Rail workers to be balloted over strike action during COP26

RMT has announced it has served notice of an industrial action ballot.

Rail workers to be balloted over strike action during COP26 iStock

Strike action on Scotland’s railways could be set to take place during the COP26 climate conference.

It comes after the rail union, RMT, announced it has served notice of an industrial action ballot in the ongoing pay dispute.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow between November 1 to 12.

ScotRail services have been disrupted for almost seven months amid the ongoing dispute, with most Sunday services being cancelled.

On Wednesday, RMT confirmed that it will ballot over 2000 members across all grades.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s ballot announcement has been forced on us by the deliberate time wasting by ScotRail and Transport Scotland.

“This issue should have been sorted‎ by now and we should have had a fair and just offer that recognises the hard and important work of our members.

“The union will be campaigning for a massive yes vote and we remain available for talks.”

Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said that rail workers have been treated with “total contempt”.

“It’s looking increasingly likely that the SNP’s disregard for workers is going to cause chaos at COP26 – that would be humiliating for the Scottish Government,” he said.

“Rail workers were on the frontline throughout the pandemic, keeping services running for all of us. In return they’ve been treated with total contempt.  

“The sooner ScotRail is out of Abellio’s hands the better – but the SNP’s track record shouldn’t fill anyone with confidence.

 He added: “We’ve seen flagrant hypocrisy from the SNP, who loudly condemn pay freezes from the Tories while quietly inflicting them on rail workers.  

“The SNP must stop blocking a fair pay deal and prove to us that workers’ rights will be a priority for the new publicly owned ScotRail.”

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the RMT have opted to ballot for this highly damaging strike action, particularly when talks are ongoing.

“Although we are starting to see customers gradually returning to Scotland’s Railway, our financial position is precarious and strike action is wrong at a time when we need to deliver a safe and reliable service.

“We need to provide stability for our staff and customers and RMT is wrong to take a ballot of disruptive action instead of working with ScotRail to address the grave long-term challenges facing the rail industry.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We recognise how hard rail employees worked during the pandemic to keep services moving for key workers.

“Through additional funding via the Emergency Measures Agreements we ensured that every employee received full pay throughout the pandemic – even at times when services and revenue had fallen by up to 95%

“Talks are on-going with many of the Trade Unions against a backdrop of significant financial challenges faced by the Government. There are reasonable offers on the table which, through meaningful discussions about efficiencies and innovations, could lead to a pay rise

“Any cancellations, as the result of industrial action, not only have the potential to undermine the recovery of our rail services but also impact on vital revenue streams from ticket sales.”

The spokesperson added: “While we support the right of every worker and union to engage with their employers to seek a pay deal, COP26 is Scotland and Glasgow’s chance to showcase the key role we see for rail in our sustainable future on a world stage.

“We would hope ScotRail staff and unions will understand the importance of the moment and will want to play their part in welcoming the world to Glasgow. We need all the parties to continue discussions and help identify solutions to this situation.”

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