• Man fired from job for trying to take 20-minute break

      July 19, 2018    

    A 60-year-old railway signalman with 44 years of service was sacked for trying to take a 20-minute break during the evening rush hour in Sussex.

    According to Daily Mail report, Peter Lee, who started his career as a box boy aged 16, insisted his shift was longer than six hours and that he was legally entitled to a break. However, before Lee could shut down the signal box at 5:00pm at Arundel station in West Sussex, he was suspended on the spot for gross misconduct.

    Lee cited Working Time Regulations Act The rail unions are threatening to strike to help Lee get his job back.1998 which states anyone working over six hours at a time is entitled to a 20-minute rest break. "I told my manager I would be taking the break, giving him four days' notice. I also found three people who could cover the break but they refused to use them. I started the process of closing down the signal box as it takes 30 minutes and then two managers arrived and told me to go home," Lee said.

    Suspended with full pay until May 18, Lee added, "I started here as a box boy when I was 16; it's my whole life, and it's completely shattered. I have given them 44 years of my life, and now that's it, I'm done. They have taken everything from me."

    Post the stern action by Network Rail, rail unions are threatening to strike to help Lee get his job back. But, Lee's is an old battle as he had been fighting for the mandatory breaks for eight years. Lee won a grievance case in 2015 that gave the signalmen at the station the right to those breaks. However, in spite of the entitled breaks, when he arrived at work on January 8, for an eight-hour shift starting at 2pm, there was no-one to cover his break. "I never got the chance to close the signal box as the managers approached me to suspend me before I could.

    'I would never put anyone travelling or working on the railway in any danger," Lee said.

    Chris Rodway, secretary for the Sussex Coast branch of RMT said, "He's been arguing this case for eight years. The working time directive states that they are entitled to a meal break. What happened is clearly vindictive."

    The company said, "It is true that he gave notice of this intention, but he was given a direct instruction by management not to do so. He was therefore disciplined for gross misconduct in failing to follow a reasonable management instruction."

    However, Lee's dismissal was later upheld at appeal. He conducted a protest at Arundel Station while a petition to reinstate him reached more than 6,300 signatures.


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