NETWORK RAIL this week admitted that it was banning engineers it had recently made redundant from working in the railway industry for two years.
It has also ordered contractors and consultants to refuse rail related jobs to redundant Network Rail engineers As a result redundant rail engineers face two years of unemployment and the prospect of living on severance pay-offs running to just a few thousand pounds.
Network Rail's admission comes at a time when the rail industry is grappling with skills shortages.
The track operator's policy is not mentioned in severance papers signed by redundant employees. As a result some engineers are unaware of the working restrictions imposed on them.
Network Rail said that it had informed its consultants and contractors of the policy in writing, but engineers being made redundant were only informed verbally at post redundancy briefings.
'It's deplorable that Network Rail is putting up these barriers, condemning these people to be on the dole for two years, ' said white collar union the Transport Salaried Staff 's Association (TSSA) negotiations manager John Munday.
He said Network Rail was 'cutting off its nose to spite its face' by preventing people from working when their skills were desperately needed.
But the TSSA believes that Network Rail is legally within its rights to impose the ban.
One Network Rail engineer who had been made redundant last November told NCE that there had been no mention of the two year ban during his briefing.
Munday said he had come across several similar cases where redundant Network Rail engineers had been banned but not warned in advance.
He added that he also knew of engineers who had slipped through the net and successfully been re-employed in rail related work.
Munday was in talks with Network Rail human resources director Peter Bennett this week to try and resolve the issue.
'If someone's career is in the railways then why don't you just transfer the person to a contractor?' said Munday.
A Network Rail spokesman said: 'People get generous redundancy packages and there's plenty of scope for engineers to work across different disciplines other than the railways.'
Network Rail plans to make further redundancies to reduce the head count by 2,000 before 2006. But it still actively recruiting project managers and engineers because of a skills shortage.