Caledonian Sleeper industrial action ballot launched

An industrial action ballot among Caledonian Sleeper staff will be launched tomorrow in a dispute over the use of spare berths for rest breaks during extended shifts

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th August 2020, 4:57 pm
Staff have complained of fatigue during extended shifts on the overnight trains.
Staff have complained of fatigue during extended shifts on the overnight trains.

Voting among the 75 Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) staff affected will continue until 15 September and any action could start on 29 September.

It follows the union claiming operator Serco had refused to provide extra berths so train hosts working extended shifts up to 16-and-a-half hours “can avoid fatigue whilst at work”.

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‘No satisfactory solution’

The dispute affects 75 Caledonian Sleeper staff.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This reasonable request has been refused and no satisfactory solution has been tabled by management.

"Unfortunately, it now appears the company are not prepared to allow for any meaningful discussions to take place and has refused to release our representatives to take part in negotiations.

“After carefully considering this matter, the national executive committee believes there is no other choice but to ballot our members for industrial action.

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"It has never been more vital that we come together and ensure an enormous turnout in this ballot, so I urge our members to vote overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.”

Serco said a room on each train was already provided for staff breaks and other rooms were made available if spare.

It said staff also had a dedicated rest area, as well as the Club Car and seated coach, which have been closed to passengers since March because of Covid-19.

‘Surprised and disappointed’

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “Since we started operating a reduced programme in March, all staff have received their full wage despite working significantly reduced hours, so we are surprised and disappointed that, with discussions still ongoing, we find ourselves in a dispute over rest areas and fatigue.

“The agreement we reached with the RMT last year to provide a guest room for rest, in addition to the other on board train spaces available, is still in place and we now have [regulator] Office of Rail and Road-approved processes to permit continued safe use and manage the Covid-19 risks.

“Nonetheless, whilst we do not accept the RMT claim that fatigue is an issue resulting from our operations during the pandemic period, we have asked the Rail Safety and Standards Board to review our rosters and are engaging an independent fatigue specialist to review working patterns and ensure no member of staff faces unnecessary fatigue.

“Our hope is this can be resolved swiftly and amicably.”

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