Staff anger over share hijack

Railtrack staff face losing thousands of pounds invested in the company’s
share ownership schemes, according to its head of compensation and benefits.

Peter Turner told Personnel Today that more than 90 per cent of Railtrack
staff own shares and are set to lose out after transport minister Stephen Byers
forced the organisation into administration at the start of October.

Turner explained that if employees have invested the maximum £250 every
month for five years in the firm’s share save scheme, they would lose £17,000.

"On flotation employees were given 50 free shares and had an
opportunity to buy a guaranteed number at a discounted price and a guaranteed
number of shares at the normal price.

He said, "The whole process has been to encourage people to take an
active interest in the company through share ownership.

"Our staff feel as through they have been mugged. Lots of people have
used the share plan to provide for their future, whether it be for their
retirement, paying off mortgages or their sons’ and daughters’ weddings. They
feel that their good honest toil has been stolen."

Turner highlighted the contrast between the Government’s attempts to
encourage employee share ownership and the plight of Railtrack staff. He is
worried that Railtrack could lose some of its 12,000 staff as a result of the
Government’s intervention.

"We are concerned. There are likely to be some staff who may not want
to work for some form of government agency and they will vote with their feet.

"We have already had a certain amount of attrition but we will not see
the full effect of this for some time."

Railtrack’s senior managers share their employees’ resentment over the way
the company has been treated.

"We are not impressed. Many people feel as though the company has been
the victim of a corporate hijacking," said Turner.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport Local Government and the
Regions, said, "Mr Blair has stated this week that considering it was down
to Railtrack that shareholders are in this situation, the Government is not
about to pay £2bn of tax payers’ money into the pockets of shareholders in what
was a private company.

"The Government feels responsible to the travelling public. It
respects, admires and appreciates the great work that many of the staff in the
railways do, but when it comes to compensation, the Government has made its
position very clear."

By Ben Willmott

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