Unfair Dismissal

Submitted by Off The Rails on 19 February, 2008 - 1:36

Network Rail has sacked long-standing RMT activist Albert Lingard in an act of blatant victimisation.

On 17 October, Albert was due to attend a reps’ meeting to discuss new rosters. Management told one of the other reps that though they had agreed to release him from duty for the full day, they now expected him to do four hours work covering signallers’ meal reliefs. Albert complained to a manager.

The next thing he knew, other managers were summoning him for an alcohol test. The breathalyser test was clear, so that should have been the end of that. But no – Albert was sent for a urine test, even though these should only be used to confirm a positive breathalyser test. Network Rail told Albert the test was ‘inconclusive’, then later that it was positive. On 26 October, NR sacked Albert and later upheld this on appeal.

It seems that one manager took exception to Albert sticking up for a fellow rep’s rights, and set out to get rid of him by fair means or foul. It is widely felt that management are hypocritical about alcohol, regularly indulging on the corporate hospitality budget.

Albert has worked for Network Rail and its forerunners for 29 years. He has been active in NUR/RMT all that time, first in Scotland and now in England. Albert was active in the 1994 national signallers’ strike, has been a local rep, health & safety rep, stage 2 rep and delegate to many conferences. He has been secretary of Aberdeen and Waltham Cross & District branches.

Albert’s workmates were furious at his sacking. They all know Albert very well, both through his union work and because his job as a Mobile Operations Manager (MOM) takes him to lots of boxes and other locations in the area. They talked about possible strike action, overtime ban or working to rule. But sadly, this anger did not turn into action – perhaps organisation and confidence did not match the strength of feeling.

RMT is now supporting Albert’s application to an Employment Tribunal.

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Over recent times, many rail workers have fallen victim to unfair sacking: Merseyside on-train catering staff; a guard on OneRail; several cases on London Underground; and many more.

Sadly, in few cases have the unions been able to win their members’ jobs back (one exception being the Raj & Les case on London Underground’s Jubilee line reported in OTR Autumn 2006). One of the basic functions of a union is to defend its members. If our unions fail to do so, management have a green light to pick on anyone they don’t like, and the unions themselves are weakened, as workers feel less confident to put our heads above the parapet. Our unions must raise their game in this area, and organise effectively to stop these sackings.

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