England

Southern and RMT union to hold talks over rail strikes

Protestors at Victoria Station
Image caption Commuters staged a protest at Victoria Station demanding a better service from Southern

Talks aimed at averting further strikes by Southern rail conductors are to be held next week.

Officials from the company will meet with the RMT union next Wednesday and Thursday.

Parent firm Govia Thameslink (GTR) had asked conciliation service Acas to facilitate talks ahead of a five-day strike planned in August.

The union is embroiled in a long-running dispute about the role of guards on trains.

It said earlier that officials had "cleared diaries and were available for serious and genuine" talks at Acas.

General secretary Mick Cash said the strike would be suspended if "the company agree to suspend the planned changes to the safety critical role of the guard".

The role of conductors is due to be changed from 21 August.

Image caption A revised timetable is in force on Southern's routes

GTR wants to use new trains where the driver operates the doors using CCTV, but the union fears job losses and has raised safety fears about the move.

This month, GTR brought in a reduced timetable to cope with ongoing disruption on Southern trains, axing 341 trains per day from the 2,242 weekday services it had provided.

Southern services have been delayed or cancelled for weeks because of the dispute and staff shortages, blamed by the company on high levels of staff sickness.

The RMT denied claims staff sickness amounted to unofficial industrial action.

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