ScotRail workers will strike on 22 December and Christmas Eve in a dispute over the sacking of an employee, says the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
Union members on the firm’s sleeper services will also strike for 24 hours from the evening of 21 December and again from the evening of 23 December.
The decision was made by Scotrail staff to take action when an employee was sacked after trying to make sure a passenger had the correct ticket. The ticket examiner was dismissed on grounds of intimidating and aggressive behaviour towards the passenger, who was then reduced to tears.
The dismissal followed the ticket examiner refusing to accept that the customer was allowed free travel under a special ScotRail deal to promote a new route out of an airport. It is a longstanding, well-known arrangement.
A spokesman for Scotrail said: “This reeks of selfishness – designed to give those on strike extra time off and full wages while having the maximum impact on the traveling public in the run up to Christmas.
“It also appears mercenary and opportunistic to choose times when families and friends will be traveling for festive reunions and many other people, including staff in hospitals and shops, still have to get to and from work.”
A statement from the RMT union read: “Management have not been able to produce a shred of evidence to prove that Mr Lewis was harassing this passenger or that he failed to comply with correct procedures. Excerpts of CCTV evidence seen by the union do not back the management case one iota and despite requests the company have refused to release the full CCTV tapes to RMT or Scott Lewis.”
But ScotRail says the union was shown CCTV on three separate occasions of the instance where the ticket-master had reduced the customer to tears. They added that the images revealed that the standards of conduct fell below what was expected.
They said both Mr Lewis, the ticket master and Mr Ian McIntyre, Scottish Regional Organiser of the RMT, were shown the footage.
The ScotRail spokesman added: “If anyone believes the conduct towards a customer who was reduced to tears is acceptable – let alone worthy of a strike – then they are in the wrong job. The ticket examiner also had a complete disregard of correct ticket procedures.”
ScotRail says that just 24% of RMT union members voted for the strike action in a ballot, in which 65% of members did not vote. Of the 819 votes cast, 548 were for the strike action.
Out on the streets of Edinburgh, the public reaction to the strike was mixed.
One man said: “I’m going to be working up until 23 December – but I’m going back home on the 24th up to Stonehaven. So, yes it looks like that’s going to be a bit of a problem. I’ll probably just end up getting the bus.”
Others said they would not be affected by the strikes.