Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, here is the blog for May 2020. I would like to start by showing our appreciation to all in BTP, especially those frontline officers who have continued to turn up for duty, regardless of what is happening elsewhere. We are all attempting to protect ourselves and our families from this global pandemic and BTP officers - day in day out - turn out for duty without fear or favour.
I have experienced some very proud moments in BTP over the last 29 years, but none as impressive and memorable as your response to this national crisis. I think you all know by now how important you and your roles are to facilitating the country getting back to work and some form of normality, and getting the economy back up and running. Not since the end of the war has BTP had such an important role to play in supporting and protecting others.
I know Government officials, senior officers, members of BTP Authority and Train Operating Companies are proud of you all.
We are all aware this situation will take its toll, you will feel exhausted at times, frustrated at others and you will undoubtedly question why you are doing what is being asked. Nevertheless, like all previous challenges, BTP officers will rise to the occasion and will continue to showcase what's great about this force.
Please make sure you look after yourselves and look out for each other. Look for warning signs and support each other. If you are finding things difficult please don't suffer in silence. Speak with someone, share your thoughts and if you need support please ask.
Representing you during the pandemic
The Federation has been involved in every Gold and Silver meeting since the start of the coronavirus emergency; that's four daily conversations with the Force during which we have made sure your welfare is considered. The landscape is forever changing, and you have all brilliantly demonstrated your flexibility and dedication to duty. I can reassure you the response has not gone unnoticed and I for one will keep reminding the Force of that commitment.
Every day the General Secretary or I provide an update to all Federation representatives across the country on what has been discussed at those meetings. As well as informing them about current Federation business, these updates arm our reps with information that enables them to answer your questions in a timely fashion.
The role of the Federation
Force decisions, policy changes or operational decisions are all communicated via the BTP's microsite and I strongly encourage you to visit this site regularly. If you need the Federation's views or thoughts on some of the decisions being made then you should contact us but please keep in mind that we cannot explain or provide the justification for all decisions taken by the Force. We can challenge decisions that affect your welfare and wellbeing but we are not there to challenge every operational decision.
Certain decisions have to be resolved by those outside of the Federation and challenges need to come from Line Managers, Second Line Managers and Sub and Divisional Commanders. For example, you have had rest days cancelled in preparation for policing an increase in passenger numbers following recent Government announcements and those rest days are now being reinstated.
We absolutely appreciate how troublesome, inconvenient and frustrating the current swapping and changing of rest day cancellations is and the Force is fully aware that you are all reacting tremendously to this crisis. Some of what is happening is unavoidable but we know that your goodwill won't continue forever, so we are daily discussions with the Force about the impact of their decisions on your wellbeing. The Force wants to ensure that officers who want their days off can have them, wherever possible, and those who want to work can still do so. Both are as important as each other.
Those of you on the frontline are aware that these decisions are changing regularly, but this isn't intentional. BTP is in regular discussions with DFT but what is harder to plan for is how the public will react to Government announcements. Once the Force has an understanding of potential passenger numbers etc, I have seen how quick they are to react and ensure those officers can get days of rest.
For those of you unsure of the guidelines for the scenarios we're experiencing currently, here is a brief explanation:
- A global pandemic which is life threatening fits well and truly under what is described as an exigency of service. This means BTP can change your duties and cancel your rest days if there is a pressing demand for resources.
- If that cancellation is made with less than 15 days' notice, then you are entitled to claim hours worked; a minimum of 4 hours at time-and-a-half.
- If then the rest day is reinstated with less than 8 days' notice (not including the day notified or the day working) you are entitled to take your rest day without any compensation, or you can still attend work at the rostered hours given.
- Once you are in work you can claim a minimum of 4 hours at time-and-a-half, nonetheless BTP has the discretion to send you home when they no longer require your services and you can claim the hours worked or a minimum of 4 hours. You are not guaranteed a full 8 hours or more if you do chose to work.
In this month's blog I wanted to focus on some of what we have been doing on your behalf during the coronavirus emergency. Not all of you get a chance to read our circulars or follow us on social media so hopefully this round-up is useful.
Since the start of the pandemic we have:
- Worked with the Force to ensure officers who are vulnerable to this virus are allowed to work from home and the correct equipment is provided so they can continue being productive but safe.
- Influenced decisions around PPE to ensure you have the correct items for the specialist roles you fulfil.
- Engaged with the Force to ensure officers are trained in fitting the correct PPE when needed in certain operational circumstances.
- We also continue to ensure that PPE is in ample supply by the Force to all posts across the country.
- Helped shape policy and encouraged the Force to ensure frontline officers do not suffer any financial detriment, resulting in a mileage allowance, parking costs and the Congestion Charge being paid.
- Engaged and influenced the Force to making the right decisions regarding the cancellation of rest days and ensuring officers are compensated accordingly.
- Helped shape policy regarding annual leave, and this continues to be discussed as we have challenged a recent decision regarding officers taking pre-booked foreign holidays.
- Worked with Learning and Development and influenced decisions regarding certain aspects of training.
- Issued loans and grants to officers in need of financial assistance and support, and made donations to several charities.
- Supported officers who have been personally affected by the virus and who have lost loved ones.
- Externally we have influenced decisions through media interviews and discussions and have engaged with our national counter parts to influence national decisions and share best practice.
- Finally, we have maintained business as usual as best we can in difficult circumstances, including providing legal assistance and representation in emergency situations.
These are some examples of what the Federation is involved with. There are incidents and cases that continue behind the scenes where officers are being represented through conduct, performance, attendance and ill health. Clearly we can't and wouldn't report on these as members' privacy is paramount.
If you have any suggestions on other ways we can support you, or if you have concerns that you would like us to address or raise on your behalf, please contact us. In the first instance we recommend speaking to your local rep as issues can often be quickly resolved at a local level. It also means we build up a picture of what's happening across the whole Force area. Contact details for local reps are available on the website and app.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our reps for their work. Many are working tirelessly supporting, advising and representing officers in all quarters. I offer a big thank you to those reps who are also frontline officers so are working the same shifts and having rest days cancelled while also providing a service to members.
Federation Management Board meeting
On 10 June we will have a Management Board meeting with the Area Secretaries and Chairs from across the country. If you have any local issues or concerns that you wish to raise at this meeting please let your local reps know so they can bring them to the table.
Now we have a password protected area on the website, Management Board meeting minutes are published online. Please read these and visit our site regularly as you may find the answers to some of your queries. During June we will also review the decision to introduce a Federation app in place of a paper diary. A feedback form will be shared shortly and your views will help us to develop what we have.
Cancellation of conference
Having postponed our Awards of Excellence and conference in March we have taken the decision to cancel the event this year. We were hoping to reschedule to September but the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the effects of social distancing on large meetings looks set to continue for some time.
We have contacted those officers who were nominated to receive an Award of Excellence this year; they will be invited to attend our centenary conference in York in March 2021.
In the meantime we will conduct a video conference with all our representatives from across the country so certain items of business can still be addressed. Further details will be shared with all Federation representatives once plans are in place and the outcomes will be minuted and shared with members.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Finally as you may know, last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and we shared various resources which may be useful to you. Mental health and wellbeing isn't just for one week a year. We are all vulnerable - even more so at times like this - so I want to reiterate the point I made at the start of this post that it is vitally important that we look out for each other. I know how important it was for me to talk to friends and colleagues when I was struggling and I urge you to do the same, rather than carrying a burden alone.
I wish you all well. Stay safe and look out for each other.
Quote of the Month:
"You should never regret anything in life. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it is experience."