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Analysis reveals ‘millions’ in fees paid to train operators could have funded pay award for striking rail workers

ANALYSIS has revealed that the millions of pounds in fees handed to train operators by the Scottish government could have funded a pay award for striking ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper workers.

The RMT union said the findings showed that there was no justification for SNP ministers’ continuing refusal to fund a wage rise for ScotRail and Serco Caledonian Sleeper workers. 

Abellio and Serco were paid £9.3m for their initial six-month Covid-19 emergency measures agreement (EMA), under which the Scottish government has been managing the franchises since the start of the pandemic in March last year. 

The terms of the EMAs permit the payment of performance and management fees to the operators.

The RMT analysis showed that this amount would cover an inflation-level pay rise, so, with operators expected to earn millions of pounds more in the coming months, the union called on the Edinburgh government to commit to funding a pay award for these key workers . 

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The Scottish government keeps saying there is no funding for a pay award for these essential workers, but the fees paid to Abellio and Serco make it abundantly clear that it’s one rule for the private operators and quite another for the front-line workers.

“The Scottish government cannot continue to treat its essential workers with disdain. RMT is demanding that, as a matter of urgency, it commits to funding a pay award that values these workers and recognises the increasing costs of living they face.”

ScotRail chief operating officer Alex White said that the pandemic  had a devastating impact on business and that fees paid under the EMAs would not reverse significant losses. He urged the unions to work with management.

Transport Scotland described the RMT claim as misleading and said that both franchises had experienced significant revenue shortfalls.

Kathryn Darbandi, Serco’s Managing Director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “The financial support provided by Scottish Government under their Emergency Measure Agreements has been critical in helping us to keep essential services running throughout last 18 months.

“This period has been extremely challenging for the Caledonian Sleeper and the rail industry as a whole, with the number of passengers travelling with us reduced dramatically but our costs remaining largely unchanged.  

“As a result, last year we made a loss of over £8m, and Serco has born around £65m of losses since the start of the contract. 

“In the meantime, Serco has done everything it can to protect all our staff throughout Covid. We have made no redundancies and ensured all staff have all received full pay, even though our services have been significantly reduced. We also gave everyone a £100 bonus in recognition of their commitment during the pandemic. 

“As always, we continue to be open to discussions aimed at moving forwards with the RMT, but there has to be a realistic approach to any such approach.”

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