Nicola Sturgeon urged to intervene to stop rail strike hitting Cop26 summit

·4 min read

Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to personally intervene and try to resolve a long-running rail dispute which could see staff take strike action during the forthcoming UN Cop26 climate change summit.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, accused rail bosses of having “dragged their heels over further talks”, despite the fact that the “clock is ticking” to the start of the summit.

Thousands of delegates from across the globe, including world leaders such as US president Joe Biden, will be in Scotland for the crucial climate change talks, which get under way on October 31.

With that in mind, Mr Lynch said he had now written to the First Minister “calling on her to intervene as a matter of urgency to bring about a fair resolution” to the dispute.

In his letter to Ms Sturgeon, he said: “It is completely within the Scottish Government’s powers to resolve these disputes before Cop26 commences – it needs to stop stonewalling these key workers and give them the justice, respect and reward they deserve.”

Earlier this week, members of another rail union, the TSSA, voted to accept the pay offer from ScotRail.

It comes after Scotland’s railways have seen months of industrial action, with most Sunday services cancelled.

The RMT union, meanwhile, still plans to strike during the Cop26 climate conference.

Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow
Cop26 is being held at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Lynch said: “It is frankly disgraceful that rather than getting all parties round the table for meaningful talks to bring about a fair resolution to these disputes, the Scottish Government is still failing to intervene, despite being in control of the ScotRail franchise and having a major interest in the Sleeper service.”

He added: “RMT has made clear from the outset that it is open to meaningful talks.

“Therefore, it is disappointing that with the clock ticking and just days to go until COP26, ScotRail and the Sleeper have dragged their heels over further talks, preferring instead to issue inflammatory and misleading communications to its workforce.

“I have, therefore, today, written to the First Minister calling on her to intervene as a matter of urgency to bring about a fair resolution to these disputes.

“As I said in the letter to the First Minister, the Scottish Government needs to stop stonewalling ScotRail and the Sleeper workers and give these green railway workers the justice, respect and reward they deserve.”

However, a spokeswoman for Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s transport agency, said it was “disappointing” that the RMT had not put the pay offer to its members in a ballot.

She said: “We acknowledge that the RMT has at last contacted ScotRail to reject this offer nearly two weeks after it was made.

“This is a disappointing response from the RMT leadership, particularly as we understand Aslef and TSSA have accepted the pay offer and Unite is recommending it to its members, who they are currently balloting.

“It is therefore disappointing that RMT leadership did not put this very good pay offer to a democratic vote to its members.”

The spokeswoman continued: “In the interest of collective bargaining, we understand that ScotRail would need to re-engage all four unions to determine next steps.

“The RMT leadership has made clear its problem is with rest-day working and that would need to be the focus for any further discussions.”

She added: “We are keen to see this issue resolved ahead of Cop26 so everyone who works in Scotland’s railways can play their part in welcoming the world to our country and showcase our efforts towards building a greener, cleaner railway.”

Meanwhile, a ScotRail spokesman said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the RMT have rejected a very good pay offer, negotiated over several weeks, and opted to continue with this highly damaging strike action, particularly when the other three unions have either accepted the offer or have recommended that their members do so.

“We’re seeing customers gradually return to Scotland’s railway, but the scale of the financial situation ScotRail is facing is stark.

“To build a more sustainable and greener railway for the future and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, we need to change. All of us in the railway: management, staff, trade unions, suppliers, and Government, need to work together to modernise the railway so that it is fit for the future.”

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