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Union launches campaign to save Glasgow rail depot

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Representatives from union Unite are attempting to rally enough political support to save 180 jobs at Springburn rail depot in Glasgow.

Following an initial announcement in December, owner Gemini Rail Services has entered into a consultation with staff after serving a closure notice on the site, which carries out service, maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrades on ScotRail trains.

In a bid to save the historic site and its employees, Unite has met with rail minister Andrew Jones as well as the Gemini management at Westminster to discuss the situation. In an announcement on January 17, Unite said it is also  scheduled to meet the Scottish transport minister Michael Matheson for further discussions on saving the depot.

Cross-party politicians and Unite had urged Gemini to delay serving notice based on a more detailed examination of the company’s financial status in order to fully explore different options for the depot.

The decision is currently set to affect 120 staff and 60 contractors.  If the proposed closure does go ahead, it will also mean the repairs and maintenance of Scotland’s rolling stock will be carried out in England.

In response, Unite has launched a campaign – ‘Rally Roon the Caley’ – based on the depot’s local name, which has two key demands:

  • Electrification in order to connect the depot to the Glasgow to Edinburgh line at an estimated cost of less than £1 million;
  • And the Scottish Government’s immediate intervention to bring the depot under its control as an asset of strategic importance in Scotland’s transport infrastructure. The demand is based on the precedent set by the Scottish Government, which brought Glasgow Prestwick Airport under its control in November 2013.

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “The reality is that we now have 45 days to save the depot as a result of Gemini’s utterly disgraceful behaviour to ignore calls by both the Scottish and UK Governments, and most importantly the workforce, for more time. We now require immediate intervention to support the electrification of the depot and for it to be brought under the control of the Scottish Government.

“The Springburn depot not only has a proud past but it can play a strategic role in the nation’s transport infrastructure for years to come.”

Gemini Rail Services managing director Nick Fitzwater added: “Following our initial announcement in December, Gemini Rail Services can confirm it has entered a consultation process with employees over a proposal to close its site in Springburn, Glasgow. Employees have been informed of the consultation process, and we will now hold detailed discussions with them and their representatives, both collectively and individually.

“As we have stated, the decision to put forward the proposal has in no way been taken lightly and we know it is a worrying time for the workforce. The proposal has been made against a backdrop of increasingly challenging market conditions which are outside of our control and severely affect our core business of maintaining pre-privatisation rolling stock.

“Springburn will continue to suffer a major decline in work due to its location and the section of the market it serves.

“This market downturn has been evident for many years, and despite the efforts of management to explore avenues to improve the situation, and the hard work and dedication of the workforce to deliver on contracts won by the company, the company is suffering unsustainable losses.

“Gemini Rail Services management has worked to engage with several key stakeholders, including industry experts, unions and politicians, to openly discuss the adverse market forces affecting Springburn and to explore all viable alternative options for the site. This engagement is ongoing.”

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