Tuesday, 12 July 2011

An open letter to Bob Crow

Dear Bob,


Thanks for sharing your views on volunteering in response to London Underground's proposals to engage volunteers in information giving roles during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.


I'd just like to make three quick points in response to the comments the BBC reported you as having made.


First, according to the BBC you said, "Using unqualified, non-professional, non-trained staff at key crowd control pressure points is a recipe for disaster with potentially lethal consequences. With the Tube already at bursting point, and with millions more expected for the Olympics, the last thing needed is wholly unprepared volunteers controlling hundreds of thousands of passengers through stations like Oxford Circus or Stratford."


Aside from the fact that London Underground seem to fundamentally disagree with your interpretation of what volunteers are being asked to do, why have you assumed that the volunteers will be unqualified, unprofessional, untrained and unprepared?  Nobody who truly understands volunteering would ever put volunteers into such a role who were so ill equipped.  I sincerely doubt that London Underground are expecting to just round up random people off the street for these roles.


Sadly, you seem to have fallen into the trap of assuming that because they don't get paid volunteers are incompetent, ineffective people unsuitable for responsible roles.  Let's hope that isn't the case if you ever need rescuing at sea and the RNLI send a lifeboat to save you, or if you ever feel the need to talk to someone and call the Samaritans, or have cause to rely upon the services of a Special Constable.  That's just three roles performed by qualified, professional, trained and prepared volunteers.  There are thousands if not millions more, all essential to the fabric of society.


Second, not only do you hold inaccurate stereotypes about volunteers you seem to have forgotten that the union movement is reliant on volunteers?  Or did you mean to suggest RMT members who play key roles within the union representing your members were unqualified, unprofessional, untrained and unprepared to do their work?


Finally, I would urge you to look at the Charter for Strengthening Relations Between Paid Staff and Volunteers, developed by Volunteering England and the Trades Union Congress.  This document sets out the key principles and guidelines to be followed when volunteers are engaged in unionised environments.  As a member of the TUC the RMT will have endorsed this so can I suggest you follow its principles before resorting to sharing your inaccurate views of volunteers and scaremongering through the media.


Yours sincerely,


Rob Jackson
Director, Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd and active volunteer

1 comment:

  1. "Sadly, you seem to have fallen into the trap of assuming that because they don't get paid volunteers are incompetent, ineffective people unsuitable for responsible roles."

    Yup.

    I suspect this kind of attitude is the major reason why kids prefer to be called "interns" rather than "volunteers". If they're getting signals that their gift of time is worthless, why should they bother?

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