RMT confirms new strikes on Southern Rail

RMT confirms new strikes on Southern Rail

15 February 2017

RMT Press Office:

RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that guards and drivers on Southern Rail will strike again on the 22nd February in the on-going disputes over the safety impact of the extension of Driver Only Operation and the removal of guards from services.

Members will strike for 24 hours between 0001 hours and 2359 hours on Wednesday 22nd February 2017.

The announcement comes after talks between RMT and Southern in the guards dispute were deliberately wrecked yesterday by the company as they made a mockery of the negotiating process and chose to completely ignore the safety issues at the heart of the matter.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said:

“The abject failure by Southern Rail in yesterday’s talks to take the safety issues seriously has left us with no option but to confirm further action. These disputes could have been settled if Southern/GTR had listened to our case and given the guarantee of a second-safety critical member of staff on their trains.

“Instead they have shifted the goal posts even further and have now created a “strike breakers’ charter” where one of the numerous new conditions where trains can run driver-only is during industrial action.  That is simply scandalous and a measure of the betrayal of our members as a result of the TUC-brokered deal with Southern in the drivers’ dispute.”

“The full detail of Southern’s plan is far worse than anyone could have anticipated. This is dire news, not just for staff, but for passengers who rightly demand a safe, reliable and accessible service. RMT will not walk away from the fight for a railway that puts public safety before private profit.

“It is now down to Southern/GTR to face up to their responsibilities and engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues.”



      Referring to the Executive decision of 3rd February 2017, discussions have been held with GTR under the auspices of ACAS where it was confirmed that the deal with ASLEF is as damaging as we thought.

      Despite public comments promoting the deal I can advise you that it is not the case that the deal simply repeats the agreement with ASLEF covering DOO operation on the Brighton Mainline. In fact the new agreement significantly expands the number of routes that will now be DOO operation. The number of trains that will operate in DOO mode on Southern will double from 900 to 1800 every day, an increase from 40% to 78% of Southern services being DOO. The company also made it clear that all of Southern could now go DOO and the only factor preventing this was there were insufficient trains with the required CCTV.

      Also it is not the case that the list of circumstance in which a train can go without a Conductor on DOO route is the same as previously agreed with ASLEF. The list of circumstances has been increased and there is far more general flexibility to operate trains without OBS than there was with Conductors. Compared to previous arrangements not only has the number of routes on DOO operation been increased, the safeguards to ensure that the trains do not operate without a second person have been reduced. Previously the circumstances when a train could operate DOO without the Conductor did not include industrial action, now it does under the guise of OBS “absence.” contrary to public assertions by ASLEF that this is not a “strike breakers charter”, it clearly is.

      Additionally the deal does not guarantee a safety critical person on every train. As described above there are far more circumstances when the train can leave without the second person but it has also been clarified the OBS will definitely not be safety critical. Instead the OBS must take the initiative themselves and can volunteer (it is not compulsory) to be trained in a safety critical task related to dealing with circumstances when there is degraded infrastructure.  Therefore, even if the OBS is on a train they will not have the full range of safety critical competencies and if they have not volunteered will not even be trained in certain safety critical tasks.

      The deal is essentially the same that was rejected by this union in August and October 2016.

      The company informed us that despite the updated collective bargaining agreement agreed in 2009 which recognised the RMT for drivers, because we have small numbers in membership in the driver grade we would no longer be recognised for collective bargaining purposes for drivers, this is in effect a de-recognition of this union. This raises a dangerous precedent for other collective bargaining agreements where RMT is recognised for driver grades which the union may wish to guard against by being more active in the recruitment of drivers.

      I would also advise you that as well as our concerns regarding safety the deal has been widely criticised by established disability campaigners who have warned that the extension of routes which no longer have the guarantee of a second person will prevent many passengers from embarking and disembarking at unstaffed stations and who will no longer be able to plan to “turn up and go” on the effected routes.

      Finally, the deal reached with ASLEF was announced on Thursday 2 February 2017. The actual content of deal was leaked when it was sent to ASLEF members on 4th February. GTR had agreed with RMT that talks could take place on Tuesday 7th February and/or Wednesday 8th February  2017. It is now clear that the company pushed back the talks to prevent the true facts of the deal influencing the referendum of drivers and in doing so cancelled and delayed RMT pursuing effective negotiations with the company.

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Tagged with: southern, southern rail, gtr, doo, driver only operation, guards, conductors,