TRAM workers are expected to back strike action during the Edinburgh Festival after rejecting a “derisory” pay offer from bosses.

Union leaders are asking for a “substantial” salary increase as they condemn “immoral” bonuses for Edinburgh Trams bosses while staff are forced to use food banks.

Some 165 tram drivers, ticket sales assistants and controllers represented by Unite have voted down two pay offers so far, with a ballot on industrial action to take place on June 29.

If backed by members, strikes would begin on August 4, the day before Edinburgh Festival officially begins.

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Edinburgh Trams, which is owned by the council, says it is “disappointed” by the threat of industrial action but insists it remains open to further negotiations.

The organisation’s managing director, Lea Harrison, was awarded Britain’s largest public sector bonus in 2019-20, pocketing £48,495.

In comments reported by The Scotsman, Unite regional officer Lyn Turner 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 100% turnout, 97% 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 [Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service].

“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 National: The Edinburgh Festival begins on August 5The Edinburgh Festival begins on August 5

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Harrison urged workers to reject strike action and called for “reasonable proposals” from Unite.

He said: “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 5% increase this year and a further rise of 4% 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.”

The formal consultation on industrial action will conclude on July 20.

The dispute comes as Scotland’s railways grind to a halt amid UK-wide strikes.

Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out again on Thursday after talks failed to resolve a bitter row over pay, jobs and conditions.

Just one in five trains are running, and they are mostly restricted to main lines, with around half of the network closed.