Shoveller highlights many ways that railway staff raise funds for charities. He laughs: “My wife has just bought a calendar of guys in the nude, but with strategically placed rail equipment. That’s great, it’s a fund-raiser. The railways are good at charity.
“I think our challenge is that we need to look after our own. They are part of our industry, and we have an opportunity to help.”
He freely admits that people may not have the cash (or time) to help, in which case they may be able to come up with ideas, or to get involved in some other way. He supports that 100%. “They may go on then and help others.”
The RBF also has partnerships, such as with the Citizens Advice Bureau.
“It is about being smarter with our money. Can people be referred? That’s the help on offer. CAB will work with us. It offers support and advice. We can make arrangements with staff to see them.
“We have a partnership with branches that staff can be seen within 48 hours. They can then talk to someone. Weeks can make a difference to someone who needs help. It will make life changes. This is what it is doing now.”
The world has changed, and the challenges faced today by railway staff are different. Shoveller ‘gets’ that… and he embraces it.
“We are proud of the past, but we need to recognise today’s problems,” he says.
“Currently we means test people for their income versus expenditure and savings. That is for a financial guide.
“But the problems could be all sorts of things - ‘my daughter has problems’, for example. And if they cannot be helped, we can offer advice. The problems don’t have to be associated with rail.”
This all sounds very noble, but what does the rail system get from this? Surely it puts a lot in, and expects something back?
“What does rail get? Distractions to staff are a safety concern. Inevitably a concern is a burden. Human nature suggests that they will talk to people.
“We need to help employees to be in a better place. If someone has a problem, they may not do their job. A guard may not walk through the train, for example.”
He also acknowledges that helping staff does have benefits for business.
As for future policy, Shoveller says that discussions are being held with various rail firms. “We want payroll giving,” he says, although he admits that will be hard to arrange.
“There has been a lot of work done in the past year. Abi gets in to talk to people - she’s very good. Relationships are hugely important. The RBF has good partnerships with six or seven firms. We want to maintain that and grow it.
“The way through to them is via the HR Directors, we have found. Managing Directors are busy. We see the HR people, and these relationships work because we give them the information.”
Shoveller says this can also help businesses with their corporate responsibilities.
“Sustainability is good… it helps. Our business is good, we can help each other,” he says.
He’s passionate about this new role, and yet he has just said MDs are busy. He’s an MD, so why is he involved?
“I’m not very good at saying no,” he laughs.
More seriously, he elaborates: “I do this because it is important and for the reasons I have explained. I could have said no. It would have been easy to say I am busy.
“Discussions were held, and I could have said I’m not the right person. My time is limited. There are events like the Spring Ball, for which people MUST buy tickets, and yet I am away with Stagecoach.
“I was conscious about whether I can fulfil this role and not let the RBF down. I have my own time, too - family time.
“I have to put everything in a diary. I had an hour at Waterloo today, and then this interview - this has been the longest period I have had today. Remember, I have 6,000 people running trains, and many can do it far better than me.”
He spoke about innovation, but how does he plan to bring that to the RBF?
“How can we increase donations and support from employees in fun ways? I’m trying to think of ways to do that. It’s not just me suggesting that a number of things should be done all on one day. We need to be relevant.”
He adds: “The railway gets the RBF, but there is a long way to go. We will be more relevant. It will take time to grow. We are relatively small. Its need is great, but it is different now. If the perception was that you had to be a contributor then perhaps it didn’t seem relevant.”
He then produces a shocking statistic.
“The percentage of railway staff who donate through payroll giving is less than 1%. If people give £1 per week, that’s £4 a month. You cannot buy a pint in London for that. If 1% of the industry donates, it is £100,000 per year raised.”
His aim is 1.5% this year. Knowing Shoveller’s ambitious nature, he will go all out to achieve that.
- This feature was published in RAIL 768 on 18 February 2015