Caledonian Sleeper staff to stage 48-hour strikes

Passengers using overnight trains between Scotland and London face four days of disruption after the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) announced two walkouts over rest areas on trains for staff.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 8:30 pm
Passengers are faced with threatened disruption from 4 October
Passengers are faced with threatened disruption from 4 October

The union has instructed members to strike for 48 hours from Sunday 4 October and Sunday 11 October.

The action from 5:30pm each day could affect trains on 4, 5, 11 and 12 October.

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A ban on overtime or working on days off will also be imposed from 6-11 October and indefinitely from 13 October.

Sleeper hosts and team leaders, who look after passengers, are due to take part.

Operator Serco said it was “reviewing plans” for its services during the industrial action and would inform booked passengers of any changes.

The move comes after staff voted last week to strike after a request to operator Serco was refused for more spare cabins on the trains to be made available for rest breaks during extended shifts.

Changes

The trains operate Sunday to Friday between London and Edinburgh, with a second service running between London, Fort William and Inverness via Glasgow Queen Street.

Their normal routes and the service to Aberdeen have been suspended during the Covid-19 crisis.

The union stated in a letter to members: “I am writing further to the overwhelming ballot result where you and your colleagues showed a clear desire to take industrial action ballot against Serco's lack of concern for members’ safety, well being and the company's refusal to negotiate with your union.

“Serco Caledonian Sleeper has continued to provide insufficient berths for rest periods and the company's inability to address the fatigue felt by you and your colleagues is unacceptable.

"Safety on the railway is paramount and the company is showing a clear lack of regard for the welfare of its staff.

"There is no question that you and your colleagues are essential for the safe running of the railway and it is vital that staff are able to carry out their duties responsively and quickly.

"This can only happen when staff are free from the issues of fatigue.”

The RMT said its national executive committee was “appalled at Serco’s lack of concern for the safety of our members”.

It said: “Serco is continuing to ignore the 2019 dispute resolution agreed with the union that train hosts should be allocated additional berths for their rest periods."

‘Greed’

Mick Hogg, the union’s Scottish organiser, added: “We are opposed to the corporate greed of Serco Caledonian Sleeper.

“If a meeting on 30 September fails to address these fatigue issues then the RMT will proceed with action and bring Serco to its knees.”

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: "We have been advised by the RMT that its members intend to take strike action on Caledonian Sleeper services next month.

"This is despite less than a third of our workforce voting in favour of this in their ballot.

“We are currently reviewing plans for services on the dates in question and will update guests should there be any changes that affect them.

‘Disappointing’

“Since we started operating a reduced programme in March, all staff have received their full wage despite working significantly reduced hours.

"We have done everything possible to provide staff with rest areas on board and have also engaged with an independent fatigue specialist to review working patterns, even though we do not accept the claim that it is an issue.

“The decision to launch strike action is especially disappointing as it comes at a time when all of our focus should be on supporting the Scottish Government to rebuild the economy and maintain vital transport links.”

Support

Serco won a 15-year franchise to operate the service in 2015.

It has received emergency support payments from the Scottish Government since April because of a significant reduction in passenger numbers.

The payments will now continue until January, transport secretary Michael Matheson announced on Friday.

The UK Government revealed yesterday it was scrapping rail franchises, but it is unclear whether there will be any changes to the Caledonian Sleeper contract before its scheduled end in 2030.

The current ScotRail franchise is now due to end three years early in 2022 after operator Abellio failed to agree terms for its final phase with the Scottish Government in December.

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