Glasgow Subway Labour Dispute
Fresh war of words breaks out in subway dispute
11 May 2005
THE chances of a speedy resolution to the four-month-old Glasgow Subway dispute took a step in the wrong direction last night following a fresh war of words.
Union officials reacted angrily to claims from Strathclyde Passenger Transport that an internal power struggle within the Transport and General Workers' Union had delayed a settlement.
On Monday, workers rejected a deal which would have guaranteed most employees nearly GBP20,000 a year. The offer was rejected by just 15 votes and one manager has admitted that sacking all the strikers was now an option.
Harry Copeland, shop steward, who is part of the T&G negotiating team and the station master at Partick, was criticised for his role in the dispute.
An SPT management source said talks had progressed well until Mr Copeland returned from holiday when negotiations collapsed.
The T&G said management sources speaking out against one shop steward only served to worsen the atmosphere and put at risk any chances of a negotiated settlement.
Scott Foley, T&G regional industrial organiser, said:
"What SPT needs to do is ref lect, as we in the T&G are doing, on why the latest pay offer was rejected.
"Personalising the dispute to one shop steward, who has actually done his best to put the latest offer to his colleagues in an open manner, distracts from the process."
He added: "The travelling public will not understand or forgive SPT if, by their illjudged and ill-informed intervention against one individual, they prolong a dispute by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."
The union has organised a further mass meeting for Sunday. Union members will discuss how they want to proceed and brief the negotiators.
The T&G was reported as claiming that the idea of a power struggle had been overplayed. A source said: "Our negotiators are having problems with SPT's middle managers. They are quite appalling.
The latest offer was not recommended by the union because it did not accurately ref lect what had been previously said by management."
SPT denied that, and said it was disappointed the pay row had not been settled.
Both sides said they were prepared to continue negotiations, but SPT said it had the option of sacking almost 200 train drivers, safety workers and ticket collectors, as well as station masters and deputies.
Changes in employment law mean management will be allowed to tear up the contracts of employment of every striker from May 13, rehiring them under different terms and conditions.
New employment laws allow managers to dismiss strikers after an industrial dispute has been going on for 12 weeks, but they have to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to find a solution.
The latest deal rejected by staff, which the SPT described as its "final pay offer", would have given drivers a guaranteed income of GBP19,848 by 2006/07.
Station masters would have received GBP19,653 and station assistants GBP16,107, an average increase of about 10 per cent.