RMT agrees to meet Southern bosses in bid to settle dispute

Campaigners stage protest Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Passengers and campaigners staged protests in London during the long-running dispute

The RMT union has agreed to meet Southern rail's parent company for talks in an attempt to settle their long-running dispute.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) sent a request from its chief executive, Charles Horton, to RMT general secretary Mick Cash to hold meetings.

Mr Horton has asked Mr Cash that discussions be held "without the threat of further industrial action".

The union is embroiled in a dispute over the role of conductors.

Earlier, the union said it was considering more strikes on Southern's rail network, despite drivers' union Aslef reaching an agreement with bosses over changes to the role of guards on trains.

Under a deal between the rail operator and Aslef announced on Thursday, drivers will operate the train doors and in return the train company has agreed there will always be a second member of staff on every train, the BBC understands.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Aslef called off planned strike action in January to go into talks

Earlier on Friday, RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley said it was "scandalous other people think they can do a deal that affects our members".

He added: "We are not bound by that deal. The dispute is still on."

In the letter, Mr Horton apparently told the RMT his negotiating team was willing to meet next week "in a spirit of open and positive dialogue".

Mr Horton said: "[Aslef] were prepared to come to the table, with passengers liberated of any threat of strike action.

"Both parties arrived ready to listen, have an open mind and ready to do a deal."

BBC South transport correspondent Paul Clifton: What's in the Aslef deal?

As I understand it, the Aslef union has agreed that drivers will operate the train doors - that is a huge climbdown.

In return, the company has agreed there will always be a second member of staff on every train - that is a huge climbdown, too.

In other words, a compromise has been reached.

Working practices will be modernised but train crew will also see this deal as a way of protecting safety.

Not quite done-and-dusted but I imagine the drivers will approve it.

Mr Horton added: "We would call on the RMT to follow that same consensual spirit and leadership and come to the table with the courage, confidence and conviction to settle their dispute."

In a regular Westminster briefing, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said talks needed to happen to end the "untold misery" caused by the dispute.

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