When I was a child I remember putting change in a RNLI collection box at the airport, an action that launched a miniature RNLI lifeboat. The RNLI has served this island well for many years and I have nothing but admiration for their volunteers, and their crew that continue to selflessly seek to assist others in danger of distress.
I was recently involved in a long conversation with a staunch RNLI supporter that accused me of letting my heart rule my head in respect of my support of the Jersey Lifeboat Association. His argument was that the RNLI had served the island well in the past, it was a rich and powerful institution, and I was being somewhat disloyal to the many RNLI supporters and volunteers by taking my stance.
Whilst he disagreed with the actions of the current RNLI UK management in respect of their handling of the St Helier dispute, he felt that we should not discard years of faithful service due to the questionable ethics of a Poole management team that will eventually be gone. Indeed, the main protagonists have already gone, or are on their way out.
In his view the end justified the means, and, to use his exact words, the St Helier volunteer crew, and the shop volunteers, were “disposable” for the long term good.
And this view sums up succinctly s what the dispute is about. Do you believe that volunteers, people that give up their time selflessly to help others, are “disposable”, and promises made are there to be broken?
The honorary St Catherine’s Crew put their lives at risk to save others and we must appreciate this. Supporting the JLA does not mean you cannot support the RNLI Jersey volunteers. The JLA does not pose any threat to the St Catherine’s Station or the lifeguards. Contrary to media reports our ambitions are based in St Helier. Supporting the JLA simply means that you support the principle that volunteers should not be lied to, that they should be treated with respect, they should be appreciated, and they are certainly not disposable.
I shall not try and change the mind of the RNLI supporter with whom I had the discussion. He knows the facts and is entitled to his view. I shall, however, continue to work towards fulfilling the promises made to the volunteers that were stood down in such a disgraceful manner.
The RNLI promised the St Helier Crew, and their supporters, that they would support the transition of the St Helier Station to an Independent Station. This was not a mis-understanding – there is only one meaning for the word transition. Contrary to what you read, and what politicians said, the JLA is not looking to kick the RNLI out of Jersey. We have been endeavouring to have dialogue with the RNLI since we formed, so far without success.
For those unaware of the facts a brief synopsis appears below. It follows the sacking of Coxswain Andy Hibbs on a false allegation, and his reinstatement after the crew supported him:
- The RNLI invited the crew to a meeting on the 8th November 2017 to consider, as an option, the St Helier station transitionally converting to an independent facility.
The RNLI said;
“There is a phased approach should you decide to move this to an independent place, and the RNLI can support that, the States of Jersey can support that, the Coastguard can support that.
If you chose to stay with the RNLI equally we will support that as a grown-up way of doing things. The driver here has to be where you feel you can operate the best. Where you feel as a crew you can throw your passion and your values and your beliefs.
Where is that place? If it is the RNLI, that is obviously our preferred option, that is what we would like to see, and we will support you in doing that. If it’s not then we will support you to do that as well, but what both decisions will be driven by people and individuals.
Where do you think you can operate best? Where do you think you can save the most lives? Because that is what we are all about. We will support you to do either one of those. This decision has to be made first and then you have to be reassured that you are going to get support from all the stakeholders to walk down the path you chose to walk down.”
- Statement from Crew on Monday 13th November 2017.
“Having held initial discussions with some of the Jersey stakeholders we would now like to explore further setting up an independent lifeboat station at St Helier. Clearly this is not something that can happen overnight and therefore we confirm that we will continue to operate with the RNLI under your policies and procedures to provide Search and Rescue for the Island of Jersey, until such time as Jersey has its own independent operational lifeboat service.”
- Dismissal of the crew and shop volunteers on Friday 17th November 2017.
On the 17th November 2017 the crew were invited to a meeting at a Jersey Government office – believing it to be a discussion about the transition process – and were summarily dismissed. Whilst at that meeting, with the full support of some Jersey Government employees and a few politicians, the locks were changed on the Lifeboat station, and the volunteers removed from the shop – which was closed. The lifeboat was taken back to Poole.
- Refusal of Government to support Committee of Inquiry for fear of self-incrimination.
On the 21st March 2018 the States of Jersey Government refused to support calls for a Committee of Inquiry into the matter through fear of self-incrimination.
Whoever devised the plan to sack the volunteers (crew and shop) was devious. The crew were invited to a meeting at a States of Jersey Government building and were at this meeting when the Lifeboat was taken back to Poole, leaving Jersey without an all-weather boat and putting lives at risk. As part of the elaborate plan the mechanic had been sent on an errand. The main benefactor in the purchase of the lifeboat had been advised previously the boat would be taken. The RNLI began to advertise for new crew almost immediately. Their devious real intention became clear.
The Jersey Lifeboat Association was set up to make good the promises made to the volunteers that had been tricked into dismissal.
If you do believe in the principle that volunteers are not disposable please support us. From day one we have tried to communicate with the RNLI without success. The media have not always been fair. ITV, for example, was very aggressive when I appeared live in their news bulletin when our boat arrived. The JLA is a charity – not one person is paid. Would they have been this aggressive if I was wearing another charity hat?
We urgently require funding. In fact we need £50,000 as soon as possible. We need support. We need your assistance.
Details of how to support us can be found on www.lifeboat.je
This is so much more than just about a lifeboat. It is about standards, appreciation, respect, and ethics.