On track for sleepless nights as ScotRail industrial action looms - John McLellan

Whoever in the Scottish Government thought taking ScotRail into public ownership was a smart move should be having sleepless nights as the rhetoric of industrial strife begins to heat up.

By John McLellan
Thursday, 5th August 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 7:42 am
The ScotRail franchise is due to be handed over to the Scottish Government in March. PIC: ScotRail.
The ScotRail franchise is due to be handed over to the Scottish Government in March. PIC: ScotRail.

The decision to end the contract with Dutch operator Abellio three years early was seen as a response to what looked like popular demand for state control as a result of deteriorating services, even though most of problems were track operator Network Rail’s responsibility and not ScotRail’s.

With Covid destroying passenger numbers and the slow return to office working likely to keep them down for months to come, an internal report is said to cite a predicted 20 per cent natural workforce wastage as an opportunity to take advantage of new technology and cut staff by ten percent, or 1,000 jobs.

The company is already in dispute with the RMT union and officials this week said when the franchise is handed over to the Government in March, such cuts will trigger industrial action. Then, instead of being a broker in a dispute between operator and staff, they’ll be like 1970s ministers facing the union’s anger.

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The non-commuting public’s sympathy is likely to lie with the staff so for a populist party with its eye on a bigger prize the last thing the SNP needs is a bitter dispute. No wonder union officials have campaigned for renationalisation but as few SNP ministers were regular train travellers in the Seventies, maybe they forgot how 1978’s Winter of Discontent destroyed Labour and handed victory on a plate to Mrs Thatcher in 1979.

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