ScotRail unions RMT, Aslef, TSSA and Unite mull strike ballot over pay

Scotland’s main train operator today faced further potential disruption with its four main unions jointly announcing they were considering industrial action votes over pay.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:58 pm

It came as ScotRail told staff it lost £79 million last year despite some £500m of extra emergency Scottish Government funding.

The ballot move follows the first of six consecutive Sunday walkouts by train conductors at the weekend which halted nearly half of ScotRail services.

Ticket examiners are also being balloted for action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) in the long-running dispute over being paid less than drivers for working on days off.

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RMT strikes are already due to halt many trains over the next five Sundays. Picture: John Devlin

The new fallout involves the RMT, train drivers union Aslef, the TSSA, which includes office staff, and Unite, which represents engineers.

Unite is already balloting its hundreds of members at ScotRail over pay and rest-day working payments, with the result due in two weeks.

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In a joint statement, the unions claimed: “ScotRail has continually failed to engage in any productive way with the trade unions.

"[Operator] Abellio has claimed it is under instructions from the Scottish Government not to award any pay rise to rail workers.

"The Scottish Government is actively interfering in collective bargaining.

"This is a slap in the face to rail workers who have worked throughout the pandemic.

"At a time when rail workers are receiving no award for their hard work, the Scottish Government has awarded Abellio £14 million in management fees.

"The rail workers, who are key/essential workers, are absolutely disgusted by the actions of the Scottish Government and we will be consulting our members over industrial action.

"The trade unions are being forced into this action and remain available for meaningful discussions - but remind Scottish voters that some in government talk about standing up for Scottish workers, whilst abandoning key workers such as rail workers.”

ScotRail human resources director Gerry Skelton told staff Abellio owner Dutch state railways lost 93m euros (£79m) running ScotRail in 2020.

He said: “At a time when we need everyone in the railway to work together as we face the most serious financial crisis in our history, it’s disappointing the unions have decided to walk away from discussions and issue misleading statements.

“With passenger numbers down by more than 90 per cent, it’s only thanks to emergency government support that ScotRail has been able to continue to operate services for key workers and pay staff wages.

"The hundreds of millions of pounds of additional emergency government subsidy means there have been no job losses, no furlough, no wage cuts, and no changes to terms and conditions during the pandemic.

"ScotRail staff also continue to benefit from a no compulsory redundancies policy.”

The company said it was for the unions to propose options to fund any pay increase, but they had offered none “that would deliver genuinely new savings”.

Transport Scotland said collective bargaining was for ScotRail and the unions and the Scottish Government had not interfered in any negotiations.

It said there was no additional funding available through the emergency measures agreement (EMA) – millions of pounds of extra cash to keep ScotRail going during the Covid crisis – for a pay rise.

The agency said any pay increase would have to be funded by efficiencies agreed through collective bargaining, which would be for ScotRail to lead.

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