Threat of more rail misery as strike ballots at ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper called by RMT union

Members of largest union at Scottish train operators to start voting next week

Thousands of members of the largest union at ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper are to take part in a strike ballot in the latest escalation of a pay dispute that is already causing significant disruption to passengers.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) announced on Thursday it would hold votes at the two Scottish Government-owned train operators from next week that could lead to industrial action by mid-August.

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RMT members at ScotRail include train crew and station staff. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)RMT members at ScotRail include train crew and station staff. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)
RMT members at ScotRail include train crew and station staff. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman) | John Devlin

The move comes a day after ScotRail cut one quarter of its daily trains in an effort to provide certainty to travellers after some drivers stopped volunteering for overtime on which the company depends, leading to large-scale cancellations at short-notice.

Drivers’ union Aslef is due to decide next week to also hold a strike vote at ScotRail.

Aslef and ScotRail’s other unions rejected last Friday a multi-stage 9.3 per cent increase from ScotRail over three years.

The offer comprised a 2 per cent increase in April this year, next year and 2026, and a further 1 per cent in January 2025, 2026 and 2027.#

RMT said the same offer had been made to its Caledonian Sleeper staff.

It said the two companies had both tabled “well-below inflation derisory offers that did not fully reward members for their hard work and dedication”.

A spokesperson for the union said: “The insulting pay offers have been made even more unpalatable when members of the Scottish Parliament received a 6.7 per cent pay rise this year.”

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “It is ludicrous that the MSPs ultimately responsible for running these services were taking bumper pay rises whilst subjecting workers to significant hardship during a cost-of-living crisis.”

The union said the ballot “for strike action and industrial action short of a strike in the form of a ban on overtime, rest day working and higher-grade duties” would start on Thursday July 18 and close on Thursday August 8.

It is expected that two weeks’ notice would be required before any action took place, indicating that it could not start until August 22 at the earliest.

ScotRail cut 600 trains from its weekday timetable indefinitely from Wednesday, with services on Sundays due to be reduced by half, or by some 550 trains.

Phil Campbell, its customer operations director, said: “We’re disappointed the RMT is balloting its members for industrial action following the pay offer made last week and we encourage members to vote to reject it.

“We recognise the hard work of our colleagues and the cost of living challenges faced by families across the country and hope that we can come to an agreement on pay which reflects this, as well as providing value for money for taxpayers. 

“We want to resolve this matter with trade unions and will remain fully committed to further discussions.”

Kathryn Darbandi, managing director of Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We are disappointed that the RMT has taken this action.

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“We are at the early stages of positive discussions and for this reason we recommend that our team vote to reject.

 “We remain committed to ongoing and open dialogue with employees and the RMT.

“It is our hope that we can reach an agreement for our team, without impacting the reliability of our service.”

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