Southern rail will agree to fresh talks with the RMT if the union suspends all strike action

Rebecca Smith
Southern rail passengers have suffered months of disruption as a row rages on over the role of the guard
Southern rail passengers have suffered months of disruption as a row rages on over the role of the guard (Source: Getty)

Southern owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has extended an olive branch to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union. Well, sort of.

The train company has offered to meet the RMT for fresh face-to-face talks if the union suspends industrial action in its year-long dispute over changes to the role of the guard.

Read more: Southern rail strike saga continues: The RMT sets fresh 24-hour walkout

Last week, the union announced plans for a walkout on 4 April, which will be its 31st strike day on Southern, but said that would not go ahead if GTR gave a firm date for "genuine and meaningful talks".

General secretary Mick Cash, said: "All parties should be at the negotiating table and RMT's continued exclusion means we have no option but to press ahead with further industrial action."

Southern boss Charles Horton has now written to Cash offering talks on the 4 April, but only if the union commits to suspending its industrial action.

Horton said in the letter:

Our passengers, staff and the regional economy want certainty and an end to your industrial action, not a 24 hour truce.

Over the past year we have met with the RMT countless times to try and settle your dispute. Unfortunately, each time has ended in disappointment.

GTR wants the union to end its strikes on Southern to enable "constructive and goodwill talks aimed at finding a negotiated solution".

Cash said the talks offer "will now be given serious consideration" by the union's executive committee.

“RMT has made it clear that we are looking for meaningful and constructive talks in respect of both the guards’ and drivers’ disputes on Southern rail," he said. “On Friday we made a genuine and positive approach to the company to get that talks process back on track. This morning we have received a prompt response from Southern/GTR although we are surprised at the length of the timetable for talks that they are proposing."

Southern has also been involved in a dispute with train drivers' union Aslef over the role of the guard. They reached a fresh agreement last week, after an earlier deal was rejected by members of the union in a referendum.

The result of the new referendum will be announced on 3 April.

Read more: The RMT slams fresh Southern agreement as "the old deal in a new envelope"

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