Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  Since the last Sub-Committee report on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the trade union side has noticed an improvement in consultation in certain areas between senior managers and ourselves. However, this has not extended to the whole of the agency as the agency has recently made the post of Regional Inspector for Western Scotland and Northern Ireland redundant. This was without any prior consultation with the trade unions whatsoever, and it was in breach of their own redundancy agreement. Also, the promised period of stability given by the Deputy Prime Minister, after the last Sub-Committees report and the recommendations contained in the report by Lord Donaldson on the "Focus for Change" review have been ignored in a number of cases.

  Existing disciplinary procedures, as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have admitted, do not comply with the ACAS Code of Practice, in spite of the fact that DETR are urging all Agencies to ensure their procedures do comply. There have been cases where they have not even followed the disciplinary procedures in the DoT staff handbook. This can mean that employees do not receive a fair hearing and justice is not seen to be done as required under Employment legislation, or the Human Rights Act.

  In Maritime and Coastguard Agency Headquarters, staff are complaining that workloads are excessive and they are under pressure to follow what they consider to be rigidly bureaucratic procedures to do with Quality Management Assurance. Staffing levels at Coastguard stations are inadequate, at times the numbers and more importantly, the grade of staff on duty do not even follow the recommended levels laid down by the agency. Often this means that the level of expertise on duty is insufficient and too much reliance is placed upon the manager of the watch to carry out a risk assessment. This risk assessment is often not adequate or sufficient and the manager(s) concerned have not had the necessary training, but for an easy life and to stop adverse comments appearing on their annual staff appraisal, they go along with what their senior managers want. We have agreed with the agency that a review of staffing levels is urgently required to put a stop to this practice and to ensure adequate staffing at all times. This places additional stress upon the workforce at what are often busy stations leading to increases in sick absence—far higher than the levels in comparable departments and agencies in the Civil Service.

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