COVID19 notices and memos
PLEASE READ FURTHER DOWN THIS PAGE FOR ALL UPDATES.
APART FROM THE TOP ONE (dated 23 March), ALL WILL BE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER (newest at the top).
Coronavirus Covid-19 : Main Staff Update (as at Monday 23rd March 2020)
Hopefully you are now all aware that the decision has been made to close the whole of the business with the exception of the Kingswear to Dartmouth passenger ferry. We live in unprecedented times and I’m sure that most of us have been left in a state of shock at the speed at which we have gone from business as usual to a virtual lock down. However, I can assure you that we have been planning for the current crisis since late January. We started to trim unnecessary long term spend just a few weeks after the virus was first reported in China and since mid February we have stopped all but the most urgent spend. The only exception was the extension at Churston which could not be stopped until the retaining wall had been completed. This needed to be completed for safety reasons and will be finished at the end of this week.
We are reasonably well placed to deal with the commercial impact of the outbreak and the measures announced by the government in the last couple of weeks further reduce the risk to the company and consequently, our jobs. For the next few months the government will be covering 80% of our wage bill and we will make up the difference for as long as it is financially viable.
It is very much our primary aim to secure the future of our business and we cannot do this without ensuring our staff our protected. We will continue to prioritise your job security to in turn protect the business. As I have mentioned, the best way you can do you part is to keep yourselves available to run the business when we again begin to operate. As I said last week, this will mean very few staff will be able to take holiday in July and August. I have been amazed at how willing everyone has been to do their bit with a number of employees cancelling their holidays as a consequence. I won’t name you but a huge thank you!
I will aim to post a message each week to keep you all updated. Please take care and keep your distance!
REGULAR UPDATES START HERE - NEWEST FIRST...
STAFF UPDATE AS AT WED3JUN20:
I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I’ve started to struggle to think of things to talk about in the last few updates. Apologies for the inane rambling!
I’m pleased to say that this has now changed and I have some meaningful news for you.....
Firstly, the Kingswear-Dartmouth ferry service was resumed on Monday 1st June. The numbers are low and it is very much a loss making service at the moment. However, we felt it was important to support the local schools as they begin to reopen. A big thank you to Ben and Jeff who are currently the only people in the company actually putting money into the bank for us!
I can also announce that we are now working to towards resuming boat and train services in the week starting Saturday 4th July. This is far from guaranteed but we are very optimistic that you will see some activity in this week. As a consequence we will begin to call people back to work when required. Please do not return unless specifically requested to do so by your line manager. The timing of the recalls is crucial as we need to preserve our cash flow as best we can. Please do not consider the timing of your recall as an indication of the importance of your role in the organisation, the focus is purely on being able to operate with as little cost as possible.
Take care, stay safe and see you all soon.
STAFF UPDATE AS AT TUE12MAY20:
You will all pleased to know that we have begun the process of making preparations for a return to operations. Whilst the government announcement on Sunday made it clear that the earliest we will be able to resume is the start of July there is a huge amount of work to be done and not really that much time.
There are a number of challenges to deal with. We will have to operate in a very different way when we return if we are to ensure that staff and customers are kept safe whilst also operating a financially viable business. Consequently, we have been working on a number of issues that need to be addressed. This includes working out which services to operate, new timetables, safe working practices, ensuring customers can observe social distancing, etc.
Work is already beginning on the infrastructure. We should be able to resume work on the Kingswear Castle soon, with external contractors possibly able to begin as early as next week. Whilst on the railway we desperately need to make good the platform extension at Paignton. It is with this in mind that I’m pleased to announce the first member of staff to be recalled from furlough is……………. Martin Effer.
We should all extend our thanks to Martin as I know he’ll be reluctant to return having had such a great time at home stripping woodchip wallpaper. Of course this also means that as Martin is the first one back you should all feel free to blame him for anything that goes wrong when we start operating again (this also includes any issues on the boats!).
Take care and hopefully see you all soon.
STAFF UPDATE AS AT TUE28APR20:
We are now nearing the end of April and whilst there aren’t any indications of an imminent return to work we have had another week of positive signals. The number of deaths continues to fall in the UK and some countries have started to take tentative steps out of lockdown. It certainly feels like we are all heading in the right direction.
One of my main concerns at the moment is what to do about my hair? In a week or two I think I’ll be able to join a 'Flock of Seagulls' tribute band! (Anyone under 50 will need to look them up on YouTube..) My wife has repeatedly offered to "have a go" - I have to say I don’t particularly like the look in her eye but I did consider it for a while. However having seen her attempt to shear our sheep I’ve decide to decline for now.
Enjoy the bank holiday next week. Don’t forget it’s on the Friday, I wouldn’t want you to get confused and sleep late on the wrong day…
As always, take care
STAFF UPDATE AS AT SAT18APR20:
Well that’s Easter over and done with; did anyone visit anywhere nice? I visited the fridge (on several occasions……).
Hopefully you are all doing OK. I have had lots of updates from various people and it’s good to hear you are all keeping in touch with each other. The weeks are starting to slip by and I think it’s really important that we all stay connected as a group. For those of you who have company mobile phones please feel free to call your colleagues as often as you like. One of the great strengths of our little company is the strong team spirit and it’s important that we all look out for each other and come back ready to pull together to overcome whatever obstacles we face.
There is still not much clarity on when our return to work will be however. The national statistics suggest that we could well be somewhere around the peak of the outbreak at the moment which is very positive news. However, the rate of the fall in infections will be key to when we will begin the road back to normality. The furlough scheme has now been extended to the end of June which is obviously excellent news - however it does tend to suggest that significant restrictions will be in place until at least then. The board of directors and I are assessing the situation daily and when it becomes apparent that we are getting close to a restart you will be called back in on a need basis. This means that those of you who will be required to prepare boats, trains and buses for service will probably begin work a little earlier. Although I think this is still some way off so in the meantime enjoy the unexpected break and try to avoid putting on too much weight!!
STAFF UPDATE AS AT FRI10APR20:
Happy Easter to all of you!
This week we have some good news for a change.
Firstly, congratulations to Luke and his wife on the arrival of a baby boy earlier in the week. Let’s hope we are all back at work before the baby is sleeping through the night!!
Secondly, a big thank you to Debbie who has been working away on payroll over the last few weeks. This has now been finalised, so you’ll all be able to replenish your stocks of alcohol next week. Obviously you will need to get to the supermarket ahead of me…..
Looking at the national picture, there have been some positive hints in the grim daily deaths statistics. Whilst it’s too early to read to much into the numbers, the figures do not seem to be escalating as feared. This could be just a statistical anomaly, but my personal opinion is that it is the start of the road back to normality. Let’s hope so anyway.
As I’ve said before, I think the best-case scenario for resuming our services is a June start at best. If so we will probably still be obliged to observe some kind of social distancing which will obviously make running our business very difficult. Having said that however, there are many people dealing with much more challenging problems at the moment. I’m sure we will find a way to cope but it will need all of us to deliver the solutions.
Stay safe everyone and have a great Easter.
STAFF UPDATE AS AT FRI3APR20:
Well it’s now the end of the second week I think…. Does anybody have any idea what day it is???
I hope you are all well. There isn’t really much to update you on this week. I’ve spent most of my time negotiating an appropriate amount of financial support with the bank. Progress has been good but obviously the more we borrow the more we have to repay in future years. It’s therefore a fine balance between ensuring our short term survival without placing an impossible burden on the company in the long term.
You should all have received a letter earlier this week. If you haven’t received it please either speak to a colleague (all the letters are exactly the same) or get in touch with Debs (email: email@example.com). Hopefully it’s self-explanatory. The government wage support scheme is currently in place until the end of May so things should be fairly settled until then. Howver, should anything change I’ll let you know.
At the moment it’s looking like the very earliest we will be able to operate is June though I have to say I think that’s a bit optimistic. Obviously when we do have a better idea we’ll put together a plan to get up and running as quickly as possible.
On the bright side we are a week closer to going back to work than we were a week ago!
Please take care - and do all have a good, socially distant weekend.
WAGES UPDATE AS AT WED25MAR20:
If you have not already done so, please email Debbie with your email address so she can email your wage slips to you. Please do this as soon as possible. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
PASSENGER FERRY UPDATE AS AT TUE24MAR20:
The decision has been made to suspend the Kingswear-Dartmouth passenger ferry service until further notice. As mentioned above, we will update you all on this page as and when things change.