RMT ballots for sleeper train strike action over Serco ‘failures’

01/12/2015
JenStout

A strike ballot of RMT members on the Scottish sleeper train service goes ahead today

SLEEPER services between Scotland and London could be disrupted as transport union RMT has said it has “no choice” but to recommend strike action.

The ballot will go out to all members on the sleeper service today (1 December) and closes on 15 December.

RMT said a series of “defects” on the Caledonian Sleeper rolling stock had not been addressed by the private operator Serco, despite recent talks between the union and the franchise operator.

The managing director of Caledonian Sleeper, Peter Strachan, was quoted in the Herald as saying: “We are disappointed the RMT is considering industrial action and are absolutely committed to continued dialogue with our employees and their representatives.”

Serco was awarded the contract in 2014 after a competitive tendering process which saw Aberdeen-based First Group lose out to multinational Serco.

PS100m of investment has been promised by both UK and Scottish governments for the ageing sleeper service, with new rolling stock supposedly arriving in 2018.

When Serco took over from FirstGroup in March this year they rebranded the service with images of stags and tartan staff outfits, promising an emphasis on hotel-style luxury and eventually a “complete overhaul” of station facilities as well as rolling stock.

However the old Mark 2 and 3 carriages remain in use, and serious concerns have been raised by the RMT union about the “number of defects” they contain, some of which are “potentially dangerous to the staff on board and the travelling public”.

A statement from the union in November referred to “over 200 defects” including loss of power, lack of hot water, lack of air conditioning, broken lighting and heating, inoperable toilets and disconnected smoke detectors, as well as more serious faults such as wheel problems causing service disruption.

The union also criticised the “top dollar prices” and “unreliable and increasingly uncomfortable service”. A shared cabin from Glasgow to London costs over PS100.

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Picture courtesy of Ed Webster