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by Andrew Learmonth
15 October 2021
COP chaos as key workers vote to strike during climate summit

COP26 volunteers in Glasgow's smarties tube

COP chaos as key workers vote to strike during climate summit

The COP26 summit in Glasgow could be thrown into chaos after key workers in the city voted to strike over pay and conditions. 

Members of the RMT union will take industrial action from November 1 to 12, with no trains running in Scotland at all. The Caledonian Sleeper service, which is run by Serco, will also be hit by strike action between October 31 and November 2 and from November 11 to 13 - when delegates are travelling to and from the crucial climate conference. 

Meanwhile, cleansing workers for the GMB trade union in Glasgow have also voted for strike action during the summit.

The union has said a strike can be averted if the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), the umbrella group that represents councils, comes back with an improved offer on wages for staff. 

The train strikes will add to the transport disruption already predicted for the two-week conference, with roads closed and large scale protests expected. 

Scottish Government transport minister Graeme Dey told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that the RMT was in receipt of a "very fair" pay proposal.

He also claimed workers will have voted for strike action "unaware of the offer that is now on the table" after the union dismissed the increase because it would require “members to sell hard-earned terms and conditions in order to get a pay rise”.

Speaking to the BBC, Dey refused to reveal the details of the deal being offered by ScotRail, or whether it was a final offer, but said: “It was the best offer that can be made in the circumstances”.

He added: “Rail workers took part on a ballot on the basis that they had been left behind from their perspective because there had been no offer made.

“But that is not the case any more. An offer was made, has been made, it’s there and it’s a very fair offer and one that’s affordable for the railway.”

Asked whether the RMT members should have to vote again, Dey said: “I think that’s fundamentally the right thing to do.

“The circumstances have changed, that mandate is no longer valid and therefore I would encourage them to either accept on behalf of their members or go back to the members and put the offer to them.”

RMT boss Michael Hogg later told the programme: “What I say to Graeme Dey and to Transport Scotland is: let’s get round the table, let’s hold the serious, meaningful discussions we need in order to find a solution.

“I don’t see why members should be expected to actually sell hard-earned terms and conditions.”

Meanwhile, Chris Mitchell of the GMB denied cleansing workers in Glasgow were using the global climate conference as a bargaining chip.

He said his members had been "put in a corner" by Cosla, and that the current pay offer of £850 a year would only amount to an extra £6.50 a week, after tax and National Insurance.

On a video shared on social media yesterday, Mitchell said: “We have a clear message to the Scottish Government and Cosla.

“We were called Covid heroes and essential workers.

“This is when low-paid workers take a stand against Cosla and say enough is enough, because these heroes here deserve a pay rise.

“Stand with us, not against us.”

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said it was “an embarrassment to Scotland that the SNP can’t even keep the trains running when the world’s eyes are upon us”.

He said: “This conference is supposed to be about preventing environmental catastrophe – and the SNP are setting the stage by letting trains grind to a halt and litter fill the streets.”

Scottish Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “This is major embarrassment for the SNP. Ministers should have resolved this dispute months ago. The SNP’s inaction has meant misery for passengers who have had to endure major disruption to services this year.

“The eyes of the world are set to be on Glasgow in a matter of weeks. World leaders and delegates arriving in the city to tackle the climate emergency will be greeted by rail services that have ground to a halt."

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