Hastings and Rye’s MP, Amber Rudd and Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman spoke of their regret this week following the decision by train drivers on Southern to reject a settlement which would have ended the long-running industrial dispute.
The offer, which was brokered and recommended for acceptance by the executive of the train drivers union ASLEF, was rejected by 54 per cent of their members with just over 70 per cent voting.
Under the proposed settlement, train drivers would have agreed to drive trains without a second member of staff on board in agreed exceptional circumstances.
The rejection coincides with the breakdown in talks between Southern and the RMT union.
A further strike was called by the RMT for Wednesday (February 22) although the roll-out of the new trains, with technology which allows the driver to open and close doors, means much of Southern’s network was expected to operate as normal during the industrial action. With the exception of one retiree, all conductors on Southern Rail have been re-employed as On-board Supervisors (‘OBS’) and an additional one hundred have been recruited to ensure trains are fully staffed.
Ms Rudd, who is also Home Secretary, said: “I am very disappointed that ASLEF members have rejected this offer. The focus of GTR and the union must now be on securing a deal which will improve journeys for passengers and be backed by members. Our communities have suffered enough disruption and I hope a solution will be found as soon as possible.”
Mr Merriman said: “The rejection of this deal, which had the full backing of the union’s executive, is a blow to the hopes of returning the service back to normal. The talks produced an agreement in principle between the union executive and Southern management and was only narrowly rejected by drivers. There must surely be a way to close the gap without the need for more damaging strikes. We call on both parties to go that extra mile to end this dispute.”
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