The Rail Maritime and Transport union is to ballot its 1400 east coast members, including guards, catering staff and station and ticket office personnel next week on whether to stage a walk-out.
The union said the company had accused the male customer services assistant – or trolley attendant – of taking a passenger’s Kindle from a table on a train earlier this year with intent to steal it after the carriage had to be evacuated.
It is understood the attendant claims he believed the Kindle had been forgotten by a passenger and he took it to the kitchen area for safekeeping until the owner could reclaim it.
The union said CCTV evidence was “inconclusive” and had now been destroyed.
The RMT also claimed the original investigation into the missing item was flawed as not every member of staff on duty was interviewed.
The passenger was later re-united with the device. But the attendant was fired by management on the “probability” he was trying to steal the Kindle. Two appeals against the dismissal have been rejected.
The union is now campaigning for the employee’s reinstatement.
The strike ballot will begin on Monday and conclude on October 27.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This flawed dismissal is a gross injustice based on no evidence whatsoever and should be overturned immediately.
“This union will not sit back while our members are fitted up and dealt with in this disgraceful fashion.
“We have no option but to begin balloting across Virgin East Coast from Monday for both strike action and action short of a strike. The union remains available for talks.”
RMT regional organiser Mick Hogg said the dispute over the sacked trolley attendant was just the latest in a series of problems thrown up by the company’s procedures.
He said: “It’s the use and abuse of the disciplinary procedures going back some time.”
Mr Hogg said if a strike went ahead it would bring Virgin East Coast services to a “grinding halt”.
He said: “We’re not just talking about Edinburgh – it will be from London King’s Cross all the way up to Aberdeen.”
A spokesman for Virgin Trains East Coast declined to comment on the details of the case.
But he said: “We’re disappointed by the announcement of a ballot by the RMT as discussions with them are still ongoing.
“We do not believe action is necessary and continue to discuss this issue with the union to avoid any disruption to customers.”