'RMT dragging Scotland into a needless, damaging strike' - ScotRail MD

Monday, 20 June 2016

Scotland is being needlessly dragged into a rail dispute that will disrupt tens of thousands of people and hurt hundreds of ScotRail employees, Phil Verster said today.

The ScotRail Managing Director was speaking after talks once again broke down following the RMT’s refusal to cancel their strike so as to allow meaningful discussions to take place.

Mr Verster said that the RMT have been running a campaign of disinformation that doesn’t bear any scrutiny:

  • The RMT have been saying that the strike is about driver-only trains. It is not. There would still be a second person scheduled to be on services following the introduction of the faster, longer, greener trains from late next year.
  • The RMT have said that services that have the train door opened and closed by the driver are unsafe. In fact, 59% of people who travel by train in Scotland do so on a service that safely operates in this manner. This has been the case – with the full agreement of the Trades Unions – for 30 years.
  • The railway’s safety is overseen by the Office of Rail and Road. Today, they have described the method of operation where the driver safely opens and closes the train doors as ‘a safe method of working.’
  • We have been here before. The RMT called a strike prior to the opening of the new electric service between Glasgow and Edinburgh via Bathgate in 2010. Today this line, operated in the way that the RMT are striking to oppose, safely carries hundreds of thousands of customers every year.
  • The RMT have said that this is a downgrading of the role of the Conductor. It is not. ScotRail has guaranteed the role; conductor jobs; and pay terms and conditions until the end of the Abellio stewardship of the ScotRail franchise.

ScotRail has set up a dedicated website that has all the information about services that will be affected during the strike: www.scotrail.co.uk/strike

Due to the fact that around half of services already operate in the manner in which the RMT are striking to oppose (i.e. with the driver safely opening and closing the door, while a second member of staff carries out customer service and retail duties) – and that fully trained and competent ScotRail/Abellio managers will be working as Conductors on the strike days, ScotRail will be running services that will carry 72% of its normal daily passenger load.

Phil Verster, ScotRail Managing Director said:

“This strike is totally needless. The RMT have refused point blank to talk to us about how we modernise and improve Scotland’s railway. Instead they have hidden behind a national policy that says that nothing must ever change. Tens of thousands of our customers will be disrupted and hundreds of our own people will be hit financially as a result of their intransigence.

“The public will be astonished to hear that this is a strike only about who opens and closes doors on trains, nothing more!

“The RMT are being, at best, disingenuous when they tell people that we are trying to have Driver only trains. We are not. We will still schedule a second person on-board when we bring in the amazing new faster, longer, greener electric trains from next year.

“Each and every day, people in Scotland make around 150,000 journeys on trains that have the doors safely opened and closed by the driver, while a second member of staff carries out customer service duties. The RMT are hiding behind a safety argument that doesn’t add up. The reality is that they are just opposed to change.

“We have been here before. When we opened the new electric service between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate in 2010, the RMT called a strike on the same grounds. That strike failed and, today, hundreds of thousands of people travel on this service – which is operated in precisely the same safe way that the RMT will be striking about tomorrow.

“We will still schedule a second person on board these amazing new modern trains when they arrive and we have guaranteed to the RMT that there will be no impact on Conductor jobs, pay or terms and conditions.

“Unfortunately, as it stands, it looks like tomorrow’s strike will go ahead. I would urge all of our customers to take action now. Check our website for timetable information, buy tickets in advance and give yourself more time to get to and from work tomorrow. We really are sorry that the RMT are going to cause this needless disruption.”

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  • The new class 385 electric trains will enter service from autumn 2017.
  • ScotRail and the RMT attended talks at the ACAS offices in Glasgow at 11am today.
  • The electric service that runs between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Airdrie and Bathgate was the focus of strike action in 2010. That attempt failed.
  • The Office and Road and Rail statement on driver dispatched services can be accessed by contacting Brian Clarke, Media Relations Officer, 020 7282 2094 | 07713 087 805, [email protected]