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STRIKES threatening to halt Scotland’s iconic sleeper trains could be avoided thanks to a significant breakthrough in negotiations, the Morning Star can exclusively reveal today.
Guards and stewards on the Caledonian Sleeper, which is run by outsourcing giant Serco, have overwhelmingly voted to strike over a myriad of workload concerns.
Rail union RMT said workers have suffered stress and mental ill health since the start of the troubled introduction of shiny new mark V carriages.
Now RMT general secretary Mick Cash has written to members working on the route, which runs six nights a week between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William.
Mr Cash’s circular, a copy of which has been seen by the Star, said the situation “had clearly reached breaking point” — but that subsequent negotiations had been productive.
Bosses have now agreed to fill all vacancies and recruit a batch of temporary staff to ease workload concerns.
Under the deal:
•• Eight sleeper hosts will be recruited on short-term part-time contracts, with the ability to work up to full-time if required.
•• These will be based at Euston, Glasgow and Edinburgh but made available for the Highlander service if necessary.
•• Meanwhile eight of the existing sleeper host workforce will be temporarily made up to deputy team leaders, with a pay rise for the duration of the role.
•• All non-leadership grades will be given a one-off payment of £350 before Christmas “in recognition of the mark V introduction period.”
The operator will also recruit four presentation supervisors to check train standards prior to trains going into service, further depot technical staff at Lowlander terminals and “outstation support” for the introduction of the new carriages on the Highlander routes.
Though the roles are temporary, RMT reps are taking part in an “operational excellence” review with management, with new full-time staff brought in if the review says they are needed.
“It’s no coincidence that the Serco Caledonian Sleeper only started to properly address our concerns after you had voted so overwhelmingly in favour of action,” Mr Cash said. “This is what strong industrial trade unionism is all about.”
RMT has agreed to accept the offer as a “temporary agreement” for the service but the union will remain in dispute “until a permanent agreement is in place and all vacancies are filled.”
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