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Virgin Trains: time to say NO to Virgins hire and fire culture!

27 May 2012

Virgin Trains has for some time been ruthless in dismissing staff for relatively minor transgressions of its rules and policies after having gone through the disciplinary process. More worryingly, managers in particular have become more fearful for their jobs as the company increasingly operates a hire and fire culture, summarily dismissing individuals without going through any due process at all.


Staff in all grades have recently been subjected to summary dismissals, gross misconduct charges levelled for minor issues, the deliberate targeting of staff on sickness absence procedures, and increased bullying.

Virgin has recently summarily dismissed a TSSA Company Council rep. He was reinstated after intervention from the union, but he has remained suspended on full pay while the company engaged in a ‘fishing exercise’ to find something to justify his dismissal. They have failed, but the company has made it clear that he will not be allowed back to work. Instead, they have got their chequebook out and are trying to negotiate a termination to his contract, an experience familiar to many who have left the company in similar circumstances. TSSA firmly believes that this individual has been targeted because of his activities as a TSSA rep.

Virgin Trains has disciplinary procedures, and poor attendance and poor performance procedures. TSSA believes that all staff, including managers, are entitled to be dealt with through those procedures, where there is transparency, and the individual can be represented by their union. But even when Virgin has been prepared to go through the procedures, unfair dismissals have still followed.

Virgin is getting away with this ‘hire and fire culture’ because they know that whilst a sacked individual can take an unfair dismissal claim to an Employment Tribunal with the backing of their union, any award will go nowhere in compensating for the loss of their job, their pension, and their travel facilities. The company just waves the chequebook and offers to pay the person something close to the meagre compensation they would otherwise be awarded at an Employment Tribunal.

Members will be aware that the government has watered down protections afforded by employment legislation, already making it possible to dismiss an employee for no reason in their first two years of employment. They are now considering sweeping away what little legal protection there is for employees, and the likes of Branson and Souter who make millions out of Virgin Trains will be cheering them on.

If Virgin are successful in retaining the West Coast franchise, TSSA believes the company will be even more ruthless. Clearly anyone challenges the company in any way, anyone who expresses a view that doesn’t fit with the ‘Virgin culture’, and anyone who falls out with their immediate superior will be vulnerable to summary dismissal.

It is time to say NO to the ‘hire and fire’ culture. If Virgin is allowed to sack a TSSA rep for no reason, who will be next?

TSSA is now in dispute with the company. The union is demanding that our rep is allowed back to work, and has sought an ‘avoidance of disputes’ meeting. If the company refuses to change its position, TSSA will consider further action, including balloting our members on industrial action.

I will update members with any developments, in the meantime if you would like more information or if you would like to discuss any issues in relation to this circular please contact me on or 07738486447.

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