail dispute as contractor GTR blocks round table talks
RAIL UNION RMT has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling again today asking for a further face to face meeting after Southern Rail contractor GTR snubbed union plans for round table talks involving all parties.
In his letter, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash says;
"I write further to my letters to you of the 8th and 9th August 2017, which passed with your letter of the 9th August (which was a follow up to our meeting) and correspondence from GTR on the 16th August.
I take seriously the desire expressed in your letter to ensure the future of the railways and that high customer facing staffing levels are important both now and in the future.
However you seem to indicate that we are seeking to inconvenience passengers on Southern by seeking the guarantee of a second safety critical person on the train. This seems at odds with our experience where we have made agreements on other new franchises involving brand new trains, which keep the guard on the train.
You admitted at our meeting that you did not have any statistics on trains being cancelled as a result of non-availability of guards. That is one of the reasons why we proposed the trial as it could achieve our shared objective of a guaranteed second member of staff on board every train with the most reliable and efficient possible service. I note your comment that the issue on Southern is a “rare localised problem” so surely we can come up with a solution that meets both our objectives of staffing the trains and providing a reliable service. We have agreed this with other franchises, so why not Southern?
I think it is really important that no party gets fixated on a view that says the only way to improve services is to remove the guarantee of a guard and introduce Driver Only Operation. I hope you will agree that we can explore all other options.
You will recall in my letter of 8th August 2017 I sought a four way meeting in order that all parties can get round the table to see if we could iron out a resolution to the current dispute. I did ask that you also the sought the commitment of your contractor GTR to this approach. I have just received a letter from GTR ruling out four way discussions on this matter but I have yet to hear from you on the Department’s position.
I am deeply concerned that I am hearing from your contractor blocking this suggestion but I have not, as of yet, had a response from yourself. In my letter of 8th August I did raise concern that GTR seem to be unilaterally preventing a way forward on this matter and I wonder whether this is happening again and as the client whether this also the Government’s position. If it is I would have appreciated hearing directly from yourself, rather than from your contractor.
We are still committed to working together to bring about a solution that will ensure a better railway service, safe, secure and accessible for all. We did agree at our last meeting that we would meet again if necessary and in light of the impasse with the company, I would now request that we do.
I look forward to hearing from you.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“The Southern Rail contractor GTR has knocked back RMT's approach for round table talks which leaves us facing a stalemate and that is totally unacceptable and at odds with what we agreed with Chris Grayling at our last meeting.
"It is now down to Mr Grayling to meet with us again and for him to bring his Southern Rail contractors into line. We cannot keep on going round the houses like this with the tail wagging the dog."