RAIL Union RMT has today started balloting conductors on Northern Rail for action over what it says is one of the “most grotesque abuses of sickness procedures” that the organisation has ever encountered.
The union says that the ballot for strike action amongst Northern’s Wigan conductors has come as a result of an individual member being subjected to the most brutal intimidation and harassment that has forced him out of the company despite being signed off sick under the agreed procedures.
It claims that all requests for rostering that recognised the individuals personal situation were ignored as Northern Rail “ripped up any notion of a duty of care” to the member of staff and “instead resorted to threats and aggression at a time when support and understanding were very clearly required.”
RMT says that the particular individuals case reflects a culture of abuse of sickness procedures and attendance policy within Northern Rail where they are seen as just additional tools to beat staff with.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “This case, indicative of the bullying culture within Northern Rail, is one of the worst abuses of sickness policies and procedures that RMT has come across in recent years.
“Those responsible for a concerted effort to force this individual member of staff out of the company should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
“RMT will not tolerate the employers treating their duty of care to staff like it is some kind of a joke. We are receiving increasing levels of complaints from across the country of abuses of sickness and attendance policies as they are turned on staff as a means of intimidation.
“Northern Rail should look again as the case at the heart of this dispute and meet with the union to plan a route back to work for our member and a way of managing that prevents a repeat in the future.”
A Northern Rail spokesperson said: “We are disappointed the RMT has yet again chosen to ballot its members without following the joint agreed procedure where concerns can be raised and addressed.
“Their justification for the ballot is unsurprisingly misleading and we would hope that our employees see through this and use their vote accordingly. We continue to remain open for further discussions to resolve this issue.”