Trust must be rebuilt between the Scottish Government and rail unions after a pay dispute almost resulted in strikes during Cop26, the RMT’s general secretary has said.
Strike action was averted just days before the climate summit begins in Glasgow, as ScotRail agreed a 2.5% pay rise and a specific “Cop26 payment” with the RMT trade union.
In the hours before Wednesday’s deadline to resolve the industrial dispute, the Scottish Government’s transport minister Graeme Dey said it had been “very difficult to establish trust” during negotiations and accused the union of having “moved the goalposts”.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch hit back at the “inflammatory language” and urged the minister to focus on the negotiations.
Speaking on Thursday morning after Scotland’s four transport unions launched a “vision for Scotland’s railway”, Mr Lynch said rebuilding positive relationships should now be a priority for both sides after the dispute was resolved and ahead of ScotRail being taken into public ownership.
Mr Lynch told the PA news agency: “Reinstating our industrial relations is very, very important because our industrial relations over the last 18 months have been destroyed.
“Abellio ScotRail, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government have actually attempted over the last 18 months to bully the four rail unions into submission.
“That did not work, it did not succeed, but going forward under the operator of last resort the focus has to be the reinstating of industrial relations because that is now key.”
Reflecting on the negotiations and the offer the union accepted, he added: “We managed to get Transport Scotland, Abellio ScotRail to the negotiating table and I’m pleased to say that they came up with the deal that’s acceptable to the RMT.
“Abellio ScotRail, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government were demanding efficiency savings under the banner of a two-year deal.
“We opposed the two-year deal because the efficiency savings had job losses, station closures and booking office closures written all over it.
“That was unacceptable to the RMT but I’m pleased to say that common sense has prevailed.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is “delighted” a deal was finally struck between ScotRail and the RMT.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday, she said: “I think this is a good outcome for the travelling public across Scotland.
“It doesn’t just simply remove the prospect of a rail strike over the period of Cop26, it also resolves the Sunday strikes that have been ongoing for some time.
“It is a good outcome and one that I’m delighted to see over the last 24 hours.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We have engaged in discussion and negotiation with all parties in Scotland’s railway in a constructive and conciliatory manner and will continue to do so looking ahead.
“Unprecedented funding support for our franchises with more than £1 billon, including over £450 million in Emergency Measures Agreements in exceptional circumstances – has prevented redundancies or furlough for rail employees over the past 18 months of the pandemic.
“We value the contribution of all railway workers in helping keep Scotland moving during these challenging times and in supporting key workers.”
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