As it prepares to get rid of guards, GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) Southern wants its trains to have cameras on their sides and CCTV in the driving cabs for drivers.
These trains would have an on-board supervisor (OBS). But this post will not operate the doors or hold a safety-critical licence. Despite this, the company will not rule out using the OBS to perform safety critical duties in an emergency. In other words, the OBS is a guard on the cheap.
GTR is in a woeful state. It has been the worst-performing TOC over the last year, and a Parliamentary petition for the government to take the Southern franchise away from it has already got nearly 5,000 signatures.
With shareholders impatient for their dividends, management are looking for ways not to improve the service but to save money. And where do they look for savings? Our jobs. Although GTR Southern states that there will be no compulsory redundancies, it has also shown calculations of the number of staff eventually required for each role - and you guessed it, that number is lower than we have now.
The company's flashy propaganda is trying to convince us that they are consulting on a super new role for guards/conductors. Unfortunately for them, we are not stupid.
The problem is that while the union continues in talks with the company, it establishes the idea that this attack on our jobs will happen in some form or another. The union's negotiators assure us that they are totally committed to keeping the safety-critical guard on the train - and we do not doubt their sincerity in this - but there is nothing for us to gain from these talks, and a danger that they will be a cover for cuts in jobs and safety. When we hear that the next step is that the company will produce a further consultation document focusing on its intention to extend DOO over all routes and on all services operated by class 377/387 rolling stock, then we can see where this 'consultation' is going.
Our power to defeat driver-only operation (DOO) was given a big boost recently by the joint statement by RMT and ASLEF pledging to fight it together. So let's fight DOO rather than talk with the company about how it plans to implement it.
RMT members have called on the union to immediately cease all negotiations on the role of On-Board Supervisors (OBS), and to ballot for both strikes and industrial action short of strikes. That's the sort of approach that can stop the company in its tracks.