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Sleeper services between London and Highlands to be cancelled during 11-day strike

By Val Sweeney

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Caledonian Sleeper services are being cancelled during an 11-day strike.
Caledonian Sleeper services are being cancelled during an 11-day strike.

Overnight rail services between London and the Highlands will be cancelled during an 11-day strike by rail workers starting next week.

Serco, which operates the Caledonian Sleeper, said it was cancelling services between London and Scotland after the RMT union confirmed strike action would take place between June 15 and 26 following a ballot of members.

The RMT said that Serco attempted to "impose a pay freeze" on rail staff, and the wholesale cancellation of services was wholly down to Serco's intransigence and refusal to recognise the hard work and commitment of their staff.

Serco said the industrial action was unjustified and would cause significant disruption to people booked to travel on board the overnight rail service between London and Scotland.

As a result, Caledonian Sleeper had sought to ensure some services could go ahead during this period while maintaining the expected standards of safety and guest experience. But after a close review, a decision has been made to cancel all services.

Guests due to travel during this period are being contacted for a full refund.

Kathryn Darbandi, Serco’s managing director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: "The proposed strike action by the RMT is both unjustified and very disappointing, and will impact thousands of guests due to travel in the period at a time when we should all be working together to rebuild the Scottish economy.

"It will also harm our hard-working staff who will lose significant earnings as a result.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have protected staff, all of whom have received full pay even though our services have been significantly reduced. "We have also been clear that we fully intend to resume pay talks next year, once the business is in a stronger position.

"We remain open to discussions aimed at resolving the dispute, but in the meantime, we have had no choice but to prepare for the strike to go ahead. Unfortunately, as a result we have taken the difficult decision to cancel our services.

"We’re sorry that guests will be affected by this strike action and are contacting them to arrange a full refund."

But RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said Serco had been stonewalling all attempts to get round the table to discuss ending the pay freeze they were imposing on employees and had given passengers false hope about talks when, in fact, none have taken place.

"The wholesale cancellation of sleeper services for the durat‎ion of the strike is wholly down to their intransigence and refusal to discuss pay justice for their staff," he said.

"The company need to get round the table for real so that we can negotiate a fair pay deal for our members who have kept the service running throughout the pandemic.

"This contempt towards a loyal and dedicated workforce is completely unacceptable and RMT will be backing them all the way.

"The union remains available for talks aimed at resolving this dispute."

Guests whose travel is impacted by the proposed strike action should contact the Guest Service Centre via enquiry@sleeper.scot.

Related story: Rail strikes to hit Highland services

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