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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Sleeper battle

by New Worker correspondent

EVEN THOUGH at present most trade unions are battling to save jobs and keep their members safe from the coronavirus, several other industrial disputes are underway. Amongst them is a 48-hour strike on the Caledonian Sleeper, which started on Sunday evening. Promoted as an “hotel on wheels”, this vitally important transport service is essential for taking the aristocracy to and from their Highland estates to say nothing of ferrying well-watered Glaswegian businessmen to very important meetings in London.

The present dispute concerns fatigue management and the provision of additional rest berths for on-board staff. Socially distant pickets were held at various stations along the route on Monday.

Last September the same union took similar action at the newly refurbished service, accusing SERCO of imposing harmful shift patterns amongst other issues.

Mick Cash, General Secretary of transport union RMT, deplored the operators SERCO, whom he said “appear to have deliberately provoked this dispute and have never had any intention of entering serious talks. Instead of working with the union on a solution to the very real issues of safety and fatigue they have declared war on their staff. That is a disgrace”.

He also weighed into the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) because: “It is also wholly unacceptable that the political leadership in Scotland, distracted by the scandal of one of their own travelling on trains while COVID-positive, have not lifted a finger to help us settle this dispute. They should get off their backsides and haul SERCO into line. Their lack of action is grossly irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) pay talks with Network Rail have not got off to a good start, with TSSA saying that Management plans to impose performance-related pay have “created serious tension and concern over what is happening over the pay negotiations”, and to be “honest, it has not helped our level of trust in Network Rail’s good faith”.

The union is focusing on three main objectives. Complaints that its members who are managers have seen their pay differentials erode compared with general grades – RMT will be pleased about that one but TSSA is also saying it ought to be easier for those in humbler grades to be promoted. It is also concerned that contracts of employment do not always reflect the unsocial hours being demanded of the workforce. It also wants improved travel perks, saying that railway employees “can only truly ‘put passengers first’ by taking a walk in their shoes”.

The union notes that membership has grown by over five per cent in Network Rail but there are still far too many managers who have not yet joined.