War Of Words Over Scotrail Strike

20 June 2016, 10:09

Scotrail Train

The managing director of a rail operator facing a series of strikes in a row over driver-only trains has denied "sabotaging'' talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union claimed ScotRail was refusing to meet at the conciliation service Acas.

Phil Verster, managing director of ScotRail Alliance, said the claims were a "mystery'' to him and accused the RMT of building their strike campaign on "misinformation''.

RMT members will stage a series of walkouts in the coming weeks, starting with a 24-hour strike on Tuesday.

General secretary Mick Cash said: "It is extraordinary that, with the serious nature of this dispute, and the impact that it will have on rail services across Scotland, ScotRail have sabotaged the talks planned for today.

"The union has made repeated attempts to get talks moving and it makes no sense at all for the company to continue to blank us unless they are hell-bent on bulldozing through cuts to jobs and safety.

"The workforce know that any extension of driver-only operation is a clear attack on our members' hard-earned terms and conditions.

"RMT members should not have to face the risk of their role and responsibilities being reduced and undermined.

"The workforce also know only too well that there is a very real threat to passengers of watering down and wiping out the safety critical role of the guard on these ScotRail services. That is a lethal gamble with basic rail safety.

"The union remains available for serious and meaningful talks but the ball is now firmly in ScotRail's court.''

But Mr Verster told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What the RMT is saying is just a mystery to me.

"I very clearly wrote to Mick Cash on Friday, talked to him on Saturday, sent him an email saying we are available today, we're available on Sunday, we're available on Monday and we want to talk without preconditions and without a strike threat hanging over us.

"On Wednesday when we met with the RMT for talks it was preceded on the Tuesday evening with them declaring seven days of strike action as well as refusing to talk about any improvements. This is just not good enough.

"We have guaranteed that there will be no job losses, no redundancies, guaranteed pay, guaranteed terms and conditions so with these guarantees we only want to improve the railway.''

He said the RMT's claims on safety were a "very worrying piece of misinformation'' and said "this issue is not about safety at all''.

He said 59% of Scotland's passengers already travel on trains where the driver opens and closes the doors and a second colleague focuses on safety and customer service.

He added: "It is totally unnecessary to have strike action on these days.''

The RMT is staging a protest at ScotRail's offices in Glasgow to demand talks.