Open Letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon From Kevin Lindsay ASLEF's Scotland Organiser
ASLEF's Scotland Organiser Kevin Lindsay today (23/05/22) sent an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon calling for leadership and positive political intervention in the ScotRail pay dispute.
You can access the pdf of the letter here
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland
St Andrew’s House
Dear First Minister,
I write to you today to express our concern at developments in relation to ScotRail and the damaging cuts to the timetable that have been introduced today.
When ScotRail was taken back into public ownership we were delighted. We have campaigned for this for decades and gave full credit to the Scottish Government for taking this action.
From the outset, we were clear that the return to public ownership was only the first step. The next step required is the creation of a public sector model that invests in ScotRail so that it delivers for passengers and staff, and helps Scotland meet its climate targets and a range of social and economic policy objectives.
Working with our sister rail union we produced a report ‘A Vision for Scotland’s Railways’ that set out what world-class rail services in Scotland could and should look like.
However, in just a few short weeks your Government and officials have set out on a course of action that is hugely detrimental to that vision; whilst not offering any positive vision of your own.
Pay negotiations have been shambolic, the timetable has been slashed by one third, the economy is suffering and passengers and communities are left isolated. All of this is happening at a time when we should be encouraging people to leave their cars at home to help meet our climate targets.
First Minister, the way hard working, committed and skilled rail staff are being treated is appalling. The pay award being offered is just not credible. A 2.2% pay increase (offered verbally not in writing) at a time when inflation is nearing 10% is a significant real term pay cut. It is neither fair nor reasonable to expect train drivers, or indeed any worker, to accept such a cut in their pay at the same time as their cost of living is soaring.
The Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, Richard Lochhead said yesterday that ASLEF had to be sensible in seeking a better deal than the 2.2% offer. While the Transport Minister attempted to lay the blame for the current impasse on the trade unions, despite the fact that we have repeatedly said we are prepared to talk anytime, anyplace and anywhere yet this offer continues to be ignored by ScotRail management.
The language and behaviour of Scottish Ministers has too often been inflammatory, unreasonable and factually incorrect. There is also a complete lack of transparency around the backroom, negative, role being played by Ministers and officials in your Government.
We want to work with the Scottish Government and ScotRail to make Scotland’s railways world-leading. To use Richard Lochhead’s language, we want to reach a ‘sensible’ outcome with a meaningful offer made to ASLEF members, which would help end the current impasse.
For too long ScotRail has suffered from serious mismanagement. If you run a 7-day service like it is a 6-day service, dependent on drivers working overtime and their rest days then this speaks to their incompetence.
We need to be honest with each other and the travelling public about the depth of ScotRail’s mismanagement failure. The number of new drivers that are needed to provide a 7-day service is so much more than the ‘130’ figure being used by Ministers and ScotRail in their media spin.
This number would barely plug the gap that occurs naturally each year when drivers retire from the service or leave because of other reasons such as ill health. For ScotRail to end the need for drivers working overtime and rest days, they need to recruit many more drivers. But the last I looked, despite the misinformation peddled last week by the Transport Minister, ScotRail are not advertising for new drivers on their website and there is no driver apprenticeship scheme similar to England and Wales.
It is also important to highlight that the cuts have gone deeper than the driver shortage. There has been a 30% cut to services despite there being only a 20% shortfall in drivers if drivers decide to not work overtime or rest days. The outcome of this is drivers sitting in their depot mess halls instead of driving trains.
ScotRail Chief Operating Officer, Joanne McGuire, recently promised that early morning and late-night services would be protected when service cuts were introduced. This is clearly not the case with the new train timetable damaging Scotland’s night-time economy and the ability of workers to get to work in time because of that promise not being kept and early morning and late-night services being butchered. The question is who interfered to undermine the promise made by Joanne McGuire?
We urgently need to see progress and a de-escalation of this situation. The Scottish public demand it. They need to get to and from work, leisure, and important cultural and sporting events satisfactorily and this needs a full service that is invested in, not cut.
We have said repeatedly we want to return to talks - we stand ready whenever they are called to meet with ScotRail and the Scottish Government anytime, anyplace and anywhere.
Sadly, up until now there has been negative political interference, it is now time for positive political intervention and leadership from you with an instruction to ScotRail to enter as a matter of urgency meaningful pay talks with the full intention to sensibly settle these pay negotiations.