17 December 2015
RMT Press Office:
SERCO in line for £300,000 taxpayer "bung" in Scottish sleeper dispute.
RAIL UNION RMT warned today that Caledonian sleeper operator SERCO stands to scoop up a taxpayer-funded bung of over £300,000 for “lost revenue” as a result of a 48 hour strike next week which has been caused by the abject failure of the company to maintain a safe quality of rolling stock.
Under the arcane rail privatisation rules, deliberately rigged in favour of the private train companies, they can demand compensation from the Scottish Government for income lost during a trade dispute – regardless of whether it was of their making in the first place. RMT has calculated that the potential loss in income from the two days of action next week is over £300,000.
However, this dispute has been caused by penny-pinching on maintenance by SERCO which has allowed a number of major defects to rolling stock to deteriorate to a level where it is unsafe, leading to carriages being condemned and taken out of service at short notice.
The union says that some of the defects are potentially dangerous to the staff on board and the travelling public who are paying top dollar prices for a service which is unreliable, increasingly uncomfortable and riddled with health, safety and welfare issues.
Now, in a massive kick in the teeth to the taxpayer, SERCO stands to have the tab for its lost revenues picked up by the Scottish Government in what the union describes as “reward for failure on a massive scale.” RMT is calling on the Scottish Government to resist any compo claims from SERCO, the architects of this dispute.
Next week’s strike action will take place between 18.30 hours on Tuesday 22nd December 2015 until 18.29 hours on Thursday 24th December 2015. The fact that all services were cancelled by SERCO the minute RMT confirmed the action suggests that they had already squared off compensation arrangements with the Scottish Government in advance of the ballot result being declared.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;
“There can be no justification whatsoever for the taxpayer picking up the tab for “lost revenues” to a company whose failures and penny-pinching have led to this dispute in the first place. Any such move would be a kick in the teeth for the taxpayer and RMT is calling on the Scottish Government to have nothing to do with it.
"It is SERCO’s poor service to passengers, in conjunction with the company's failure to address the issues raised by RMT representatives and officials in recent talks, that has led to this dispute and if their revenues are going to ring-fenced from the public purse, whether they run trains or not, then there is no incentive at all for them to start talking seriously about a resolution.”
"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 or being kept afloat on a sea of corporate welfare.”
Note to editors:
Facts taken from the Franchise Agreement between the Scottish Government and Serco for the Caledonian Sleeper which is available here:
‘the Authority’ is the Scottish Government.
The catalogue of SERCO failures on the sleeper services
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).