War of words between ScotRail and RMT continues as Sunday Highland railway strike action expected to run into June
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WEEKS of strike action on Highland railway lines show no sign of easing – after ScotRail confirmed that Sunday services will be heavily disrupted for "at least the next five" weeks.
ScotRail conductors and ticket examiners who are members of the RMT have been striking on Sundays in a long-running dispute about over-time payments.
The initial strike action began in late March and had been expected to last for six Sundays, but is now likely to roll into June after both sides doubled down on their war or words.
ScotRail has accused the RMT of trying to "force a 50 per cent increase in overtime payments for working no additional hours".
And it has confirmed that a number of routes "will have the vast majority of their services cancelled" over coming Sundays. Those which are running will be using managers and support staff to fill in for the striking workers.
Phil Campbell, ScotRail Head of Customer Operations, said: “The RMT’s strike action is wrong and will have a significant impact on customers who are returning to the railway as lockdown eases. At a time when we need to attract people back to the railway to recover the business and secure jobs, the RMT’s damaging actions will turn people away.
“Industrial action will have no impact on ScotRail’s position on 50 per cent overtime pay increases for no additional hours worked, given the severe financial challenges we face.
“We will do everything we can to minimise the consequences of this action, but recognise that customers will potentially have to find alternative travel solutions as a result of this strike.”
Hitting back, the RMT has accused ScotRail's operator, Abellio, of "playing fast and loose with safety" by drafting staff in from elsewhere to fill in for the striking workers.
They have accused Abellio of using "scab labour" to fill in for roles they are "unqualified" for and "do not have the knowledge, experience and safety competencies required of the job".
They added that the dispute was part of a "long running fight for equality and justice over enhanced payments for rest day working".
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “It is appalling that rather than sitting down with the union to negotiate a fair settlement to this long running dispute Abellio are prepared to play fast and loose with public safety on those lines still running a Sunday service.
“The silence from the political leadership and Transport Scotland on this issue is deafening and it’s about time they started taking responsibility and called Abellio ScotRail to account.
“Our action goes ahead on Sunday in this fight for pay justice and equality and the union remains available for talks any time, any place, anywhere.”