Union baron accused of sexual harassment and intimidation for closing British railways

Union baron accused of sexual harassment and intimidation for closing British railways


A Union baron who contributed to the shutdown of the British trains is the subject of an independent investigation on allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.

During months of unrest this summer, Manuel Cortes, 55, the chairman of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), played a key role in organising rail strikes.

He is accused of unwanted groping and demanded kisses from ladies he worked with.

Helena Kennedy KC with the TUC on the claims before speaking to former and current union leaders about Mr. Cortes.

The allegations of harassment first surfaced in the spring after a colleague, Claire Laycock, claimed that Mr. Cortes had made unwanted advances toward her in a bar following a holiday party in 2018.

There have been at least six additional allegations of sexual harassment or bullying.

Mr. Cortes has refuted every accusation and expressed regret to anyone he may have offended.

On social media, Ms. Laycock posted a video of herself making a string of false accusations against the leader of the union.

She claimed that after asking for a kiss, he insisted that they go outside together.

A non-disclosure agreement was used by the TSSA, which Mr. Cortes has led since 2011, to prevent Ms. Laycock from discussing the accusations.

The union also conducted its own investigation into the harassment claims and disproved each one.

Another woman, Maggie Hayes, was heard and observed Mr. Cortes acting improperly at the pub in 2018, according to The Guardian.

She asserted, “Can I kiss you, Mr. Cortes enquired. You are my boss, so don’t, Ms. Laycock retorted.

A former TSSA organiser named Ms. Hayes is suing the union in an employment tribunal for sex discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.

Former union organiser Hannah Plant revealed to the TSSA in 2020 that several women had forewarned her about Mr. Cortes’s behaviour.

Ms. Plant sent a letter to union representatives as part of a grievance process. She said, “A colleague cautioned me to maintain my distance.

“This reflected warnings I’d received from outside the organisation about the general secretary’s behaviour at social occasions, and from a number of colleagues who cautioned me not to be on my alone with him when I initially joined,” the author said.

The independent investigation into sexual harassment was officially announced by the TSSA yesterday, and a report is anticipated to be released before Christmas.

The union said that an independent investigation into claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying against TSSA executives and other union employees had been made public today (Tuesday 21 September).

“The investigation is completely independent of TSSA.” Helena Kennedy KC, a human rights attorney and Labour Peer, is in charge of it.

TSSA is a willing and active partner in the investigation.

As employees requested more pay in the face of the cost of living problem and escalating inflation, the train union was at the forefront of the strikes that disrupted travel for millions of people throughout the summer.

The union, which includes station personnel, maintenance workers, and management, participated in strike action in July and August of this year with Mick Lynch’s RMT.

The TSSA will put hundreds of members to a vote on more strikes over a dispute at Govia Thameslink Railway, the biggest rail operator in the UK, next week.


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