Staff at Edinburgh Trams could be set to go on strike in time for the Edinburgh Festival in another pay dispute. Members of the Unite union are being balloted for potential strike action after the latest pay offer from Edinburgh Trams was rejected with union officials declaring it as “derisory”.
According to reports online the pay offer which has been rejected would include a one off payment plus a 4% pay increase next year. A further offer of 5% this year and 4% in 2023 would also appear to have been rejected by the union with the decision being made to ballot their members from 29th June – a result is expected after 20th July with the threat of strikes starting from 4th August.
In a statement Lyn Turner, Regional Officer for Unite, said: “We are looking for a substantial pay increase for our members in response to the cost of living crisis. Many of them are struggling to put fuel in their cars to get to work and others are using food banks. It’s immoral, when bosses are getting big bonuses. Edinburgh Trams is a municipal transport company and they need to do the right thing by their workers. Their offer was derisory and below inflation.
“With a one hundred per cent turnout 97 per cent rejected the offer. Then another offer was made verbally but when we got it in writing it was less. I fully expect our members to vote for strike action. So far the attitude has been negative. We are willing to meet bosses at an independent venue to thrash this out with ACAS. But we’ve had no response on that. Edinburgh Trams have been nominated for Public Transport Operator of the Year award. I’d ask them to forget the awards table and get round the table to negotiate a pay that our workers deserve.”
The big bonuses mentioned in this statement reportedly include £48,895 awarded to the Managing Director of Edinburgh Trams, Lea Harrison, in 2019/20 for his part in the tram network seeing a major increase in passenger numbers. This is said to be the largest bonus of anyone in Britain’s public sector.
In response to the news of the ballot, Mr Harrison commented: “We are disappointed to learn that the union is to ballot its members on industrial action just days after agreeing to meet with us for further discussions on the latest improved pay offer. Our proposed settlement includes a five per cent increase this year and a further rise of four per cent in 2023. This takes into account the union’s preference for an agreement that would see any increases calculated as a percentage of overall salary, rather than one which includes stand-alone payments or enhanced terms and conditions.
“These proposals follow above inflation pay rises over the last six years, including during pandemic. During this period we have done everything we can to support our employees, maintaining job security and avoiding redundancies.
“As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, our focus must be on delivering a sustainable service and we are saddened that the union is taking this course of action when presented with a fair pay offer that recognises the challenges faced by employees whilst ensuring the financial stability of the company, therefore protecting jobs in the long term. Clearly we remain open to further talks, subject to reasonable proposals from the union, aimed at working towards an agreement that avoids any unnecessary industrial action and the resulting impact on services for our customers.”