THE troubled Caledonian Sleeper franchise is set to be disrupted again – this time by industrial action, after talks to settle a long-running dispute with the RMT broke down yesterday.
A walkout will be staged between midday on 29 September until the same time on 1 October, followed by a ban on rest day working, overtime and performing the duties of a higher grade member of staff. This ‘work to rule’ is set to start on 00.01 on 2 October and continue indefinitely.
The new CAF-built rolling stock has had numerous problems since it was introduced in the spring, including one service which stopped in the small hours at Preston and left passengers to make their own way for the rest of the journey, and an overrun of 650m at Edinburgh on 1 August which was caused by a closed brake valve.
The RMT has pointed out that these and other incidents put frontline staff under pressure, and there have been several meetings with the management, including an Avoidance of Disputes meeting yesterday.
These latest talks have failed to yield any ‘serious movement’ from Caledonian Sleeper, the union claims.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The union is angry and frustrated that promises made to us to address the serious concerns of the Caledonian Sleeper staff have not been honoured and the failure of SERCO to come up with any serious progress in key talks yesterday leaves us with no choice but to go ahead with our industrial action exactly as planned.
‘RMT members have been put under intolerable personal stress as a result of the company's mismanagement of the sleeper service. They know it, they have promised to do something about it but they have failed to deliver. The move to strike action is entirely SERCO’s fault and the public will understand that. The union remains available for genuine and serious talks but the ball is now firmly in SERCO’s court.’
Caledonian Sleeper managing director Ryan Flaherty had previously said the company was ‘disappointed and frustrated’ by the threat of industrial action.
He said: ‘We have met the RMT and company council on many occasions and the changes they have requested have either been completed or are under way.’ These changes include employing more staff at Edinburgh, Glasgow and London for six months while the new Mark 5 vehicles ‘settle in’.
He continued: ‘This action is completely unnecessary and we urge the RMT to come back and tell us what they want. We are ready to go to mediation and hold further discussions.’