ScotRail disruption could end as union urges drivers to accept 5% pay offer

·4-min read

Action that has crippled Scotland’s railways could end after a deal was struck with drivers to resolve a dispute, but the Scottish Government could now be under pressure to stump up to avert action elsewhere.

Drivers’ union Aslef said newly-nationalised ScotRail had offered a 5% pay increase following talks on Thursday.

The dispute has seen a temporary timetable put in place, leading to more than 700 services being cancelled.

The new offer will see pay increase by 5%, along with more money for rest day and Sunday working, driving instructor and maternity pay, as well as a policy of no compulsory redundancies for the next five years.

According to ScotRail, 2.2% of the increase will be funded by Transport Scotland – which said the cash was already in its budget because of an earlier dispute with the TSSA and Unite unions last year – with the remaining 2.8% coming from ScotRail’s coffers.

But issues on the rail network may continue in the coming weeks, with Aslef due to put the deal to its executive committee on Wednesday before then going to its members, and ScotRail saying it could take up to 10 days to return services to normal.

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s Scottish organiser, said: “We are pleased that today significant progress has been made in our latest round of talks with ScotRail.

“All these proposals, we believe, represent a breakthrough and significant progress and is a recognition of the vital role our members play for society and the economy.

“The full Aslef negotiating team is recommending acceptance of the offer to our members through a referendum subject to executive committee approval.”

Another union has now seized on the deal, looking to pressure the Scottish Government in a bid to resolve its own dispute.

GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway congratulated Aslef on the deal, adding: “Today’s developments certainly demonstrate the paltry 2% offer currently on the table from Cosla, a figure worth less than a tenner a week extra for staff earning under £25,000 a year, is neither credible nor acceptable.

“It’s clear the only language our political leaders understand is action. That’s why we are recommending our members vote yes for strikes in our local government ballot.”

Unions representing council workers have said there could be school closures and “waste piling up in the streets” as a result of strike action if they do not get a pay increase of more than the 2% already offered, and have called for a summit with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

David Simpson, service delivery director at ScotRail, said: “We’ve made a really good offer which recognises the cost-of-living challenges faced by families across the country and delivers good value for the public.

“The feedback we’ve had from many drivers is that they recognise we have made a series of very good offers and we are pleased they will get a say in a referendum.

“The railway plays a vital role in growing the economy and connecting communities. Now more than ever we all need to work together to attract more people to the railway as we recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland added: “We welcome Aslef’s recognition of the very good offer on the table, an offer which is in part self-funded through increased revenue and roster flexibilities, and also that they will now take this to their members with a recommendation to accept.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said news of the offer is positive, but he added it has taken too long to get to this point.

He added: “Aslef must ballot their members as quickly as possible and, hopefully, they will rubber-stamp the deal.

“I hope that the transport minister Jenny Gilruth can learn from this. She has been posted missing throughout and we run the risk of this happening every year if she continues to take the hands-off approach that she has.”

But the RMT has turned down a similar pay deal, and ScotRail said the union would instead recommend to its national executive committee that it ballots its members to strike.

Phil Campbell, head of customer operations at ScotRail, said: “It is astonishing that RMT officials have rejected this offer without even giving members a say through a referendum on the details of the offer. I know many staff share our frustration with the RMT.”

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