Rail services face Sunday shutdown in pay dispute

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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ALL Sunday trains would be halted if ScotRail drivers vote to ban overtime as part of a pay dispute, their union has told The Scotsman.

Passengers travelling from late October onwards could be forced to find alternative transport in what would be the first industrial action by ScotRail drivers for 11 years.

Aslef, which represents nearly all ScotRail’s 1,100 drivers, is staging a ballot for action after members twice rejected pay offers recommended by the union’s leadership.

The result is due on 18 October, making 27 October the first possible Sunday to be hit.

Aslef Scottish secretary Kevin Lindsay told The Scotsman he “anticipated no service” on Sundays because drivers’ shifts on that day were based on them working overtime.

Passengers who could be affected include rugby fans heading for the Scotland v South Africa international at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on 17 November.

Christmas shoppers using the rail network in Glasgow – the biggest in the UK outside London – could also face major disruption.

If the overtime ban continues after Christmas, football fans would also be hit, with a full card of Scottish Premiership matches on 29 December.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “The days of unions holding a gun to the head of governments are well and truly gone. The only real option is for everyone to get round the table and sort this out.

“As ever, the biggest losers should this go ahead would be the customers, and by default the many businesses who depend on them travelling by rail at these times.”

Aslef said ScotRail drivers were holding out for a bigger pay increase to bring them into line with colleagues at other train-operating companies.

Further talks with ScotRail are planned for next Wednesday.

Members have rejected both a 3.3 per cent, one-year increase and a subsequent 6.4 per cent, 18-month offer which would take their basic pay to £41,713.

Drivers voted by 445-407 to reject the latter offer.

Mr Lindsay said ScotRail drivers were paid some £12,000 less than those at other train firms operating in Scotland such as East Coast, Virgin Trains and First TransPennine Express.

He said: “They are the worst-paid train drivers in Scotland and one of the bottom few in Britain.

“From the outside, this looks like a generous offer [by ScotRail] but it has to be kept in context of the industry you are working in – that’s the comparison. You cannot compare a train driver to a lorry driver or public sector worker.

“We are aware of the damage a strike can have, but any sort of action is a last resort.”

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed that the offer of 6.4 per cent has been rejected.

“That offer, which would take drivers’ basic pay to almost £42,000, is a very good one in the current economic climate.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which controls the ScotRail franchise, said: “We urge all parties concerned to get back round the negotiating table as soon as possible to resolve this dispute and avoid any potential disruption to passengers.”