Examination of Witness (Questions 600
WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY 2001
MR M STOREY
600. I know how they do it. That was not what
I asked you. Are you quite convinced that the fact that they often
do not have a full complement does not affect safety? Is that
what you are saying?
(Mr Storey) I am saying that the level of staff in
the coastguard stations at any time do not compromise safety in
any way whatsoever.
601. What is the turnover in staff?
(Mr Storey) The turnover in staff is less than five
602. How does it compare? Which is the worst
station for turnover and which is the best?
(Mr Storey) I could not tell you that off the top
of my head. If you would like the information we shall pass it
on to you.
603. Is there a big variation?
(Mr Storey) No, there is not a big variation. It is
fairly even across the operation.
604. What about sick leave?
(Mr Storey) Sick leave is always a concern; it is
of concern to me and we are looking at ways to try to look at
this. We are looking at returns, when people come back talking
to them about their sickness problems and difficulties and we
are monitoring on a regular basis.
605. Is your sick leave higher or lower than
(Mr Storey) I believe we are about the mid point of
the agencies. We are certainly not the highest and we are certainly
not the lowest.
606. Is there any evidence of any stress on
(Mr Storey) There is always evidence of stress on
an individual basis. I recently visited one of the coastguard
stations a couple of months ago and on going in there I saw one
particular individual who I believed was somewhat stressed. I
talked to him and the next day we had him removed and relieved
of his duties for a period to assess the situation.
607. Is that the only case you have come across
in the whole of the Agency, although you are so active in going
to talk to everybody?
(Mr Storey) That is the only incident which has been
brought to my attention. Of course it is an issue which concerns
me and as a result of that I have commissioned a stress survey
across the whole of the Agency to look at all areas of the Agency.
608. What progress have you made in the review
of staffing levels?
(Mr Storey) As far as the review of staffing levels
is concerned, the current review which is going on is one looking
at levels at the coastguard station. It has been going on for
a number of months with the unions' involvement. There is another
meeting in the next week or so to discuss this and we are looking
at two levels. It was a recommendation that the unions raised
to us, that is the minimum working levels and the recommended
working levels, the minimum being the base line below which one
should not go in extreme circumstances and the recommended levels
covering the area taking the risk assessment into account, depending
on the time of day, evening, whatever and where the work content
609. In your statement you said that the relationships
with trade unions are improving. Did you read the evidence this
Committee received a few weeks ago from the trade unions?
(Mr Storey) Yes, I did.
610. Would you agree with me that what they
said did not sound much like improving relationships?
(Mr Storey) I can only speak from the experience I
have had since I took over the Agency, which is just under three
years ago. The relationship has improved dramatically and at the
last Whitley meeting, when we came to Any Other Business, I asked
the union whether there was any other business. The comment from
the representative of the union was that there was not and that
the reason there was not was because we had a good working relationship.
That was encouraging to me.
611. What about the comment they made during
that evidence they gave us that sometimes your instructions that
managers are to be responsive and listen to the views of staff
are not being implemented by middle management.
(Mr Storey) Yes, a very good and valid point and a
point which has been my concern for some time. That is why we
are putting all our middle management through a management training
scheme, because I do not believe they had the necessary training
in the past to manage in the correct way. We are putting them
all through this scheme at the present time and hopefully this
will resolve that issue.
612. What monitoring are you doing to see whether
that works or not?
(Mr Storey) As people go back out into the field they
are admitting that they are learning and we are watching the situation
to see whether that communication is improving. I have tried to
create an open management style where everyone in the Agency has
as much information about the Agency as I have. If it is restricted
I tell them and I want it fed to the bottom of the organisation
and likewise the lowest person in the organisation should be able
to feed back to me what he wants and it should come back up to
me. I am trying to encourage that throughout the organisation.
613. Does he have to feed back to you through
(Mr Storey) Yes. We have just over 1,000 staff and
of course if everyone had direct access every day to me, I might
have difficulty trying to do my job. There is a system to go through,
but what I have said openly is that if they go through that system
and they are not getting satisfaction from that system, they have
the right to come to me and a number of people have come to me
614. If I am a middle manager who is not listening
to my staff and has no intention of implementing your modern management
strategies, I am hardly likely to feed back to you that one of
my members of staff is dissatisfied with what I am doing.
(Mr Storey) Yes, in principle I would agree with you.
What I have done is go round and talk to the staff to encourage
them, if that is the case, to come to me if they have a problem;
and a number of them have.
615. What about the suggestion that your disciplinary
procedures are not in line with human rights legislation?
(Mr Storey) The message with regard to ACAS regulations
is that our procedures were in accordance with ACAS regulations
until last year when they were modified. Since that time we have
tried to work within the spirit of the ACAS regulations. A new
staff handbook is being prepared which is under the framework
of the DETR and that will be produced by the spring of this year
and the regulations in there will come within the current ACAS
616. May I just clarify that? You said you are
trying to work within the spirit of the regulations. That would
imply that the written rules at this moment do not comply with
the ACAS regulations still.
(Mr Storey) Yes, they do not comply with the current
ACAS rules, that is correct.
617. So somebody who is being disciplined todayand
when one enters into a disciplinary process one usually finds
that the only thing one can rely on is the written word of the
rules rather than any spirit which might be impliedwill
be having to operate within rules which do not comply with ACAS
(Mr Storey) If you look at it in black and white,
of course the answer is yes. However, we have the staff dealing
with them with the spirit of the ACAS rules until a new handbook
618. What is the target date for that new handbook?
(Mr Storey) It will be 1 April.
619. This year?
(Mr Storey) Yes; this year.