Southern Railway has called for fresh talks to try to resolve a bitter row over the role of conductors as a five-day strike from Monday to Friday caused more travel misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers his week.
The train operator, part of the giant Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise, said it would meet the Rail, Maritime and Transport union ‘any time, any place, anywhere’ to end the walkout.
The company said one in five conductors turned up for work yesterday, although the union maintained that support for the action was ‘solid’.
Southern published full details of an eight-point written offer to the union which was tabled during talks at conciliation service Acas last week, which collapsed without agreement.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT can confirm that we were within an inch of making progress towards boxing off a deal with Southern in Acas talks on Friday afternoon.
“We were just getting into the detailed wording when suddenly the plug was pulled and our legs were kicked from under us. We have it on good authority that the deal, which would have enabled us to suspend the Southern strike action this week, was sabotaged by the Government with their director of rail, Peter Wilkinson, directing operations from outside the talks.
“We are now taking our protest direct to the DfT (Department for Transport). We want the Government to stop weaponising the Southern dispute for political purposes and we want them to stop treating passengers and staff as collateral damage in a war that Peter Wilkinson has unilaterally declared on the rail unions.”
GTR Chief Executive Charles Horton said: “This comprehensive and incredibly fair offer is on top of existing commitments made on no compulsory redundancies, no reduction in salary, a guaranteed above-inflation pay rise for two years, additional salary paid to staff working voluntary overtime and no compulsory location moves.
“Everyone is sick and tired of this pointless, needless and senseless strike, which is so damaging to people’s everyday lives and the South East economy, and causing undue disruption and hardship to customers and employees.
“I urge the RMT to come back to the table to talk, have constructive and productive discussions on the way forward and shake hands on a deal. We are prepared to meet them directly or through Acas any time, any place, anywhere to let common sense prevail and give our customers back their trains and give them the service they expect.
“We urge them to call off this wretched strike and sit down and talk with us to end this dispute.”
Mr Cash has written to Charles Horton, Managing Director of the Southern franchise operator Govia, asking for talks to be held without any preconditions.