EDINBURGH’S trams face being brought to a standstill as staff threaten strike action over a “damaging culture of blame”.

Union leaders insist the company has become a “hostile environment” where workers “fear for their jobs”.

They said one employee had recently been fired and several others disciplined over relatively minor incidents.

But a spokeswoman for Edinburgh Trams insisted it was “confident” in its internal processes.

She said: “We are disappointed that Unite are not willing to allow the necessary time for these processes to formally conclude.

“We are not prepared to comment publically on confidential staff matters.

“This is not a legal ballot, and we are surprised that Unite have chosen to take this action.

“Our communication channels remain open as we aim to identify and resolve their concerns. In the meantime, trams will continue to operate on our regular timetable.”

Unite said disciplinary action taken against staff over the last few months had been “harsh, unreasonable, unjust” and inconsistent.

It said it had filed a collective grievance with tram bosses on August 21, but had yet to receive any response.

It is understood that since then one driver was fired after working for Edinburgh Trams for four years.

Unite regional officer Lyn Turner said there was a “pattern where the assumption of blame is the first choice of some managers”.

He said: “The management at Edinburgh Trams must know that workers cannot be motivated through blame or fear.

“Unite accepts that safety is the primary concern at all times. However the decision by management to escalate what we see as a few incidents that did not compromise safety, to disciplinaries and sacking offences is simply unreasonable and unjust.

“These matters could have been dealt with quickly and fairly. Instead management have raised the bar and meted out punishment well beyond what was necessary which has led to the decision to ballot our members for industrial action.

“We now have a situation where, because of the lack of rational decision-making by management, the trams may stop running.

“Unite is disappointed that it has come to this, but management at Edinburgh Trams should start behaving reasonably and rationally when dealing with incidents and issues.”

The staff ballot will run from today until October 19.