The latest three-day strike by the RMT rail union has begun (October 18) in an attempt to force operator Southern to ensure the role and significance of the guard.

Southern say it has made an offer of reassurances and a bonus of £2,000 lump sum per person. RMT, in turn says, this issue is about safety and rejects the “bribe”.

Southern said more than 27% of conductors turned up for work during strikes last week while the RMT say it is solidly supported.

The dispute has been rumbling on for months, so what is the latest.

When are the strike dates?

  • 00:01 Tuesday 18 October to 23:59 Thursday 20 October
  • 00:01 Thursday 3 November to 23:59 Saturday 5 November
  • 00:01 Thursday 3 November to 23:59 Saturday 5 November
  • 00:01 Tuesday 6 December to 23:59 Thursday 8 December

What is Southern offering

Southern says:

Southern Rail

• The mandate on which the RMT is now set to strike on again is now over six months old.

• The points on which the RMT held its ballot are invalid:

1. GTR and independent safety experts say it is perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train.

2. There will be a second person rostered to work every single train that has one today – and more still – who are trained in safety and ready to help passengers with all their needs.

3. The majority of existing conductors will continue in their current roles, with no changes whatsoever.

4. The RMT has advised its members to sign their new On Board Supervisor contracts

• GTR has a full, fair and comprehensive offer on the table for the RMT to agree. The offer guarantees:

1. A job until 2021

2. Above-inflation pay rises and guaranteed levels of overtime

3. A £2,000 payment to all conductor staff and revenue staff who have already taken up the new On Board Supervisor role on Southern/GX and Passenger Host role on Thameslink/Great Northern.

• The RMT has rejected this offer but it is back on the table because GTR says conductors should be given the opportunity to vote on it in a referendum

• Meanwhile, GTR is implementing the changes it needs to make to its train services and on-board roles in order to modernise its service and improve services for passengers. 80 people are already in the new On Board Supervisor roles, working on trains where conductors had never worked before, and over 100 additional services are now operating with the driver in sole charge of the train.

What does the RMT say

Mick Cash of the RMT union

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash says:

“There is no offer whatsoever to start engaging in serious talks about the safety and access issues at the heart of this matter.

“Instead, Southern have rehashed the £2,000 bribe to our members even though the company have been told repeatedly that money is not the issue and that the safety of passengers and staff is not for sale.

“RMT disputes the bogus figures on the number of staff working. Our reps at all locations report that morale is high and that support for the strike action remain rock solid.

“Last week the Transport Select Committee exposed the on-going shambles that is Southern Rail and the blind-eye that has been turned by the Government to gross-mismanagement of this franchise on an industrial scale.

“The Select Committee called on the Government to engage in talks with the company and the union. RMT stands ready to engage in that process and the action from midnight remains on.”

What do the passengers say

A protest advert that appeared in The Times, funded by disgruntled passengers

What the Transport Secretary says

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the Transport Select Committee on Monday that while he was "not afraid to remove contractors", the alternative must be "at least as good" for passengers.

Mr Grayling said: "I'm not going to take any nonsense from somebody who's culpably not delivering and people should not think I'm afraid to withdraw a contract.

"But in order to withdraw a contract I have to be confident that what would be happening instead would be at least as good if not better for the passenger.

"Right now, I look at the situation, I listen to the calls to take back control of this franchise, give it to TfL or whatever, but the first question I ask is 'what would that change?'.

"We would then have to assemble a new management team, we would have to take control of the situation and would that actually affect the nature of the dispute on the table?

"It's not a straightforward position."