“[Southern boss] Charles Horton has repeatedly promised publicly to retain a second safety-critical member of staff on his trains but as soon as it comes to direct talks the pledge melts away," said RMT general secretary Mick Cash. "That is the main reason why we are forced again to put on further strike action."
He said there remained "a golden opportunity" between now and the next phase of industrial action for "serious and genuine talks" to get started. The train operator has been embroiled in a long-running dispute with the union over the role of the guard.
A Southern spokesperson said: “Charles [Horton] invited the RMT to fresh talks but we’ve had no dates or times from them.
“We remain ready to meet the RMT leadership, as we do Aslef, anytime, any place, anywhere to find a way to end their disputes. These strikes are not about safety; it’s purely about the unions trying to turn the clock back, hang on to outmoded working practices, which technology now eradicates, and union power."
It comes after Southern rail owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said it was taking train drivers' union Aslef to the Supreme Court, after an earlier High Court bid to stop the union's industrial action failed.
In a statement the train operator said: “GTR is determined to protect its passengers and its business from unlawful industrial action. GTR is therefore prepared to continue its legal claim to the Supreme Court, as it believes that it has an arguable case that the industrial action is unlawful under EU law.”
Aslef's general secretary Mick Whelan said the union had been forced to go on strike "by an intransigent management that has not been prepared to negotiate with us" and that he hoped the train operator "will see sense and sit down" for fresh talks.
Three days of walkouts were planned for this week, with tomorrow the last day of the action, though three more dates are set for later this month.
Aslef has also instructed drivers to adhere to an overtime ban which is causing further disruption.
Planned Southern rail strike dates:
- Friday 13 January
- Monday 23 Janaury
- Tuesday 24 January
- Wednesday 25 January
- Friday 27 Janaury