Fury over rail firm's union-busting deal

"It's a union-busting clause which I expect was demanded by private companies to take on the franchise. It's exactly what's wrong with the franchising system."…"There's no way a private operator who has taken on this franchise should have all its risk removed. "If there is an industrial issue, the incentive is for the company to go into conflict, unlike normal industrial relations where the incentive is to avoid it."

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk
January 10, 2010

Fury over rail firm's union-busting deal
Paddy McGuffin

A union-busting clause written into a Scottish rail franchise agreement would mean that taxpayers would foot the bill over potential industrial action while striking workers missed out, the RMT union has revealed.

Trade unions reacted with fury at the discovery of an indemnity clause written into the original government franchise agreement with ScotRail.

The firm will this week enter into negotiations with RMT over a dispute relating to its Glasgow-Edinburgh service.

RMT is expected to ballot its members for industrial action over proposals for train drivers, as opposed to conductors, to operate doors on a new Glasgow to Edinburgh service set to start later this year.

The clause, signed off by Liberal Democrat MSP and transport minister Nicol Stephenson in 2004, means that government ministers could cover the cost of a dispute if the company can show it had taken steps to avoid it and that it had tried to mitigate its effects.

This would mean that workers would lose pay while the company would be reimbursed from the public purse.

Transport Scotland, the government agency responsible for the rail franchise, confirmed that the clause could result in money being paid to ScotRail in the event of a strike but that this would be subject to ministerial approval.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow accused ScotRail of deliberate provocation in the current dispute.

"Our argument is that ScotRail hasn't taken reasonable steps to avoid a dispute. In fact it has been deliberately confrontational on this issue," he said.

"If this did move to an industrial dispute, there would be absolutely no grounds for paying ScotRail out of the public purse.

"It's a union-busting clause which I expect was demanded by private companies to take on the franchise. It's exactly what's wrong with the franchising system."

The Scottish Trades Union Congress also condemned the agreement.

Assistant secretary Stephen Boyd said: "There's no way a private operator who has taken on this franchise should have all its risk removed.

"If there is an industrial issue, the incentive is for the company to go into conflict, unlike normal industrial relations where the incentive is to avoid it."

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/85378


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