THE threat of Easter rail chaos has been averted following a union decision to call off a strike over a train catering worker sacked for telling the truth about why passengers were being served sub-standard food.
Members of the RMT union were due to stage a 24-hour stoppage on Good Friday, demanding the reinstatement of catering crew leader Mark Doughty, who was dismissed by East Coast Trains after he explained a broken boiler and staff shortage meant first-class travellers could not be given a full cooked breakfast and were instead being handed warmed-up paninis.
East Coast management accused him of bringing the company into disrepute.
RMT had said the walk-out by around 240 of its members based at Waverley on Friday could bring “absolute chaos” at the start of the Easter weekend, although Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), who have now taken over the route, always insisted services would run as normal.
But after talks between the two sides, the union has suspended the strike, saying the company has agreed to review Mr Doughty’s case.
In a letter to members, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “As you know, one of the demands your union has made of the company on this matter is that management should reconsider its decision to dismiss your colleague.
“I am pleased, therefore, to report that the company has now conceded to have a director’s review, at which a senior member of management will study the details of the case.
“With this in mind your union’s executive committee has suspended the action scheduled to take place this Friday.
“We shall now await the outcome of this review prior to taking any further decisions on the matter.”
The Evening News revealed in February how Mr Doughty, 39, from Gilmerton, a rail worker for nearly 14 years, had known in advance the 5.48am service on September 29 from Waverley to King’s Cross would be one member of staff short because of a mix-up over holidays, but then the chef phoned in sick, reducing the catering crew to just four, and he then discovered from an e-mail the train had a broken boiler.
The lack of hot water for washing meant the crew could not serve cooked breakfasts but had to offer paninis with bacon or scrambled egg and roast tomatoes.
He sought to allay passenger anger by explaining the problems, but the company told Mr Doughty he had “behaved in an inappropriate and unprofessional manner by engaging in a conversation with customers which undermined the reputation of East Coast”.
The passenger who lodged a complaint was horrified to hear of the sacking and said he found it “hard to believe a member of staff can simply be dismissed for telling the truth to insistent passengers like myself”.
VTEC said talks on the dispute were “ongoing” but declined to say any more.