By Phil Marsh

Five day Guards’ strike to take place on Southern despite ACAS talks

Published: 6th August 2016

Next up: Strike ballot by train drivers working for Gatwick Express and Southern

While the industrial action in Scotland seems to have been settled, industrial travails continue to dog the Govia network around London. Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR) proposals to settle the guards/conductors’ dispute led by the RMT union at ACAS were not successful and the strike commences on Monday 8 August and runs to Friday 12 August inclusive.

There were three days of talks at ACAS at the start of August where GTR tabled an eight-point compromise plan to the RMT in an attempt to settle the dispute thus preventing the strike taking place. The eight points that were rejected were:

1. Collective bargaining rights for the new OBS (On Board Services) role, ensuring that this group will have a voice within the organisation as well as full negotiation rights

2. A joint review of the OBS role after 12 months of operation, to look at role development, training and future career development

3. A guaranteed minimum level of voluntary overtime for all OBSs, the detail of which would be agreed with the RMT

4. A guarantee to retain the OBS role at the levels already guaranteed, beyond 2021, should GTR retain the franchise

5. Southern guarantee 2nd member of staff rostered to those trains that have them today

6. Conductors and OBS to retain safety competence including PTS and evacuation training, including non-dispatch route knowledge

7. Southern and RMT to agree a list of circumstances whereby a train would continue in service without a 2nd member of traincrew on board, in the interests of the customers

8. RMT to accept transfer of door-operation to the driver

These were over and above previously made commitments by GTR which were:

• No compulsory redundancies

• No reduction in salary

• No compulsory location moves

• A guaranteed, above-inflation pay-rise for the next two years

• An increase in the existing ‘shift premia’ (which is additional salary paid to staff for working voluntary overtime) to 20% over the next three years

• A promise to increase the number of back-up staff to help manage unplanned disruption – thereby ensuring the railway is staffed more in the future than it is today

They said:

Passenger Service Director Angie Doll said: “We have gone the extra mile with our compromise offer, but the RMT has made it clear they are not prepared to negotiate. They did not want to discuss the role of the On-Board Supervisor and remain rigidly opposed to evolving the role of on- board staff to focus more on customers. We are deeply disappointed and angry on behalf of our passengers at this stance, which will cause misery for our passengers and untold damage to the local economy in the southeast. The RMT’s strike is unnecessary, unacceptable and unjustified.

“We plan to have just as many services staffed with On-Board Supervisors as we do with Conductors today. We simply want the flexibility to be able to run a train without a second member of staff on board, if they are unavailable so we can get our passengers on their way. To provide assurances that we would do this only when absolutely necessary, we said we’d agree with the RMT a list of binding rules to dictate when this could happen – such as during severe disruption. Their refusal to even discuss this demonstrates their complete unwillingness to compromise.

“Our proposals match modern-day customer service to modern-day trains. The only difference is drivers will close the doors, freeing up our on-board staff to provide the best customer service. Our On-Board Supervisors will also be able to work on any service, which means more efficient working and fewer cancellations for our passengers.

“RMT’s plan to cease the dispute should GTR agree to the terms agreed in Scotland recently is a complete red herring. This amounts to a continuation of the current operating model and delivers none of the punctuality and customer service benefits we are determined to deliver to our passengers”.

Southern week-long RMT conductors’ strike train plan 8-12 August

Southern expects to run nearly 60% of its normal timetable during the strike period using extra conductors and there will be extra staff at stations to assist passengers.

But there will still be some routes without trains and many others with limited services running between 0700hrs and 1800hrs.

They said:

Govia Thameslink Railway Passenger Service Director Angie Doll said: “We are sorry that our passengers once again look set to suffer further disruption because of the RMT. “This action is not necessary. Our new on-board supervisors will no longer close the doors, a task that passes to the driver with the aid of CCTV. This will cost no-one their jobs, and frees up staff on board trains to better serve passengers.

“As many services will have staff on board as they do today and our on-board staff will have an improved role which better meets the needs of passengers, securing their valued position on the railway for the long-term.

“And there will be fewer train cancellations in future: currently, conductors are tied to specific routes and services, but the new on-board supervisor will be able to go anywhere on our network, significantly reducing the perennial problem of train cancellations due to conductors not being available when they’re delayed by disruption, for example.”

And after the strike?

Southern’s temporary timetable will continue for at least three weeks after the strike ends but with one major addition to the last month. Services will resume between Clapham Junction and Watford junction via, Imperial Wharf, West Brompton, Kensington Olympia, Shepherds Bush, Wembley Central and Harrow & Wealdstone.

More trouble looms

Train drivers working for Southern and Thameslink are being balloted for strike action which could take place in September. Their previous strike action was stopped after legal action taken against them. will monitor the situation.

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