Rail staff told: fine passengers or lose pay

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A RAIL company covering some of the busiest routes in Britain has warned ticket collectors that they will earn less money if they fail to collect enough penalty fares.

Connex, which runs services from the south of England into London, has sent out a memo telling staff they will get less overtime and will not be asked to work higher-paid shifts unless they meet objectives.

The memo, from a revenue protection manager, said staff will be "required" to issue between 10 and 15 penalty fares a shift and pass on up to three requests for prosecution to the British Transport Police.

The RMT rail union yesterday accused Connex of "bullying and intimidation" and said its members normally used their discretion over whether or not to issue a pounds 10 penalty fine. The union points out that half the attacks on railway staff involve confrontations over fares.

The Connex memo reads: "If these standards are not met, overtime available will only be offered to staff committed to achieving the requirements as stated above." It continued: "I want to see more penalty fares being issued." The manager said he was "fed up" with hearing excuses from staff and warned that employees not reaching depot averages on penalty fares would be put on a poor performance register.

A union spokesman said: "This is a disgraceful memo with which has bullying undertones. It contains a threat that unless staff increase the amount of excess revenue they will not be offered overtime or rest-day pay. We will be raising this with Connex to see if it is company policy or the attitude of an over-zealous manager."

A Connex spokesman said denied that the company was bullying staff: "We believe it is legitimate to issue penalties against people who don't pay their fares and I am sure most customers will applaud us."

Later the company argued the memo had not meant "in any way to threaten staff". The spokesman conceded that the memo was badly worded: "Our position has since been clarified to the revenue protection staff concerned. We are setting out guidelines not targets."