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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    Andy,
    You highlight a very important question with observation that there was "no way of regaining my hobby for 20 months". Implicit in that is the assumption that there is an enforceable right to volunteer.
    Happy to confirm Steve that you are spot on. Some months later I was invited to take on the role of Company Secretary but still I am not a voting member of the HRA Board
     
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  2. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I really am flabbergasted by this. When told of some pretty damming allegations, your only response as CoSec of the HRA is "volunteers do not have a right to volunteer"!? Seriously!? Can you not see how that is in no way good enough?
     
  3. fred

    fred New Member

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    What an arrogant stupid statement. Chris is correct - it is too toxic in here with the " professionals " and HRA hierarchy.
     
  4. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    FFS.
     
  5. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    How many "mistakes" are needed before it counts as sustained folly or even malevolence?

    I said many pages ago that they are the wrong way round.

    A classic instance from Lineisclear of stating the truth but not the whole truth.*
    *Edit: but rectified by post#34167
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
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  6. Lplus

    Lplus Member

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    And implicit in your reply is the assumption that the WSR can dismiss a volunteer without due process...
     
  7. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    There's a difference between the legal position and common sense good practice. As I have emphasied before of course volunteers should be encouraged, appreciated and treated fairly. They are a heritage railways life blood.
    This arose out of Andy's belief that the policies that underpin the contractual relationship between the railway and its paid staff could give rise to enforceable rights for the volunteer. They should give rise to expectations of fairness and decency but the fact remains there is no enforceable right to volunteer for any organisation. It may be that the law will develop,particularly if it could be successfully argued that organisations that rely on volunteers are providing them with a service i.e the opportunity to enjoy their hobby.
     
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  8. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Thank you for replying. I appreciate the legal point you make and have made before. I have no qualms with that. I'm struggling to put into words how unbelievable I find it that because of that, that is as far as you are willing to consider the matter. Heritage railways have HR policies for their volunteers for good reason, because it is best practice to do so. No one's saying that means you can, or should, then be able to take the heritage railway to court if they don't follow them, as you would with a normal employer/employee relationship. I get that, and that is I think the point you repeatedly make. But I do expect the HRA, or someone, to make big, damning noises about a heritage railway that finds itself in that situation. There being no legal grounds to do anything in court is an appalling defence of the current situation in my view.
     
  9. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Another forum that I frequent has a current thread of modern proverbs. I've just seen this one:
    How we got here is no indication of what to do next.

    Edit: and another one:
    Don't worry. It won't last. Nothing does.
     
  10. Piggy

    Piggy Member

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    Are we now indulging in semantics ? I would offer the suggestion that everybody has the right to volunteer but the organisation concerned may not wish to accept them as such, although they would need a good reason not to.
     
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  11. Groks212

    Groks212 Member

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    I see the WSSRT have published a new statement following the resignation of 2 of their trustees.

    IMHO there is some misrepresentation of what the new candidates have said but I leave it for others to form their own opinions.

    http://www.wssrt.co.uk/2020/10/26/statement-to-members/

    Dave B
     
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  12. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Yet more half truths, lies and mis information from " the board" Who in this case is the board? I have taken the time to read the 10's prospectus and it does not put the activities of WSSRT at risk, the carriage restoration on the face of it will be able to continue, i don't see that any of the work the trust do will be under risk, but if you sit on the side lines, do nothing, allow the PLC to act as it wants, you once shorn of the influence your share holding gives you, will have no protection, once the PLC has it's charitable arm, it won't need you, it might even decide your the next chick to be thrown out of the nest.
     
  13. Mike S

    Mike S Member

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    And for the umpteenth time we are back to someone spouting the legal line whilst the moral side is given two fingers.

    Unbelievable. Again, it really really boils my p*ss.

    If I was a prospective volunteer I'd almost certainly now be thinking 'what's the point, I may just get walked all over and nothing can be done about it'
     
  14. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    As a matter of law
    Hey, hold on a moment. Who said that I would simply leave it at that? I clarified the legal position which you accept but I emphsised that volunteers must be treated properly. Apart from common decency it's obviously in the best interest of the organisation they volunteer for. Yes that means having suitable policies but those should be specific to volunteers and not confused with those applicable to employees. If you doubt my view on that have a look at the advice from bodies such as the National Council of Voluntary Organisations. The WSR had policies that made the mistake of not distinquishing appropriately between paid staff and volunteers. Should they have been replaced to comply with the HRA Code of Practice? Simple answer , Yes. I am aware that a considerable amount of work on that has been done under the auspices of the WSRA the lead organisation for volunteer recruitment on the WSR . Personally I would hope to see a Volunteer Handbook embodying those policies as soon as possible.
     
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  15. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    You then have the average age of the current membership of the WSSRT which at about 60-70 excluding new younger blood, they won't be able to carry on much longer, this is also a reason why a merger with the WSRA makes most sence, both need to attract new younger members who will be the way forward, the working parties of the future, and a larger charity means hopefully better ability to get large grants, and tie ins with schools, colleges etc,
     
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  16. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    Chris, I respect your decision to confine yourself to formal communication channels although it is one which, in the circumstances, I regret. For my part I have not found the contributions to this forum unduly toxic. The majority of posters seem ready to engage in rational debate, which I find refreshing, and in those circumstances occasional intemperate outbursts can be tolerated.

    If our discussion is not to take place then as an alternative let me offer a suggestion.

    @Andy Norman recently posted that he had written to the HRA regarding his grievances with the WSR. He may well have told us this before and if so I apologise for having failed to note its significance. I've no reason to think that he is making this up, and if in fact he wrote to the HRA about his grievance at the time it arose but never received a response from that Association then it suggests a course of events that does not reflect at all well on the HRA. I appreciate that the HRA may have its hands full with what it regards as more weighty concerns, but if one of its member organisation's volunteers makes a complaint of mistreatment that gets disregarded then all the noble aspirations as to such organisations' behaviour set out in its Code of Conduct are reduced to worthless verbiage.

    My suggestion, then, is this:

    The HRA, if has not already done so, should forthwith enquire into the allegation that its member organisation representing the West Somerset Railway has, for the past 20 months, laid aside and not replaced the grievance procedure required for conformance to Article 2.3 of the Association's Code of Conduct.

    If it be found that its member has put in place and maintained the requisite procedure then the Association should report publicly to that effect with details of where the procedure can be inspected so that those believing themselves to have unresolved grievances can invoke its provisions.

    However, if it be found that the requisite procedure has not been put in place then the Association should forthwith communicate that finding to the relevant member organisation, requesting that such a procedure be put in place within four weeks and its details communicated to those entitled to invoke it, failing which the Association proposes to remit the case to its Code of Conduct Panel for further determination in accordance with Article 8 of the Code.

    It should go without saying that anyone having an unresolved grievance at the time any previous grievance procedure was laid aside should not be disqualified from invoking the re-instated procedure by reason of having been deprived of the ability to engage in activity upon the Railway.

    If, as appears to be the case, volunteers on the WSR have for the last 20 months been deprived of the policies and procedures for their protection required by the HRA's Code of Conduct, then urgent steps should be taken to rectify that error. I suggest that an early announcement that a fair and impartial grievance procedure has again become available to WSR volunteers (and staff!) would materially assist progress towards a 'Peaceful Somerset', and that it would undo some of the apparent tarnish to the HRA's reputation if that Association were seen to have been instrumental in bringing this about.

    I would welcome an indication fromt the HRA, whether via formal channels or otherwise, that it is content to adopt this suggstion.
     
  17. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Thank you, we're not as far apart as it seemed at first! :) However, folk such as @Robin Moira White have implied that there was little wrong with the WSR HR policies to begin with. I still find it odd that you appear to only find it mildly concerning that the WSR has gone from having an HR policy which perhaps could be better to not having anything at all, and that situation being maintained for getting on for 2 years? If there had been a proper HR policy then some of the grievances currently being splashed all over social media, especially the vitriolic comments, could have been dealt with through a proper mechanism rather than the spectacle we have now, which I feel sure you'd agree has been incredibly damaging for the WSR. The fact that the HR policy was suddenly withdrawn when Andy had recourse to use it you must admit doesn't look good? I don't think Andy was trying to take the WSR to court or anything, which obviously if he thought he could under the deficient policy, would be grounds for a swift revocation, but just wanted the internal due process to be followed. That seemed entirely reasonably to me, and exactly what I would expect on my own railway.
     
  18. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Who was it that removed the staff protection, and have not replaced it, for nearly two years now? who was it that removes PLC staff cards , so people who they fall out with can't do their bit for the railway, whilst a problem is looked into? Who is it that is in effect saying to everyone, its our line, our rules, if you don't like it go else where , For there to be any future, this has to change, the make up of the PLC Board has to change, and the only way to deal with a bullying culture is by standing up to the bully, not taking his side, there is strength in numbers, thats why its important that there is a strong body who can hold the chairmen and others to account.
     
  19. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    John

    No, you are reversing the situation or misunderstanding it, I have never claimed any implied rights of paid staff and I have not accelerated any rights to which the WSR could have implied in error or by mistake. I have only assumed that the current PLC Board when they say “these policies also apply to all volunteers” in their policies would mean and apply exactly that.

    In addition, the WSR accepted my position within the WSR in this case to be a member of the Footplate Crew a number of years previously. I was operating in that position and was climbing the Footplate grades within the rules set out by the WSR and with no issues. Therefore both of us accepted what each other could ‘bring something to the party’ as you do in any mutually supportive contract or agreement verbal or written.

    That was taken away for reasons not in line with the WSR’s own rules. You seem to be saying that an agreement between a Heritage Railway and any Volunteer which both sides accepted and had been operating with no issues can be then be broken without notice and for reasons stated much later which firstly varied considerably and secondly were nothing to do with my Footplate work in any regard. Is there a theme of behaviour here ?

    In my opinion this not only breaks the rules in place (which any society needs in order to avoid anarchy) but also raises many ethical questions concerning trust, the feeling of inclusion in order for people to give their time freely and volunteers feeling safety from retribution when they express their opinions.

    Just one of many questions is: Is it best for any heritage railway to welcome Volunteers and embrace them, understanding their wants and needs, or is it best to treat them as a pure commodity which you can pick up or drop at a whim? It is a diffecult balance to achieve but an important one if you want volunteers to engage or indeed be able to engage. Perhaps that’s something the HRA should consider in the wider context for the benefit of the sectors future.

    I’ve played by the WSR’s rules, can the current PLC Board say the same?

    Notes:
    • I have never threatened the WSR with legal action or taken any implied rights, I have however continued to try and hold positions holders to account for the rules which apply to them as much as me.
    • It is also worth noting that I have followed the relevant WSR HR Policies in escalating my concerns and that includes bringing those concerns in a limited way into the public domain (i.e. only Nat Pres) after I had exhausted all internal routes (including the HRA), and that escalation is in line with WSR HR Polices.
    • I am happy to again set out the audit trails of email chains and meeting notes along with the timelines. Indeed they are a part of my outstanding Bullying and Harassment Compliant (which I started just before I had my ID Card removed, which in itself I will bring into question later) which again conforms to the WSR HR Polices are stated as applying to all volunteers and in addition to which the PLC have acknowledged in writing as being accepted by them as a legitimate complaint to consider with a named person allocated to consider it and an immediate timescale to start (but never have).
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
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  20. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    For the record, no I haven't disclosed that before because until now it didn't seem relevant and I haven't felt the need to do so until the HRA have themselves entered the discussion and involved themselves.

    So you didn't miss it.
     

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