ScotRail blames union over strike plans as talks break down

RMT protest
Image caption The RMT is staging a protest at ScotRail's offices in Glasgow over the proposals for more driver-only trains

ScotRail has accused union leaders of causing a dispute which will "affect tens of thousands of passengers and hurt hundreds of rail staff".

The train operator hit out as talks to avoid a series of strikes over plans for more driver-only trains broke down.

The RMT union had accused ScotRail of refusing to resume talks until 11:00 on Monday, hours before the strikes begin.

But ScotRail said the RMT had been running a campaign of "disinformation that doesn't bear any scrutiny".

Managing director Phil Verster said: "The RMT have been saying that the strike is about driver-only trains. It is not.

"There would still be a second person scheduled to be on services following the introduction of the faster, longer, greener trains from late next year.

"The RMT have said that services that have the train door opened and closed by the driver are unsafe. In fact, 59% of people who travel by train in Scotland do so on a service that safely operates in this manner.

"This has been the case - with the full agreement of the trades unions - for 30 years."

Following the 11:00 meeting, a spokesman for conciliation service Acas confirmed the talks had been "adjourned with no date set to resume".

Services affected

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said ScotRail had "no intention of engaging in serious talks".

He added: "This morning, they set up a series of a serious of ludicrous preconditions that they know cannot be met by the union and, as a consequence, yet again they effectively sabotaged the process.

"The action remains firmly on."

But Mr Verster said the RMT were being "disingenuous" with claims that ScotRail were trying to have driver-only trains.

He said: "This strike is totally needless. The RMT have refused point-blank to talk to us about how we modernise and improve Scotland's railway.

"Instead, they have hidden behind a national policy that says that nothing must ever change.

"Tens of thousands of our customers will be disrupted and hundreds of our own people will be hit financially as a result of their intransigence.

"The public will be astonished to hear that this is a strike only about who opens and closes doors on trains, nothing more."

Image copyright Transport Scotland
Image caption Guards are concerned about the introduction of additional driver-only trains

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

ScotRail has published a list of the services which will be affected by the action.

The union announced the dates of a series of six planned strikes after saying a majority of its members had voted for strike action in a ballot with a 75% turnout.

RMT Scotland organiser Mike Hogg said: "The dispute is not about more money - the dispute is about ensuring that Scotland's trains run safely.

"We have had a whole host of instances over the last 18 months where people have been involved in accidents as a result of driver-only trains and what we're saying is enough is enough."

'No job losses'

But Mr Verster accused the RMT of building their strike campaign on "misinformation".

He told BBC Scotland: "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."

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