East Midlands ballot at sacking injustice

31 July 2008

Ballot papers seeking a mandate for industrial action were sent out today to ASLEF drivers working for East Midlands Trains (Connect). The dispute centres around the dismissal of a driver who, the union says, has been treated completely unfairly when compared with other staff. ‘It looks to me like a ‘strong-arm’ management picking on an individual to try to make a point to the rest of the staff,’ says union chief Keith Norman.

 

The problems began with an incident Keith calls ‘regrettable but not unique’. A driver passed a red signal. No one was hurt or injured, but he volunteered the information to his line managers and the police that he had been using a mobile phone around the time of the incident.

 

‘This driver has a completely unblemished record to date and has been a model employee in terms of attendance and time-keeping. At times, the union has even considered him to be excessively accommodating toward management,’ Keith said.

 

The union points out the unfairness of

  • The driver being named in a document circulated to staff
  • The manager who dismissed him has now himself been suspended – but he remains on full pay while the driver is thrown out of work
  • The police investigation is not completed, but any action will be taken in a magistrate’s court and so will result in a fine at worse.
  • There being other discipline cases with police involved that have not resulted in dismissal
  • There being 2 recent management led route retention incidents that have not resulted in any form of discipline

 

‘I would have also felt that the immediate honesty of the driver should have counted for something,’ Keith adds. ‘It also, given his record, makes a mockery of saying that the discipline system is meant to improve performance. It is being used as a stick with which to beat our members.

 

‘Our member is guilty of an error of judgement. It is a case for a firm warning, not for instant dismissal.’

 

The ballot for industrial action will involve almost 200 ASLEF members and will take place over the coming weeks with the result being declared on 14 August. If it is a ‘Yes’ vote, any disruption to services would commence later in the month.

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