ScotRail: Move to publicly-owned rail operator must not mean job losses, warns Labour

There should be no compulsory redundancies at Scotland’s new publicly owned rail provider, Scottish Labour has said ahead of a Holyrood vote.

A motion tabled by Labour MSP Neil Bibby – to be debated on Thursday – calls on the Scottish Government to rule out mandatory redundancies and “any dilution of collective bargaining” when ScotRail comes back into public ownership on April 1.

Mr Bibby’s motion also seeks to condemn plans to cut ticket offices, reduce services and a recent increase in ticket prices.

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Ahead of the vote, he said: “This vote is a chance for the SNP to stand with rail passengers and workers and show us what kind of a railway they want to deliver for Scotland.

“We should be trying to rebuild from the pandemic – but instead services have been cut to the bone while passengers pay record fares.

“The new transport minister must take this opportunity to show she is going to take a new approach.

“If we are serious about restarting our economy and meeting our net-zero goals, we need to show some real ambition for rail.

“The SNP must back this motion and agree to fix the problems piling up at ScotRail, or else the hopes we have for genuine public ownership will be over before it’s even began.”

ScotRail: Move to publicly-owned rail operator must not mean job losses, warns Labour. (Picture credit: John Devlin)ScotRail: Move to publicly-owned rail operator must not mean job losses, warns Labour. (Picture credit: John Devlin)
ScotRail: Move to publicly-owned rail operator must not mean job losses, warns Labour. (Picture credit: John Devlin)

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives said the emergency rail timetable, which was recently extended into February due to the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, should be scrapped ahead of many Scots returning to the office on Monday.

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The party’s transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “SNP-run ScotRail is on the horizon but all we’ve seen so far are passengers having to pay more for less – with sharp ticket price rises and a reduced timetable.

“Temporary timetables were appropriate during the height of the pandemic but with Covid in retreat the country needs to get back up and running.

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“Returning to the office will help our economic recovery but it’s not feasible with an inadequate rail service.

“The transport minister needs to bring pressure to bear on ScotRail to end the restricted service now, given that isolation requirements have been reduced for over a month.

“Scots cannot be left to suffer the consequences of ScotRail’s cuts indefinitely. It is time that the SNP Government stepped in to pressure ScotRail to resume normal service levels ahead of the imminent nationalisation.”

ScotRail operations director David Simpson said the decision to extend the temporary timetable was “the right thing to do”.

“We are keeping the timetable under review and will make changes based on the demand from customers and the continuing impact on services of staff who are absent due to testing positive for coronavirus or who are self-isolating,” he added.

Addressing Mr Bibby’s assertions, Mr Simpson said: “The significant cost of running the railway following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means it’s essential that the railway meets the changing needs of customers, as well as provides the taxpayer with best value for money.

“That might mean offering a different service on different days of the week or different times of year as passenger demand varies across the week or through the year. But by doing so, we can ensure Scotland’s Railway remains sustainable into the future.”

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