Swift resolution needed to avert further industrial action
Scottish Government Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth MSP, has called on the U.K. Transport Secretary to act in the ongoing dispute between Network Rail and Trade Unions across the GB Rail Network.
Network Rail is an arms length body of the Department for Transport, which is a U.K. Government Body. Rail infrastructure in Scotland currently remains reserved to the U.K. Government.
Last month RMT members of Network Rail staff, who have not had a pay rise for over two years’, took part in strike action across Network Rail. Scotland’s services were one of the worst areas of the GB rail network affected and the planned strikes this week look set to deliver similar impacts.
Last month the U.K. Government cancelled planned meetings with the Devolved Governments on the rail strikes. Wendy Morton MP, the U.K. Government Rail Minister, also cancelled a planned meeting with Scotland’s Transport Minister.
Jenny Gilruth MSP has now written again to Grant Shapps MP, asking for him to instruct Network Rail to negotiate constructively with the Trade Unions.
Further to my letter of 21 June 2022 and the recent announcement by the Trade Unions of further planned industrial action on the rail network, I am once again writing to you to encourage you to instruct Network Rail (and the relevant Train Operating Companies) to return to the negotiating table to reach a resolution.
I asked you previously for assurances that you would do everything in your role as Transport Secretary to avoid further industrial action and the disproportionate effect this will have on Scotland’s Railway. Instead, the UK Government continues to appear to be distracted rather than focusing on resolving this dispute as quickly as possible for the benefit of rail users, staff and taxpayers.
The Scottish Government will not support any reforms which seek to impose compulsory redundancies. During the pandemic our rail workers were on the front line – they worked to ensure that passengers and freight could reach their destinations safely. Our railway staff should be recognised for their unstinting service during a time of crisis; not punished as the cost of living soars. The UK Government continues to appear determined to escalate the situation with recent proposals to overturn the ban on agency workers covering striking staff. The Scottish Government was not consulted on this announcement and will not support any proposals which seek to undermine legitimate Trade Union activity.
In your previous letter you pointed to a planned meeting with the Minister for Rail, Wendy Morton MP. You must be aware that Ms Morton cancelled this meeting at short notice. This follows the cancellation of planned meetings with the Devolved Governments before the last rail strikes. Subsequently I will expect you to instruct Ms Morton to treat our rescheduled meeting on 3 August as a priority.
Network Rail is currently an arms-length body of the Department for Transport in the U.K. Government. Therefore, I once again urge you to instruct Network Rail to engage in constructive negotiations with the Trade Unions to reach a resolution. Resolution for staff and passengers is possible, but it will require both political willing and focus.