SIR – I have major concerns about the rail strikes precisely because I am a blue-collar trade unionist.
We need more staff on the railways. A visible staff presence is vital for reassuring lone passengers. Striking can only jeopardise such a positive agenda.
Mick Lynch, the secretary-general of the union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), would be on infinitely stronger ground were he to press the Government on the imperative of major capital investment in rail infrastructure. His members would win. The country would win.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – The leaders of the RMT should study closely the picture of Arthur Scargill (June 22), the former miners’ union president, on the picket line on Tuesday.
Maybe it will remind them of what he and the National Union of Mineworkers did for coalmining. They should also recall what demarcation did for the docks and shipbuilding, compared to the success of industries where multiskilling is now prevalent.
A O H Lewis
SIR – When it comes to the introduction of new technology and unions’ opposition to it, history is not on the side of the rail workers.
In the car industry back in the 1970s, the spot welder would carry the machine as a backpack; now robots do this and many other vehicle assembly tasks. Also in the 1970s, truckers vowed never to have tachographs (devices that monitor vehicles’ speed and driving time) and dockers fought the introduction of containerisation. In the 1980s, printers opposed the introduction of new technology in the form of desktop publishing.
Unions representing workers in the above industries were among the strongest in Britain, yet all failed to turn the tide of new technology.
SIR – If rail unions wish to retain mid-20th century working practices, perhaps they would like to receive mid-20th century pay and conditions.
SIR – As a former railwayman and still a regular commuter by train, I see both sides of the argument in the current dispute.
Once again, there are calls for driverless trains (Letters, June 22). This is technically feasible but cannot be achieved overnight. Train drivers are not actually in the front line in this particular strike. Most belong to Aslef. RMT members are all the other rail workers, of whom signalling staff are the most vital and whose absence from duty is the principal cause of the inability to operate the railway. Modernisation of signalling systems has been going on for decades throughout the network, but it is expensive and takes time to carry out.
SIR – Builders throughout the country are struggling to find the tradespeople they need to get houses built. This is due to a combination of the fall in the value of the pound, foreign workers not returning to Britain after the pandemic and Brexit, and an ageing UK population leading to the closure of long-established firms as their workforce reaches retirement age. Those who are still working are choosing quality of life over a long working week as their daily rate soars.
The short-term solution to this is to allow open access to anyone with house-building skills wishing to come to Britain. The longer term solution is to encourage innovation in the way houses are built in Britain, particularly in relation to manufacturing them off-site – as is now commonplace in Germany.
HR deserves respect
SIR – Contrary to the general opinion of your correspondents (Letters, June 22), the agenda of HR departments is not to make sure that every “woke” bandwagon is ridden roughshod through company strategy.
In recent weeks, I have arranged support for a member of staff with severe mental health challenges, organised members of the team to travel to America for training and development, created a training day focused on managing constant industry change, and researched and pulled together a shift procedure to ensure fair and consistent weekend cover.
During the pandemic, my job included interpreting and communicating the ever-changing Covid restrictions to ensure that our people were able to work on-site and operate as safely as possible.
Principally, the HR team is responsible for ensuring that people are treated with respect and in a fair and equitable manner.
“Woke” we are not.
Ripe for improvement
SIR – While we should be grateful that scientists have developed a film to prevent avocados from turning brown (report, June 21), perhaps they could now develop something to turn “perfectly ripe” avocados into perfectly ripe avocados.
Hartfield, East Sussex
SIR – In addition to all the problems that would be created by a hard border with England (report, June 21), I wonder whether Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party have even bothered to consider the very serious detriment to the Scottish ship-building industry if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom.
BAE is the prime contractor for rebuilding the Royal Navy with new fleets of frigates and destroyers, and much of this work is centred on the River Clyde. Independence would mean that future contracts would have to be placed elsewhere in the UK, in port cities such as Barrow, Belfast, Plymouth and Portsmouth, which have the facilities and skilled workforces for warship building.
In addition, the large military bases in Scotland would need to be relocated. All this would lead to the loss of many thousands of well-paid jobs in that country, as well as those in supply chains and local economies.
Unsafe car technology
SIR – I am alarmed by the news (June 21) that anti-tailgating systems are to be fitted in the majority of cars. My wife’s car had such a system fitted, and it almost caused several accidents before I disabled it.
When you are in traffic in a town or at a roundabout and you see that the car ahead is turning, it’s normal to filter past – getting closer than you might otherwise to a car straight in front. Several times the car’s sensing system misinterpreted this action, causing the emergency braking to be activated, and forcing the car behind to stop quickly and unexpectedly. On each occasion I felt lucky not to have been hit from behind.
These systems are dangerous and I don’t believe they will save lives.
SIR – Malcolm Bird (Letters, June 22) questions the need for customers to surrender personal data – in his case to the post office. What is more concerning is how long this information is kept.
After moving from Wales and settling my Welsh Water account, I was told that my address, date of birth, bank details and phone number would be kept indefinitely. I asked why and was told that they needed to know who had lived at my old address. As my account was paid I said they could get occupiers’ details from the land registry and should therefore delete me from their database.
When this suggestion was rejected I said I would file a report to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I then got a phone call to say that Welsh Water only kept details for six years.
This, to me, is still totally unacceptable.
A small problem
SIR – Perhaps Michael Deacon’s amazing ability to distinguish between men and women (Way of the World, June 21) should have been put to use by the NHS trust that recently bought a fleet of brand new ambulances. Staff have complained that these cannot be driven comfortably or safely by anyone over 5ft 9in tall.
The trust obviously thought all its drivers/paramedics were women – average height 5ft 5in – not men, who have an average height of 5ft 10in.
A spell in the Land Army could be life changing
SIR – In 1948, aged 17, I joined the Women’s Land Army and served for two years before going to college (Letters, June 20). It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.
I stayed in a hostel with 40 other girls. It built me up physically, taught me to mix with all sorts of characters and gave me an insight into the rudiments of management by observing the practices of the farms on which I worked.
SIR – I trust today’s school leavers are not afraid of hard work in their gap year, which was a luxury few of my generation could afford to take.
After leaving school, my friends and I picked potatoes. We were paid by the amount we picked, so earned enough to run our motorbikes and entertain our girlfriends.
I highly recommend it – and what a way to get our country back on its feet after the pandemic.
Michael J Menhenitt
CCTV not policing has reduced burglary rates
SIR – It is fanciful for the National Police Chiefs' Council to claim credit for the reduction in the number of burglaries (Letters, June 22).
The reduction is more likely to be attributed to the deterrent effect of the increased use of CCTV and digital alarm systems, which in real terms have become cheaper and more accessible for both home and business owners.
What is troubling is that even though the police have 51 per cent fewer offences to investigate than they did in the previous decade, arrest and conviction rates remain depressingly poor. While the service continues to be both under-resourced and misdirected, I fear that property crime will remain a low priority for police.
SIR – I am struggling to understand how the police had the time to investigate a joke made by the comedian Joe Lycett that offended a single audience member (report, June 22), and yet apparently do not have the resources to follow up burglaries.
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