RMT has announced it has served notice of an industrial action ballot
Dumbarton Central Station where services could be disrupted during COP26.
By Lucy Ashton
Strike action on West Dunbartonshire’s railways and protests on roads into Glasgow could be set to take place during the COP26 climate conference.
It comes after the rail union, RMT, announced it has served notice of an industrial action ballot in the ongoing pay dispute.
COP26 will be held in Glasgow between November 1 to 12.
ScotRail services have been disrupted for almost seven months amid the ongoing dispute, with most Sunday services being cancelled.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s ballot announcement has been forced on us by the deliberate time wasting by ScotRail and Transport Scotland.
“This issue should have been sorted by now and we should have had a fair and just offer that recognises the hard and important work of our members.
“The union will be campaigning for a massive yes vote and we remain available for talks.”
Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby, pictured right, said that rail workers have been treated with “total contempt”.
“It’s looking increasingly likely that the SNP’s disregard for workers is going to cause chaos at COP26 – that would be humiliating for the Scottish Government,” he said.
“Rail workers were on the frontline throughout the pandemic, keeping services running for all of us. In return they’ve been treated with total contempt.
“The sooner ScotRail is out of Abellio’s hands the better – but the SNP’s track record shouldn’t fill anyone with confidence.
He added: “We’ve seen flagrant hypocrisy from the SNP, who loudly condemn pay freezes from the Tories while quietly inflicting them on rail workers.
“The SNP must stop blocking a fair pay deal and prove to us that workers’ rights will be a priority for the new publicly owned ScotRail.”
A ScotRail spokesperson said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the RMT have opted to ballot for this highly damaging strike action, particularly when talks are ongoing.
“We need to provide stability for our staff and customers and RMT is wrong to take a ballot of disruptive action instead of working with ScotRail to address the grave long-term challenges facing the rail industry.”
Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins – the gold commander for the COP26 policing operation.
Meanwhile, the head of Police Scotland’s operation for COP26 has warned against any attempt to block the Kingston Bridge during the Glasgow summit.
Climate activists with Insulate Britain have repeatedly blocked the M25 around London in recent weeks amid their calls for the UK Government to guarantee insulation in all homes by 2030.
Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins – the gold commander for the COP26 policing operation – said any similar demonstrations, which he said would endanger the lives of road users and the protesters themselves, in Glasgow would see people taken into custody.
The bridge is part of the M8 motorway and goes through the centre of Glasgow, passing close to the SEC – which will serve as the main venue for the summit.
He said: “If we see similar events to what we’ve seen on the M25 where protesters effectively shut off one of the main circular routes in and out of London, that firstly is dangerous – it’s dangerous to other road users, it’s dangerous to people that might be vulnerable in vehicles, and it also has a massive, massive impact on business-as-usual across the whole of the London conurbation.
“If we had a situation where, for example, a group of individuals lay across the Kingston Bridge and effectively brought to a halt one of the main thoroughfares in Scotland that has something like 70,000 vehicles going over it a day, that’s something that’s a real danger to the individuals that are doing it, it’s a real danger to the road users that are traversing the bridge.
“We would take pretty prompt action there.”
Higgins went on to say if a number of protesters were to have a “mass lie-in” in the city’s George Square, “they can lie there as long as they want”.
He added: “In general terms, unless there’s a real threat to life – for example the Kingston Bridge – we have a five-step approach for general blockades.”
The senior officer said police first allow the blockade, before asking protesters to leave, then giving them a time limit, followed by arrests made when the time expires.
Commuters from Helensburgh Central could be hit by a strike during COP26.
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