RAIL workers are closer to a pay deal following talks between Scotrail, unions and the Scottish Government. 

RMT members have been engaged in almost six months of strike action after a dispute surrounding rest day working.

Glasgow MSP, Paul Sweeney, asked an urgent question in the Scottish Parliament today, regarding the ongoing dispute. He said: "What action the government was taking to resolve the ongoing pay dispute between Scotrail and its workers in light of last night's announcement that strikes would take place during COP 26?"

Glasgow Times:

Transport minister Graeme Dey told Mr Sweeney that there were "reasonable offers on the table". He added: "Talks with the trade unions over the general grades and pay claim took place today and discussions are planned tomorrow with ASLEF.

"Despite a backdrop of significant financial challenges facing the rail sector, there are reasonable offers on the table, which through pragmatic and meaningful discussions about efficiencies and modernisations could lead to an agreement being reached. 

"Today’s talks have just adjourned and are scheduled to resume on Thursday. Any cancellations as a result of industrial action only have the potential to undermine the recovery of our rail service but also impact vital revenue streams from ticket sales.

Glasgow Times:

“While we support the right of every worker and trade union to engage with their employers to seek a pay deal, COP 26 is Scotland and Glasgow’s chance to showcase the key role we see for rail and a sustainable future on a world stage. We obviously hope that staff and the unions will understand the importance of the moment and will work with Scotrail to resolve this dispute and we’re obviously encouraged by the fact the talks have adjourned until later this week."

Mr Dey called for all sides in the industrial dispute to "get round the table" to engage in constructive discussions. He added: "What I would say to the chamber is in an industrial dispute like this there is a lot of rhetoric, there is a lot of assertion and there is a lot of claim.

"What we need here is for calm heads, for people to get round the table and work constructively to resolve everything within this situation.”

Mr Sweeney responded: "Whilst I welcome the hint that there may well be a revised offer, with respect to the minister, I tend to trust the integrity of workers and their trade union representatives to tell the truth in this matter and while the government has made an effort to respond, it seems to me that they are trying to shut the stable door when the horse has bolted . 

“The situation should never have been allowed to deteriorate to this point. The fact is that the government has steadfastly refused for a matter of over 18 months to engage meaningfully with this pay dispute. Workers morale is at an all time low and they’ve been left with no option but to vote for this strike action.

"This is not a bolt from the blue, this is not a malicious act . It’s a result of sustained behaviour that is unacceptable by the employer. We now face the prospect of Scotland being an international laughing stock as delegates of the Cop26 conference can’t use public transport because of Abellio’s intransigence and this government’s seeming indifference. On that basis, can I ask the minister what the next steps are if this revised pay offer that is currently under discussion is refused by the trade unions?"

To which Mr Dey answered: "This is a dispute that needs to come together to resolve it. I’ve encouraged all sides to engage constructively.

"I’m pleased to see the approach that has been taken today. It is in no-one’s interest for this dispute to continue and it is in no-ones interest for it to impact COP. So rather than standing there, with the greatest respect to Mr Sweeney, portraying one side of this argument, I do hope he will come away from this chamber encouraging the trade unions to engage constructively as I have done with them and with ScotRail to get this resolved and we all move on."

John Mason, MSP for Glasgow East asked the minister to confirm that money would not be taken from the NHS budget to resolve the dispute. The transport minister told him that the alternative proposal was "affordable" within the rail budget. 

It is understood Mr Dey will be holding talks with rail union ASLEF tomorrow and pay talks will resume on Thursday.