RAIL passengers could face Christmas travel misery after a union announced it was to ballot workers for strike action over the sacking of an employee.
Ballot papers were sent to Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members yesterday, with voting to close in two weeks, after allegations that one of its members at ScotRail had been victimised in a “travesty of justice”.
Although no exact date has been set
for any industrial action, it is expected that a strike would coincide with the festive period.
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone described the Christmas strike threat as “an appalling state of affairs”, adding: “The passengers shouldn’t be the ones who suffer, especially at this time of year.”
Last year, 100 trains were cancelled on Christmas Eve at the start of a three-day walkout from the main signalling centre in Glasgow.
This year’s dispute concerns guidance given over the type of ticket required by a passenger.
The union said Scott Lewis had been dismissed for allegedly making “unwanted contact” with the passenger in March.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Scott Lewis has been victimised and sacked for trying to help a passenger within the written procedures set out in ScotRail’s own policies in what is an absolute travesty of justice.
“RMT will not sit back and watch while our members are picked off in this fashion by a management who think they can fire staff without a single shred of evidence to support their case.
“ScotRail are completely abdicating their own duty of care to their staff, who are out there working for the company in often difficult conditions.”
Rail sources said Mr Lewis had refused to believe a passenger claiming a ScotRail free journey offer.
A spokesman for ScotRail said Mr Lewis had acted with “complete disregard” for procedures in place to deal with the public.
The RMT would not give further details about the incident, other than to claim Mr Lewis had been simply trying to help a passenger and meet the stated requirements of his job description.
The union said he had worked on the railway for 19 years and earned a number of commendations.
An RMT spokesman added: “Our members across ScotRail are angry, and so are members of our sister unions who can see just what an attack on staff this case represents.
“We will be calling for a massive yes vote for action in this ballot and would call on ScotRail to see sense, reinstate Scott Lewis and show some understanding of just how brutal and unwarranted this victimisation and sacking of an innocent member of staff truly is.”
But a ScotRail spokesman said the company believed staff would take a “common-sense approach” to unacceptable behaviour.
He said: “Terminating any member of staff’s contract of employment is not taken lightly or without justification.
“The standards of conduct fell well below what we expect.
“The facts identified by the detailed investigation are very different from those described by the union. There was a complete disregard to procedures for dealing with a customer, and the RMT is fully aware of that and other grounds for dismissal.”
This is the second strike threatened this month by the RMT for Christmas, with a ballot over jobs at Serco NorthLink threatening the festive season for ferry travellers to and from Orkney and Shetland.