The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has written to Scotland’s First Minister urging her to permit rail enhancement work to recommence.
While essential railway maintenance has continued, enhancement work has been locked down in Scotland, along with work in the wider construction sector.
Now that lockdown measures are being eased, and enhancement work is being delivered in England and Wales, safely and conforming to government guidelines, the union argues that the same measures should be in place in Scotland. RMT general secretary Mick Cash Has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the matter.
“The health and safety of my members is paramount and my reps are now confident Scottish railway enhancement works can be recommenced safely as they have been in England and Wales,” he said.
“For some reason, despite our reassurances, the Scottish Government is insisting this sector remains under lockdown, which is now putting hundreds of my member’s jobs potentially at risk.
“To compound matters further, rail renewals works continue to go ahead in Scotland while enhancements remain out of bounds to our members, despite the exact same risk control and additional safety measures being in place.
“RMT believes that, if this current illogical position remains in place, rail infrastructure workers will potentially be thrown on the scrap heap simply due to political decisions being made which are totally contrary to the advice being given to Scottish Government Ministers by Network Rail, on behalf of the rail Infrastructure contracting supply chain, and by RMT, on behalf of the workforce.
“We are ready to offer those reassurances to the First Minister and Scottish Government and have today requested an urgent meeting to agree a way to protect jobs whilst ensuring the highest standards of health and safety.”
Letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP
5 June 2020
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP
St. Andrew’s House
Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Dear First Minister
Urgent – Lockdown of railway enhancement works is risking Scottish jobs
I am writing to request an urgent meeting with you and your officials in Transport Scotland to discuss how we can find a way forward to exempt vital railway enhancement works from the current lockdown restrictions in Scotland.
I am now deeply concerned that hundreds of my members jobs are now being put at risk as railway enhancement works in Scotland remain locked in with construction sector guidelines and the works remain unavailable to my members – many of whom are currently unnecessarily furloughed despite there being sufficient rail infrastructure enhancement works available across Scotland to ensure all staff are gainfully employed.
We have outlined to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport that the site control documentations currently in place in this sector are second to none and have been designed with full RMT involvement and support including RMT representatives being designated as site marshals with full health and safety powers to ensure full compliance.
My union has been at the forefront of opposing any attempts to water down health and safety provisions both before and during the current COVID – 19 world health emergency and we will continue to challenge unsafe working practices beyond the current health emergency.
Our members health and safety is paramount and as the industry has already made clear the rail infrastructure sector is not comparable to building site activities and the railway is governed by a comprehensive and complex set of rules and regulations which means works delayed and postponed are required to be re-planned which can be a very difficult logistical issue.
An additional concern my union has in relation to your current restrictions is the obvious attraction of skilled rail workers leaving Scotland to continue their careers on the English rail network where work is continuing to go ahead unrestricted by the wrong-headed rules being applied to rail enhancement works in Scotland which could lead to the ambitious Scottish Government plans to transform Scotland’s railways in the dustbin due to the failure to see how ill-advised your current guidelines are in relation to railway enhancement works.
I look forward to hearing from you soon and for us all to agree a resolution to allow railway enhancement works to recommence in Scotland safely and rapidly.
RMT General Secretary