Midland rail travellers to the Olympics could face strike action after a junior manager in Birmingham was sacked for alleged poor timekeeping.
The rail industry’s Transport Salaried Staffs Association is balloting more than 500 of members on the West Coast line for possible strikes over Virgin Trains’ treatment of Martin Hodges.
And the TSSA has accused Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson of “acting like a 19th century mill owner” over the case.
The result of the ballot will be announced on July 18, just nine days before the start of the Olympics – and the walkouts could start a week later on the eve of the opening ceremony.
Union leader Manuel Cortes said: “Our rep, Martin Hodges, was fired for simply carrying out his trade union duties. He is now suspended on full pay because Virgin are refusing to allow him back into the office to resume his normal job.
“No trade union can stand aside and allow Virgin to run a hire and fire at will policy.”
TSSA spokesman Tom Condon added: “When they fired him, we protested and said ‘you can’t just fire somebody in this day and age without going through the agreed procedures.”
He said Virgin had initially dismissed Mr Hodges, a customer services employee based in Birmingham, over an alleged poor timekeeping record dating back to 2010. “That was the first we had heard about it – he has been our rep for five years.”
Manuel Cortes added: “No-one wants to see disruption during the Olympics and Paralympics.
“But Sir Richard is acting like a 19th century mill-owner in the 21st century.”
The TSSA represents white-collar staff in booking offices and on board supervisory staff. Walkouts could see the mass closures of booking offices, allowing passengers to travel free without tickets.
Over one million extra passengers are expected to travel on the West Coast Main Line, which links London, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, during the Olympics and Paralympics.