Drivers and management at Southern, the troubled rail commuter service, on Thursday announced a settlement in a dispute that has contributed to months of disruption on the operator, with the drivers’ union set to accept significant changes to working practices.
The settlement was confirmed by the offices of the Trades Union Congress, which has brokered two weeks of talks between managers from Southern’s parent Govia Thameslink and Aslef, the drivers’ union. It will be submitted for approval by union members.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, and Abellio UK’s HR director Andy Meadows, who jointly chaired the talks, said in a statement:
“This long-running dispute has clearly been extraordinarily difficult for both staff and passengers, and we are glad that the parties have reached agreement on a way forward.”
The talks end the most damaging dispute affecting the operator, since Southern has been able to run no trains at all on days that Aslef members were striking. The drivers were unhappy over management’s shift of responsibility for closing doors at stations from conductors to drivers.
According to people involved on both sides, the drivers would consent to the wider application of so-called driver-only operation, in which drivers close the doors helped by closed-circuit television screens. However, there were set to be substantial safeguards to reassure drivers over assuming the risk associated with closing doors.
The settlement leaves unresolved the still longer-running dispute between Southern and the RMT, which represents conductors. But the change in working practices is set to make any further RMT strikes far less disruptive.