Rail and refuse workers set to strike during COP26

ScotRail workers have confirmed plans to strike from 1 to 12 November over pay and conditions, while refuse workers in Glasgow have also threatened industrial action during COP26 over a pay dispute.

Large-scale transport disruption has already been predicted during the climate conference, with major roads in the city closed to traffic.

RMT union members on the Caledonian Sleeper service, which is run by Serco, will also strike from 31 October to 2 November and from 11 to 13 November.

Sunday train services in Scotland have been crippled for months as workers protest over pay and conditions.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Both ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper have had adequate time to come up with a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s rail workers in advance of COP26.

“Instead they have kicked the can down the road and left us with no option but to put this action on today.

“We know that these strikes will close rail services in Scotland but the blame for that lies with Abellio, Serco and the political leadership at Holyrood.

“It’s time for all parties to take their rail workers seriously, get back round the table and give these staff at the front line of our green transport services the justice, respect and reward they deserve. ”

The union had earlier announced the result of a ballot in which 84% of more than 2,000 members backed more strikes over the ScotRail dispute.

In response, a spokesperson from ScotRail said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the RMT have opted to continue with this highly damaging strike action, particularly when a pay offer, negotiated over several weeks, has been made to the trade unions.

“We’re seeing customers gradually return to Scotland’s railway, but the scale of the financial situation ScotRail is facing is stark.

“To build a more sustainable and greener railway for the future and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, we need to change.

“All of us in the railway: management, staff, trade unions, suppliers, and Government, need to work together to modernise the railway so that it is fit for the future.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We welcome the constructive talks which have taken place between all parties.

“A significant offer has been made by employers since this RMT ballot opened and we understand that the RMT will now ballot its membership again on the substance of this offer.

“We hope that RMT members and the other unions will agree and accept this offer, putting to an end existing and proposed industrial disputes and action.

“Rail workers have played their part in keeping the country moving through the pandemic and we are sure that they will see the importance of the moment and the role they can play in showing the best Scotland’s railway has to offer as we welcome world leaders from across the globe to COP26.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week that she hoped the dispute could be resolved before COP26.

Meanwhile, members of GMB in Glasgow have voted in favour of industrial action during the summit, which is expected to draw about 30,000 people to the city.

A total of 96.9% of those asked voted for a strike to take place if there is not an improved offer from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

Last month, 95% of those asked in a GMB Scotland ballot rejected COSLA’s £850-a-year increase for staff earning up to £25,000 a year.

GMB convener Chris Mitchell called on the Scottish Government and COSLA to take more action.

Speaking with members of Glasgow’s Bridgeton and Queenslie depots gathered behind him, he said: “We have a clear message to the Scottish Government and COSLA, we were called Covid heroes and essential workers, this is when low-paid workers take a stand against Cosla and say enough is enough, because these heroes here deserve a pay rise.

“Stand with us, not against us.”

In a post on Twitter, a spokesperson for GMB Glasgow said: “In Glasgow we have reached the legal threshold in our Industrial Action Ballot.

“Unless there is an improved offer on Monday we will be taking action in Glasgow during COP26.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This overwhelming mandate must be a wake-up call for COSLA and the Scottish Government to start taking these negotiations more seriously.

“Scotland is set to be humiliated on the world stage because of the SNP’s complete disregard for workers.

“Everything from refuse collection to public transport will be plunged into chaos during COP26 if they do not stand up for workers fighting for fair pay and conditions.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said pay settlements for council workers (excluding teachers) are a matter for COSLA and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee, adding: “The Scottish Government is not a member of the SJC and council pay is therefore not a matter it can intervene in.

“It will be for trade union colleagues to reach a negotiated settlement with COSLA.”

COSLA has been contacted for comment.

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