The head of the trade union movement in Britain has been drafted in to chair talks over Southern Rail tomorrow after Aslef agreed to call off the next strike.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, will run the summit alongside Andy Meadows, the HR director of train company Abellio UK, which is not involved in the dispute.
Today Aslef agreed to halt all action on Southern Rail due to be held on three days next week. A separate strike, orchestrated by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), is still due to take place on Monday.
O’Grady and Meadows have now vowed to try to broker a deal on the London-Brighton line.
“We are committed to finding a fair solution to this dispute. We are pleased that all parties have agreed to meet for meaningful talks,” they said in a joint statement.
The long-running dispute was triggered by a row over the planned introduction of driver-operated door controls on one of Britain’s busiest lines. Unions say the reform could jeopardise passenger safety but Southern insists all concerns have been dealt with.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said he wanted the union and Southern to take part in “intensive talks” with the TUC as soon as possible.
“Given the implications of this dispute for the wider railway industry, I am also asking [Chris Grayling] the Secretary of State for Transport to support this new process,” he added.
“Aslef believes that the best way to resolve the dispute at Southern is for all parties to engage in meaningful talks – without preconditions – aimed at finding an agreed way forward.”
Abellio operates three rail franchises in Britain – Scotrail, Merseyrail and Greater Anglia.