Leaders of the four trade unions representing rail workers in Scotland have called upon the First Minister to decide “whose side you’re on” as industrial action continues across the country.
The RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite the Union met with transport minister Jenny Gilruth on Tuesday amid calls for the Scottish Government to back their proposals to improve Scotland’s railways.
In an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, the unions say there is “still no vision for Scotland’s Railways being presented by the Scottish Government.”
Gilruth said she “welcomed” the talks with the unions and expressed her “willingness to work collaboratively with them to make the publicly owned ScotRail a success.”
It comes as further strike action is set to disrupt rail services with multiple disputes over pay and working conditions being fought by union members.
ScotRail RMT members are set to strike on October 10 following the rejection of a pay offer of 5%.
Last year the unions released a report entitled ‘A Vision for Scotland’s Railways’ which outlined their ideas for investment and improvement to services.
They have called upon the Scottish Government to back their vision.
The letter to Sturgeon, signed by the leading officers for all four unions, reads: “First Minister we need to be honest with you, our vision for Scotland’s Railways emerged in the absence of any vision coming from your government. A few months after ScotRail going back into public ownership, we are afraid say that there is still no vision for Scotland’s Railways being presented by the Scottish Government.”
It continues: “It is now time to decide whose side you’re on. Do you share our vision for affordable, accessible, attractive, world class rail services that help Scotland meet its climate targets, deliver social policies, and grow our economy? Or, do you share the Tory vision for managed decline of rail services.”
ASLEF Scottish regional organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “We want to hear if she agrees with our vision of affordable fares, expanded services, accessible well-staffed and attractive stations, enhanced freight services and the privateers driven out of our industry. Sadly, up until now, the Scottish Government has not shared our vision. Now is the time for them to pick whose side they are on.”
“Do they agree with the workers or the Tory vision of managed decline for rail services? Or, do they agree with us about the need for accessible, attractive and affordable rail travel that shifts people from road travel onto trains and buses?”
“As a priority we want her Government to support investment in the people who keep our rail services going, removing peak fares premium, extending concessions to bus travel to rail and speeding up plans for the removal of the 50-year-old HST fleet. In so doing, making clear her commitment to investing in and transforming Scotland’s railways into the world class services needed to meet our environmental obligations whilst also growing our economy.”
After meeting with the union bodies on Tuesday, Gilruth said: “I very much welcomed the opportunity to meet with rail union representatives and share with them the Scottish Government’s positive agenda for the future of rail here in Scotland. I reiterated my desire and willingness to work collaboratively with them to make the publicly owned ScotRail a success.
“We know rail unions share many of the Scottish Government’s aspirations, and we are keen to ensure that the Trade Unions contribute effectively to developing a shared vision for rail through the National Rail Conversation.
“It is the long-standing position of the Scottish Government that a progressive approach to industrial relations such as this along with greater – not fewer – protections for workers is at the heart of a fairer, more successful society. I and the minister for just transition, employment and fair work and minister for transport have made clear this government’s opposition to Westminster’s regressive changes to employment practices.
“I look forward to working with Scotland’s rail unions in progressing our shared positive agenda for rail and to resisting any erosion of workers’ rights by the UK Government.”
Sturgeon is expected to issue a response to the union’s letter at a later stage.