East Coast train workers to be balloted over strike action after worker sacked for taking Kindle

A Virgin East Coast train.
A Virgin East Coast train.

Almost 1,400 workers on Virgin East Coast, which runs train services through the North East, are to be balloted for industrial action over the sacking of a colleague.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will vote in the coming weeks on whether to take action.

This union will not sit back while our members are fitted up and dealt with in this disgraceful fashion

Mick Cash, General Secretary, Rail, Maritime and Transport union

The union claims the disciplinary process over the dismissal of a worker based at Edinburgh was “flawed”.

Guards, catering staff and station and ticket office personnel will be balloted next week on whether to stage a walk-out.

The RMT said a male customer services assistant – or trolley attendant – was sacked after being accused of taking a passenger’s Kindle tablet from a table on a train earlier this year with intent to steal it after the carriage had to be evacuated.

It is understood the attendant claims he believed the Kindle had been forgotten by a passenger and he took it to the kitchen area for safekeeping until the owner could reclaim it.

The union said CCTV evidence was “inconclusive” and had now been destroyed.

The RMT also claimed the original investigation into the missing item was flawed, as not every member of staff on duty was interviewed.

The passenger was later re-united with the device.

But the attendant was fired by management on the “probability” he was trying to steal the Kindle.

Two appeals against the dismissal have been rejected, and the union is now campaigning for the employee’s reinstatement.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This flawed dismissal is a gross injustice based on no evidence whatsoever and should be overturned immediately.

“This union will not sit back while our members are fitted up and dealt with in this disgraceful fashion.

“We have no option but to begin balloting across Virgin East Coast from Monday for both strike action and action short of a strike. The union remains available for talks.”

The union’s regional organiser Mick Hogg said if a strike went ahead it would bring Virgin East Coast services to a “grinding halt”.

“We’re not just talking about Edinburgh – it will be from London King’s Cross all the way up to Aberdeen.”

A company spokesman said: “We’re disappointed by the announcement of a ballot by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, as negotiations with them are still ongoing.

“We do not believe action is necessary and continue to discuss this issue with the union to avoid any disruption to customers.”