Political Correctness Ending Careers of British Lifeboat Volunteers
Political Correctness, Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
What matters to the paid Headquarters Leadership is images on coffee mugs and “inclusivity,” reports the Daily Mail.
When Andy Hibbs isnâ€™t hauling lobster pots aboard his fishing boat Matauri Bay, he devotes himself to helping those who, as the hymn goes, find themselves in peril on the sea.
The son of a lifeboatman, he joined the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) at the age of 21 and has spent his adult life serving at its station in his hometown St Helier, the capital of Jersey.
For doing this skilled, time-consuming, and often dangerous job, the 45-year-old father of one hasnâ€™t earned a penny (like almost all RNLI crew members, heâ€™s an unpaid volunteer). But it offers other rewards.
The entire crew of an RNLI station in Jersey has quit after coxswain Andy Hibbs, 50, left. Friends claim he was ‘bullied into resignation’ after he allegedly launched a lifeboat without permission from the RNLI
His crew have saved countless lives, becoming pillars of their seafaring community.
One morning in 1995, to cite perhaps their greatest triumph, Hibbs was part of a team which helped a catamaran carrying 300 passengers that had hit rocks off the coast of Jersey, and was sinking.
With disregard for their safety, they got alongside the vessel, which was listing dangerously, and plucked off men, women and children.
â€˜It was a real eye-opener,â€™ he recalls. â€˜It brought home how serious the job was, and the responsibility in our hands.â€™
More recently, Hibbs was coxswain (the effective captain of a lifeboat) when his 25-strong crew featured in an ITV News item about the â€˜brilliantâ€™ and â€˜capableâ€™ RNLI teams in the Channel Islands.
Yet this summer, one aspect of their job will be different.
When they motor out of St Helier harbour to save lives, they wonâ€™t fly the RNLI flag. They are no longer associated with the famous charity.
It follows an extraordinarily bitter row, initially centring on an alleged breach of a health and safety procedure, which has placed the islandâ€™s lifeboatmen in conflict with the wealthy maritime charityâ€™s headquarters in Poole.
The dispute â€” which led to allegations of bullying, intimidation and mendacity on both sides â€” rumbled on for more than a year. It has seen public demonstrations and rumours of corruption and cover-ups.
How Britain’s heroic lifeboat men are drowning in a sea of demeaning political correctness imposed by countless highly-paid pen pushers
Matters culminated before Christmas with the entire St Helier lifeboat crew resigning.
Hibbs and his team have relaunched as an independent operation, the Jersey Lifeboat Association, and will soon take delivery of their first vessel.
â€˜Iâ€™m sad that it has come to this, but the RNLI caused this mess,â€™ Hibbs says. â€˜They have been unpleasant and confrontational, and treated us volunteers with contempt.â€™
Weâ€™ll explore this ugly business (in which no side seems blameless) later.
But first, an important point: the lifeboatmen of Jersey are not alone.
Two other crews are embroiled in public disputes with RNLI leadership.
One, in Whitby, North Yorkshire, revolves around jokey Christmas gifts exchanged by lifeboatmen, including a mug with a picture of a naked woman on it and one of the crewâ€™s faces superimposed on to the modelâ€™s head.
One mug featured Joe Winspear’s head superimposed on a naked woman’s body (pictured, is a mock-up
A female superior found the mugs in a cupboard and the pair were sacked.
The offending items were either saucy or obscene, depending on your point of view. The RNLI insists they were â€˜pornographicâ€™.
Either way, an investigation talked of â€˜safeguardingâ€™ issues and found the images on the mugs â€˜could have been seen by visiting schoolchildrenâ€™.
It also uncovered â€˜conduct issuesâ€™ related to the crewâ€™s social media use, which compromised the stationâ€™s status as a â€˜safe and inclusive environmentâ€™.
In protest at the menâ€™s sacking, four crew members resigned. Some 11,000 people have signed a petition demanding their reinstatement.
Down the coast in Scarborough, the Mail this week revealed that RNLI coxswain Tom Clark has been sacked, after 34 years of service, for allegedly breaking health and safety guidelines by going on a sea exercise with unauthorised passengers on his lifeboat.
He accused the RNLI of â€˜bullying and intimidationâ€™, saying that volunteer lifeboatmen were being â€˜bombardedâ€™ with â€˜new rules, forms, acronyms and health and safetyâ€™.
A petition to reinstate him has 5,000 signatures.
Drowning sailors are, of course, unlikely to care whether their rescuer owns an inappropriate item of crockery, or once set sail with unauthorised passengers.
Yet the RNLI insists its actions are warranted, arguing that itâ€™s duty-bound to protect staff from bullying and harassment, and must enforce its safety protocols.
This clash, between what one might call traditional lifeboat culture and the forces of political correctness, turns out to be the source of heated conflict in RNLI stations nationwide.