The RMT union has said that it is preparing to ballot its members for strike action on the Caledonian Sleeper after the ‘chaotic’ introduction of new rolling stock.
Serco, who won the franchise to operate the sleeper service in 2015, have started to introduce new “Mark 5” rolling stock, however a lack of training and ‘teething’ issues have led to a rise in complaints by both customers and staff.
The union is citing that a collapse of staff morale as a result of insufficient staff, training and unresponsive management are contributing to the problems, but the issues with the Mark 5 carriages cannot be glossed over.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has been deeply concerned over reports received from representatives in relation to the introduction of new rolling stock on the lowlander services.
“The introduction of these new trains should be a positive move for both our members and the railway industry. However, this could not be further from the truth, with the situation now reaching breaking point. The union has informed the company that it is being widely reported that stress and mental health issues are rife amongst members, as well as members having physical breakdowns and being left in tears at the end of their shift.
“The situation is clearly not helped with insufficient staffing levels, insufficient training and management being unresponsive. The union has informed the company that the morale of their employees has collapsed; with some unable to see how they are ever going to have anything like a good work-life balance again. This situation is deplorable and the response from SERCO has been inadequate, dismissive and has totally broken industrial relations between our two organisations.
“RMT’s National Executive Committee has considered this matter and is disappointed at the company’s clear lack of care for our members. Accordingly, the union is now in dispute with the company and immediate preparations are underway for balloting our SERCO Caledonian Sleeper members for strike action and action short of strike.”
Basically, Serco have rushed the introduction of the new Mark 5 carriages, which were at the time, and still are not ready for service. A phased introduction, with staff fully trained on their operation would have been the most sensible way forward.
One can only really sense that Serco save money running the Mark 5’s rather than the Mark 3 carriages on the Caledonian sleeper that they replace, so the sooner they were rolled out, the better off the company would be fiscally.
Yet again, on Britain’s privatised railway, profit comes before customers.