Scots rail network facing ‘crippling’ strike over control staff

A dispute over control staff could see Scotland's railways grind to a halt at the height of the Holyrood election campaign. Picture: TSPL

A dispute over control staff could see Scotland's railways grind to a halt at the height of the Holyrood election campaign. Picture: TSPL

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A TRANSPORT union is to ballot its members on taking industrial action which it says would bring Scotland’s rail network to a halt.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said the move follows “a severe breakdown in industrial ­relations” with the ScotRail Alliance.

Scotrail seem to be treating passenger safety as a game of Russian roulette and our controller’s patience with their shenanigans has finally run out

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary

The union said the rail operator “appears to be recruiting for new staff” while controllers are facing job cuts.

It said initial consultations with unions had “made clear” that “no operational jobs would be lost”, but it subsequently became evident that four jobs will go within the controllers’ grade and five train delay attributors will be lost.

• READ MORE: Rail staff threaten action over plan to downgrade conductors

This prompted controllers to speak out about what they said was a “diminishing regard for safety standards” on the part of the ScotRail Alliance, a formal agreement between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail set up in May to create a stronger relationship between the two. TSSA has sent out ­ballot papers for strikes which will begin from 11 April.

General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Scotrail seem to be treating passenger safety as a game of Russian roulette and our controllers’ patience with their shenanigans has finally run out.

“These are a small but highly-trained and highly-skilled ­section of rail staff who take great pride in their work. They are the rail equivalent of air traffic control, they track trains and keep them running safely.

“They have been highly critical of Scotrail Alliance’s efforts to introduce new working practices that would jeopardise passenger and industry safety standards and since the Forth Road Bridge closure they have been overstretched.

“With no slack in the system they have been working on goodwill rather than good practice.”

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A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “This is a matter for the ScotRail Alliance and the union. We urge both parties to work together to resolve any issues and avoid disruption to passengers.”

A ScotRail spokeswoman said the organisation had been in talks for “several months” with unions.

She said: “The purpose of these proposed changes is to reduce duplication and to ensure that we are delivering the safest, most efficient service to our customers.

“No one would lose their job as a result of these changes; anyone who wants to continue to work with us will be welcome to do so. Industrial action benefits no one.”

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