The UK National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has agreed to attend last-ditch talks with British outsourcer SERCO to discuss the future of Caledonian Sleeper staff ahead of their planned strike action.

The talks –  scheduled for 30 September – come after union members voted on 23 September to take action against SERCO’s lack of concern regarding staff safety and wellbeing.

In particular, the RMT and Caledonian Sleeper employees are blaming SERCO for allegedly failing to provide sufficient berths for members to rest on, showing a lack of regard for its staff.

“Our vote shows that members of SERCO Caledonian Sleeper are absolutely determined to seek justice in this dispute and I am sure this will be displayed by full support across the service for this industrial action,” said RMT general Cash on 23 September.

“A clear message has been sent to management by the vote and now by this call to action. It is now time for the SERCO management to respond in a meaningful and positive way to the serious safety issues at the heart of this dispute.‎”

The strike is scheduled to take place from 4 October to 6 October, and from 11 October to 13 October. RMT members are advised against working during rest days and doing voluntary overtime for the whole strike period.

RMT officials have made clear that the union is prepared to negotiate through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service but believe that SERCO wants to keep the process in-house rather than exploring settlement options.

“We have a chance to broker a settlement on Wednesday but the ball is now firmly in SERCO’s court and the clock is ticking,” Cash added today.

“Since we started operating a reduced programme in March, all staff have received their full wage despite working significantly reduced hours,” replied SERCO managing director for Caledonian Sleeper Ryan Flaherty.

“We have done everything possible to provide staff with rest areas on board and have also engaged with an independent fatigue specialist to review working patterns, even though we do not accept the claim that it is an issue.”

“The decision to launch strike action is especially disappointing as it comes at a time when all of our focus should be on supporting the Scottish Government to rebuild the economy and maintain vital transport links.”

Running under different names since 1873, the Caledonian Sleeper is one of the two sleep rail services in the UK and connects London to Scotland.

The service made the headlines in June 2019 when it underwent a redesign process that cost £150m and was partially funded by the Scottish Government.

Railway Technology has reached out to SERCO for comment.