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COP26: Union warns time running out to avoid rail strikes

Railway news

Transport bosses have been told they need to “put pay justice on the agenda” if they want to prevent rail strikes during the global COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

With world leaders heading to Scotland for the crucial talks, members of the RMT union are threatening to strike for the duration of the summit.

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Other unions have accepted the deal on the table, but Scotland’s transport minister Graeme Dey has warned he is “not optimistic” of a resolution being reached with the RMT ahead of the deadline set for 5pm on Wednesday.

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Mr Dey is already facing calls to quit if a deal cannot be reached to prevent the strike during Cop26 – which is set to bring some 30,000 people to Glasgow.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Time is running out to get a fair deal for Scotland’s rail workers and avoid a shutdown during Cop26.

“We stand ready to get back round the table right now but the political leadership in Scotland need to lift their arbitrary deadlines and clear the road blocks to getting those talks back on.

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“The ball is in the SNP’s court. They need to take responsibility for bringing us to this point and get into a dialogue with the union that puts pay justice on the agenda. We are waiting.”

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said he is still “hopeful” that the RMT will reconsider its position and accept the deal for a 4.7% increase over two years.

That offer has already been accepted by the three other unions representing rail workers, Aslef, Unite and the TSSA.

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The 5pm deadline has been set to give ScotRail time to plan for services during the summit, which gets under way on Sunday and runs through to November 12

Mr Simpson told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday that “many” RMT members would like to accept the deal, adding: “We don’t understand why RMT won’t put this offer to their members to give them a say.”

After 5pm on Wednesday, he said the offer will be “off the table”, explaining: “The reason for the deadline is we need to be able to prepare for what service we operate next week.

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“We are working in the background on some contingency planning to see what we can run in the event of a strike to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh and serve the routes through the Cop26 summit.

“We’ve made very clear this is a significant deal but at 5pm tonight it is off the table and we will have to sadly prepare for industrial action.”

That would see ScotRail focus efforts on running services between Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as the low level service to the Scottish Events Campus where the summit is taking place.

Mr Simpson said: “We absolutely urge RMT to accept this deal, it is a good deal, at least put it to their members and pause the strike action while they do that, or it comes off the table at 5pm tonight.”

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Sam Hewitt

Let off some steam...