Rail strike looms amid fears job cuts will top 100

JOB losses on Scotland’s railways could now top 100, far more than the “dozens” previously expected, a union fears.
Members were previously assured there would be around 'dozens' of job cuts. Picture: Jane BarlowMembers were previously assured there would be around 'dozens' of job cuts. Picture: Jane Barlow
Members were previously assured there would be around 'dozens' of job cuts. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) described the cuts by the new ScotRail-Network Rail partnership as “stealth” reductions.

Voluntary redundancies are being sought by the closer-working alliance between train operator and track owner to cut costs and end duplication.

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The RMT, its biggest union, revealed it had been told by ScotRail of plans to reduce the number of fitters (a type of engineer) by 80.

However, the union said it expected some cleaners to go too.

The news comes a month after The Scotsman revealed dozens of jobs were due to be shed by the alliance, which employs 7,000 staff.

There are also expected to be reductions among control room staff and management.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash has now warned ScotRail it would ballot members for industrial action if more than 80 posts were lost, or the firm reneged on its “no compulsory redundancies” policy.

The policy also covers Network Rail workers as part of a two-deal pay deal until the end of next year.

ScotRail has stressed no one will be forced to leave, and said it had pledged to recruit up to 100 extra train drivers. That is part of the settlement of a pay dispute with drivers, to make Sundays part of the working week rather than rely on staff working voluntary overtime.

ScotRail said a joint working party would be set up with the unions “to discuss how we ensure Sunday becomes part of the working week”.

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Mr Cash said: “ScotRail confirmed their intentions to reduce the headcount by means of introducing a voluntary leavers scheme.

“The union’s executive committee is of the view the introduction of a scheme is in fact a reduction in staffing numbers by stealth.

“The company has indicated they are looking for 80 fitters to leave the business. It is likely the figure will go beyond the 80 fitters as this does not include cleaning grade members.

“A ‘no compulsory agreement’ currently exists between the RMT and ScotRail. Therefore, should the company renege on this agreement or indeed the reduction in staffing numbers goes beyond the 80 jobs through voluntary redundancy, then the RMT will immediately go into dispute with ScotRail and I will commence a ballot for industrial action.”

ScotRail said it could not give the number of redundancies until it knew how many staff had applied to leave.

A spokesman said: “We have a no compulsory redundancy policy in place, so everyone who wants a job will have a job.

“In fact, we recently announced we will be recruiting up to 100 extra train drivers to allow us to run a modern, seven- day railway that can grow and develop in the future.

“We have opened up a voluntary leavers scheme so people who wish to leave the business can do so.

“This is a matter of choice for our employees. Nobody will be leaving us who doesn’t want to.”