Finally, the Chair of the ELR board, Mike Kelly, has responded to the shit-storm that’s enveloped the railway (and reflected on the wider preservation movement) following the sacking of respected volunteer Joanne Crompton. You can find it on the ELR website here.
To say it’s anodyne and bland would be an understatement. It answers no questions. In fact the opposite, it poses more. Here’s what it says.
“We concluded two independent investigations as a result of grievances raised by Joanne Crompton and have just received an appeal which means we are limited in what we can share.
The first was about our processes used for all volunteers going through steam driver training. The investigation highlighted a deficiency in the steam driver training assessment and is subject to a review. We are now in the process of doing this, however, this was not a case of discrimination against Joanne, but a general problem that needed fixing.
Our exhaustive independent investigation into Joanne’s second grievance was inconclusive.
We understand that this has been difficult for Joanne – this has also taken an emotional toll on our volunteer community.
We’ve asked Joanne to no longer actively volunteer at the railway. We share her sadness that it has come to this but wish her all the best for the future.”
The first question that occurs is – if the first investigation was merely about a training issue, why does this warrant a sacking? And, if the “exhaustive independent investigation” was inconclusive – why was Joanne still sacked? Neither of these events suggest why such a draconian course of events as ‘sacking’ a volunteer is warranted.
Nor does is explain the bizarre actions of the ELR chairman in blanket banning people on social media, a ban that included a very large proportion of the railway press, railway staff and even (at least) one TOC MD! This isn’t even mentioned, never mind explained or apologised for. I wonder why?
Frankly, this is no more an explanation than it is an apology for dragging the reputation of the preservation movement through the mud. Nor is this going to make things go away or rescue the ELR’s credibility. Far from it as people are already drawing their own conclusions.
What happens next will be interesting to watch, but I foresee the ripples from this debacle to continue spreading…
8th April update.
Kelly has just posted this unbelievable excuse for his blocking spree on Twitter.
It ranks with (and is as believable as) ‘a big boy did it and ran away’.
Needless to say, a story that was full of more holes than Swiss cheese soon began to unravel as Twitter users reacted with both derision, disbelief and more contradictory background information – like this, from Angus Duncan…
A “simple user error”? That’s not what he claimed on Twitter! The idea that this ‘error’ just happened to coincide with Joanne’s sacking is laughable. Kelly hardly ever used Twitter. He only had around 300 followers. This has now mushroomed to 900 plus as people have signed up to listen to the excuses and watch the car-crash. He has no idea how Twitter works, so has made a complete fool of himself – as many more savvy people have pointed out. Some of the the responses have been savage. And the longer this drags on the more damage it does to the East Lanc’s Railway’s reputation and credibility.
Kelly’s position is now untenable. Either he jumps or the board need to push him. Either way, the ELR board have a mountain to climb to restore the railways reputation.
Update. 20th April.
We’re almost two weeks away from Joanne’s sacking and the ripples are still spreading. The issue made it into national attention when the Daily Telegraph carried an article regarding the matter. The readers responses said far more about the Telegraph’s demographic than anything else, being overwhelmingly misogynistic. The gist of many being criticism of ‘troublesome’ women bringing these things on themselves by having the temerity to speak out, so highlighting the very issue Joanne’s been talking about!
Meanwhile, the social media responses to PR tweets from the ELR are both savage and embarrassing to the railway. Here’s an example.
I really feel for the people in the ELR publicity department as they’re having to bare the brunt of this whilst the Chair, General Manager and Board continue to stick their fingers in their ears and hide, pretending nothing’s happened and it’s business as usual. They’ve all gone to ground since 7th April, Kelly’s said nothing since his risible attempt at defending blocking people on Twitter (many of whom remain blocked) whilst nothing has been heard from the rest of the board, or the General Manager…
I wonder what passenger numbers will be like over the coming Easter and Bank Holidays?
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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