Unions have branded Network Rail’s decision to make workers redundant if they do not live within 75 minutes of its new offices as “unfair and arbitrary”.
The Transport Salaried Staff Association
claims that 800 staff from Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire will be affected by the policy, although the owner of the UK’s rail infrastructure attested that the figure was more like 100.
The policy will come into force in June when Network Rail consolidates numerous sites in London and moves to a new office in Milton Keynes in a bid to boost efficiency and save money. Staff who live outside of the travel limit and are unwilling to move will either be found new jobs elsewhere or let go.
The organisation, which is a quasi-private enterprise funded by state subsidy told the Metro
newspaper that the move would be a “step change” for it and the travel time policy was part of attempts to “encourage the right kind of culture”.
Network Rail also told the Financial Times
that it was concerned “about the impact of excessive travelling time on employee well-being and the business”.
Potential legal action
It added that about a third of jobs at the Milton Keynes facility would be filled by staff currently working elsewhere in the business, but the policy would not apply to the 200 personnel, which includes top-level management, based at its headquarters in Kings Cross in London.
It will also not apply to middle and senior managers in Milton Keynes, who are to be subject to a 90-minute rather than 75-minute travel limit.
But the TSSA questioned the legality of the proposal, dubbing it “unfair and arbitrary”, and suggested that it could result in legal action.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This modern-day version of ‘Beat the Clock’ to get to work is a complete nonsense. They are telling staff they cannot follow their jobs in the worst recession in 70 years. With unemployment heading towards three million, where else are they going to find work in these hard times?”
But employment law experts told the FT that the legality of the policy would depend on employees’ contracts, the alternative working arrangements on offer and whether the staff losing their jobs would officially be made redundant at one office and rehired at another.
Network Rail was at the centre of a separate controversy earlier this month when its new bonus scheme for senior executives drew criticism from the transport secretary, Justine Greening. Chief executive Sir David Higgins later waived his pay-out along with six other executives.