Posted 9th February 2010 | 8 Comments

Three strikes announced on ScotRail in DOO dispute

MORE than 500 ScotRail train staff are set to stage three strikes over the next few weeks in a protest over plans to allow drivers to control train doors on the reopened Bathgate-Airdrie line. The announcement follows a ballot of RMT members in which four out of five voted in favour of walking out.

24-hour strikes have been announced for 20 February as well as 1 and 13 March. The first March strike, on a Monday, could theoretically affect sleeper services to London as well as Scottish trains, although ScotRail has already said it has contingency plans ready.

The dispute concerns the Class 334 units which will be cascaded from the Ayrshire Coast and Inverclyde lines to run the restored services between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate and Airdrie from December. The Alstom units are not equipped with conductors' door control panels, and ScotRail had announced that the second member of staff on each train would perform the role of a ticket examiner.

But the RMT is insisting that there are full conductor-guards on the trains. The union's general secretary Bob Crow said: “This overwhelming vote shows just how angry RMT members are that a company that gave its shareholders £18 million last year is prepared to reduce safety standards for the sake of just £300,000. Anyone in doubt of the crucial role played by guards need only read FirstGroup’s own rigorous training manual – and railway workers know from bitter experience that properly trained guards save lives. This is the thin end of the wedge.”

Although ticket examiners earn about £5,000 a year less than conductors, ScotRail has maintained that the savings will be made by the Scottish Government rather than First, which it says should mean more public money will be available for other rail projects. The company also pointed out that converting the Class 334s to meet the union's demands would cost £1.4 million.

A spokesman for ScotRail branded the vote for strikes as ‘disappointing’, adding: “The services will be no different from those which have run in Scotland for more than 25 years – and will create 130 new jobs and offer major benefits to passengers. No one is losing their job and current terms and conditions are guaranteed. But the scheduled reopening of the £300 million link is now put at risk by a union campaign which boils down to who opens and shuts doors on trains.”

The RMT has also become divided from ASLEF on the issue, whose Executive has voted to accept ScotRail‘s plans for the line.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • james, London

    People are happy to let companies do whatever they want, but when they receive poor service they ask why. Companies do not have peoples best interests at heart, only profits. Why cant people see this? Strong unions are needed to keep companies in check - i think unions are as relevant and needed as they have ever been, and far from dinosuars from the 1970's that the media like to portray them as.

  • Gordie, Seattle, USA

    The rhetoric on both sides is getting thicker than an MP's expense account...if I understand it correctly, the issue is not about who operates the doors but rather the presence on board (guaranteed) for each train running on the new line between Edinburgh and Glasgow? Is RMT willing to accept guards on these trains even if they can't control the doors (thereby saving the ScotRail estimate of $1.4M to retrofit the trains)? If it is all about public safety, as Mr Meighan and Mr Scott suggest, can a guarantee that a ticket collector is on every train suffice? (Presumably, a less trained ticket examiner can be equipped with a radio, raise the alarm, and do everything short of placing warnings on the line that a guard is trained to do.)

    I'm all for passenger safety and can related the following anecdote: my sister was traveling from Edinburgh to Glenrothes (an unstaffed station) three summers ago. She got off the train and my daughter and nephew (teenagers) were right behind her but another passenger stepped forward and they let that passenger got off, only to have the doors closed on them, trapping them on the train. I suspect that they don't have guards on those Fife Circle trains: clearly the train doors were closed too quickly. The train was on time and the train was not busy. Kudos for ScotRail for responding quickly: the children stayed on the train to Dunfermline and were then put in a taxi back to Glenrothes, paid for by ScotRail.

    Back to the question I posed: it is about a staff person who can roam along the train and help ensure passenger safety, is about the door controls or is there some other resentment at RMT towards ScotRail and the Airdrie-Bathgate line is a way to vent? What to those who work for ScotRail have to say?

  • bob meighan, glasgow, scotland

    i have read a lot of comments on this and i cant believe that some people think workers dont have the right to strike anymore......?...lets get one thing straight....first scotrail or should i say firstgroup want driver only trains all over the scotrail network......that means that you will have trains running about scotland with some journeys up to four and five hours long....with NO staff apart from the driver.......yes they will try and have a ticket collector on the train but they dont NEED to........scotrail have trains running all over strathclyde with NO-ONE on the train apart from the driver....the only way to guarantee a member of staff with dealing with customers and any potential accidents or problems is to have a conductor on the train........the conductor working the doors is part of this ......if driver only trains go through in scotland....customers will suffer and you will need to pray that accidents like the branchton train crash in the mid nineties where the driver and two passengers were killed never happen MUST always come first...

  • Thomas Scott, Glasgow

    Response to H Harvey,Birmingham.
    So H Harvey,you assume that this is all down to the RMT,Bob Crow,and "greed?".How typically narrow minded,and scathing you are on your observation,and knowledge of this dispute! Let me try to enlighten you on the facts,and feelings from someone who is a guard,employed by First Scotrail,and is an RMT member

    Firstly,unlike you,i am going to respond in an objective way,no reference to the past,or from a union members perspective.So please don't assume we are all puppets,or pawns in Mr Crow's plans game plan. You use the word "greed!",so what are we greedy for? Why are we going on strike? Do we want more money? Do we want better conditions? Do we want less work? Or is it because the union told us to? To all of them,NO! It's because we as guards, listen to our customers.They want us on the trains,they feel safer,and we provide them with something that a ticket examiner cant? A competent,knowledgeable,and qualified guard,who can deal with any situation.

    This seems to be a personal attack on Bob Crow,the unions,and our "Greed! And not about the reality of how we feel or more importantly,how the traveling public feel!

    I love my job,and if First Scotrail are to believed? then my role is safe,and another 130 positions will be created on this route.(something which i commend,but lets see?).With those assurances,i would be insane to put my job,or future jobs on the line. So why am i taking this action? Because my customers feel the same as i do. They are informed,and very aware of past events where the guard was instrumental in saving lives,read the Cullen report,and recommendations!

    We may be fighting a losing battle? Yes we will lose financially,(something we can ill afford in this economic climate).And yes,we will be lambasted in the press,and media for disrupting passengers plans?(the spin doctors,and PR at First will see to that!!).But believe me when i say,we are doing this not for "greed",financial gain,or union prompting! We would have done this regardless of the union! WE just love our job,and want the best for our customers....YOU!

  • johnnybegood, London, UK

    If the new trains will be safer with guards, why has ASLEF, the train driver's real union accepted the doo extension for the new Bathgate line? If it was not safe, surely they, being the driver's real voice would have said so?

    Bob Crow and his union's flunkys have stirred up a hornets nest of untruths and are scare mongering the Scottish commuters.

    Doo has been safely used for over two decades, and the NUR/RMT has long since lost this argument.

    Why has it taken 20 plus years to reengage in a dispute that was lost?

    Bob Crow's use of words on his rant of a website like "scab army" are a disgrace in the 21st century. Comments like this only lead to feelings of anger and people believing the use of these verbal assaults are acceptable. This leads to persons copying these insults and getting themselves in trouble. If his members behave like him on their pickets, then I for one won't shed a tear when they are arrested!

    RMT are living in the 1980s. Bob Crow is trying to be the trade union movement's government basher and we all know what happened the last time an idiot walked down that road!

    He should take a look at himself, stay off "Have I got news for you" and let the railways in Scotland progress.

  • John Kelvin, Oxford

    Down here in Oxford we have two types to train to London. The HST which requires the guard to lock the doors, and the Thames Turbo, where the doors are driver operated. Last time I spoke to one of the guards, his view was very much that he preferred the Turbos because it allowed him more time to look after his passengers, collect fares etc, and removed all sort of communication hassles to/from the driver.

  • Micky Mouse, Scotland, Scotland

    You do not know the role of the guard then sir....

    Think you should go get the facts before you start saying rubbish!!!!

  • H Harvey, Birmingham

    Will these silly idiots within the rail unions ever wake up.
    Here we have a landmark scheme providing more jobs for union members but they would rather show their greed.

    These are the actions of dinosaurs and we know what happened to them. They should also remember the mighty NUM was destroyed by its greed back in the 1980s and I am afraid Mr Crow and his fellow travellers (remind you of commonly used phrases of the last century) will go the same way.

    The nation is in recession, most workers are having to face job reductions pay freezes and contraction of their industries I am afraid the rail workers some of them anyway, will have arude awakening if they continue this sort of greed.
    Of course we can be sure that in the background there lurks a big black bird who has a power and glory complex but then he can afford to have one he will not lose his job abd he will get what he wants - celebrity at whatever cost to his members.

    WAKE UP the railways have many enemies in very powerful positions it would be foolish indeed to give them the ammunition they want to destroy all those jobs.
    Scotland is NOT London and the SE (the home of the big black Bird) this sort of action would be unlikely to halt rail growth there but in Scotland is a different matter.