HUNDREDS of ScotRail staff have been asked to consider quitting in a cost-cutting move condemned by one union as creating a "climate of fear" amongst the workforce.

All administrative, clerical, supervisory and managerial staff across Scotland,  including its Glasgow headquarters have been asked to consider voluntary redundancy, a matter of weeks after Abellio ScotRail announced a loss of £3.5m in its first full year operating train services in Scotland.

Abellio ScotRail refused to say how many staff they want to leave, but stressed that there would be no enforced redundancies, as per the terms of its franchise.

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An email sent to staff by John Gillies, director of human resources, on Tuesday announced the Voluntary Leavers Scheme while proclaiming that the company was "well on our way to building the best railway Scotland's ever had".

The transport staff union TSSA reacted angrily to the news, and its general secretary Manuel Cortes (below left) said it was time for the transport minister Humza Yousaf (below right) to "stop Abellio in its tracks and take back the keys to ScotRail".

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"Since the day Abellio took over the running of ScotRail the service has swung from crisis to crisis. Delays have become systemic.  It's turned from a profit-making to a loss making business despite passenger revenues - because of rip-off ticket prices - running at an all time high," said Mr Cortes.

"But news that they now want our members to volunteer to sacrifice their jobs to bail the company out of it's financial crisis is a new low, even for Abellio."

He said that Abellio was already slow to fill job vacancies as staff leave, meaning ScotRail was already running on overstretched rosters, and now they are "sneaking round asking for volunteers to sell their jobs in return for a pay-off".

He said: "This is not just a bribe, by announcing they want scalps Abellio are creating further uncertainty and are effectively bullying our members into jumping over the job cliff.   

"It's also no way to run Scotland's railways. Volunteers leaving under Voluntary Severance won’t be replaced meaning the customer will get a poorer service. 

"There is nothing in place to stop say, all Scotland's rail traffic controllers volunteering to leave at once, or our signalling staff. Let me spell this out clearly how stupidly thought through Abellio's volunteer-to-lose-your-job-take-the-money and run deal is: it means ScotRail is losing the staff it needs to make the trains run."

He believes the moves supports his belief that Scotland's railways should be put under "full public ownership" sooner rather than later to stop profits subsidising rail travel in Holland.

Backed by a petition signed by more than 20,000 people, Mr Cortes called on the minister to take "the bold political decision" for full nationalisation of ScotRail without recourse to any bidding "preferably by using a break clause in 2019".

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And he says the latest development supports his call, adding:  "Abellio have shown they can’t manage Scotland’s railways. Privatisation isn't working. It’s time for Scotland to run our railways ourselves."

Data shows that in the 12 months since Abellio took the franchise at least one in ten trains in Scotland ran more than five minutes late.

Mr Yousaf was forced to apologise to passengers following widespread disruption on ScotRail services last winter.

Tough trading conditions and a partial closure of Glasgow Queen Street station were blamed for the loss in 2016, which came after it emerged in its first nine months as ScotRail franchise operator in 2015, the subsidiary of state-owned Dutch Railways made profits of almost £10m.

It highlighted investment of £475m in the railways, the introduction of a new fleet of Hitachi-built electric class 385 trains and the "extensive" refurbishment of high-speed trains to serve Scotland's cities from 2018.

Mr Gillies highlighted those developments in his call for voluntary redundancies saying: "We are on the cusp of a big transformation for our business."

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He added: "This means that we must now look at how we are structured across the business and, where necessary, make changes to enable and sustain excellent customer service into the future.

"We have charged each functional director to review their current staffing models and to develop sustainable plans to support this mission. As a result of this, in some areas there may be a need to grow our capability and capacity, but in other areas a need to reduce our capacity."
He said that within the scheme they are looking to progress to acceptance and commitment "as quickly as possible and have set a firm timetable to support progress".

He told staff: "Agreeing to release anyone on VLS is at the sole discretion of the company. Expressing an interest in VLS does not commit you to leave the organisation. We will review each application on its own merits and to be successful it must be supported by the functional director concerned."

An Abellio ScotRail spokesman said: “Our policy of no compulsory redundancies remains firmly in place – anybody who currently has a job in the business will continue to do so if they want one. But with new trains and services coming soon, the way we operate has to change so that we can build the best railway Scotland’s ever had.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “This is an operational matter for ScotRail however the franchise agreement secured by this Scottish Government stipulates there will be no compulsory redundancies, in addition to all staff being paid the Living Wage.

“The Scottish Government is committed to working in partnership with Abellio ScotRail and its alliance partner Network Rail to ensure the success of the ScotRail Franchise in reliably connecting our communities, enabling opportunities and spreading sustainable economic prosperity across Scotland.”

New figures show that 88.3% of ScotRail trains arrived at stations within five minutes of their scheduled time in the four weeks up to 14 October 2017.  It's a dip from recent months which has seen performance at more than 90%.

An earlier leaf fall this autumn had an impact on recent ScotRail performance, the rail operator said.

The TSSA launched a full nationalisation campaign supported by a video (below) which features some prime Scottish landmarks including the famous Glenfinnan viaduct from the Harry Potter films, and features a voiceover in the style of a Scottish National Party promotional film.