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nicknorman

First volockie irritation of the year.

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27 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

Which leads on to another point about rogue vollies.

 

How did you identify him in your email? Do vollies wear ID? What was written on his ID badge? How on earth will CRT positively identify this volunteer given there was more than one on duty? Will they even bother?

 

I suspect you will get nice email back written by someone whose job is 'customer relations', but nothing will happen behind the scenes as you were unable to identify this vollie. And him knowing you could not definitively identify him is the reason he felt free to behave like this. 

 

In your place I'd have got my phone out and warned him I was recording his interaction with me, and taken a few photos of him 'for my records'.

 

 

 

 

He had a name badge on — only a first name, but a name all the same.  They should be able to identify him from that and the fact that there appears to be a rota.

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43 minutes ago, alan_fincher said:

This is a truly appalling story, and exemplifies absolutely the worst aspect about use of volunteers - namely that regularly it simply isn't being monitored or policed to ensure they are sticking to what they should be doing..

CRT say one thing, ("the boater is always in charge"), but regularly allow volunteers to do the total opposite, (tell boaters what they must do, and that THEY are in charge).

I would unhesitatingly take this up directly with Richard Parry and Julie Sharman, because this kind of attitude will eventually result in something very bad happening, for which I would hold the trust 100% responsible.

I don't suppose any canal boating based publication would want to touch a story like this, but if I were you I would be using your journalistic connections to raise awareness of this increasing problem.

It is very, VERY, disappointing that despite some of us trying to get clear statements about the volunteer role, and who is actually in charge, that this kind of story seems to be on the increase, not on the decline, as it most certainly should be by now.

Agreed on all counts. It certainly does seem to be worse this year.

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50 minutes ago, alan_fincher said:

I don't suppose any canal boating based publication would want to touch a story like this,

 

 

If incidents like this continue to happen I think it is only a matter of time before a vollie gets thumped by a raging boater defending his boat and the police being called out to referee is quite likely to appear in the non-boating press. CRT are NOT going to appear in a good light if the boater is articulate in putting his side of the story.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

 

If incidents like this continue to happen I think it is only a matter of time before a vollie gets thumped by a raging boater defending his boat and the police being called out to referee is quite likely to appear in the non-boating press. CRT are NOT going to appear in a good light if the boater is articulate in putting his side of the story.

 

 

 

Or someone's boat is damaged and the boater makes a claim against CRT.

 

It really shouldn't take something like thst to focus their  minds though.

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I can understand volockies being in charge on specific locks, such as Tuel Lane Lock at Sowerby Bridge and others that simply aren't manageable for boats on their own but your common or garden lock? It's certainly appreciated the help I get from them (and they've all, always been very courteous to me - never had an incident as described on this thread!) but I find it quite astonishing that one of them would go off on one and call your crew an arsehole! I suspect he's volunteering in the wrong sector.

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16 hours ago, Chris Williams said:

I always appreciated help from professionals.  These volies should stick to opening and shutting gates and getting the next lock ready.  Not working MY paddles.

 

 

Chris has it right here. The paddles are the dividing line vollies should not cross at yer ordinary run-of-the-mill lock. 

 

Open the gate as I arrive? Great. Shut it as I come in? Great. Get the next lock ready? Brilliant. Close up after me? Even better!

 

Leave me to do my own paddles please.

 

 

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Exactly! Every boat behaves differently. Mine at 67ft long behaves very differently from either a 70 footer or even a 65 footer, but the average vollie couldn't tell the difference. Let them do the gates, or set the next lock, but leave my paddles alone please!

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They can do the gates as long as they don't try opening one just as I'm about to step across the gates as happened to me on one occasion.

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Yes every boat behaves differently. Our current one is a real gate bully, drops back and then charges the gate. Last time a volunteer  pulled a paddle against our request, she damn near took the collar off the gate.

volunteer said to me ‘ why didnt you reverse?’

i told him it was pointless as the counter wasnt in the water due to the water pressure drawing the bow down.

that really threw him. 

‘How can filling a lock pull the front down etc etc etc’

My wife ( not tactfully) pointed out thats why he was asked to leave the ‘bloody’ paddle alone, because after 40 odd years we do know stuff from bitter experience.

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22 hours ago, frangar said:

I have to say so far on this trip the vollies have been spot on....especially the Standedge Tunnel chaperone, Alistair, who was a top bloke and a mine of tunnel information both in when to duck...and the history...so much so that I’m going back when he’s a guide on a through tunnel trip so I can take more in. 

 

Will see how we get on with the rest of the trip!  

The tunnel blokes are paid staff, aren't they?

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I often wonder about the ones at Bratch, he had my grandson reclose the bottom gate of the top chamber as the gate into the second chamber was still closed.

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2 minutes ago, thebfg said:

The tunnel blokes are paid staff, aren't they?

Not all. They use vollies for chaperones now....and the two I’ve had dealings with are brilliant. 

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9 hours ago, mayalld said:

I'm afraid that either they are not being trained properly, or they are not being supervised properly.

Like you, my approach is to pick this apart systematically, thinking of the way my former Occ Psych colleagues would approach it. First off, selection. What screening takes place to identify the little hitlers? People volunteer for lots of reasons, sometimes on the advice of their counsellors, and whilst that’s not automatically a bad thing, it may point to a need for closer supervision.

 

Secondly, training. We’ve been given assurances about the content of training, but what about trainer training and supervision of the training process? I’ve been a Scout leader trainer in my time and I’m well aware of the impact of the trainer’s attitudes and approach on the kind of issues we’ve been discussing even with the most closely specified and carefully designed programme.

 

Finally, ongoing supervision, refresher training and remedial training. I suspect that this is the really weak part of the system. We’ve heard of some cases where complaints have resulted in an undertaking to give advice or further training to a volunteer, but it shouldn’t be left to this sort of reactive response. There should be a programme of regular review of the vollies, especially when they are working in a team and there’s scope for echo chambers to form and encourage undesirable working practices, as seems to have happened in the Bosley case.

 

Managing volunteers is very different to managing employed staff. There are far fewer sanctions available to the manager and it takes a very high standard of person to person skills to avoid some very difficult situations at times.

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11 hours ago, mayalld said:

At the first manned lock the volunteer spoke to neither of us, didn't even look at me, and wound a paddle up. I grimaced and said nothing.

I came down Bosely a few weeks ago and encountered a volly who sounds like this, he would not maintain eye contact, did not speak and when he did speak he put his hand in front of his mouth. He clearly had issues with interacting with people and that is not ideal in a situation where clear and unambiguous communication is required. We came down without incident but there was miscommunication coming out of the next to last lock where you can not see the last lock round the corner, He had looked round the corner, muttered something to my wife from behind his hand which she thought was "wait there there is another boat coming up", so we waited and waited and when nothing came she went to check and there was no boat there just him sat with a full lock. Not critical but an indication of how problems could arise through not being clear.

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Have either of you communicated your concerns to the local CaRT management? 

Note I did not say complaint. 

If they don't know about it they can't sort it out.

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2 minutes ago, Graham Davis said:

Have either of you communicated your concerns to the local CaRT management? 

Note I did not say complaint. 

If they don't know about it they can't sort it out.

I have

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11 hours ago, mayalld said:

Well, let us pick that apart.

 

Firstly, I reject the premise that all volunteers are "trying to help". It is very clear that some are seeking a position of power over others, and some just want to play with the locks. Some, I accept are motivated by a belief that what they do helps boaters. Whether they have ever considered whether the said boater desires help is neither here nor there.

 

But, if we have somebody who desires to help, but who lacks the ability to actually do so, must we accept this sub-standard help with gratitude, because it is from a volunteer? I say that we have no such obligation. If we want to work locks ourselves then so be it. What will be next? will WH Smith bring in volunteers to do the Times Crossword to save the readers the trouble?

 

I had thought that I might be relating a tale of a good volunteer,  because whilst out this week we did encounter one. We were going down Bosley, and two volunteers were assisting a boat up the full flight. The lockie I spoke to was chatty and pleasant, and explained that the boaters were in their 70s and had called to office to ask if there would be volunteers, so they were there specifically for that boat. The lockie assisted with gates, and left our paddles alone. He was exactly what should happen.

 

Coming up Bosley was a different story!

 

My 12 year-old grandson was my lock crew for the day, when we encountered the volunteers.

 

At the first manned lock the volunteer spoke to neither of us, didn't even look at me, and wound a paddle up. I grimaced and said nothing.

 

At the second manned lock the volunteer spoke to Nick, and instructed him not to pause when raising the paddle, but to whip it straight up. Nick politely said that I had asked him to do it that way, and he would wait for my signal to raise the paddle fully. The volunteer didn't look at me. I grimaced and said nothing.

 

At the third manned lock, the volunteer told Nick that he was doing this lock, and sent Nick on to the next lock. I called Nick back to work the lock. The volunteer didn't look at me before winding a paddle. As the boat got to the top I stepped off to speak to the lockie, and was treated to "stay on your boat". I went over to him and told him that it was not appropriate for him to be issuing instructions to a 12 year old to go and work a lock away from my supervision. His response; "he'll be fine". Yes I know he will be fine. I know his capabilities. You have no idea, and shouldn't be interfering.

 

At the fourth manned lock, the volunteer didn't look at me (bit of a theme here), wound the paddle up and stepped away leaving the windlass in place. I called to him to remove it. He shouted back that it was fine, the catch was on. Now, I will put up with some bits and pieces of not doing it exactly as I want, but I will not tolerate unsafe working when we are in the lock, so leant on the horn and shouted (very loudly, I have a big gob) "DROP THE PADDLES NOW!". For the first time all day a volunteer followed his training and put the paddles down. I then told him to step away from the lock and take no further part in the operation. He protested that he was assigned to work this lock, and I reminded him that he was assigned to offer assistance to those that want it. I neither wanted nor needed his assistance, and as he had shown himself incapable of working a lock safely, he would have to stand aside.

 

Then on to the final lock (the top lock). The volunteer didn't look at me, and would a paddle, but other than that I came up without incident. As no boats were approaching downhill, my stepdaughter was ascending the lock next and the lock/water mooring was occupied, I waited back in the upper jaws for her to ascend. She came into the lock, came to a halt, and turned round to check that the bottom paddles were down. Whilst she was still facing backwards, he started to wind a paddle... "STOP!" Who on earth thinks it is OK to start winding a paddle when the steerer is looking the other way?

 

I'm afraid that either they are not being trained properly, or they are not being supervised properly.

None of them looked at you Dave, perhaps they're shy. Your reputation is known and is following you about. :)

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I thought I would see it there was a published job description for volunteer lock keeper.  There is not but there is a “Volenteer Lock keeper information sheet”, which has some elements of a job description included.

 

It is worth a look here https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/4781.pdf

 

of relevance there are a number of interesting statements in this, the first two in the definition of tasks and responsibilities

 

Quote

Assist boaters at locks if your offer of help is welcomed (follow local ways of working)

Which apart from the slightly sinister comment in brackets, sounds like what you would hope would be the case

 

Quote

Welcome and engage all visitors, including boaters and other canal users – i.e. providing information & assistance

This should suggest that only those with good interpersonal skills should be being selected.  Further in the skills needed section

 

Quote

You need to be happy working outdoors and enjoy working with the public. You will be trained in the operation of locks, however some previous knowledge can be helpful.

Again suggesting good interpersonal skills required.

 

There is a further statement in the training section

 

Quote

The importance of getting acknowledgement and permission from the boat’s skipper before assisting

Again what you would hope would be the case.

 

So based on my own experiences, and those recounted by others here, one can only deduce that both the selection process and the traIning are flawed, and that there are unsuitable people without the required training being allowed to volenteer as lock keepers.  It really would be good to understand the CRT stance on this and an acknowledgment that they have a real issue here.

Edited by john6767
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1 hour ago, john6767 said:

So based on my own experiences, and those recounted by others here, one can only deduce that both the selection process and the traIning are flawed, and that there are unsuitable people without the required training being allowed to volenteer as lock keepers.  It really would be good to understand the CRT stance on this and an acknowledgment that they have a real issue here.

 

Training is only one part of ensuring ongoing competence. Regular competence checks (both formal and informal) are required, with retraining if required.

 

After all, virtually all drivers on the road passed a competemce test, but how may still drive in a way that ensure they would still pass a driving test?

Edited by cuthound
To remove a space masquerading as a letter.

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2 hours ago, cuthound said:

 

Training is only one part of ensuring ongoing competence. Regular competence checks (both formal and informal) are required, with retraining if required.

 

After all, virtually all drivers on the road passed a competemce test, but how may still drive in a way that ensure they would still pass a driving test?

Yes I agree, training is a constant as it in in any job basically.  But for one reason or another CRT do not seem to be sticking by their own published criteria.

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Firstly I have to say i have never had any issues with vol lockies but then I’ve met very few of them to date.

 

id echo bruceinsanity comments managing volunteers is very very different to managing staff.  Being paid by a charity and managing volunteers is very different too.  Professionally I manage a large team across Europe and as a volunteer I have managed up to 6 employees in a charity situation. (6 employees in a charity with 2000+ volunteers) It’s clear to me that CRT have not really worked out how to manage volunteers working alongside staff, I would suggest they think that volunteers are ‘free workers’ which of course is a recipe for disaster as this thread illustrates.  CRT would do well to look at organisations with good volunteering experience like The Scouts, RNLI or St Johns Ambulance. I don’t think

CRT acknowledge they have an problem and  until they do they can’t start fixing it...

 

what happened to ‘boater reps’ on the trusts board ? 

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14 minutes ago, jonathanA said:

I don’t think

CRT acknowledge they have an problem

Then let the top managenent know, again and again.  No-one on here with any influence?  Do any of them get out of their comfy office chairs? 

Or do we wait for the serious 'Accident' when someone gets killed ?

Edited by Chris Williams

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One of the problems is that some locks are unmanned, some locks are partially assisted by volunteers, some locks are manned by volunteers at certain times and not at other times. It is not necessarily clear to the arriving boater which is which.

 

We have just come up the Trent and all the locks except those on Beeston cut, have been manned - mostly by volunteers I think. And when I say that, it points to another problem which is that you have to look quite hard to see whether a person is a volunteer or a “proper” lock keeper.

 

Anyway, no complaints at all about any of the Trent lockies. Last night we arrived at Cranfleet lock (manually operated) and although I could see there were volunteers on, I decided to get off and do the lock myself. However as we approached I could see it was a pretty deep lock and the volockies had the pole-with-hook thing to get our ropes and put around out-of-reach bollards, so we went along with it and stayed on the boat.  Top gate paddles operated sensibly after getting thumbs up from steerer. Everything was fine, and we were grateful for the assistance.

 

But of course at no point were we asked if we wanted their help, they just did it. But it’s difficult to see how it could be any other way at that type of deep river lock. 

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