The further uncertainty in the ScotRail dispute caused by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union’s move came as it confirmed a second Britain-wide strike would go ahead on Thursday as part of a separate row over pay and jobs involving track and signalling body Network Rail and 13 English-based train operators, including cross-Border firms.
The strikes do not involve ScotRail but 90 per cent of its services will be halted, as they were in Tuesday’s stoppage, while only a fraction of normal cross-Border trains will run and all Caledonian Sleeper services cancelled until Sunday.
The Scotsman understands that RMT negotiators will ask the union’s national executive committee (NEC) to agree to put the ScotRail offer to a ballot of members with a recommendation to reject it because of a clause over the use of new technology.
However, they are not calling for a strike ballot over the issue, suggesting that the staff involved, such as train conductors and ticket examiners, might vote to accept the deal anyway, which ScotRail is confident they would do.
Train drivers’ union Aslef last week recommended its members approve the ScotRail offer, which was improved from an original 2.2 per cent after several rounds of talks, in a vote due to conclude on July 11.
It is believed some RMT officials believe there is no official agreement with ScotRail over the use of technology such as smartphones even though they are now used by many staff, such as to check passengers’ smartcards and barcodes on tickets.
ScotRail said after the union officials had rejected the pay offer two weeks ago it had held two “constructive meetings” last week to discuss “future technology”.
It said staff should use current technology such as smartphones, palm tops and apps, and any upgrade or replacement, to carry out their role.
However, it said any proposed new technology would be subject to the “agreed process of consultation and negotiation”.
ScotRail said: "The RMT has informed ScotRail the offer will now be referred to the RMT NEC with a recommendation to put the pay offer to its members via a referendum.
“The NEC is expected to meet next week to decide whether to approve this approach.”
ScotRail head of customer operations Phil Campbell said: “We welcome the company council’s recommendation that members have their say on this pay offer via a referendum, and we urge RMT bosses on the NEC to approve the referendum.
“We are confident that the members will support this strong offer, which will allow us to focus on getting customers back to the railway.”
Meantime, the RMT said the second Britain-wide strikes would go ahead on Thursday, with a third one called for Saturday, after it accused UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “wrecking” negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies.
Talks held on Wednesday between the union, Network Rail and train operators failed to break the deadlock.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are disappointed the RMT has again chosen to walk away from negotiations without agreeing a deal.”