Scottish train operator ScotRail has said that it is “disappointed” after conductors who are members of the RMT trade union voted to strike in an attempt to increase overtime payments.
RMT balloted its members for strike action, and 75% (353) voted ‘yes’, while 117 voted ‘no’.
In its announcement, ScotRail said it will await further information from the RMT about the action. The train operator also pointed out that the RMT balloted its conductor members despite all ScotRail jobs being protected thanks to emergency Scottish Government support, with no staff placed on furlough or any cuts to basic wages or terms and conditions.
ScotRail is said to be facing the most significant financial crisis in its history. Passenger numbers and revenue remain more than 90 per cent down compared to before the pandemic. Coronavirus restrictions, including the instruction for people to work from home, have resulted in the number of people travelling with ScotRail to plummet.
An emergency measures agreement (EMA) with the Scottish Government means ScotRail can continue to operate services for key workers and keep its 5,200 staff in secure jobs. Between March and September 2020, the Scottish Government provided an additional £215million in subsidy to allow ScotRail to operate a service for key workers and pay staff wages. Further additional subsidy will be needed to support the services that the organisation provides until the current EMA ends on 31 March 2021, and beyond.
ScotRail said the result will have no impact on its position on overtime pay increases, given the severe financial challenges it faces.
David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, stated: ““I am disappointed the RMT’s conductor members have voted for strike action during a pandemic. It is the wrong decision for railway staff and our passengers.
“We will do everything we can to minimise the impact on our passengers, particularly those key workers who are reliant on our services.
“Strike action at a time of national crisis, when we have required emergency government support just to stay afloat, and when we benefit from a level of job security not enjoyed by other industries, is wrong. It will damage ScotRail’s credibility at a time when we need to attract people back to the railway when COVID-19 restrictions allow.
“With passenger numbers down more than 90 per cent compared to the same time last year, it has never been more important for everyone in the railway to work together to build the best future for our industry.”