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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Virgin Trains workers may take industrial action in staff disputes row

Rail workers in Cumbria may consider taking industrial action as union officials grapple with two fresh disputes involving staff in Penrith and Preston, it has emerged.

Craig Johnston photo
Craig Johnston

Both are facing disciplinary action over issues which the RMT rail workers union says are symptomatic of a breakdown in the relationship between bosses and workers.

The Penrith station worker was suspended for five weeks.

Both he and the worker from Preston – both of who are RMT members – have been formally accused of showing disrespect to a colleague.

The disputes have come to light after the union accused the company of creating a “culture of fear” among staff a Cumbrian stations – a claim denied by the firm.

Carlisle-based RMT official Craig Johnston said: “This is the situation we have got all the way down from the Scottish Border down to Preston.

“We had already gone into dispute due to the Penrith situation and we have now got a resolution from our Preston branch calling to go into dispute down there.

“We are now reaching the end of the line with Virgin Trains.

“This is not happening with any of the other employers we are dealing with and I don’t think the staff at this company are inherently worse than any other train company employees, so you have to ask what is going on?

“It will go before the union executive and I am due to represent the guy from Penrith, and we will review the situation following that, but there is a potential for industrial action.

“There is also the potential for action if they decided to dismiss the guy from Preston, whose disciplinary is coming up in the next couple of weeks.”

The Penrith and Preston disputes are the latest in a series involving Virgin Trains staff and the RMT.

Last year, a rail worker was suspended for allegedly buying a pregnancy testing kit for a colleague.

The female employee, based at Carlisle’s Citadel station, was spotted on CCTV handing over the kit and dental products, and receiving payment in return.

Her bosses at Virgin Trains accused her of selling the goods while her union, the RMT, said she had simply been running an errand for a work mate. RMT members at Carlisle had called for a strike ballot and the company later said she would be reinstated.

At the time, Virgin bosses said regular staff surveys showed consistently positive results from workers.

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