RMT Union members on the SERCO operated Caledonian Sleeper, in a dispute with the new operator Serco, are on strike from 18:30h this evening strike for 48 hours. after talks at ACAS failed to make any progress..
In a bad tempered statement RMT Union officials have ripped into the mammoth Serco Public services company "for making a mockery of the ACAS talks process by using it as a chance to play for time rather than treating it seriously, fuelling suspicions that they had no intention of reaching a solution as they stand to be compensated by the taxpayer for any losses incurred during industrial action."
The Union commented: "Despite numerous meetings between RMT negotiators and senior company management over the last few months, including the talks at ACAS yesterday and last night, progress has not been made on the raft of issues in the dispute which left has RMT with no choice other than to proceed with the strike action over the company's failure to address the number of defects contained within the rolling stock.
The Union claims that some of the defects are potentially dangerous to the onboard travelling staff and passengers who are paying a substantial premium for a service which het Union says is 'unreliable, increasingly uncomfortable and riddled with health, safety and welfare issues.'
Politicians in Scotland have joined with the Union protesting about privatisation rules that ensure SERCO under the terms of their new 15 year contract, will have all of their lost profits, currently around £300,000, reimbursed by the taxpayer (public funds) through the Scottish Government even though the dispute is [says the Union] wholly their fault.
Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said; "The currently poor service to passengers, in conjunction with SERCO's failure to address the issues raised by RMT representatives and officials in talks right up to the wire late last night, reached the point where the union decided enough is enough and left us with no option but to put on industrial action before someone is injured.
That action now goes ahead. Serco never had any intention of taking the talks process seriously and have treated both staff and public with complete contempt throughout.
"The sleeper franchise was awarded to Serco by the Scottish Government and the multi-national privateer took over from First Group on March 31st this year. Our members have been unhappy with Serco's management of the iconic service from Scotland to London since the very early days of them taking on this fifteen year franchise. This is yet another example of Serco winning public sector contracts and failing to deliver for the tax payer, passengers and staff. "
"Serco is a company who are specialists in failure when it comes to public sector contracts and RMT has no intention of allowing them to get away with compromising the safety of staff and passengers on the sleeper service. We are sure that the public will understand the issues that have forced us into this dispute and will back their rail workers against this profiteering company.
"Pickets will be out in force at points the length of the sleeper route. "
RMT have issued a list of concerns they have put to the Public services company:
Health safety and welfare issues include:
• Smoke detectors disconnected, toilets being inoperable , lighting and heating systems not working.
• Air conditioning problems throughout the summer which left passengers sweltering in the sleeping berths.
• No hot water in some coaches for hand washing purposes. Water boilers not working which means staff need to go to other coaches to fill containers with boiling water which then has to be carried through coaches while train is moving.
• Pungent smell from toilets, and an issue with batteries under some coaches also giving off a strong smell.
• Loss of power in coaches during journeys which means staff have to find alternative accommodation during the night for irate passengers.
• Serious problem with a huge number of wheel flats which has led to some services being completely cancelled and passengers being bussed from Scotland to London.
• There are currently over 200 defects on these trains (not including the wheel flats).