Rail unions are being urged to heed the importance of next month’s Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow and settle a long-standing dispute before the global gathering comes to Scotland.
Transport minister Graeme Dey appealed to union leaders to “understand the importance of the moment” and to work with bosses at ScotRail to resolve their grievances.
It comes after the Unite trade union announced on Monday that engineering staff would stage a number of one-day stoppages in October and November – including during the crucial summit.
Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said that would mean “three days of strike action will take place on Scotland’s railways during the most important climate conference in history”.
With talks taking place to resolve the dispute, Mr Sweeney demanded to know what would happen if the “revised pay offer currently under discussion is refused by the trade unions”.
And he warned: “We now face the prospect of Scotland being an international laughing stock as delegates to the Cop26 conference can’t use public transport because of Abellio’s intransigence and this Government’s seeming indifference.”
Unite said its planned protest was in response to “failure by Abellio ScotRail to make a meaningful pay offer” to staff.
Mr Dey said more talks were scheduled for Thursday.
The transport minister said: “Despite a backdrop of significant financial challenges faced by the rail sector there are reasonable offers on the table, which through pragmatic and meaningful discussions about efficiencies and modernisation could lead to an agreement being reached.”
He warned that if strikes resulted in cancelled services this could “undermine the recovery of our rail services” from Covid-19, and would also “impact on vital revenue streams from ticket sales”.
He added: “While we support the right of every worker and trade union to engage with their employers to seek a pay deal Cop26 is Scotland and Glasgow’s chance to showcase they key role we see for rail in our sustainable on a world stage.
“We also hope that staff and unions will understand the importance of the moment and will work with ScotRail to resolve this dispute.”
Mr Dey said: “What we need here is for calm heads, for people to get round the table and work constructively to resolve everything within this situation.”
As it stands, the planned 24-hour strikes will take place between October 18-19, November 1-2, November 10-11 and November 12-13.
A number of rail depots, workplaces and stations will be impacted by the action, including Glasgow Queen Street and Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Perth.
Several of the dates clash with Cop26 in Glasgow which will see world leaders in the city from October 31 to November 12.