The RMT slams Aslef's fresh agreement with Southern rail as "the old deal in a new envelope"

Rebecca Smith
Aslef's latest agreement will be put to members in a referendum - the result of which will be announced on 3 April
Aslef's latest agreement will be put to members in a referendum - the result of which will be announced on 3 April (Source: Getty)

Secretive talks to reach a new agreement over the Southern rail strikes came to fruition yesterday, but the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union hasn't been won over.

Train drivers' union Aslef and Southern's parent firm Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had been holding fresh talks in London after a previous agreement was dashed when members turned it down in a referendum.

Read more: The moment we've all been waiting for: Southern and Aslef make a deal

They reached a new agreement yesterday, which will now be put to the union's members, after Aslef boss Mick Whelan said it had "the full support of the negotiating team and the executive committee".

But the RMT, which is still in dispute with Southern over changes to the role of the guard, has called it "the old deal in a new envelope".

General secretary Mick Cash said:

We have now had a chance to look at the detail and this is basically the old deal in a new envelope and RMT does not believe for a moment that drivers and guards will be hoodwinked.

Cash said both drivers and passengers had lost "the cast-iron guarantee" they once had of a guard on a train, which the union says will mean they will be left vulnerable when something goes wrong.

"The fact is that GTR have deliberately done this deal behind the backs of guards and their union. Yet again guards are finding out at the last minute and via social media not from their employer," Cash said. "The real agenda here is to undermine the jobs and skills of a loyal and dedicated workforce regardless of the cost to safety and accessibility."

Read more: Train operators scrabble to see off more strikes after Southern row spreads

The issue has related to whether train services are permitted to operate, if there is no second person available.

Aslef feels the deal has been tweaked enough to secure agreement from its drivers. There are greater assurances of safety with on-board supervisors receiving training, and there will be faster implementation of better CCTV.

However, there isn't a guarantee of no guard equalling no train, which the RMT has consistently called for.

GTR director Andy Bindon said of the deal: "We’ve had constructive talks with Aslef and we’re pleased we’ve been able to secure a recommended deal, subject to approval from its members, to end their dispute. It’s been an extraordinarily difficult period for passengers, staff and the regional economy and we are glad we’ve found a way to move forward together. We look forward to restoring good industrial relations with Aslef."

Both Aslef and GTR said they won't comment further until the referendum result is announced.

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