Crunch talks to avert 48-hour Caledonian Sleeper strikes break down

RMT vows walkouts will go ahead to halt overnight Scotland-London trains

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 3:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st October 2020, 2:28 pm
No Caledonian Sleeper trains will run on Sunday or Monday nights
No Caledonian Sleeper trains will run on Sunday or Monday nights

A last-ditch meeting between the Rail Maritime and Transport union and operator Serco to resolve a dispute over staff rest areas broke up without agreement today.

The union said it meant the first of two 48-hour strikes would go ahead from 5:30pm on Sunday.

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All Sleeper services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Fort William and London have been cancelled on Sunday and Monday nights.

A second 48-hour strike from Sunday 11 October threatens to also halt trains.

The union has also called an overtime ban, although it is not known whether this will cause further disruption.

Staff voted to strike after the union claimed they had been refused access to empty cabins on trains to rest during extended shifts.

Serco described the action as “completely unjustified”.

Both sides said they would be prepared to take part in further talks to try to solve the dispute.

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RMT Scottish organiser Mick Hogg told The Scotsman: “Talks have broken down.

"Serco want the RMT to agree to a working party that addresses a number of anomalies.

"However, they are not prepared to concede additional berth for staff rest.

"Therefore, as far as the RMT is concerned, the planned strike action goes ahead.

“Serco is more interested in putting passengers in berths opposed to addressing staff welfare and well being

"The RMT remains available for meaningful talks.”

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We are deeply disappointed and frustrated that this action is going ahead at a time when everyone’s focus should be on maintaining vital Scottish transport links.

"Consequently, we have decided to cancel our services on the evening of 4 and 5 October.

"We are in the process of contacting guests to inform them and apologise and they will, of course, receive a full refund.

“This action is completely unjustified.

"Less than a third of our workforce voted in favour of industrial action and our employees working on board the trains have received full pay during the pandemic, despite working reduced hours.

“When some of our employees raised concerns about fatigue, we brought in an independent fatigue specialist to conduct a fatigue risk assessment on our services.

"He has completed his report, which clearly concludes that not only is Caledonian Sleeper operating within all regulations, but that only two people raised the issue of additional rooms for hosts, which has become the RMT’s main demand.

"It is therefore extremely disappointing that we currently remain in a position of being unable to resolve the dispute on a subject that only two people raised during the fatigue risk assessment process.

“Despite the findings of the report and our offer to continue to engage with Acas, which still stands, the RMT has refused to engage in negotiations to bring this dispute to a resolution, unless their unreasonable demands for rooms for every host are met.

“We remain fully committed to finding a resolution to the dispute and continue to be available for meaningful discussions to take place.”

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