GOVIA THAMESLINK Railway and the ASLEF drivers’ union have reached agreement in the long-running dispute regarding introduction of driver-controlled operation on GTR’s Southern routes.
The protracted disagreement, involving both ASLEF and the RMT unions, has centred on plans by GTR to replace the post of guard with a new customer-facing on-board supervisor role on most Southern services and transfer control of door operation to the driver. The key cause of disagreement was GTR’s plan to be able to run trains without a second member of staff on-board in exceptional circumstances, whereas the RMT has sought to retain a second safety-critical member of staff. Industrial action has been taken by both unions.
Negotiations chaired jointly by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and Abellio UK HR Director Andy Meadows lasting two weeks have led to an agreement between ASLEF and GTR; RMT was not involved in these talks. Following the agreement, ASLEF was to consult its members; a result from this was expected on 16 February. ASLEF does not plan to take further industrial action and has withdrawn the overtime ban that it had enforced.
While details of the agreement have not been officially released, documents containing details have reached the public domain. These suggest that drivers would usually take responsibility for controlling doors, with an on-board supervisor rostered to all affected trains except in a list of agreed circumstances, such as when an OBS is absent, sick, delayed by disruption or unable to continue their duty. The agreement also makes provision for an OBS, where competent, to assist in train dispatch if, for example, CCTV equipment in the driver’s cab is inoperable or of insufficient quality.
ASLEF members represent the vast majority of drivers on GTR services. The RMT union, which represents the majority of on-train staff and only a handful of drivers, has hit out at the deal as ‘a shocking and historical betrayal’ and says it remains in dispute with GTR. On the union’s advice, almost all guards accepted the transfer to the new on-board supervisor role by the start of 2017.
Meanwhile, RMT has confirmed that it will ballot Merseyrail staff over plans to introduce driver-controlled operation on the network once a new fleet of Stadler-built trains is delivered from 2019. The union is also engaged in a parallel dispute with Northern over what it describes as ‘failed assurances on guards’.