Socialist Party Scotland reporters
Following 12 days of strike action, RMT members working as conductors (guards) on ScotRail services have wrestled important concessions from management. The new offer from the Dutch-owned rail company Abellio marks a vindication of the determined and principled stand by the union in defence of safety on ScotRail trains. This included an announcement of an escalation of strike action during August, a peak month for rail travel in Scotland as it includes the Edinburgh festival.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented: “The progress we have been able to make in this dispute is entirely down to the resilience, determination and strength of our Scotrail members who have taken wave after wave of rock-solid action in defence of rail safety. They are a credit to the entire trade union movement.”
ScotRail management have now agreed to:
- A guarantee of a guard on the new fleet of electric trains due to be introduced in 2017. ScotRail wanted to remove the trained conductor from these services.
- A guarantee that the conductor will retain their fully trained roles over safety procedures
- Train services will not run unless there is a competent conductor on board.
- Discussions between ScotRail and the RMT to agree to a method of train dispatch for these services will now take place
On the basis of this framework, RMT reps agreed by a majority to suspend the planned five days of further strikes for August to allow talks to take place.
These talks will also involve Aslef, the train drivers union. Management want to transfer responsibility for opening and closing the doors on the new trains to the driver rather than the guard. And wanted to use this as a pretence to remove the safety-critical role of the guard from services in Scotland.
The RMT are fighting to retain control of the train doors in the hands of the guards on current and future services. The union is also campaigning for a safety-driven review of the current Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains run by ScotRail.
It is to the great credit of the RMT and its membership that they have stood up against a barrage of management propaganda throughout the strike. A very effective public campaign for safety on the train has been undertaken by the RMT. This has included a series of public meetings across Scotland and protests at Abellio HQ and at the Scottish Government offices in Glasgow.
In addition, as Socialist Party Scotland have consistently explained, this has also been a dispute against the SNP-led Scottish Government.
As we pointed out in our recent leaflet in support of the RMT strike action: “Both Nicola Sturgeon and SNP transport minister Humza Yusuf have read only from the prepared script of ScotRail management. Sturgeon claimed falsely in the Scottish parliament that ‘the dispute is about who pushes the button to open the door on the train’. This is exactly the line trotted out regularly by ScotRail/Abellio bosses.” Humza Yusuf consistently called for the union to suspend the strikes, even although no decent offer had been forthcoming from management.
The anti-union and pro-management role of the SNP leadership underlines the importance of building a fighting pro-trade union and socialist political voice in Scotland. The work of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which involves the RMT alongside Socialist Party Scotland is an important part of that task.
Discussions will now take place over the next few days between the RMT and Abellio/ScotRail management.