England

Southern strike union RMT in 'full and frank' government talks

Southern Rail trains Image copyright PA
Image caption The dispute over the role of conductors on Southern rail has been ongoing for more than a year

The RMT union has held "full and frank" talks with the transport secretary amid more than a year of industrial action on the Southern rail network.

The company has been in dispute with both the RMT and Aslef unions over changes to the role of guards and driver-only operated (DOO) trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said Chris Grayling now had a "clear understanding" of its position.

Mr Grayling said: "We want more people helping passengers.... not fewer."

"I was happy to meet with the RMT and reiterate the offer of long-term commitments to staff who work in the rail industry," he said in a statement.

Mr Grayling, who had a meeting with the train drivers' union Aslef on Thursday, added that he hoped the discussion would pave the way for the reopening of talks between the RMT and Southern "so we can sort out this situation and get services back to normal".

Further talks

Strikes next month by both unions were suspended after they were contacted by Mr Grayling inviting them to talks.

The RMT is also in dispute with Northern rail and Merseyrail over DOO trains, which it says would be unsafe and lead to widespread job losses.

It has warned action could spread to South West Trains and Greater Anglia.

Following Friday's talks, Mr Cash said "the broader issue of how the extension of DOO impacts nationally on other rail franchises" was also discussed.

He said Mr Grayling had agreed to meet the union again, and the RMT would also be seeking further meetings with Southern and the other train companies "as we seek to move forwards in the interests of safe and accessible rail services for all".

Mr Cash added that the transport secretary also agreed to have further discussions regarding "our concerns in respect of the loss of skilled rail jobs as a result of the scaling back of Network Rail's renewals programme".

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