BRITAIN’S largest rail union reiterated its call for cross-party talks to end the Southern rail dispute yesterday, ahead of fresh strikes tomorrow.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said he was “hearing reports that a deal has been agreed with [drivers’ union] Aslef and GTR [Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Southern franchise] regarding the driver-only operation dispute.”
Aslef said a deal had not been struck, and the Star understands offi cials from the drivers’ union are set to meet bosses to resume negotiations next week.
Members of both unions have been involved in a bitter dispute with Southern for more than a year over its plans to run driver-only-operated trains and deskill the roles of guards on the network.
RMT members on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail will walk out on Friday and Monday in strikes over similar issues. The government has encouraged rail operators to switch to driver-only operation since it was recommended in a 2009 report.
Mr Cash said: “We cannot have a situation where RMT guards and driver members are being forced to take further industrial action on Southern from Friday while the company, with we assume the approval of the Transport Secretary, are off cutting reported deals which have a clear relevance to our dispute.
“That is a nonsense and reinforces RMT’s call for round-table discussions.”
A spokesman for Southern said: “Discussions with Aslef are ongoing and we continue to work hard to reach a resolution to this long-running and unnecessary dispute.”
Prior to its own industrial action, Aslef faced repeated legal challenges from Southern’s owners to get strikes declared illegal.
Aslef members have rejected two offers recommended by the union — both of which offered concessions in exchange for drivers taking responsibility for closing train doors. The Star understands Aslef considers there to be several signifi cant issues to be resolved before a resolution can be reached.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We would look at the responses of the other parties involved and then consider our position, which has been consistent, due to the litigation and the associated decisions impacting on Aslef.”