Tagged: Stanhope

Polar Express worker quits because of ‘terrible’ working conditions

A former Polar Express performer has criticised the working conditions she says forced her to quit.

Janet Melody, of Wolsingham, joined the team of dancing chefs on the festive train ride in November this year.

She said she was invited to two training days that were unpaid before she started working on the train.

“I asked about being paid for the training and I was told that the training was unpaid, and that we were told about it during the audition, but I don’t recall that,” she said.

“I’ve never known of any employer to expect employees to complete training unpaid.”

Inspired by the hit Warner Bros film, The Polar Express, and book by Chris Van Allsburg, the officially licensed train rides returned to Weardale Railway in Stanhope, during November and December.

Miss Melody, 41, said:

“We were paid a little more than minimum wage and as well as entertaining the guests, we were expected to clean the train and set up for the next ride.

“I was part-time, so I worked from 4pm till around 9.30pm and never got a break. It’s physically active stuff, we are singing and dancing all of the time and it’s exhausting.

“Some of the girls were full-time and were working from noon right through to 9.30pm without having time to have a break.

“It’s just so unfair because all of the staff work really hard and they put their all into it.

“Just before I left I think a lot of people were getting sick and leaving – I got a text message from the employer asking if I had any friends who wanted to work there.”

She added:

“I just thought the working conditions were terrible and I wasn’t willing to put myself through that. I have complained but I haven’t heard anything back.”

The Polar Express train ride includes afternoon and evening departures throughout November and December and costs £22 per adult and £17 per child.

A statement from Weardale Railway said:

“Weardale Railway and The Polar Express cannot comment on this publicly as it is a personnel matter.

“We can say that neither Weardale Railway or The Polar Express have received a grievance from any members of our team and we comply with all relevant employment laws.

Source –  Northern Echo,  29 Dec 2014

County Durham and Darlington Fire Service looking to cut staff and review services to save £3.6m

A North-East fire service is proposing to cut staff and review services to fill a £3.6m funding gap.

Spennymoor Fire Station could be operated by part-time firefighters under the plans being considered by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority.

The number of full-time staff in Darlington could also be reduced, while police and ambulance crews could share some County Durham fire stations.

Unveiling the authority’s strategic plan for 2015/16 to 2017/18, Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, stressed that there were no plans to close fire stations or reduce the number of appliances.

She added:
“The five proposals that we are consulting on include working with partner organisations and using our current resources in different ways to make £3.6m of savings within the service during the next three years to meet the reductions in the government funding that we receive.

“We have begun this consultation early to provide an extended period of time to speak to and canvass the opinion of everyone affected, from MPs to people living and working in our area.”

The service has already had to find £3.5m of savings over the last three years.

 The five proposals include:

– Sharing Barnard Castle Fire Station with police, ambulance and mountain rescue staff; Stanhope and Crook with the police and Sedgefield with the ambulance service.

– Training firefighters to deal with medical emergencies, including heart attacks, bleeding, breathing difficulties, trauma and strokes.

– Reviewing the staffing of the aerial ladder platform appliance in Darlington, including the possible use of retained staff.

– Reviewing the number of emergency response officers – who respond in cars to take charge of major incidents – employed by the service.

– Changing the staffing at Spennymoor Fire Station for the first responding appliance to retained only, rather than full-time during the day and retained at night and over weekends.

Tony Curry, Durham secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union was still digesting the consultation document and would respond to the authority formally in due course.

However, he added:
“The FBU always has grave concerns about reductions in the number of firefighters and the cover they provide.”

To view the three-year strategic plan document , visit http://www.ddfire.gov.uk/service-plans where there is a link to the consultation questions at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk//three_year_strategic_plan15-16_17-18

For a hard copy of the document, call 0845-3058383. The consultation will run until December 1.

Source –  Northern Echo,  01 Sept 2014