ScotRail is to be hit with fresh strike action after the operator’s engineers backed a walkout over collapsed pay talks.
Unite the Union said 78% of its members had backed the strike, the second to hit ScotRail amidst an ongoing dispute with members of the RMT union.
Industrial action is now expected to take place from the middle of September as a result of the dispute over pay.
The union said the vote was a result of ScotRail’s “failure” to make a meaningful pay offer to engineers.
Strike action threatened within weeks
A dispute has also arisen over the withdrawal of a number of entitlements, including the Rest Day Working Agreement agreed in April 2020.
The Dutch-owned firm which operates ScotRail, Abellio, initially withdrew it for drivers but later reinstated it.
Unite said ScotRail had rejected a number of demands, including a “substantial” pay increase, greater flexibility of holidays, and no compulsory redundancies.
The ballot amongst engineers showed 78% in favour of strike action from a 68.4% turnout. 92% supported taking industrial action short of a strike
ScotRail said the decision by engineers was “disappointing”, with the decision likely to impact on the recovery of the railway from Covid.
No extra money, ScotRail insist
Pat McIlvogue, Unite industrial officer, said: “The mandate Unite has received from its members at Abellio Scotrail is an indictment of the company’s behaviour and attitude towards its workers.
“The reality is the working relationship between Unite, and for that matter all trade unions, with Abellio is virtually non-existent.
“Unite’s members have had their terms and conditions cut, while Abellio also refuse to offer a decent pay rise.
“The ballot result is the inevitable outcome when workers are treated with no respect.
“Abellio has a final opportunity to get back round the table to meaningfully and positively resolve this dispute.
“If they do not then strike action, and action short of strike, will start from the middle of September.”
Insisting there was no extra money available for a pay rise, ScotRail has said the pandemic prompted a serious financial crisis which left it in need of some £400million in emergency taxpayer support.
Despite some return to rail travel as coronavirus restrictions eased, passenger numbers remain at around 50% of pre-pandemic levels.
Strike decision ‘disappointing’
A ScotRail spokesperson said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the engineering members of Unite have voted for this highly damaging strike action.
“Although we are starting to see customers gradually returning to Scotland’s Railway, our financial position is precarious and strike action is wrong at a time when we need to deliver a safe and reliable service.
“We need to provide stability for our staff and customers and Unite is wrong to disrupt services instead of working with ScotRail to address the grave long-term challenges facing the rail industry.”