SCOTRAIL workers are being offered a new pay deal in a bid to put an end to a six months dispute and to try and prevent strike action during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.
The Scottish Government said that it is hopeful that a “fair pay increase” can be agreed for staff.
ScotRail engineers have already voted to take part in a series of strikes during the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, which starts at the end of this month.
Around 30,000 people from all over the world are expected to descend on Glasgow from November 1 for the climate summit.
The Scottish Government said it was hopeful “an appropriate and fair pay increase” could be agreed while talks between unions and ScotRail bosses concluded yesterday with further negotiation expected to continue with the train drivers union Aslef (Weds) and further discussions on Thursday.
Unions say ScotRail bosses sought to link a pay offer with a reduction in ticket office opening hours, a move that has already been rejected.
They have urged the First Minister to intervene.
The rail operator controlled by Dutch state transport firm Abellio has cancelled numerous services following a pay dispute with train conductors.
Rail services across Scotland have been disrupted for months by industrial action, with disagreements over pay and planned cuts in the wake of reduced passenger numbers as a result of the pandemic.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said that the unions and management were being “actively encouraged” to seek a resolution.
He said: “We need to step back from some of the rhetoric that has been dominating the agenda of late and focus on trying to get a suitable outcome to this – but we are in a challenging position, financially.”
Mr Dey explained that prior to the pandemic, the government was spending around £1.1bn a year on Scotland’s railways – a figure which has now risen to more than £1.5bn. “That isn’t sustainable, so we have got significant challenges.”
He said the government was encouraging the company and staff to consider where efficiency savings could be made, in part, to fund a pay increase.
Mr Dey added: “I understand that later today the unions and ScotRail are meeting and a fresh offer is likely to be tabled – it’s one I hope that the unions will view in the spirit that it is going to be made and consider settling these disputes.”
The Unite union said engineers will take part in a series of strikes in the coming weeks because of “reckless” actions of management at Abellio.
The 24-hour strikes will take place between October 18-19, November 1-2, November 10-11 and November 12-13.
A number of stations will be affected by the strikes including Glasgow Queen Street, Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Perth.
Meanwhile the former commissioner of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland has raised concerns about the public transport sector’s ability to recover following the pandemic.
Professor Iain Docherty was answering an urgent question raised by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney at the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.
He argued that the lack of public transport use has been driven by “economic imperatives” as many are questioning whether they will commuting into the office as much following the pandemic.
“I think it’s going to be challenging for the public transport sectors to recover patronage,” said Mr Docherty.