COP26 is facing transport meltdown over crippling bus strikes and industrial action by rail staff.
Unite are balloting members at bus giant Stagecoach over a pay dispute and the union’s train engineers are set to take action on Friday.
Dougie Maguire, Unite regional coordinator, said: “The COP26 climate change conference will be severely disrupted.”
Stagecoach, a multi-national company founded by millionaire SNP donor Sir Brian Souter, is a major bus operator in Scotland.
But the firm has failed to reach an agreement with staff over pay, with the union claiming a below inflation rise has been offered.
The ballot of drivers, admin staff and cleaners covers major depots in Angus, Ardrossan, Ayr, Brodick, Cumbernauld, and Dumfries.
Dundee, Fife, Inverness, Highlands and Islands, Kilmarnock, and Perth are also affected.
Stagecoach operates routes into all major cities and towns north of the border from Orkney to the Borders.
Unite anticipates any industrial action would fall between 31 October and 12 November – coinciding with the international climate crisis summit in Glasgow.
As part of an ongoing dispute with Abellio ScotRail, Unite members are also scheduled to mount industrial action short of a strike on the country’s rail service in two days.
One union source said the action on the railways would bring the service to a standstill and could last until COP26.
Maguire said: “Stagecoach’s stance has been nothing short of shocking, and it has infuriated the workforce who have continued to work diligently throughout the Covid pandemic.”
“The Stagecoach Group is extremely profitable and it also directly benefits from millions of pounds of public funds every year through various Scottish Government schemes, not to mention benefiting from the UK Government’s furlough scheme for the last 18 months.”
“If Stagecoach do not come to their senses, then many of the nation’s major bus routes will grind to a halt if our members vote for industrial action.
“Remote local communities and showcase events such as the COP26 climate change conference will be severely disrupted. This will be solely down to the Group’s point blank refusal to make our members a fair pay offer. The solution is simple: give our members the pay rise they deserve or face widespread industrial disruption.”
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “Millions of pounds of public money has been poured into bus companies over the last eighteen months, but the SNP have failed to demand a thing for hard-working staff in return.
“The SNP’s track record of failure is catching up with them just as the world’s eyes are on Glasgow, with a barrage of strikes set to cause chaos during COP26.
“What was left of the Scottish government’s green credentials have been left in shreds, as Glasgow’s waste crisis grows and public transport is engulfed by industrial disputes and cuts.
“Equally their supposed commitment to fair work has been exposed as the sham that it is.
“The SNP must stand up for Stagecoach workers and fight for a fair deal.”
A spokesperson for ScotRail said: “Discussions with trade unions are ongoing.”
A spokesperson for Stagecoach in Scotland said: “Local people who depend on buses to get to work and access public services, as well as local businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic, will be extremely angry at the threat of completely unnecessary disruption to their bus services. The comments by the union at national level do not reflect the continuing positive discussions that we are having with local Unite representatives as we jointly work towards agreeing pay deals.
“The threat of strike action is even more puzzling as we have already agreed a pay package with Unite covering members in several other parts of Scotland and they remain happy with the deal. In addition, union representatives have recommended their members accept the package that we have offered in the west of Scotland.
“The reality is that Covid-19 has resulted in bus passenger numbers being only 70% of pre-pandemic levels. As a result, services being run by all bus operators require support from the Scottish Government, which does not cover pay awards. This means that passenger fares are significantly short of what is needed just to even cover the day-to-day costs of running services, never mind investment in new greener vehicles.
“We are committed to offering good packages for our people that reflect the local economic conditions, the varying costs of running services and the level of passenger journeys. The focus should be on protecting both the jobs of our people and the long-term sustainability of vital public transport services for the local community.”
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