John Question Scottish Government on Sleeper Trade Union Relations

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): I thank the minister for the positive announcement about the depot and apprenticeships. I note that he got a personal rather than a contractual assurance on the living wage and zero-hours contracts. The trade unions have been in touch to express concern about how Serco discharged its industrial relations under the northern isles ferries contract. Will he work with Serco to ensure that a better relationship is maintained under the new franchise?

Keith Brown: I am of course happy to give the commitment to ensure that we have the best possible relationship with the trade unions and the franchise holder. The commitment that I asked for from Serco’s chief executive is not just about the living wage, because the staff involved currently earn well in excess of the living wage. TUPE and other commitments will protect existing wages and conditions, and we will go well beyond that into such things as the rail travel that staff benefit from. Another concern of unions is about staff training and apprenticeship opportunities, which have all been protected.

We have spoken directly with the preferred bidder and it has given commitments but, in addition, we have written into the contract things such as TUPE. The pension scheme was a huge issue for the trade unions and we have gone the extra mile to set up a new pension scheme to protect employees’ existing pensions.