TRANSPORT: Rail passengers face Sunday disruptions as pay dispute looms

Union leaders insisted they had “no option” but to ballot their members for action

Dumbarton Central station. Aslef said it was “disappointed by the lack of action and any meaningful pay offer”. Picture by Arthur Jones

By Lucy Ashton

Rail passengers in West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll could once again face weeks of Sunday disruptions as ScotRail train drivers are to be balloted for industrial action.

ScotRail, which returned to public ownership at the beginning of last month, was relying on drivers working overtime on Sundays due to delays in training new staff.

It means that on Sunday, May 8, driver shortages affected at least 116 services across the country.

The union Aslef said it was “disappointed by the lack of action and any meaningful pay offer” from the newly nationalised transport operator after they were made a 2.2% pay offer.

As a result, union leaders insisted they had “no option” but to ballot their members for action.

Speaking on Sunday, David Simpson, ScotRail’s service delivery director, said: “We are reliant on drivers working overtime – known as rest day working – because of delays to training new drivers caused by the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, since the drivers’ union Aslef announced its intention to recommend a ballot for strike action after receiving an offer of a 2.2 per cent pay increase, a significant number of drivers have declined to make themselves available for overtime/rest day working.”

Last month, the rail operator returned to public ownership for the first time in 25 years after Abellio had its franchise ended early following criticism over the quality of the service.

ScotRail is now being run by a company owned by the SNP and Green-led Scottish Government, which also owns the desperately late and over budget languishing at the Ferguson Marine shipyard across the Clyde at Port Glasgow.

“The Transport Minister has frequently met with rail unions in recent months and we absolutely understand the unions’ desire to negotiate a fair settlement for their members. Very recently the Minister has provided clear support for the RMT in their current pay dispute with Network Rail at a UK level.

“Rail unions are aware any additional increase above public sector pay policy amounts have a clear process which must be followed which includes Cabinet approval. Noting that all ScotRail employees have already received the previously negotiated and agreed 2.2% increase for this year, we would encourage them to continue meaningful dialogue with ScotRail so a mutually agreeable outcome can be reached as soon as possible.

“It is our intention for ScotRail and its staff to benefit from the transition to public sector control and that is why we would call on everyone involved to take time to consider all options carefully.”

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