Today in Parliament there was a cross-party meeting of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green MPs with the RMT, including the RMT’s General Secretary, Mick Cash. The meeting was instigated by Tim Loughton MP (East Worthing & Shoreham) who was keen to meet the unions in order to understand the reasons behind the ongoing industrial action caused by a failure from both parties to arrive at a solution.
MPs were surprised to hear that the RMT had put out a press release saying that they were going into talks with MPs with a plan to settle the row. However MPs were disappointed that no such plan arose at the meeting. Instead discussions focussed on the small amount of trains travelling without a second qualified person, known as On Board Supervisors (OBS), since the Driver Only Operation system was introduced in January 2017. There are approximately 158 trains a week operating without an OBS representing 2.75% of trains planned to operate with an OBS. Of those 158 per week, 85 (1.47%) are due to service disruption, 40 (0.69%) are due to no cover and 33 (0.57%) down to other reasons.
MPs expressed continued frustration over the failure of both sides to comes together and arrive at some sort of an agreement to solve this issue. Tim Loughton put forward the idea of GTR creating a performance management indicator to monitor the number of trains without OBS and develop a penalty system if GTR fail to ensure OBS are on 100% of trains.
Conservative MPs Sir Peter Bottomley, Nusrat Ghani, Tom Tugendhat, Jeremy Quin, Gillian Keegan and Nick Herbert were in attendance, as well as Tim Loughton who was chairing the meeting. Speaking on behalf of Conservatives MPs after the meeting, Tim said:
“This meeting was arranged as a genuine gesture to understand why the unions are continuing with this industrial action. We invited ASLEF to a similar discussions, it was unfortunate that they were unable to meet together.
“Clearly there is very little separating the two sides. On behalf of our constituents we are desperate to bring this to an end. It is a shame there was a lack of determination and willingness to bring a settlement, particularly when differences seem so minimal. It is impossible to feel anything other than that the dispute has been stoked up by political considerations.
“We will do all we can to come up with a common sense agreement that looks to address any genuine residual safety concerns and deliver a reliable service to our constituents. We should all now look to come up with sustainable solutions that can be achieved now made easier by on the constructive recommendations in the Gibb report.”