Unite the union has confirmed today (6 August) that it has launched an industrial action ballot involving hundreds of its engineering members at Abellio Scotrail as pay talks with the company have collapsed. 
The ballot, which will open on 11 August and close on 1 September, follows the failure by Abellio Scotrail to make a meaningful pay offer, as well as the company withdrawing a number of entitlements from workers including the Rest Day Working Agreement with Unite in April 2020 for engineering workers. The Dutch firm initially withdrew it for drivers but later reinstated it. 
Abellio has claimed they are under instructions from the Scottish government not to award any pay rise to rail workers. If the ballot for industrial action is successful then strike action is likely to take place from early September.
In April 2020 the Scottish government put in place an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) which made a temporary variation to the ScotRail franchise agreement. This includes a £8.9m management fee associated with the EMA between March - September 2020 (see notes to editor).
Unite has submitted a number of demands to Abellio Scotrail including a substantial increase in pay, greater flexibility of holidays, the introduction of no compulsory redundancies and the reinstatement of the Rest Day Working Agreement, which have all been rejected by the company. Abellio will now stop running the ScotRail franchise at the end of March next year when Scotland's train services are set to be run by a public sector body.
Abellio’s turnover for the year (2020) at £917m was down from the previous accounting period, principally due to passenger income falling from £445.3m in 2019 to £360.4m. However, the franchise subsidy from Transport Scotland rose over the same period from £482.8m to £526.3m.
Pat McIlvogue, Unite industrial officer, said: “The working relationship between the trade unions and Abellio Scotrail is non-existent. It has plummeted to the lowest level in living memory which comes at a time when Abellio’s management of the rail franchise approaches an ignominious end. You could be forgiven for thinking that they seem intent on leaving as much of a mess as possible before they leave the scene. Unite’s members have had their terms and conditions cut, while Abellio also refuse to offer a decent pay rise. We have launched an industrial action ballot and we are confident our members will return a vote in favour of taking action. The workers have been treated with no respect, despite continuing to provide a valuable service throughout the pandemic.”