Crunch time for ScotRail passengers next week with two crucial decisions from Aslef and RMT unions
and live on Freeview channel 276
The railway gods, aka the unions, are due to signal whether we can expect an end in sight to nearly two months of disruption – or be plunged into a further period of uncertainty.
First, we’ll hear whether train drivers have accepted ScotRail’s improved 5 per cent pay offer when the results of a membership ballot held by its union – Aslef – come on Monday.
If drivers vote in line with officials’ recommendation to accept the deal, it should mean the end to unofficial action that has led to ScotRail cutting services by one third, and half on Sundays, since May 23.
This has included the suspension of many late evening trains, prompting the train operator to issue warnings to fans heading for major events, such as the TRNSMT music festival in Glasgow this weekend and golf lovers travelling to the Open Championship in St Andrews from July 10-17, that they may not be able to get home by rail.
The cuts followed most drivers no longer volunteering for overtime after Aslef rejected ScotRail’s original 2.2 per cent offer, forcing large numbers of late-notice cancellations.
However, even if drivers vote to accept the new deal, ScotRail has said it will take up to ten days for the full timetable to be restored, which would take us to Thursday, July 21.
But in the second development expected next week, another cloud could be the horizon.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), ScotRail’s biggest and representing staff such as conductors and ticket examiners on trains, could urge its members to reject the same ScotRail pay offer in a ballot.
On Tuesday, the RMT’s national executive committee is due to consider a recommendation from its Scottish officials the deal be turned down over the use of new technology.
However, the lack of a call for a strike ballot suggests members may be divided.
ScotRail does not rely nearly so much on overtime from such staff as it does from drivers, so any impact on passengers is likely to be limited to official industrial action – if there is a vote, which would take weeks to complete, and if it produces a majority for walkouts.