Planned strikes by Southern rail guards and drivers have been suspended ahead of talks with the transport secretary.Industrial action called for 1, 2, and 4 August will not now go ahead.Aslef and the RMT unions were contacted by Chris Grayling inviting them to a meeting, subject to the action over staffing and pay being halted.Aslef said an overtime ban by drivers who have rejected a pay offer is also suspended. The rail firm said it was “delighted on behalf of passengers”.Both unions are embroiled in a long-running dispute with Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over plans to replace conductors with “on-board supervisors”.Under the plan, extra responsibilities including the closing of train doors would switch to drivers.Live: More on this story and other news from SussexThe offer of government talks follows a meeting between Eastbourne Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd and the unions on Tuesday.Both unions had urged Mr Grayling to negotiate directly with them to end the dispute.
Mr Lloyd described news of the government talks as “a breakthrough”.”I want the secretary of state, the union leaders, sitting down and getting round the table and sorting this debate that’s caused so much frustration to my constituents in Eastbourne and many hundreds of others across the south-east. “It’s good news. Let’s keep moving forward now.”In a statement, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Aslef is committed to resolving matters as soon as possible while safeguarding the interests of our members, and the safety of passengers, particularly those with disabilities. “We hope talks can start as soon as possible and, ideally, within the week.”A statement issued by GTR said: “We are delighted on behalf of our passengers.”We truly hope that a resolution can be found once and for all.”
Source: BBC Sussex