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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

On the rails

by New Worker correspondent

LATE LAST month the three rail unions attacked Scotland’s rail franchise holder Abellio ScotRail for offering a miserable self-financing pay rise worth only of tens of pounds. They denounced the fact that “Abellio ScotRail has continually failed to engage in any productive way with the trade unions”. They also took aim at the Scottish Government whom Abellio claimed gave them instructions not to award any pay rise to rail workers.

In a joint statement, ASLEF, TSSA and RMT said “This is a slap in the face to rail workers who have worked throughout the pandemic” and contrasted the pay insult with the £14 million awarded to Abellio in management fees. A few years ago, the Dutch-owned public transport company openly reported in its accounts that it saw its Scottish operations as providing a useful milch cow to support its operations at home.

The unions reported that these essential rail workers are absolutely disgusted by the actions of the Scottish government and will be consulting members about industrial action.

They added that unions are being forced into this action and remain available for meaningful discussions – but reminded voters that whilst some in government talk about standing up for Scottish workers, they abandon key employees such as rail workers.

RMT is already taking action in a dispute aimed at securing justice for ScotRail conductors. Last Sunday saw them take part in a second 24-hour strike. This began after conductors voted by 75 per cent for action. If Management does not concede, the strike will take place every Sunday until 2nd May. In addition, conductors have been instructed not to work on rest days nor undertake other duties until further notice.

The main issue is enhanced payments for rest day working. RMT members were enraged by ScotRail’s social media campaign, which they said was a case of “slandering their own staff for taking action that’s been forced on them during the pandemic” with front-line workers risking their health whilst ScotRail bosses have been able to work at home.

The latest offer has been described as “little more than a pay freeze with a handful of crumbs from the bosses table on a ‘self-financing’ basis while Abellio milk every penny they can out of the dying months of their ScotRail franchise”.

In a carefully timed pre-electoral move, the Scottish National Party (SNP) Government announced that it was stripping the Dutch state railway company of its Scottish franchise. But this did not mean it was being renationalised. It is merely planning a publicly owned “operator of last resort” (OLR) to take over next year. The planned OLR is designed to allow private sector companies back into the business after the taxpayer has bailed out a failing company.

This is similar to the UK Government suspending franchises for the duration of the pandemic and handing over £3.5 billion to compensate them for having virtually no passengers. This is to meet the demands of the European Union, which the SNP hopes to re-join at some future date.

declare war

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash thundered: “Abellio ScotRail is a company that has opted to declare war on their staff rather than recognising the issues at the heart of this dispute and the company have resorted to disgraceful mud-slinging and deliberate provocation.

“Staff at the front-line who have put themselves at huge risk during this pandemic will take no lectures from company bosses who have kept themselves well clear from danger and who are now seeking to squeeze every last penny out of the dying months of this franchise.

“All we are demanding is that ScotRail do what is fair and honour an enhanced rate for rest day working for all grades.”