Southern train drivers’ deal a ‘shocking and historical betrayal’

Southern train SUS-160712-111231001
Southern train SUS-160712-111231001

A deal between train drivers’ and Southern bosses over the introduction of driver-only operated services has been branded a ‘shocking betrayal’ by one rail union.

Strikes by union ASLEF in December and January led to the complete shutdown of the Southern network for several days, but it suspended walkouts planned for late January to allow for talks to resume, hosted by the Trades Union Congress.

But last week the two parties announced a deal had been struck between the union and rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway, bringing the dispute to an end.

However, the RMT union, which represents conductors who are being transferred to the role of on-board supervisors as part of the changes, has yet to come to an agreement with GTR, and it labelled the deal a ‘shocking and historical betrayal’.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: “I welcome this agreement which is a significant step forward in addressing the safety concerns of ASLEF members on Southern Rail.

“ASLEF has never been against changes to working methods. Rather we believe any changes should be negotiated through agreed procedures. I am confident this deal can provide a safer and appropriately staffed railway for passengers on Southern Rail and I will be recommending it to our members.”

ASLEF is currently balloting its members on whether or not to accept the proposed deal.

Nick Brown, GTR’s chief operating officer, added: “Our aim has always been to reach agreement with the unions on our proposals and we’re delighted to have secured a deal today with ASLEF to end their dispute.

“It’s good news for passengers, the regional economy and staff. After the misery and disruption to people’s work and family lives, we are pleased we can start to move forward and deliver a better railway for the travelling public.”

Driver-only operation is where drivers are responsible for train doors, and the RMT has raised concerns about the potential loss of a second safety critical member of staff.

Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “This so-called agreement is a shocking and historical betrayal presided over by the TUC of not only the conductor grade and drivers, but also passengers, including disabled passengers, who have lost the guarantee of a second member of staff on their trains.

“This abysmal document lists a whole host of areas where a a train can leave without a second member of staff that will leave both the driver and passengers exposed and vulnerable and which also represents a thin end of the wedge that will lead to the destaffing of trains.”

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