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‘Biggest rail strike in modern history’ could hit to follow ScotRail timetable cuts

Commuters boarding a train at Aberdeen station. Picture by Kenny Elrick
Commuters boarding a train at Aberdeen station. Picture by Kenny Elrick

The “biggest rail strike in modern history” could hit as soon as next month according to the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union – raising the risk of supermarket shortages.

ScotRail bosses have already been forced to axe services and introduce a temporary timetable amidst an ongoing dispute over pay.

With workers now pulling back from overtime, RMT has announced it will put a ballot to its members over potential strike action.

The Times has reported that, if strikes go ahead, it could be necessary for freight trains to take priority over passenger services to keep supermarket shelves stocked and petrol in the pumps.

It said the strike ballot will be put to its 40,000 members, who must make a decision by Tuesday next week.

If strikes are to go ahead, the union will need to give two weeks notice.

‘ScotRail needs to put its hands deeper into its pockets’

A third of ScotRail services are to be temporarily cut from next week in a move that RMT has labelled a “kick to the teeth” for members.

In the north and north-east, evening trains will be some of the hardest hit, with many commuters facing an early dash to the station or wondering how to get home.

ScotRail train services
ScotRail train. Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the union, said: “ScotRail needs to put its hands deeper into its pockets and start rewarding their staff properly.

“We are in the midst of a brutal cost of living crisis for workers, but it is still party time for shareholders, speculators and big business executives.

“All we are asking for is a pay award that reflects the value of railway workers and the service they provide to the public day in, day out.”

Network Rail cuts

Another reason for possible strike action is Network Rail’s proposals to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth claimed that the Scottish Government was not consulted over the proposals despite them having a knock-on effect on Scotland.

It is estimates strikes could cost £30m per day.

It is estimated that these strikes by RMT could cost the rain industry £30million per day which, as pointed out by Ms Gilruth, could outweigh cost savings rail bosses claim they will make through redundancies.

She said: “This dispute is not of the Scottish Government’s making; it is frustrating that, as with other Network Rail matters which are reserved, we have no say, no locus and no influence here, yet rail services and employees here in Scotland will be affected.”

‘Premature industrial action’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was told to apologise for severe cutbacks to ScotRail services this week, after admitting that they were “not acceptable”.

It is understood that passenger numbers have dropped following the pandemic, forcing bosses to find ways to reduce costs.

Defending the train operators when it comes to cuts, a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) told the Times: “The pandemic was an unprecedented shock for the railway, with the lowest passenger numbers in over 150 years and record levels of public funding to keep it running.

“Our whole focus now should be securing a thriving future for rail that adapts to new travel patterns and takes no more than its fair share from taxpayers, instead of staging premature industrial action which would disrupt passengers’ lives and put the industry’s recovery at risk.”

IN FULL: What ScotRail’s ‘temporary’ timetable changes mean for services in Aberdeenshire, Moray and Highlands

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