Rail strikes: UK Government urged to work with unions to avert strikes
Scottish Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth, has called on the UK Government to act swiftly and bring their payment dispute with RMT members to an end.
Gilruth urged the Secretary of State for Transport “to take a different approach” and to “work with the Trade Unions to secure a railway that benefits users, staff and taxpayers”.
The call comes as RMT members at Network Rail will start a 48-hour strike today, after voting to reject the latest pay offer from the UK Government. Staff will also walk out on Friday and Saturday.
Although the industrial action does not involve ScotRail staff, it will heavily affect its services and passengers have been urged to only travel if “absolutely necessary”.
Limited services across the central belt, Fife and Borders will start at 7.30am and will end at 6.30pm during the strike.
Gilruth said: “While this is not a matter in which the Scottish Government has any locus – I urge the Secretary of State for Transport to take a different approach and work with the Trade Unions to secure a railway that benefits users, staff and taxpayers.
“In Scotland, we have maintained constructive discussions between ScotRail and the Scottish representatives of the RMT members. By doing so, we have settled our pay negotiations.
“Scotland has embraced the concept of fair work, so it is disheartening to see our own progressive activity in this regard being put at risk by the inevitable wider consequences of the UK Government’s ill-thought-out, hasty and hostile approach to industrial relations.
“We do not welcome UK Government plans for so-called radical rail reform agenda which have yet to be explained to Scottish Ministers in any detail, but which appear to be a guise for compulsory redundancies in the Network Rail workforce, including in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government remains committed to our long-standing policy of no compulsory redundancies. However, the last three Secretaries of State for Transport have failed to engage in any meaningful conversations on these matters – an approach that is quite unsatisfactory given the seriousness of this Network Rail dispute.
"We will continue to work collaboratively with the Trade Unions in Scotland to make public ownership of Scotland’s Railway a success”.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government helped facilitate a fair and improved offer, delivering a pay increase more generous than those in the private sector and guaranteeing no compulsory redundancies. The significant proportion of RMT members who voted to accept this, despite being instructed not to, clearly recognised that. Unite members have accepted the very same offer and the TSSA leadership has also recommended its members accept it.
“There is clearly an appetite amongst the workers themselves to strike a deal, which is what makes this result even more frustrating.
“The Government has played its part in trying to resolve this dispute and it’s time for unions to play theirs. That’s not only what passengers and the public want, but clearly what a lot of rail workers want as well.”
Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe