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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Carlisle man fears the sack for being diabetic

A Virgin Trains employee believes he will be fired on Monday – because he is a diabetic.

Kevin Allen, 55, was suspended as a customer services manager at Carlisle station in December.

He says managers accused him of “manipulating” doctors so that he was given a “cushy shift”.

He said: “They tried to make out that I lied to the doctors. I feel I’ve been picked on and intimidated.

“I’ve been called in again on Monday and I think they are going to sack me.”

He added: “I’ve worked there for 13 years. I’ve been an ambassador for that company.

“I’ve got good customer relationships and this is how they treat you.”

Mr Allen, of Embleton Road, Upperby, was diagnosed with diabetes 27 years ago.

He later developed an associated condition, neuropathy, which makes it difficult to stand for long periods. He was allowed to work an 11am-6pm shift so he could eat before work. This helped to stabilise his blood-sugar levels.

And he was given a seat on platform three where he manned an information point.

He said: “They pushed me into a job they thought I would walk from.

“It was isolated on platform three. I was on my own and it wasn’t much fun.”

He says he was required to undergo four medical examinations last year in Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool.

On each occasion he was passed fit to work.

He said: “Four examinations in one year was excessive. They called it a duty of care – I felt I was being picked on.”

In October, he says, bosses told him his job was “no longer sustainable”. He was suspended two months later.

Virgin Trains declined to comment.

A spokesman said: “It would be improper for us to discuss details of any case involving an employee during a formal internal investigation process.”

Mr Allen has the backing of his union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association.

Regional organiser Vic Walsh said: “Virgin are trying to de-staff stations as quickly as they can. They are launching vexatious investigations and pursuing and harassing individuals.

“They are particularly going after vulnerable people and Kevin is an example of that. He’s got diabetes and he no longer fits into their plan.

“There are huge holes in their case. They haven’t spoken to his GP or the doctors who examined him.

“They have picked sentences from the medical reports, quoted them out of context and put their own spin on it.”

The Carlisle City branch of the RMT rail union voted on Thursday to go into dispute with Virgin over the poor state of employee-management relations.

RMT organiser Craig Johnston said: “RMT members are sympathetic to Keith’s plight. It’s another example of the way people have been treated by a belligerent and dictatorial management.”

An RMT member at Penrith is currently suspended, pending an investigation.

Virgin Trains has run the West Coast Main Line since privatisation.

Its franchise ends on December 9 and it faces a fierce battle to hold onto it.

Rival bidders include Keolis, backed by France’s state-owned rail operator SNCF, and Abellio, an offshoot of the Dutch national rail business.

Also bidding is First Group, which has the ScotRail and TransPennine franchises in Cumbria.

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