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COP26: SNP MSPs call for rail strikes to be suspended during UN climate conference

Dundee Railway Station.
Dundee Railway Station.

Backbench SNP MSPs are warning ongoing rail strikes could potentially disrupt the upcoming COP26 climate change summit.

The UN COP26 summit is due to be held in Glasgow from October 31 until November 12, with leaders from all over the world expected to descend on the city.

However Scotland’s rail network has seen months of ongoing strike action by ScotRail’s conductors and drivers over a pay dispute, with almost no trains running on a Sunday for the past six months.

Last week Unite the Union also said its engineer members had voted in support of strike action from mid-September, again over a pay dispute with ScotRail operator Abellio.

However a group of SNP MSPs are calling for the union to suspend this ballot, saying the climate change summit is “too important” to be hit with rail strikes.

Rail staff will be “brilliant ambassadors”

In a joint statement MSPs Bob Doris, James Dornan, Bill Kidd, John Mason and Kaukab Stewart say the world will not “look kindly” on a union which is prepared to go on strike during COP26.

Kaukab Stewart MSP

They say rail staff have been exemplary in serving the people of Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic, and say they will be “brilliant ambassadors” for Scotland during the climate change conference.

However they add: “We support the right of every worker and union to engage with their employers to seek a pay deal but, in this instance, this is an unhelpful way for the union’s London bosses to go about kick-starting those negotiations.

“The people of Scotland – and the watching world – may not look kindly on a rail union prepared to disrupt this vital summit.

“COP26 is of critical importance to the future of this planet.”

They also said: “We believe ScotRail staff will understand the importance of the moment and will want to play their part in welcoming the world to Glasgow – and a vital role it will be too.

“We urge the RMT’s London leadership to recognise that COP26 is too important to be targeted in this manner, suspend their referendum, and come to the table for negotiations on a potential pay settlement in good faith.”

Union remains “absolutely rock solid”

RMT General Secretary Michael Lynch said in a letter to its Scottish members industrial action during COP26 “would be an excellent way of highlighting” the union’s pay demands, and says an electronic referendum on strike proposals is now due to be held.

He said: “Our members who have stood firm for over six months in this fight for pay justice and equality in the face of continued provocation from the employer are a credit to the entire trade union movement.

“They have never wavered and remain absolutely rock solid and determined.

“This week a parallel issue over the imposed pay freeze stepped up a notch with sister unions joining the fight for justice.

“Our campaign of action continues and it is now down to ScotRail, Transport Scotland and the senior politicians who call the shots to take these essential workers seriously, get out of the bunker and get round the table with the union to negotiate a fair and just settlement.”

ScotRail passengers face further misery as workers vote to continue Sunday strike action

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