> Holden verses Connex South Eastern > Letter of Resignation
Operations Manager, Metro NorthLETTER OF RESIGNATION
I am writing to you following notification of the recent disciplinary finding and punishment against me of 9 December 1999. I cannot accept the finding, that in writing and distributing a report in my capacity as a Health & Safety Representative to Her Majesty's Inspecting Officer Of Railways, which dealt solely with health and safety matters that I damaged the company. This decision amounts to a fundamental breach of my Employment Contract and I have no alternative other than to tender my resignation forthwith. I am prepared to give you one month's notice from today's date.
Connex South Eastern Ltd
Enterprise House, Platform 13
London Bridge Station
London SE1 9SP
Frankly the company's behaviour towards me in recent times has been intolerable and something that no self-respecting employee should have to deal with. This finding is the last in a long line of disgraceful incidents perpetrated against me. In addition to this, the administering of 2 final warnings and the issuing of yet another notice of discipline, on the 22nd December, were further examples of the disproportionate approach that the company has taken against me.
Writing and Distributing the Report of 10 October 1999.
I stand by all that was contained in my Report of 10 October. I began preparing my Report prior to the recent accident at Ladbroke Junction but my Report is all the more pertinent in light of that incident.
The reduced practical training for new recruits is a massive problem that Connex is creating for itself. This is inextricably linked with the issue of safety and a matter that Her Majesty's Inspecting Officer Of Railways has confirmed is a cause for concern.
Similarly, the lack of fire training is something that I cannot be criticised for bringing to the attention of Her Majesty's Inspecting Officer Of Railways. Indeed, as a Health & Safety Representative, I would be failing in my duty to my colleagues and the company if I did not draw attention to this issue.
As the company has long been aware, one of my main concerns has been the correlation between Drivers' Restructuring and the incidence of SPADs and other safety related incidents. My Report dealt with concerns expressed to me by other drivers and views which I personally hold, that a proportion of SPADs are caused by driver fatigue; also that the shift patterns which have resulted in excessively long hours, with inadequate breaks for drivers, are the principle cause of driver fatigue. I believe that the research recently published by Circadian Technologies shows this link between long hours, fatigue and the occurrence of SPADs.
This coincides with inaccurate completion of Loss Control reports as highlighted in my previous report of 14 January 1999 and the continued intimidation of drivers who complain of fatigue by management.
By instigating disciplinary action and by finding the disciplinary charges proven, Connex has subjected me to a detriment in breach of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. As a Health & Safety Representative I was entitled and some may say duty bound to raise issues concerning health and safety with Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate. Similarly I cannot be criticised for circulating copies of my Report to those affected by its contents, i.e. the drivers that I represent. I have previously been accused by the company of making statements that are inaccurate and do not reflect the views of some drivers, allegations which in my view are without any foundation. However, in order to avoid these accusations being levelled against me, it seemed important to me to let the drivers know what I was saying on their behalf and yet I find that I am still criticised by the company, when I do so.
Having spoken to the drivers that have seen my Report, I have been told how it mirrored their own concerns. I have personally been thanked by Mr. Vic Coleman, Her Majesty's Chief Inspecting Officer Of Railways, for sending him my Report. If the company was serious about health and safety issues it would have welcomed my initiative rather than try to bully and intimidate me into silence. What on earth is the point in having Health & Safety Representatives if our views are ignored, and we cannot highlight our concerns to the regulatory authority?
Disciplinary Investigation Procedure
I would have thought that I would have been entitled to have been investigated by someone who if not independent was at least capable of acting objectively. I was called into the interview with Mr. Edmunds, the Drivers' Standards Manager at London Bridge without any notice at all. I was asked to justify certain statements in my Report to the Railway Inspectorate. I did my best to do so but it was difficult as I was unrepresented, completely taken by surprise and did not have the chance to bring any documents with me which would have supported my comments. This was meant to be an investigatory interview but as can be seen from the manager's comments at the end of the interview, he was mainly concerned in defending his colleagues from criticism in my report.
To make matters worse, I did not have the chance to ascertain at the Disciplinary Hearing any evidence that was being taken into account at that Hearing. There was no evidence presented against me by the Adjudicating Officer and yet I was expected to be able to deal with any points that he felt relevant, without knowing what they actually were.
I have considered long and hard as to what to do as a result of this finding. I note that the disciplinary procedure only gives me the right to appeal against the punishment and not the finding. This seems inherently unfair bearing in mind the way the investigation and hearing were conducted. I have come to the conclusion that I have no alternative other than to resign and seek justice through the Employment Tribunal.
Breaches of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
Connex has consistently breached these Regulations and prevented me properly carrying out my job as Safety Representative. I have submitted various Reports to the company in the past highlighting these breaches yet no action has yet been taken to remedy them. Connex has refused to consult with Health and Safety Representatives over the introduction of DOO P; Drivers' Restructuring; Charing Cross Re-signalling; Networker Coupling Failure/Locking of Intermediate Doors; Signals Passed at Danger, Attacks/assaults on drivers; Accommodation at Charing Cross. Connex has consistently refused to allow Health & Safety Representatives to carry out inspections following notifiable accidents. It has consistently refused basic facilities to Health & Safety Representatives. It has also consistently refused to respond to safety reports.
Similarly, the Regulations have been breached by the refusal of Connex to allow me information that I need to carry out my role as Safety Representative including Control logs/Loss Control Reports, the Risk Assessment prior to Drivers' Restructuring and the Report of Circadian Technologies Limited which featured in previous Reports to the Inspectorate.
As a Safety Representative I should have been entitled to take such time off with pay during working hours as is necessary to perform these functions. This has consistently and continuously been refused by Connex and most of the work that I have done in this regard has been done in my own time, and potentially at my own risk. Indeed on two occasions when I was detained by other drivers concerning health and safety matters for short periods of time I was actually subjected to disciplinary proceedings when my train was a few minutes late as a result. I would also refer to the refusal of Connex to organise meetings on health and safety issues when requested, and the failure to action various issues raised by Representatives at the time or even at all.
On three occasions (including October 1999) I have been subjected to discipline or the threat of disciplinary proceedings being instigated against me for preparing Reports on health and safety matters. In November 1997, I was 'interviewed' by a Drivers' Standards Manager concerning an article that was submitted to the Locomotive Journal about Drivers' Restructuring. In March of 1999 I was threatened with serious disciplinary proceedings following my Report to the Railway Inspectorate of 14 January 1999 and then of course there is the latest incident. Regardless of whether such conduct breaches the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, it certainly breaches Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The fact that Connex has still not implemented a Smoking Policy in breach of health and safety legislation is an ongoing cause of concern for me and many other employees who find it intolerable that we have to put up with conditions which are potentially injurious to our health, especially when every time our concerns are raised they are ignored and not acted upon.
Disciplinary Action 6 August 1999
The finding against me and the imposition of a reprimand and final warning on 6 August 1999 which was upheld on appeal on 28 September 1999 is wholly unjustifiable. The fact of the matter is that my car broke down in circumstances completely beyond my control. To find that I am guilty of misconduct on the grounds of absence beyond my control was a conclusion that no reasonable employer could or should have reached. This is indicative of the heavy handed and intimidatory management style adopted by Connex towards its drivers that I have been concerned about.
Managing for Attendance
On 21 September 1999 I took one day off sick. This was the first day's sickness that I had taken for 12 months. However, this resulted in receiving a final warning. This too is indicative of a complete breakdown of mutual trust and confidence between employer and employees. The fact of the matter is that I could not afford to take a day off sick even though I felt genuinely ill and far too ill to safely be able to drive a train. This of course is never a concern for Connex who will insist that drivers come into work to drive trains when they know they are unfit to do so and threatens those drivers with the sack if they dare to take a day's sick leave.
I can no longer be part of a company that treats the health and safety of its staff and customers with such contempt. It is with deep regret that I have come to this conclusion after more than 25 years loyal service within the industry. Everything I have done in terms of health and safety has been done for the purpose of benefiting everyone in the industry.
I would ask you to consider in the month that I have remaining how you feel I should be compensated for the treatment that I have suffered at the company's hands.
27 December 1999
Mr C Edmunds, Drivers' Standards Manager
Connex South Eastern Ltd
Enterprise House, Platform 13
London Bridge Station
London SE1 9SP
ABSENTEEISM: FINAL WARNING ADMINISTERED
REPORT TO HM CHIEF INSPECTING OFFICER OF RAILWAYS: FINAL WARNING ADMINISTERED
I wish to confirm the outcome of the meeting that took place 22 December '99 at London Bridge. Those present: C Edmunds, L Holden. There were no representatives, no minute takers at the interview.
You re-affirmed the outcome of the appeal which took place 28 September '99. This involved one day's absence when my car broke down. You made it clear that any absenteeism would lead to a Form 1 disciplinary procedure, and that the outcome would likely be dismissal. I pointed out the unfairness of this and asked for clarification: would this be the case with other circumstances beyond my control, i.e. if I had to rush someone into hospital, if I had to deal with a burst water pipe, if I had found my car or house burgled? You said each case would be looked at on its merits but the likely outcome would be a disciplinary hearing.
You then re-affirmed the outcome of the disciplinary hearing which took place 9th December '99. This came about as a result of my writing a report to Her Majesty's Chief Inspecting Officer Of Railways, with copies sent to Lord Cullen, Chairman of the Public Inquiry into the Ladbroke Junction Rail Collision, and to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport & the Regions. The charge was:
"Writing and distributing report of the 10th October 1999 "Connex South Eastern : Deteriorating Safety Situation : SPAD's, reduction in training, contested SPAD's" that contains emotive, inaccurate, inciteful, personal opinions and statements that are damaging to the company."
You made it clear that any re-occurrence would lead to a Form 1 disciplinary procedure, and that the outcome would likely be dismissal. I pointed out the unfairness and seriousness of this, and the possible legal consequences. I asked for clarification: would Connex discipline me for allegedly carrying out any one of the items contained in the charge, or only if I were to allegedly carry out all of the items contained in the charge? You made it clear that I would be disciplined if Connex could allege that I had carried out any one of the items mentioned in the charge, i.e.
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate;
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate that contains emotive statements;
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate that contains inaccurate statements;
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate that contains inciteful statements;
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate that contains personal opinions;
- writing and distributing a report to the Railway Inspectorate that contains statements that are damaging to the company.
You then gave a brief update of my position within the 'Managing For Attendance' procedure. You made it clear that I had been on a Final Warning since October '98. You pointed out that in your opinion there had been an improvement. I had one day's sickness since September '98. You stated that I had 1½ day's sickness since September '98 (the extra half day being due to an industrial accident). I pointed out that, as with many other drivers, I had actually come to work on some occasions when I was ill. You pointed out that you would continue monitoring my sickness performance until June 2000. If there were no incidents of sickness up until June, you will be able to review the situation and take me off the Final Warning.
After the interview had finished, you handed me an envelope. This contained a No. 1 Disciplinary Form.
6 January 2000
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