Train drivers are backing a fight over the sacking of a Birmingham junior manager for alleged poor timekeeping – increasing the risk of disruption for travellers to the Olympics.
Drivers’ union ASLEF has announced its backing for the Transport Salaried Staffs Association in a key message of support for Virgin Trains’ customer services employee Martin Hodges.
The drivers’ union has warned Virgin bosses against bringing in strike-breaking managers in the event of TSSA staff, including controllers in charge of train movements, voting for walkouts during the Olympics.
Mick Whelan, ASLEF general secretary, has warned Virgin HR bosses of the union’s support for Mr Hodges, who was initially sacked and is now suspended on full pay, with Virgin refusing to allow him back into the office.
Mr Whelan said: “ASLEF has grave concerns over the safety implications of any industrial action by the TSSA for our members and the travelling public.
“ASLEF is therefore seeking assurance that safety will not be compromised and that the control and other safety-related functions that impact on our members will be covered in the event of any industrial action.”
The TSSA is currently balloting more than 500 of its members on the West Coast Main Line for possible walkouts over the treatment of Mr Hodges.
ASLEF says Virgin bosses run the risk of drivers refusing to man trains if unqualified managers try to take over the duties of controllers who could walkout from July 26, on the eve of the Olympics.
The TSSA said: “We welcome the recognition from Aslef that our member is being unfairly treated and their support for the operation of a safe railway in any forthcoming dispute.
“But we have said all along that we want to solve this dispute without recourse to industrial action and we remain open to talks.”
A Virgin Trains spokesman said: “We are encouraging all TSSA members to understand the issues in this case, and to make sure they cast their vote.”