BW employees picket AGM

Published: Wednesday, 07 October 2009

EARLY attendees at British Waterways Annual Meeting in Birmingham yesterday (6th October) would have been greeted by the sight of BW's Chief Executive, Robin Evans, attempting to get pickets from Unite to disperse, writes Allan Richards.

Unite (the union which represents British Waterways canal bank employees) is opposed to BW's 2020 vision and, in particular, the increase in outsourcing of bankside work and the use of volunteers to carry out key bankside functions. [So he invited them in for a cup of coffee and to attend the Annual Meeting if they wanted to.]

No problems with volunteers

However, in speaking to Unite representatives, it would seem that BW front line staff have no problem in working with volunteers—indeed they would welcome them, and be happy to train them and work alongside them. Unite's concern seems more that BW has, in recent years, been reducing front line staff numbers to the detriment of the system and the service provided to customers.

A handout being given to attendees states that Unite members have no confidence that the existing executive management team can safeguard the future of a sustainable canal system.

That 'Vision'

BW's previous 2012 vision was 'Our ambition is that by 2012 we will have created an expanded, vibrant, largely self sufficient waterway network used by twice as many people as in 2002. It will be regarded as one of the nation's most important and valued national assets. Visitors will be delighted with the quality of the experience and as a consequence many will become active participants'

Bearing in mind that BW now say that the system will be used by less people in 2012 than 2002 and the system is still largely dependent on government grant it is difficult to argue with Unite's lack of confidence!

Somewhat unsurprisingly, a straw poll conducted at the meeting suggested that most attendees had more confidence in BW's bankside staff than BW's directors!

[A report of the annual meeting will be published in narrowboatworld within the next few days.]