Transport Scotland says strike action ‘disappointing’
THE SCOTTISH Government should step in to ‘force’ operator Abellio into negotiations ahead of tomorrow’s planned strike, trade unionists have said.
With talks having broken down between the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Scotrail Abellio ahead of the union’s planned strike, the Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary has called on the Scottish Government to bring the operator back to negotiations.
The strike, due to take place on 21 and 23 June and other later dates, is over the extension of driver-only operated trains. The RMT says the role of guards on trains is “critical” and that Abellio, which was awarded the Scotrail franchise last year, had tried to “by-pass” negotiations by refusing to come to the negotiating table unless the union dropped its preconditions. Scotrail Abellio refuted this claim.
“Extending driver-only operations is not specified in either the invitation to tender, or Abellio’s winning bid.” Gordon Martin
Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC, said the congress fully backed the union members, who voted 75 per cent in favour of strike action on a 75 per cent turnout.
Smith said: “STUC strongly supports RMT fight to keep Scotland’s trains running safely and opposes Abellio ScotRail's efforts to extend driver only operations on Scotland’s railway.
“Since assuming control of the franchise last year Abellio has failed to deliver the enlightened European model of industrial relations reflected in their franchise bid.
“It is essential that the Scottish Government now forces Abellio to engage constructively with the RMT in an effort to negotiate an acceptable solution to this dispute”.
Asked for comment, Transport Scotland, the non-governmental transport agency of the Scottish Government, said it was “disappointing” that the strike was still planned when there was still a “prospect” of further negotiations.
“STUC strongly supports RMT fight to keep Scotland’s trains running safely and opposes Abellio ScotRail's efforts to extend driver only operations on Scotland’s railway.” Grahame Smith
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "We continue to urge both ScotRail and the RMT to reopen talks and work towards an agreement that will avoid any strikes. ScotRail staff and management have an enviable record in safety and passenger satisfaction. They must work together to keep it that way.
“In the meantime, the transport minister chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government resilience committee on Friday involving all key partners, including ScotRail, to discuss contingency measures and ensure plans are in place to keep the potential disruption to passengers this week to a minimum. A further meeting is scheduled for this afternoon [Monday 20 June]."
RMT organiser Gordon Martin told CommonSpace that talks may have resumed, though at the time of publication no statement had been made by the RMT.
Echoing the STUC’s cals for intervention by the Scottish Government, Martin said: “Extending driver-only operations is not specified in either the invitation to tender, or Abellio’s winning bid. This could easily be fixed by the Scottish Government asking that Abellio ensure the new trains will have facilities for a guard.”
The union’s preconditions would not be dropped, Martin insisted, the primary condition being that driver-only operations are not extended on the new trains, which will arrive in 2018.
Already over 50 per cent of routes in the Scotrail franchise operate without a guard; the trains have a ticket officer and driver only.
Managing director of Scotrail Phil Verster told BBC Radio Scotland this morning that he had written to RMT General Secretary Mick Cash on Friday, offering to enter negotiations if the RMT would come with no preconditions.
Picture courtesy of EDDIE
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