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Friday 13 May 2011

Herding Refugees' Cats Moves To The New Forest

Fresh from their declaration of victory over the case of electrician Colin Atkinson and his palm cross, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have focused their aggression on train operator South West Trains (SWT) after the sacking of station clerk Ian Faletto.

Faletto has been dismissed by SWT on the grounds of gross misconduct. This follows an incident where he had ventured on to the track at Lymington Pier station to remove a shopping trolley. SWT acted after a manager viewed CCTV footage of him on the track. This much is not in dispute.

The Mail – and the Maily Telegraph – are painting this as “health and safety gone mad”, both papers taking advantage of SWT maintaining confidentiality over the matter to present Faletto’s take as gospel truth while putting the boot into SWT. In pursuit of this, the Telegraph has got Andrew Brown to pen a suitably judgmental comment piece, while at the Mail, Littlejohn called SWTbeyond disgusting”.

There is, however, a problem with this case: Faletto’s story doesn’t add up. He claims that, having seen the offending trolley on the tracks, he called the signaller to get the traction current turned off, and only ventured on to the track after being told that the current was off. But, it turns out, the current hadn’t been turned off. The signaller, though, is apparently not being disciplined.

Telephone calls to signallers are recorded. Moreover, the Telegraph account tells that Faletto also removed “a few other small pieces, such as tin cans” from the track. What was this, avoiding an accident, or a litter pick? And, although the incident occurred at 0830 hours, the station where he worked the ticket office (which wasn’t the one where he went on the track) didn’t open up until 1000 hours.

On top of that, the next train was not due for half an hour. And it is most unusual for a safety breach to result in dismissal. In fact, Faletto was not explicitly sacked for a safety offence, but on grounds of gross misconduct. What we do not know – because SWT are, quite correctly, not discussing the case – is whether Faletto had previously been given any warnings about his conduct.

Because ticket office staff do not normally have permission to work on the track. And the railway has been far more strict on employees’ hours in the years since the Clapham accident: Faletto had, by his own admission, put in a lot of extra hours and had not taken his holidays for five years.

And, if he had been electrocuted after going on to the track, SWT would have had the book thrown at them, with the Fourth Estate in full condemnation mode, Littlejohn and all. We haven’t seen the full story on this one yet, and I’ll be returning to it later.


Anonymous said...

he problem with Ian Faletto is that he " assumed " that he was dealing with a railway from nearly 20 years or so ago .

He was a South West Trains Employee , they merely operate the service using trains leased from the Banks . The station and the land belongs to quasi private company but state underwritten Network Rail , all South West Trains own in that station are bits of Office Furniture and equipment .

The track is NOT his concern end of . The Bobby ( Signalman ) who works for Network Rail can't switch the juice off , that can only be done by Control . They'll only switch the juice off if there was a fatality etc .

You needed insulation gloves , wooden paddles , wooden bars to put over the juice rail etc even in BR days .

We used to get contradictory waffle about PTS cards , you could run the risk of a Form 1 for being on the track even if a train had hit someone and killed someone .

Network Rail have got MOM staff that come out in a van if there is due course for concern .

There is a lot of politics , some of it you would not believe , in BR days there was a top down Military chain of command , now the chain of command is long and convoluted . The fragmented and dysfunctional railway is held together by contracts instead .

All the different interests work against each other , fining and blaming each other . The culture is very paranoid . You do not get involved in that ! , and Management can be very spiteful and vindictive re all the petty politics .

It is true that Stagecoach ( Parent Company ) of SWT would love to get rid of station staff to cut costs , they are out to make a profit .....they don't give a flying one about anything else ; but the franchisee does not allow it . However the smart game is to give the barstewards nothing .

What does smell about this is that the District apparently had to examine a CCTV tape where a passenger went under a stationary train to retrieve something .

It is true that some managers wouldn't dare say as much as boo to a goose and would cowardly throw their own staff to the wolves to save their sorry asses , he might well be a jumped up expletive deleted hawk ! promoted under the Peter Principle beyond his ability . .
However with all the politics , I'd be very careful if there was a CCTV camera .

However as regards to a Industrial Tribunal after passing a pre hearing , I feel Ian would only have a case if SWT Management have been less than truthful re the justification for his dismissal . Or ! if adverse inferences can be drawn with all the cost saving politics with or without a small " p " .

If SWT have followed their own due procedure and not botched anything by dotting the i's and crossing the t's , giving Ian enough rope to hang himself with warnings , SWT would be seen as acting reasonably .

Secondly SWT could argue that with the unprecedented adverse publicity that the District Manager has been harassed and they'd have a duty of care to protect him . Most organisations biggest nightmare is a disgruntled manager breaking ranks and blowing the whistle damaging corporate image .

As for the Union Bashing comments from another century , I very much doubt that Ian is a RMT member , if you do things well out of your remit and come in on your days off for nothing ; it gives the reps problems when representing / protecting their members . His loyalty to SWT was very misplaced or naive at best .

Given the poor standard of some ! Railway Management , even some ardent right wingers concede unions are a necessary evil and you could argue some of these Train Operating Companies get precisely the union they deserve due to their confrontational style .

Please don't shoot the messenger !! Thanks

Him over there said...

Pi.s poor treatment by SWT, to a bloke that has worked for them for years, and had them in mind when he went onto the track.