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Heathrow Express drivers vote to strike

from: http://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/pm/articles/2012/02/heathrow-express-drivers-vote-to-strike.htm

Heathrow Express drivers vote to strike

Staff will walk out in protest at ‘victimisation’ of union members

Drivers at Heathrow Express are to stage two walkouts over the “victimisation” of two colleagues, their trade union has announced.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union claims that two drivers at the rail operator have been targeted for their trade union activities, and that the forthcoming stoppages in the capital will involve up to 250 workers.

In two separate ballots, nearly 80 per cent of members voted to strike over the sacking of Zahid Majid, while 85 per cent backed industrial action in support of RMT rep Liaqat Ali, who was suspended.

Drivers on the service will now take part in two 24-hour strikes from 12.15pm on Sunday 26 February and Sunday 11 March, in addition to a 48-hour overtime ban from 3am on Saturday 3 March.

The union said that Majid was dismissed for “a minor error”, and that the company was acting in an “unfair and disproportionate” way by refusing to reinstate him.

Ali was suspended from duty on “spurious allegations about his trade union activities”, the RMT added.

Although the allegations were found to be unmerited and Ali was reinstated, the union criticised Heathrow Express for pursuing possible conduct and confidentiality disciplinary charges while he was suspended.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow accused the Heathrow Express management of a “willingness to victimise staff and union representatives at the slightest provocation”, but said that the union was still open to negotiations to avert the scheduled strikes.

“The unfair and disproportionate punishment taken by management in both these cases is a total miscarriage of justice and that is reflected in the overwhelming ballot results for action,” said Crow.

“RMT has informed Heathrow Express that the union remains available for talks in the hope that management will now see sense and take the necessary steps to resolve this dispute.”

Heathrow Express said that it was “disappointed” at the RMT’s decision to announce strike action.

The company said in a statement: “The suspended employee has already returned to work and the dismissal – which was conducted via a policy agreed with the union – has since been withdrawn from employment tribunal.

“We hope union members will recognise that a strike is unnecessary and as always, we remain open for discussions with the RMT.”

The rail operator added that it was working on a contingency plan to limit passenger disruption and deliver the Heathrow Express service at a reduced frequency during the walkouts.

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