'Shocking' stunt by train bosses left workers angry and disappointed in Milton Keynes

A union has hit out at a bizarre bonus stunt by West Midlands Trains.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 3:15 pm
Updated Monday, 10th May 2021, 3:16 pm

The move saw the train company falsely promise bonuses to employees for their hard work during the pandemic.

Around 2,500 West Midlands Trains (WMT) employees received an email from managing director Julian Edwards last month to thank them for their hard work over the past year.

It clearly suggested they could expect a financial reward after ‘huge strain' was placed upon a large number of them during the Covid crisis.

West Midlands Trains bosses say the bonus promise was a test

It stated: "Please visit the following link which has a personal message from Julian Edwards as well as the information of your one-off payment" and then gave a link called 'Message from Julian'.

But the link turned out to be nothing but a security check - and the promised payment was simply an incentive to get them to click, says the union,

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes has now branded the move a “cynical and shocking stunt” for workers who have been on the front line throughout the pandemic – ensuring essential workers were able to travel.

"WMT were deliberately tricking their employees, using the pandemic and the sacrifices workers have made to keep trains running as a means of testing IT security, he said.

He added: "In correspondence seen by TSSA, the company admit this ‘phishing simulation test’ was ‘designed by our IT team to entice you to click the link and used both the promise of thanks and financial reward to try and convince you to provide your details’.

Mr Cortes is now demanding WMT now account for its "totally crass and reprehensible behaviour"

He said: "They could and should have used any other pretext to test their internet security. It’s almost beyond belief that they chose to falsely offer a bonus to workers who have done so much in the fight against this virus.

“Our members have made real sacrifices these past twelve months and more. Some WMT staff have caught the disease at work, one has tragically died, and others have placed family members at great risk.

“We need to know who sanctioned this email and we need an apology. Moreover, having fraudulently held out the prospect of a payment to staff, WMT must now be as good as their word and stump up a bonus to each and every worker.

“In that way the company can begin to right a wrong which has needlessly caused so much hurt.”

Workers have received a follow up email from WMT to explain the promise of a bonus was a just a security test.

The email states: "I am writing to confirm that this was a test designed by our IT team to entice you to click the link and used both the promise of thanks and financial reward to try and convince you to provide your details. This test was purposefully designed to closely mimic the tactics that, sadly, are being used on a daily basis by expert criminal organisations to try to gain access to company data and systems.

"We, along with every organisation, remain susceptible to attempts to access our systems and data. It is crucial that we all play our part as just one error can be enough to result in significant damage."

"If you receive an email that suggests you must do something, sometimes quickly, in order to benefit (e.g. ‘click here now to receive this reward’, click this in the next 30 minutes to receive your payment’, ‘if you do not click this, you will miss out’), then it is likely to be a hoax and/or be part of a planned cyber-attack. In these situations, the best advice is to remember that you will not miss anything by not clicking a link in a work setting."

A spokesman for West Midlands Trains told the Citizen today: “We take cybersecurity very seriously, providing regular training on the subject and we run exercises to test our resilience.

“Fraud costs the transport industry billions of pounds every year. This important test was deliberately designed with the sort of language used by real cyber criminals but without the damaging consequences.”