Southern rail deal a 'shocking betrayal', RMT union says

Southern train Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Both Aslef and the RMT opposed changes to the roles of guards on Southern trains

A deal agreed to end the long-running Southern rail dispute is a "shocking betrayal" of workers and passengers, the RMT union has claimed.

Leaders of the Aslef union agreed to recommend the deal to almost 1,000 drivers following 11 days of talks which did not involve the RMT.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the deal would leave drivers and passengers "exposed and vulnerable".

"This is not a deal, it is a disgrace, and the RMT dispute remains on."

An agreement between Aslef and the rail operator's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over changes to the role of guards on Southern trains was announced on Thursday.

At the time, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: "I am confident this deal can provide a safer and appropriately staffed railway for passengers on Southern Rail and I will be recommending it to our members."

'Abysmal document'

The deal includes details of circumstances when a train can be operated as driver-only, without an on-board supervisor (OBS).

Among those circumstances are absenteeism, lateness and illness, or if an OBS has to leave the train to deal with an emergency or is left behind by the driver.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption RMT members say the change to a new role of on-board supervisor affects safety

Speaking after seeing details of the agreement, Mr Cash said: "This abysmal document lists a whole host of areas where a train can leave without a second member of staff, that will leave both the driver and passengers exposed and vulnerable, and which also represents a thin end of the wedge that will lead to the de-staffing of trains."

He added: "Loyal and dedicated conductors, who have fought for safety for over a year, have had the legs kicked from under them by those who are supposed to be on their side.

"Passengers and staff alike have been sold out by a stitch-up cooked up in Congress House by the TUC and the bosses whilst Southern, one of the most anti-union and hated companies of recent times, is laughing all the way to the bank and have been given a free run to rip up the safety rulebook in the name of profits."

Mr Cash said the union would fight "this shocking betrayal with every tool at our disposal".

Analysis: Ben Weisz, BBC Sussex political reporter

The deal I've seen lets Southern run trains without a guard, or indeed, an onboard supervisor.

Not just on trains that already lack them, but on services where they don't show up - through sickness, lateness, problems elsewhere on the network, and so on.

But Southern have conceded a list of occasions where an OBS may be able to help dispatch a train; if the CCTV is broken, for instance.

There'll also be a joint working party to iron out any issues with the rollout of new driver-only operated trains - but it's for Southern and Aslef, the drivers union.

There's no mention of a seat for the RMT, who represent guards.

They've called this deal a betrayal, but if it is accepted, any future RMT strike action may have less bite.

That's a big "if".

Not all drivers are as pleased with the deal as their leader Mick Whelan, and some are struggling to see what they've gained from the talks with Southern.

The RMT, which has held a number of strikes since last April, is due to hold talks with Southern next week.

A TUC spokesperson said: "We are pleased the RMT and Southern have agreed to new talks.

"As we have consistently said, the TUC stands ready to assist any of our affiliates seeking to resolve industrial disputes, if asked."

Aslef members are being balloted on the new agreement, with the result due on 16 February.

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