Unions offer to suspend railways strikes for three months

A railways union has offered to suspend industrial action for three months if transport bosses delay controversial conductor proposals.

Passengers demonstrate at Brighton Station
Passengers demonstrate at Brighton Station

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has penned an open letter to Govia Thameslink director in an attempt to progress the impasse between the parties.

GTR is locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT over the future of conductors’ roles, with passengers experiencing months of delays and cancellations due to strikes and staff shortages.

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Southern plans to introduce Driver Only Operation trains, meaning drivers, instead of conductors, will monitor platforms before closing the doors.

The RMT argue this would cause series safety issues but Southern disputes this.

The union’s letter, by general secretary Mick Cash, read: “The RMT will suspend calling any further industrial (action) for the next three months if you will also suspend your proposals for a similar period.

“This will then allow us the time and space to sit down together and try and explore options that will seek to deliver the lasting improvements to service and reliability we all want.I do hope that you can respond positively to these proposals and I look forward to hearing from you.”

In response to the offer, GTR welcomed talks.

A spokesman said: “We welcome the offer of talks and a new approach from the RMT. We have been trying to actively engage them for the past six months. We welcome the suggested suspension of industrial action, but we don’t need three months to resolve this.

“We are ready to sit down with the RMT and discuss a way forward that we believe that they, our employees and customers will welcome, and can bring an end to this dispute.

“In the meantime we would ask the RMT to work with us, as previously requested, to address the main cause of the current service problems, which is the remarkably high levels of sickness amongst some RMT members.”

This newspaper has launched a campaign, calling for GTR to be stripped of its Sussex-wide rail franchise.