UNION leaders have criticised Scotland’s new railways boss, accusing the new publicly-owned firm of treating its workers “in a more confrontational and provocative way than any of their failed private sector operators”.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said it “did not recognise this interpretation of the meeting” and added that it was “disappointing that the union leaders have taken this approach which will cause misunderstanding and distress for their members”.

Rail unions Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite claimed Chris Gibb (below), the chief executive of state-owned Scottish Rail Holdings, planned to “downgrade terms and conditions”, that the operator had rejected a no compulsory redundancy agreement, and had plans to cut staff rights to negotiate over pay.

The National: Chief executive of Scottish Rail Holdings Chris GibbChief executive of Scottish Rail Holdings Chris Gibb

In a joint statement on behalf of the four unions after they met with Gibb, they said that “Scotland’s new rail operator has started its relationship with workers in a more confrontational and provocative way than any of their failed private operator predecessors – they must change their ways quickly”.

“To be threatened with compulsory redundancies and cuts to pay and conditions is an attack on key workers who have kept Scotland moving during the pandemic,” they added.

“We are bitterly disappointed that rather than meet in good faith and seek to rebuild industrial relations, Mr Gibb seems intent on repeating the mistakes of the past.

“This is not the type of publicly owned railway that Scotland needs or expects. The Scottish Government are now fully responsible for running Scotland’s railways, Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson must intervene now.”

Abellio is to be stripped of its ScotRail contract from April 1, when the franchise will be brought under state-control. Staff will become part of the Scottish Government’s public pay policy, but the unions said this was “an attempt to undermine railway workers’ existing pay and negotiating terms and conditions”.

“All of this points to a plan to treat key workers as the key costs to cut and the Scottish Government must halt these tactics immediately,” the four unions demanded.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Conversely, we welcome the recent engagement with the trade unions regarding the formal transfer to ScotRail Trains Limited on April 1. We are keen to ensure that every current member of ScotRail’s staff wishing to transfer to the new publicly controlled company with their current terms and conditions does so,” the spokesman said.

“Ongoing Tupe [regulations over the transfer of employees when a company is taken over] discussions will keep staff informed of all matters related to the transfer, including the ways public sector pay policy could be applied moving forward.”

He added: “This is a pay policy which continues to focus on sustainability, reducing inequalities and promoting wellbeing, in an extremely challenging fiscal context.”

ScotRail announced earlier this month that three ticket offices could close as part of changes – which will affect more than 100 stations on the network.

On Monday, Scottish peak and off-peak regulated fares are to go up by another 3.8%, with peak prices rocketing by 38% since the start of 2012.