A new dispute is brewing between ScotRail and its biggest union over planned staffing changes when a line is electrified in Glasgow next month, The Scotsman has learned.
What is the issue?
The Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has vowed to fight plans for trains on the Glasgow Central to Barrhead route to be switched to driver-only operation. This means that conductors who control doors on the diesel trains on the line will be replaced with lower-grade ticket examiners when electric trains start operating next month.
Why is the RMT opposed to driver-only operation?
The RMT says that driver-only operation is a threat to the safety and security of passengers and staff. The union argues that conductors play a vital role in ensuring the safe operation of trains, especially in emergencies. The union also claims that driver-only operation will lead to job losses, reduced pay and conditions, and increased workload for drivers.
How has ScotRail responded?
ScotRail says that driver-only operation is a safe and efficient way to run trains, and that it has been used on most of its suburban services in Glasgow for decades. The operator says that ticket examiners will still provide customer service and revenue protection on the trains, and that no staff will lose their jobs or pay as a result of the change. ScotRail also says that driver-only operation will enable it to run more frequent and reliable services, and to introduce new electric trains that are more environmentally friendly.
What is the history of the dispute?
The dispute over driver-only operation has been ongoing for several years, and has resulted in several strikes by the RMT. In 2016, the union staged 11 days of industrial action over ScotRail’s plans to extend driver-only operation to other new electric routes, such as the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line. The strikes were called off after the intervention of the then transport minister Humza Yousaf, who is now the First Minister. He instructed ScotRail to reach a settlement with the RMT that guaranteed the retention of conductors on key routes.
What will happen next?
The RMT has not yet announced any formal ballot or action over the latest dispute, but has warned ScotRail that it is ready for a fight. The union has asked for ScotRail’s proposals in writing, but says it has not received them yet. The union says it intends to keep the guard on the train, and that this dispute is all about safety. ScotRail says it has not received any notification of a dispute, and that it is committed to working with its staff and unions to deliver the best service for its customers.