Pressure is mounting on the coalition government to investigate Network Rail’s management in the wake of sex discrimination allegations against its HR director, and a perceived “secretive management cabal”.
At its annual conference this week, the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) accused Network Rail of being “morally bankrupt”, and called on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government to investigate.
Personnel Today previously reported that Peter Bennett, HR director at Network Rail, was alleged to have sacked two female workers while they were undergoing fertility treatment, asked another to remove her blouse so he could see her holiday bikini lines, kissed a female employee on the back of her neck, and forced another woman to leave after calling her “a f**king black bitch”.
Following these incidents, Bennett is said to have signed 155 confidentiality agreements costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA, told members at the conference: “Bennett’s record in buying the silence of mistreated former staff is second to none. We think it is time to end the secrecy surrounding Iain Coucher [chief executive of Network Rail] and his cabal at the top of Network Rail. I have written to the new transport secretary Philip Hammond asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the dysfunctional management at Network Rail.
“There is something rotten in the state of Network Rail, and we want this new government to cut it out,” he added.
Doherty previously called for Bennett to be suspended while an independent inquiry was held into his alleged actions.
Prior to the election, Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, told Personnel Today he was in “correspondence” with Network Rail over the allegations against Bennett.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is also investigating Bennett, a process that the TSSA last month claimed was being obstructed by Network Rail. This was strenuously denied by the company.
An internal inquiry into Bennett’s actions was held in November 2007, which found he had committed the offences, but had not acted maliciously.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We take allegations like this very seriously. A thorough investigation occurred and Bennett was found to have no case to answer.”