ScotRail Industrial Relations issues (including conductor strike action)

AY1975

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RMT ScotRail conductors have just announced strikes for the next six Sundays:

Due to RMT strike action, there will be a limited number of services running on Sundays. It has been confirmed that these strikes will run until at least 5 September 2021.


We appreciate the inconvenience this will have on your travel plans, and we are running every service possible to minimise disruption.
It would appear that all ScotRail trains will be cancelled on those days on just about every route except Glasgow-Edinburgh via Bathgate and the Glasgow suburban network (which, at least in the case of EMU-operated services, would not be affected as Glasgow electric suburban services do not have guards but have ticket examiners instead under the long-established Strathclyde Manning Agreement - presumably ticket examiners are not taking part in this dispute as they are a separate grade).

Rather oddly, Glasgow-East Kilbride doesn't appear to be on the list of routes affected even though it isn't electrified (though it is planned to be electrified). AFAIK the Strathclyde Manning Agreement only covers EMU services, and all DMU-operated services currently still have traditional guards.

Obviously, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, LNER and Caledonian Sleeper are not affected.

It was mentioned on pages 4 and 5 of this thread that an earlier RMT strike ballot at ScotRail produced a majority Yes vote but did not meet the minimum threshold required for a strike to go ahead. I presume that was a separate dispute to this one?
 
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Journeyman

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RMT ScotRail conductors have just announced strikes for the next six Sundays:


It would appear that all ScotRail trains will be cancelled on those days on just about every route except Glasgow-Edinburgh via Bathgate and the Glasgow suburban network (which, at least in the case of EMU-operated services, would not be affected as Glasgow electric suburban services do not have guards but have ticket examiners instead under the long-established Strathclyde Manning Agreement - presumably ticket examiners are not taking part in this dispute as they are a separate grade).

Rather oddly, Glasgow-East Kilbride doesn't appear to be on the list of routes affected even though it isn't electrified (though it is planned to be electrified). AFAIK the Strathclyde Manning Agreement only covers EMU services, and all DMU-operated services currently still have traditional guards.

Obviously, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, LNER and Caledonian Sleeper are not affected.

It was mentioned on pages 4 and 5 of this thread that an earlier RMT strike ballot at ScotRail produced a majority Yes vote but did not meet the minimum threshold required for a strike to go ahead. I presume that was a separate dispute to this one?
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LowLevel

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Going to assume Sundays are overtime and this is a formality in calling a strike to protect the union from a claim of unofficial action in inciting people to legitimately not work the overtime in question.

Such is life. One rule for drivers and another for everyone else causes discontent wherever it occurs.

Sunday action is likely to be more damaging because it is often a day off for clerical and management staff and the company can't force them to come in as contingency guards to strike break.
 

GRALISTAIR

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But we (the railway industry) want to go cap in hand to a conservative government for loadsa money for electrification etc etc. Something is just not adding up.
 

Starmill

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According to this recent article, drivers' overtime rate is higher than conductors' on Sundays.

It seems odd to me that anyone is currently on a premium overtime rate though? It's unclear how that has been justified.
The union has complained that conductors are paid less than drivers for working rest days, although an agreement between ScotRail and ASLEF for drivers to be paid extra for rest days has been extended from January to October.

The vote for industrial action was 353 in favour and 117 against on a turnout of 75 per cent, but ScotRail said it was ‘the wrong decision for staff and passengers’.

Going to assume Sundays are overtime and this is a formality in calling a strike to protect the union from a claim of unofficial action in inciting people to legitimately not work the overtime in question.

Such is life. One rule for drivers and another for everyone else causes discontent wherever it occurs.

Sunday action is likely to be more damaging because it is often a day off for clerical and management staff and the company can't force them to come in as contingency guards to strike break.
Presumably so, as I believe there's a minimum of 14 days notice for formal strike action in England, Scotland and Wales (and 7 in Northern Ireland). Clearly this isn't met here, but wouldn't be a requirement for industrial action short of a strike. Matters are confusing though as the company statement refers to this Sunday's action as a 'strike' - presumably the 'small s' strike rather than one in a legal and technical sense.
 
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Horizon22

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According to this recent article, drivers' overtime rate is higher than conductors' on Sundays.

It seems odd to me that anyone is currently on a premium overtime rate though? It's unclear how that has been justified.



Presumably so, as I believe there's a minimum of 14 days notice for formal strike action in England, Scotland and Wales (and 7 in Northern Ireland). Clearly this isn't met here, but wouldn't be a requirement for industrial action short of a strike. Matters are confusing though as the company statement refers to this Sunday's action as a 'strike' - presumably the 'small s' strike rather than one in a legal and technical sense.

Conductors and drivers are different grades so have different rates? Seems fairly normal or am I misinterpreting that? Or is it a % of normal rate that varies (which I could understand slightly more).

Edit: spelling
 
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43066

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Conductors and drivers are different grades so have different rates? Seems fairly normal or am I misinterpreting that? Or is it a % of normal rate that varies (which I could understandable slightly more).

Agreed that doesn’t seem to make sense.

It’s of course by no means unusual for overtime to be paid at a premium in order to provide an additional incentive to work it. This might take the form of time and a half, or a signing on fee.
 

Tomnick

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It seems odd to me that anyone is currently on a premium overtime rate though? It's unclear how that has been justified.
Whether or not it's justified, the reason is presumably because that's the existing agreement? Our overtime (for RDW at least) is at time-and-a-half, and at least part of the justification for that - when it was offered - was that previously it was at flat rate but with a nine-hour minimum payment, so there was no incentive for anyone to come in for a long job and in turn it probably ended up costing more to cover work because they'd end up paying two or three drivers to each do part of a turn.
 

LowLevel

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I believe ScotRail had an agreement for enhanced rates for both conductors and drivers owing to staff shortages. They didn't renew the conductors but did the drivers. As a consequence the drivers get proportionally more. After it would appear some discontent the conductors seem to have said stick your overtime en masse, which has had to be formalised with a strike ballot to prevent it from being classified as inciting unofficial action which can have severe penalties for the union and reps.
 

43066

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I believe ScotRail had an agreement for enhanced rates for both conductors and drivers owing to staff shortages. They didn't renew the conductors but did the drivers. As a consequence the drivers get proportionally more. After it would appear some discontent the conductors seem to have said stick your overtime en masse, which has had to be formalised with a strike ballot to prevent it from being classified as inciting unofficial action which can have severe penalties for the union and reps.

Thanks, that makes a lot more sense. It’s amazing how these things are spun by the press!

I don’t suppose the average man on the street would consider choosing not to work overtime to be industrial action at all as not working paid overtime is the default position for employees in many industries. Indeed it is the also the default position for many railway staff members.
 

Horizon22

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I believe ScotRail had an agreement for enhanced rates for both conductors and drivers owing to staff shortages. They didn't renew the conductors but did the drivers. As a consequence the drivers get proportionally more. After it would appear some discontent the conductors seem to have said stick your overtime en masse, which has had to be formalised with a strike ballot to prevent it from being classified as inciting unofficial action which can have severe penalties for the union and reps.

Ah good background thanks for that. Still I don't think this will play at all well for the RMT or indeed the rail industry. It being Scotrail and TS is a slightly different kettle of fish though.

Thanks, that makes a lot more sense. It’s amazing how these things are spun by the press!

I don’t suppose the average man on the street would consider choosing not to work overtime to be industrial action at all as not working paid overtime is the default position for employees in many industries. Indeed it is the also the default position for many railway staff members.

Quite. I'm always shocked by the amount of people relying on overtime and complaining when it is then not available. Clue is in the name! Don't base your lifestyle on O/T.
 

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Whether or not it's justified, the reason is presumably because that's the existing agreement?
The article implies there was an existing agreement which expired, and was rolled over for drivers but not for conductors.

Conductors and drivers are different grades so have different rates? Seems fairly normal or am I misinterpreting that? Or is it a % of normal rate that varies (which I could understand slightly more).

Edit: spelling
As has been pointed out by others, yes that's quite right, it's just the proportional premium being at variance that I was questioning here.
 
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Tomnick

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The article implies there was an existing agreement which expired, and was rolled over for drivers but not for conductors.
Ah yes, that makes sense. Clearly, then, the management believed that there would continue to be a need for keep dangling the carrot to tempt drivers to work overtimes (I've seen training mentioned elsewhere, possibly a combination of the demands of an ongoing training plan mixed with driver shortages and/or route knowledge deficiencies arising from the difficulties over the last twelve months) but that they didn't need to bother with guards. The natural response would be for individuals to tell the company where to go with their flat-rate overtime, but then if overtime is in relatively short supply anyway, perhaps there are sufficient numbers willing to take whatever they can get even without the premium. I can understand why they'd be aggrieved by the different approaches though.
 

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It's a little disingenuous of Scotrail to claim that this is due to strike action, when in truth it's industrial action short of a strike.

And the only reason that this action has the same effect as a strike is because of their decision not to introduce Sundays-inside contracts.

Anyway, this will be an interesting 'test case' to see who really runs the railway.
 

Starmill

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It's a little disingenuous of Scotrail to claim that this is due to strike action, when in truth it's industrial action short of a strike.

And the only reason that this action has the same effect as a strike is because of their decision not to introduce Sundays-inside contracts.

Anyway, this will be an interesting 'test case' to see who really runs the railway.
Technically correct, yes, although it's typical for companies to use the language of the general public where it passes the so-called 'duck test', similarly to where compensation for a delay is referred to as a 'refund'.

And the only reason that this action has the same effect as a strike is because of their decision not to introduce Sundays-inside contracts.
I would imagine that an extended working week and 7 day contracts would be a good quid pro quo for a guaranteed headcount increase and no compulsory redundancies.
 

Efini92

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Quite. I'm always shocked by the amount of people relying on overtime and complaining when it is then not available. Clue is in the name! Don't base your lifestyle on O/T.
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I would imagine that an extended working week and 7 day contracts would be a good quid pro quo for a guaranteed headcount increase and no compulsory redundancies.

Sounds slightly too reasonable for the RMT leadership who don't appear to go in for "quid pro quos" or compromises /cynic
 

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I would imagine that an extended working week and 7 day contracts would be a good quid pro quo for a guaranteed headcount increase and no compulsory redundancies.
Unless services are also drastically cut at the same time, or conditions on shift length etc. are made much more 'efficient', a 7-day contract inherently means an increase in headcount. So that guarantee is not exactly a negotiating card.

The real issue is that the union would demand a pay increase for having to work on Sundays. Clearly there is no appetite for such an increase, and therefore you end up back at square one.
 

the sniper

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I would imagine that an extended working week and 7 day contracts would be a good quid pro quo for a guaranteed headcount increase and no compulsory redundancies.

Which would cost the company money and could cost those who work many Sundays a large percentage of their pay, who'd then feel further aggrieved by a headcount increase.
 

Starmill

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Unless services are also drastically cut at the same time, or conditions on shift length etc. are made much more 'efficient'
Well the purpose of asking existing staff to extend their week length would specifically be that the average individual becomes more productive. In such a circumstance it would be taken as read that said conditions would become more 'efficient'.

I also personally take the view that if this isn't solved by some mutual agreement, a cut in services will be forced upon the industry.

Which would cost the company money and could cost those who work many Sundays a large percentage of their pay, who'd then feel further aggrieved by a headcount increase.
It would eliminate enhanced rates for overtime however, so in the long term it would be relatively low cost and would preserve the future of the industry.

It's the company that don't want it.
I imagine that what they most want is everyone to work rather longer weeks than contracted without an enhanced rate. But although that's cheaper in the short term it is plainly unsustainable in the long term. Now is the perfect opportunity to do something about it.
 

Tomnick

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Well the purpose of asking existing staff to extend their week length would specifically be that the average individual becomes more productive. In such a circumstance it would be taken as read that said conditions would become more 'efficient'.
If you put Sundays in the working week and increase the hours worked each week, then there's no increase in headcount, or at least not much of an increase? One Sunday in three could be covered by putting three hours on the average week. A longer week would mean more pay too, unless you're looking at cutting the hourly rate of pay. At a time when both unions are looking at working fewer hours, that's not really the way to go.

It would eliminate enhanced rates for overtime however, so in the long term it would be relatively low cost and would preserve the future of the industry.
Not necessarily. Even with Sundays 'in', there's plenty of RDW at most companies, especially with the current training backlog.
 

43066

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Which would cost the company money and could cost those who work many Sundays a large percentage of their pay, who'd then feel further aggrieved by a headcount increase.

Indeed. The point is often missed on here that the reason TOCs employ fewer staff and pay generous overtime is because this is far cheaper than employing a full complement of staff to cover the work.

Both major rail unions are in favour of no rest day work, and higher staffing numbers, for obvious reasons (more members = more union dues).

Quite. I'm always shocked by the amount of people relying on overtime and complaining when it is then not available. Clue is in the name! Don't base your lifestyle on O/T.

Yep. Having done some myself over the last year (mostly due to boredom, rather than needing the cash), it’s amazing how quickly you get used to a higher level of income.

It would be dangerous to become reliant on that (and many seem to be!) because of course it is never guaranteed and could disappear at any time.
 
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Starmill

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Not necessarily. Even with Sundays 'in', there's plenty of RDW at most companies, especially with the current training backlog.
So because a mutually agreeable solution might not be perfect, we should do nothing?
If you put Sundays in the working week and increase the hours worked each week, then there's no increase in headcount, or at least not much of an increase?
I was going for an even balance between them, so yes the increase would be just a few percentage points presumably.

At a time when both unions are looking at working fewer hours, that's not really the way to go.
I don't see why it's such a difficult solution to the current problem that's being suggested i.e. there's a structural lack of resource. The alternatives are fewer roles and a shrinking industry, or lower salaries.
 

the sniper

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It would eliminate enhanced rates for overtime however, so in the long term it would be relatively low cost and would preserve the future of the industry.

I just don't think many employees would see it as 'quid pro quo' though, unless it's a certainty that compulsory redundancies are going happen. Unless services are going to be vastly cut further, the company probably can't afford to lose many Guards, unless they choose to nuclear against ASLEF and the RMT and increase DOO.
 

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Unless services are going to be vastly cut further,
I think that the mistake all parties are probably making with this industrial action is a general assumption that this is somehow not on the table. Although I agree if you mean the the long-term existential risk is lower in Scotland than in England.
 

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I think that the mistake all parties are probably making with this industrial action is a general assumption that this is somehow not on the table.
The thing is, beyond service reductions for lockdowns (which have, in the main, proved to be temporary for the last few lockdowns), it's not a short term issue. And there is little to no incentive for operators to take a long term view.

So even if the long term position is one of a reduction in services, that is not really a consideration for either of the parties at the table here. When or if such a reduction comes about, things may change.
 

the sniper

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I think that the mistake all parties are probably making with this industrial action is a general assumption that this is somehow not on the table. Although I agree if you mean the the long-term existential risk is lower in Scotland than in England.

If either side works on the basis of assuming service cuts are coming and they then don't, both sides risk a lot of embarrassment and far greater consequences than if they'd done nothing...
 

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If either side works on the basis of assuming service cuts are coming and they then don't, both sides risk a lot of embarrassment and far greater consequences than if they'd done nothing...
Indeed. But the logical conclusion of that is that ScotRail do not reintroduce Sunday services with conductors after this Sunday, and eveyone just gets used to it. That is not infeasible.
 

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