Football club’s offer to broker Southern talks rejected

Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport
Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport

Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s offer to broker talks to solve the Southern rail dispute has been rejected.

The RMT union has held nine strikes already this year in response to rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s proposals to change the role of conductors to on-board supervisors.

Albion chief executive Paul Barber has called on the Government to step in and solve the dispute following chaotic scenes following the club’s match with Aston Villa last Friday.

Thousands of fans were left stranded at Falmer station as services to Brighton and Lewes were delayed and even cancelled.

General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is prepared to take up the offer of talks between ourselves, Southern Rail and [Transport Secretary] Chris Grayling as suggested by Brighton and Hove Albion FC.

“The union has been calling for just such a meeting for months and its frankly ludicrous that it has taken the intervention of the football club, and the shocking events on Friday night at the Amex Stadium, to force the pace on this.

“The appalling situation at Falmer on Friday evening was entirely down to the lack of planning and mismanagement by Southern Rail and the attempt by the company to blame it on the staff is frankly disgraceful.

“The football club are right, the responsibility for sorting the total chaos on Southern rests with the Transport Secretary himself.

“He has repeatedly refused to meet with the trade unions to map out a way forwards. RMT now hopes that both Mr Grayling and Southern Rail will see sense and get around the table as soon as possible. If that has to be at the Amex Stadium then I can guarantee that RMT will be there.

“As general secretary of Britain’s specialist transport union I meet with ministers on a regular basis and it is frankly absurd that Chris Grayling has refused point blank to meet with us while the Southern Rail dispute, which he has the power to settle as it is a direct management contract with the Government, rages on.”

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