Train drivers’ union Aslef and Govia Thameslink Railway, the parent company of Southern Rail, have reached a proposed resolution to their long-running industrial dispute, in a deal that will see drivers receive a 28.5 per cent pay rise over the next five years.
The union said the new agreement will now be put to its members at Southern Rail in a referendum, with a recommendation from the union’s executive committee to accept. Subject to the support of Aslef members, the dispute between the union and Southern, which began in April last year, will be over. However, a series of previous proposed deals have been rejected by Aslef members.
Three distinct issues discussed
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: "In separate, but parallel, talks our negotiating team discussed three distinct issues - driver only operation (DOO), terms and conditions, and pay.
"The proposed agreement on DOO means we will have a second safety-trained person on every train covered by this agreement except in exceptional circumstances. That person will have all the relevant safety competence including the skills to evacuate passengers in an emergency."
He added: "The proposed agreement confirms and underpins the terms and conditions under which our members at Southern are employed.
"The proposed agreement will give our drivers a 28.5 per cent increase over the next five years. It covers the October 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 pay settlements. This deals with the outstanding pay claim that we were previously unable to address and provides a structured deal which will see us through to the end of the franchise.
"This proposed agreement has the full support of the negotiating team, and Aslef’s executive committee. This is, we think, a complete resolution of our long-standing issues with Southern but it is, I must stress, company-specific and does not have implications for any other company on the railway network."
Nick Brown, chief operating officer at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We welcome the Aslef executive’s endorsement of the proposals we have negotiated to resolve the dispute. We have concluded negotiations on pay, productivity and driver only operation in a package that will now be put to a referendum of Aslef members."
However, the RMT union was not happy with the news.
"Once again RMT has been excluded from these negotiations and from what we have seen so far this is exactly the sort of deal that Southern and Chris Grayling have been hoping for and which drivers and guards have been fighting against. This is just a rehash of earlier company and government proposals that have been roundly rejected as unsafe," said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
"That trains can run without a second safety critical member of staff on board in any circumstances is DOO pure and and simple.
"It is shocking that Southern and the Government believe that drivers can be brought off in this fashion, you cannot put a price on the safety and welfare of passengers and drivers.
"The proposals also fly in the face of agreements reached in Wales and Scotland that give the guaranteed of a guard on our trains. RMT will continue to fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all and our dispute remains on."
Ballot papers and the associated briefing documents will go to Aslef's members on Tuesday 24 October and the result of the referendum will be announced on Wednesday 8 November.
Aslef members working for Southern went on strike earlier this month, the most recent of many bouts of industrial action aimed at bringing the driver dispute to an end.