Union to ballot ScotRail engineering staff over strike action

Strike action over the issue of 'equality between grades in payments for rest day working' will go ahead on Sunday as planned.

Union to ballot ScotRail engineering staff over strike action iStock

A union is to ballot ScotRail engineering staff over strike action as ticket examiners and conductors prepare to walk out on Sunday.

RMT confirmed that strike action over the issue of “equality between grades in payments for rest day working” will go ahead on Sunday as planned.

Earlier this month ticket examiners voted in favour of walkouts over the dispute and May 2 marks the first of their six weeks of action.

This weekend was due to be the last of six Sundays of strikes by conductors but, from May 9, these workers will begin another six Sundays of action.

The union said that it will shortly begin balloting engineering grades over the same issue of “workplace justice on enhanced payments”.

It has called on ScotRail operator Abellio to engage in talks on the dispute.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We now have the appalling prospect of poorly trained managers being drafted in without any experience to scab on RMT members’ jobs, regardless of the safety consequences.

“If Abellio and Transport Scotland think our members are going to be burnt off by this refusal to engage then they know nothing of their own workforce and their resilience.

“RMT remains available for talks and it’s about time the company started acting responsibly and took up that offer.”

ScotRail has warned customers to plan ahead as significant disruption is expected as a result of the action.

A small number of services will still operate and the company aims to increase these in the weeks ahead.

Phil Campbell, ScotRail head of customer operations, said earlier this week: “The RMT’s strike action is wrong and will have a significant impact on customers who are returning to the railway as lockdown eases.

“At a time when we need to attract people back to the railway to recover the business and secure jobs, the RMT’s damaging actions will turn people away.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We understand the frustrations felt with regards to pay negotiations, particularly as rail staff have been instrumental in keeping services moving for key workers.

“Rail unions previously agreed that pay negotiations would be deferred until we have more certainty of the budget implications of the current emergency arrangements. Aslef have subsequently agreed to a short-term extension of existing arrangements for rest day working.

“This co-operation helps address potential driver shortages and, with that, service cancellations, due to the suspension of in-cab training during the pandemic.

“The requirement for driver rest day working had already been calculated and included in the existing emergency measures arrangements (EMAs), as well as being forecast for any future EMA, due to the delay in completing the necessary driver training because of the Covid pandemic.

“Without rest day working, ScotRail simply would not have enough drivers to cover the timetable, albeit reduced, which continues to provide a vital service for key workers.

“We appreciate other grades are waiting on pay negotiations to restart but we are unable to progress longer term pay arrangements until we have more certainty of the financial outlook. Our commitment to take those discussions forward at the appropriate time remains.

“Meanwhile, staff continue to be protected by a non-compulsory redundancy clause which provides job security during these uncertain times.”