Minister urges people to be 'sensible' over pay

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Wage negotiations 'have to be sensible' - Richard Lochhead

Scotland's employment minister has urged people to be "sensible" when asking for pay rises.

Richard Lochhead acknowledged that many people were facing "huge pressure" as inflation hits 9%, a 40-year high.

But he said the country was in a "precarious position" and workers should ask for "affordable" wage increases.

Both Aslef and the RMT have rejected a 2.2% offer from the recently nationalised train operator ScotRail.

This has raised the prospect of possible strike action on the railways, adding to the disruption caused by driver shortages.

More than 300 services were cancelled on Sunday, and a drastically reduced temporary timetable is to come into effect on Monday as many drivers refuse to work overtime.

The Scottish government has said a train driver in Scotland typically earns more than £50,000 a year, and has urged the rail unions to negotiate with ScotRail.

Asked on the BBC's The Sunday Show if the unions were making reasonable demands, he said: "My message to all workers in Scotland, in all these sectors, is that we have to sensible.

"Everything has to be affordable because the country is in a very precarious position at the moment and if we take wrong decisions we could end up with a recession."

'Constructive and compromising'

He said ScotRail was being run as an arm's length organisation and it was not for him as a minister to say what were "the right or wrong wages for a train driver or anyone else".

But he added: "It's really important that people are constructive, they are compromising and they recognise the consequences of these disputes dragging on for too long."

Aslef rejected his comments, saying it was "not sensible" to offer a 2.2% pay increase when inflation was "heading north of 10%" - nor was it credible to blame workers for the state of the economy.

Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said: "The most sensible thing that he could do right now is to tell ScotRail to get back to the negotiating table to settle this dispute so that the ridiculous timetable cuts that are planned for tomorrow can be withdrawn."

Cost of living action

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Richard Lochhead urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take action now rather than wait until the autumn

Mr Lochhead also called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to take urgent action now on the cost of living rather than wait until the autumn, when new energy price increases are expected.

But he said there were currently no plans to use the Scottish government's devolved powers over tax and business rates to relieve the pressure.

"We keep everything under review but quite clearly we've got to balance the books," he said.

"The NHS is under huge pressure following the pandemic - we invested record amounts into the NHS and other public services - and we've allocated £770m helping the lower paid and the most vulnerable people on low incomes in our society as well."

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