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ASLEF to ballot Southern Rail train drivers over strike

ASLEF, the trade union for train drivers, is to ballot its members who work on Southern Railways for industrial action after last-ditch talks to resolve a dispute failed.

The news comes as members of the RMT union began their latest three-day strike over proposed changes to the role of conductors on trains.

Yesterday, Southern Rail said a £2,000 lump sum is back on the table if the RMT union put the firm's latest offer to a referendum.

"We have genuinely sought to reach a compromise with Southern.

"We have always been prepared to talk to the company, and we have always been of the view that it is, or should be, possible to do a deal – as we did with ScotRail – but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate. They want to impose, not to discuss. They have dug in their heels and forced us to ballot our members.

"Our trade dispute with the company is that there should be no introduction and/or extension of new driver-only operated routes on Southern without the agreement of ASLEF."

– Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF


Conductors told accept the deal on offer or face the sack

The operators of Southern Rail have told the main rail union, the RMT - unless they settle the dispute and accept the deal on offer, workers will be sacked.

Govia Thameslink say the union must agree and call off the strikes by Thursday, or they will have no choice. They say the dispute has brought misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers, and this ultimatum is all that's left to them.

But the RMT says the changes would threaten safety and security, and are adamant they won't give way. Here's Andy Dickenson with today's dramatic development.

Union bosses respond to rail operator's ultimatum

RMT bosses have responded to GTR's take-it-or-leave-it deadline, set in a bid to end its ongoing industrial dispute.

GTR has offered a £2,000 payment to conductors once the dispute is settled. It also guarantees jobs until 2021. Staff have until midday on Thursday to agree - or lose their jobs.

Mick Lynch, RMT Union, says the union will reject the offer, because the dispute is "purely about safety and not about money":

Southern conductors given ultimatum: take lump sum or face losing job

Credit: ITV News Meridian

The operators of Southern Rail have issued the RMT union with an ultimatum - conductors must take a £2,000 settlement or face losing their job.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) says the union must agree on a deal to call off the rail strikes by Thursday. GTR bosses say they have set out a fair and clear plan to settle the 10 month dispute over the role of conductors. The RMT says the changes would threaten safety and security.

GTR's 8-point offer includes guarantees on conductors’ jobs until 2021, the life of GTR's franchise agreement, above-inflation pay increases for the next two years and guaranteed levels of overtime.

GTR have warned the union that if the offer is not accepted by Thursday's deadline, it will "regretfully proceed without the RMT's involvement" and serve notice letters to conductors affected, terminating their existing contracts and inviting them to sign up to the new OBS role to be effective from January 1st. The company also warns that the offer - including the £2,000 lump sum payment - may be rescinded after the deadline.

Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless and unnecessary dispute and we now need to bring a swift end to these strikes which have caused months of misery for hundreds of thousands of workers, children going to school, family days out and retired people. We have a responsibility to the travelling public and our staff and, after 10 months of dispute, these strikes are plaguing people's lives and enough is enough.

– Charles Horton, Chief Executive, GTR

Seaford's trains return but there's trouble down the line

It's been left with almost no trains for the last eleven weeks, but today the town of Seaford in Sussex began to get back on track.

Southern Rail introduced its emergency timetable over the summer, cutting more than 300 services across the region.

Some, at least, have been restored, but there's more trouble looming for commuters, as Malcolm Shaw reports.


RMT announces more Southern strike dates

Strikes are planned in October, November and December Credit: Press Association

The rail union, RMT, have confirmed a series of strikes in the row over the role of guard on Southern rail trains.

Union bosses say Southern Rail is insistent on removing the safety-trained guards from the trains. It's a critical role that the RMT and disability campaigners say must stay.

The RMT describes the company's decision as a "blatant disregard for the safety and security of passengers and staff alike", leaving it with no alternative but to declare [strike] action"

These strikes are scheduled to take place:

  • 00.01 on Tuesday 11th October and 23.59 on Thursday 13th October
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 18th October and 23.59 on Thursday 20th October
  • 00.01 on Thursday 3rd November and 23.59 on Saturday 5th November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 22nd November and 23.59 on Wednesday 23rd November
  • 00.01 on Tuesday 6th December and 23.59 on Thursday 8th December

Here is the RMT's full statement:

Yet again our members are being forced to take industrial action in a bid to maintain a safe and secure service on Southern. Govia Thameslink and the Government have made it clear that they have no interest in resolving this dispute. Instead they have begun the process of bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale Driver Only Operation (DOO) without agreement and without any concern for the impact on safety, security and disability access. Last week there was a train derailment near Watford that involved two trains. The Guards on both trains played a vital role in protecting the passengers and the trains in what were extremely frightening circumstances. If the train had been DOO and without a Guard the consequences would have been far worse. This week we reached a deal with Scotrail that we are recommending for acceptance in a referendum of our members, that guarantees a fully competent Conductor/Guard on every new train. This agreement protects passengers, and guarantees a second safety trained member of staff on board a train, who can assist if there is an incident such as we recently saw near Watford. If an agreement can be reached on Scotrail, then an agreement can also be made on Southern. In the light of these recent developments it is disgraceful that neither the company or the Government are prepared to engage and are continuing to attempt to impose DOO in the interests of putting profit before safety. We call on them to get round the negotiating table as an urgent priority."

– RMT General Secretary Mick Cash

Best foot forward - commuters ditch the train and walk

We've heard a lot in recent weeks about the misery experienced by commuters on Southern Rail, but two brothers from Sussex decided enough was enough.

Isaac and Otis Kirby-Dunkley were so frustrated by train delays and cancellations that they walked all the way home to Worthing from London Victoria.

The journey of 70 miles took them three days, as Malcolm Shaw reports.

Strike-hit Southern Rail still worst train operator

After months of chaos and disruption, official figures released today confirmed what many Southern Rail passengers already suspected - that the level of service has been appalling.

Between April and June, one in 10 trains run by Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink, were cancelled or ran more than 30 minutes late.

And the company was the worst performing of all rail operators - with its highest recorded levels of disruption in 12 years.

Meanwhile, disabled passengers say they fear it'll become more difficult for them to travel by train - if proposed changes to the role of conductors go ahead. Malcolm Shaw reports.

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