NORTHERN RAIL stood accused yesterday of showing “cavalier and dangerous disregard for safety” by covering up technical failures during strike action taken by maintenance staff.
A leaked email seen by rail union RMT appears to show a senior manager praising his team for the cover-up during the dispute taken by maintenance depot drivers.
Drivers at Heaton (Newcastle) and Neville Hill (Leeds) traincare depots are locked in an increasingly acrimonious dispute over pay and job regrading.
RMT argues that regrading has failed to recognise the complex and demanding role of a key group of staff and has ignored the skills and hard work that they bring to the rail operator.
The union claimed the leaked email, sent from the office of Northern Rail engineering director Stuart Draper and dated April 10, showed that staff had been “coerced” into cutting corners to cover up the effect of the strike.
The union said serious questions must be asked about what the “technical failures” really were and what risks had been taken in the “covering-up” exercise.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “From the information that RMT has seen this appears to amount to a cavalier and dangerous disregard for the safety of both staff and the public in pursuit of a campaign to break the will of RMT members in dispute with Northern Rail over the botched regrading exercise.
“It is now down to Northern Rail to explain to the public just what technical failures they have been deliberately covering up and just what the implications of that cover-up really are.”
Northern Rail rejected the union’s claims. HR director Adrian Thompson said: “It is extremely disappointing to see the RMT indulging in groundless scaremongering and malicious false allegations.”
He claimed that the email was a “thank-you from the leadership team to all engineering employees for delivering a good service for customers.”
“Any allegation by the RMT that this somehow relates to safety issues is a slur against its own members and their colleagues,” he said.
“The term ‘covering up’ referred to making the best use of our available trains.”