Nicola Sturgeon urges UK Government to resolve ongoing rail dispute

There are warnings of severe disruption for rail passengers in Scotland over the festive period.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urges UK Government to resolve Network Rail pay dispute iStock

Nicola Sturgeon has urged the UK Government to resolve the ongoing railways dispute amid warnings that passengers in Scotland could face severe disruption to services.

Strike action has seen a wide number of cancellations throughout the year, with a deadlock between trade unions and ministers.

RMT members at Network Rail are set to take action from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27.

And walk-outs are also planned in the first week of January, on the 3, 4, 6 and 7, with services expected to be hugely reduced.

Network Rail is the arms-length public body of the UK Department for Transport and has responsibility for the maintenance of rail infrastructure.

The organisation has accused the RMT of causing “needless misery” to its members, the railway and to the UK economy.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef will also strike on January 5.

Companies impacted by the Aslef strike include Avanti West Coast, which runs services connecting Scotland and England.

Scotland’s First Minister has said that the repercussions of the ongoing rail dispute was having a “major impact” over the festive period.

Sturgeon called for transport secretary Mark Harper to return to the negotiating table in seeking a resolution to the dispute.

In November, a separate dispute involving RMT members working for ScotRail was concluded after an improved pay offer was accepted by the union.

“The Scottish Government has maintained constructive discussions with trades unions and settled our own pay negotiations by embracing the concept of fair work,” said Sturgeon.

“Despite this, passengers in Scotland still face severe disruption as a direct result of the ongoing UK-wide rail dispute between Network Rail, UK Government rail operators and the trades unions and Network Rail employees in Scotland face entering the new year with no pay rise.

“The repercussions of this dispute, and the UK Government’s refusal to engage constructively with the trades unions, are continuing to have a major impact not only for the rail workers but for passengers, freight, businesses and the wider public in Scotland over the festive period and into 2023.”

The First Minister added: “The (transport secretary) must intervene immediately and work with the trades unions to secure a railway that benefits users, staff and the wider public.”

Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, accused the UK Government of taking a “combative approach” towards the negotiations.

“We all want to see an end to the rail dispute and for workers to be awarded a fair pay offer that is not conditional on cuts to staffing and services,” said Foyer.

“In Scotland, workers have already agreed their pay claim, but we are still seeing widespread disruption on our railways.

“This is due to the combative approach to negotiations taken by the UK Government which has led to the protracted dispute between Network Rail and the UK Government.

“The rail unions and Scottish Government have come to a negotiated settlement and we need the UK Government to take a similar approach that results in workers at Network Rail and other UK-controlled rail companies getting the deal they deserve.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The Government ensured two very fair pay deals were on the table, but the RMT rejected them and instead, opted to prolong its disruption.

“The Government and industry have played our part and we now urge the unions to play theirs.”

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