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Southern and RMT Dispute: Talks end without a deal

Talks between the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) and Southern rail have broken down.Conciliation service Acas confirmed discussions ended without the two sides reaching agreement and there are no plans to resume on Wednesday.

Southern’s parent firm Govia Thameslink (GTR) said it had hoped to end the 10-month row over guards’ roles on trains but were “saddened” talks had ended.

The RMT said the rail operator had blocked serious negotiations.

The bitter dispute centres on Southern’s desire to turn guards into on-board supervisors. As such, they lose responsibility for opening and closing carriage doors, with that role falling to the drivers.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It soon became clear that the only thing Southern were interested in was bulldozing through driver-only operation further and faster with safety and access to services not even on their agenda.”

Describing the development as “dire news” for both staff and passengers who wanted a safe, reliable and accessible service, he said: “RMT’s negotiating team is furious at the way this union and its members have been treated.”

GTR’s chief operating officer Nick Brown said: “The travelling public will find the union’s obstinate refusal to engage in meaningful and constructive talks disappointing, disheartening and increasingly destructive.”

He said conductors in the RMT transferred to the new on-board supervisor role at the beginning of last month, and the company had fully implemented its modernisation programme with the driver opening and closing the doors and a second person focused on customer service.

“Everyone is sick and tired of the RMT’s strikes and their pointless and intransigent stance needs to stop,” he added.

A statement issued by Acas said: “Conciliation talks have ended without the sides reaching agreement. Our services remain available.”

Two unions – the RMT and Aslef – have been in dispute with the train operator.

Drivers’ union Aslef reached a deal with Southern on 2 February. However, the RMT was not involved and called the agreement a “betrayal”.

The Aslef deal includes details of circumstances when a train can be operated as driver-only, without an on-board supervisor.

About 900 of its members have been voting on whether to accept the deal, with ballot papers expected to be returned by Thursday.

© BBC

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