Fate of latest ScotRail dispute too close to call

Just when you thought ScotRail was returning to normal after months of disruption, the threat of further trouble has loomed onto the horizon.

But like everything on Scotland’s railways, as I have argued before, expect the unexpected.

Weeks after hundreds of trains a day were restored to the ScotRail timetable following the resolution of a pay dispute with its drivers, an even bigger group of its workers has rejected a very similar deal, with the RMT union warning of a potential strike ballot unless there’s an improvement to what’s on the table.

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If it comes to that, and results in a mandate for action, there could be cancellations across much of Scotland because the RMT represents conductors, without whom trains cannot run.

The RMT has staged four Britain-wide strikes so far this summer in a separate dispute with Network Rail. Picture: Robert Perry/PA Wire
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That would be in addition to the stoppages in a separate Britain-wide pay dispute between the RMT and Network Rail, whose staff include signallers, and which has halted most of the ScotRail network four times since June with a further two strikes planned for August 18 and 20.

Passengers are also being disrupted by a further pay dispute involving train drivers at English-based train companies including cross-Border operators like LNER, who are due to walk out again on Saturday August 13.

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Strike ballot threat after RMT rejects ScotRail pay offer

Back at ScotRail, traditionally it was the train drivers who would complete their pay negotiations first, with the RMT, whose members also include station staff and cleaners, going on to accept the same deal.

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But this time, the bigger union’s membership has rejected the 5 per cent offer, which was more than doubled from an original 2.2 per cent during the drivers’ dispute.

I hadn’t expected that result, neither had ScotRail, at least publicly, but then I hadn’t factored in the union leadership recommending rejection.

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I’m told the significant factor in the 60 per cent majority vote against the offer on a 65 per cent turnout was the third of the membership who abstained, who are viewed as happy with the deal.

The RMT will have to do at least as well in any strike ballot to be able to take industrial action – but then the worsening economic situation could swing things in their favour.

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But talk about unexpected.This one is too close to call.

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