RMT union orders ScotRail strike ballot after rejecting new pay offer

Thousands of ScotRail staff are to be balloted for industrial action after its biggest union rejected an improved pay offer, The Scotsman has learned.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), whose members include train conductors and ticket examiners, is expected to complete the vote by around mid-September, with any walkouts possible from the end of the month if a majority for action is secured.

The move by 2,500 staff comes after the union last week turned down an extra £300 in addition to the previous 5 per cent offer that was accepted by ScotRail drivers’ union Aslef last month.

Any action is likely to particularly affect trains outside the Glasgow area, which are controlled by conductors.

ScotRail RMT members could walk out from late September if a majority vote for action.Picture: John Devlin

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The new ballot comes as the RMT was due to stage further strikes across Britain on Thursday and Saturday as part of a separate pay dispute with Network Rail and other train operators.

The track and signalling body said ScotRail would be able to run nearly twice as many trains as during previous strikes because more trained signallers had returned from holiday.

Two services an hour will run between 7:30am and 6:30pm on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow Queen Street line via Falkirk High and the Edinburgh-Helensburgh, Tweedbank and Inverkeithing routes, with one train an hour on the Edinburgh lines to North Berwick and Glasgow Central via Shotts.

The Glasgow-Hamilton/Larkhall and Lanark routes will have two trains per hour, with one an hour on the Glasgow-Larbert and Falkirk Grahamston lines.

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Two trains an hour will also operate on the cross-Glasgow Milngavie-Springburn line.

A total of 378 ScotRail services will run compared to 189 during the last strike on July 27, but they comprise just 18 per cent of the normal timetable.

Knock-on disruption is expected on Friday and Sunday while signal boxes re-open.

RMT Scottish organiser Mick Hogg said: “When we met ScotRail last week, we made it absolutely clear that if they failed to make an acceptable improved offer it would lead to a strike ballot.

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Strike ballot threat after RMT rejects ScotRail pay offer

"The union’s national executive committee decided on Tuesday to order a ballot for industrial action.

"We have given ScotRail seven days’ notice and the ballot will be open for three weeks.”

The union would then have to give a further two weeks’ notice of any action.

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Mr Hogg said he was “disappointed” with ScotRail’s improved offer, which he said did not address the cost-of-living crisis at a time when the Scottish Government-owned company had “substantially increased” its directors’ pay, “pushing it through the roof”.

He said he was also “disgusted” at ScotRail requiring the latest offer be put to a further members’ vote.

RMT members, who also include station staff, engineers and cleaners, voted by 60 per cent to 40 per cent to reject the previous 5 per cent offer, with 65 per cent taking part in the ballot.

A long-running RMT pay dispute last year saw many of ScotRail’s Sunday trains cancelled for months, with the row only finally settled days before the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow in November.

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Phil Campbell, ScotRail’s head of customer operations, said: “Last week, we met with RMT representatives to discuss the next steps as we sought to resolve this dispute.

"It is very disappointing that the RMT plans to hold a ballot for industrial action, despite ScotRail making a further improvement on what was already a very strong offer.

“The offer made to our staff is a good one that recognises the cost-of-living challenges faced by families across the country, as well as delivering good value for the taxpayer.

"The offer itself is very similar to that which was recently accepted by Aslef with regards to train drivers.”

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ScotRail said the extra £300 payment was “recognition of the need to use technology, like mobile devices and upgraded ticket printing machines”.

The technology clause in the original offer led the RMT to recommend members reject it.

ScotRail said the £300 had been conditional on the RMT agreeing to put the improved offer to another ballot, but as it had refused, the extra payment had been withdrawn from the offer.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “It is disappointing that this point has been reached without a deal on a pay offer, though we know both parties came to the table in good faith and engaged constructively.

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“We know how challenging circumstances are for people, including rail employees.

"The offer that ScotRail has made is a fair but also affordable one, not least in terms of offering a pay increase, job security and enhancements.

"The pay offer mirrors the deal accepted by Aslef, whose members will begin see the benefits in their next pay packet.

“Obviously, RMT members - many of whom would benefit practically and financially from particular enhancements included in the deal - will now be without a pay rise in their wages as we head into autumn and winter, when that extra money could have helped people meet additional living costs.

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“As union leaders have previously observed, the approach taken in Scotland shows we want to work with our trade unions to make public ownership a success for staff and passengers alike.

"We would hope this can continue and therefore ask the RMT leadership to reflect on this before they bring forward any ballot that recommends a rejection of this pay offer as this could result in a loss of income not only for their own members but for every ScotRail employee.”

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