Network Rail denies obstructing HR chief investigation by EHRC

Network Rail has denied deliberately blocking an investigation into the firm’s controversial HR chief Peter Bennett.

The TSSA rail union claimed that the investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – launched in October 2009 – has been derailed by the rail operator’s refusal to co-operate.

The probe began when the EHRC confirmed it was in correspondence with Network Rail following repeated accusations over the behaviour of HR director Bennett.

He was named and shamed in the House of Commons for operating a regime of “bullying and fear” which has seen a string of senior female executives depart. It has been claimed Bennett sacked two female workers while they underwent fertility treatment, asked another to remove her blouse so he could see her holiday bikini lines, and forced another employee to leave after calling her a “f**king black bitch”.

The company is alleged to have signed 155 separate confidentiality agreements over a three-year period worth millions of pounds. An internal investigation into Bennett’s behaviour was carried out in 2007 and no wrongdoing was found.

TSSA chief Gerry Doherty said the equalities watchdog had been met with “a wall of silence” from rail bosses and the firm “should be ashamed” for refusing to co-operate with the EHRC.

“If they have nothing to hide, they should provide the EHRC with all the evidence it needs to investigate a scandal which Network Rail bosses seem all too anxious to cover up,” he said.

But a Network Rail spokesman denied blocking the investigation. “Network Rail has continued to provide the EHRC with information to answer the questions it has raised.

“We sent our last correspondence to the EHRC in mid-January. We are yet to receive a response to that. We have also repeatedly asked for a meeting with the commission. These requests are yet to be acknowledged.”

The EHRC said it was unable to comment on the situation.

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