Southern Rail accused of taking away staff’s safety licence

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A fresh row has flared on Southern Railway after union leaders accused the company of planning to strip staff of their safety licence.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said workers now classed as on-board supervisors (OBS) have received a letter saying their safety licence and certification was being withdrawn.

Safety is at the heart of a long-running dispute between the union and the train operator which has led to a series of strikes, causing chaos for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said staff were ‘shocked and distressed’ at the company’s letter.

A Southern spokesman said: ‘The conductors in question stopped dispatching trains on January 1, so they no longer need to hold those licences and our new on-board supervisors are not required to maintain them. This is yet another attempt at mischief-making by the RMT.’

Mr Cash has written to Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, saying: ‘I am distressed to have received reports of actions taken by the company against staff who have been forced into the OBS role and are now having their guard’s license/certification cards, detailing their safety critical competencies, withdrawn.

‘Many of these staff have 30-plus years service with the railway and I believe this move is designed to undermine the confidence of these staff and is leading to them experiencing demoralisation and humiliation.

‘I further believe that this action will lead to a less safe railway and the company are further undermining the safe operation of your services.

‘This is at a time when we continue to receive almost daily reports of problems with the safe operation of driver only operation.’

Mr Cash noted that the letters had been sent while talks were continuing between Southern and Aslef over driver-only trains.

The talks resumed for a ninth day at the offices of the TUC.