Wim Beukenkamp has recently asked why I publish comments on this blog many of which he thinks are unhelpful. The answer is very simple the Tramway Museum Society has banned me from working in the library for the rest of my life. How would he feel if he had been banned from the workshop for life? I support the Museum but I have no confidence in the Society.
It is just over a year since the ban was finalised and many questions are still unanswered.
1. Why was my application to become in effect an unpaid employee in the library rejected out of hand? Surely at the very least either Ian Dougill or Malcolm Wright could have discussed the matter with me and explained the Society’s position. All I got was an email which said no vacancies.
2. At a Board meeting in March 2009 the curator reported that I had reacted very badly to this rebuff and asked for advice. The advice was to make your own mind up. Why wasn’t I advised of this situation and given the opportunity of stating my point of view before a decision was taken?
3. The Board meeting broke up without a formal conclusion leaving individual Board members to pursue their own agendas. Why was this allowed?
4. The curator decided to dismiss me as a volunteer but he received no guidance as to the appropriate procedures to follow and no support from the Board. (I was not advised in advance that this was to be a formal disciplinary interview, I was not advised of my right to be represented by a friend or trade union officer, I was not advised of my right to appeal.)Why was no Board member prepared to ensure that I was afforded the protection of the Society’s disciplinary code?
5. Why was no Board member prepared to attend what was bound to be a very difficult interview?
6. I was dismissed by two employees: the curator and the financial controller. Is this a way to encourage volunteers in the future?
I appealed against my dismissal and Karen Rigg was appointed to hear the appeal.
The appeal was heard by Karen three days later with the support of the financial controller and with the purchase ledger clerk to take the minutes. I was accompanied by my wife Kath, who is no longer a TMS member. Kath and I both have some experience of industrial relations and we both felt the meeting was unsatisfactory; in particular it being time constrained. With the benefit of hindsight I should not have accepted this constraint and asked for an adjournment.
Karen agreed to present her report to us personally and this she did on a mutually agreed date early in May 2009. Karen was accompanied by her husband and I was accompanied by Kath. Karen’s report was fair in acknowledging that I had not been treated properly but stopped short of offering any lessening of the penalty. I gave immediate notice of my intention to appeal. I wish to publically thank Karen for agreeing to see me although we failed to reach a meeting of minds.
Karen’s report stated the following:
“Mr Lomas should have been advised without delay of the membership structure of the [collections management] committee as soon as he expressed his interest. Failure to do so has resulted in considerable embarrassment and distress to all parties.”
“Mr Lomas should have been advised of this situation [a possible requirement for additional, defined, human resource within the library] without delay, enabling him to consider his position”
“This [letter of dismissal] came as something as a shock to Mr Lomas and it is reasonable to say that the manner in which the dismissal was carried out was not in accordance with the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures for Working Members of the Society”.
“Mr Lomas’s former position in the Library will not be re-instated, he is of course free to apply for any positions that do become available in the future.”
Karen’s report also made three recommendations:
1. The terms of membership of standing committees to be made widely available to avoid any such recurrence. (I don’t think this has happened)
2. In the event that any volunteer holding an informal position requests this to be formalised they must be advised fully of the terms of our application and equal opportunities procedures and their implications. They should however be encouraged to apply for any suitable formalised positions that do become available. (I think there is enough work in the library to keep many more paid and unpaid staff busy for years but only one paid vacancy has been created)
3. Situations of unacceptable conduct must be dealt with swiftly and fairly in accordance with laid down procedures. ( I agree entirely)