The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 9 (January 1, 1928)
New Year Greetings — To the Railway Staff
In extending hearty New Year greetings to all members of the Railway Service, I desire to thank them for the part they have played in carrying out the Department's work in 1927, and to express the wish that the coming of 1928 may mark the opening of a year of progress and prosperity for all.
Some important administrative alterations have been made during the year just ended as a result of the passing of the Government Railways Amendment Bill, and I should like here to explain briefly, for the information of all concerned, the effect of that measure upon the conditions of employment in the service.
The Bill was framed, after most careful consideration, with a view to making effective the principle for which I have stood throughout my association with the Department—the principle of giving the utmost encouragement to all members to secure promotion by merit and of making possible the employment of the best men obtainable anywhere for filling the various administrative positions throughout the service.
The re-grading completed during the year has brought about considerable improvement in the direction of placing a higher value upon a number of positions, and it has also removed many previously existing anomalies. Appointments, based upon the best knowledge obtainable regarding the qualifications of applicants, have been made to fill these positions. These appointments are, moreover, subject to review by the Appeal Board, which has been re-constituted upon thoroughly democratic lines, and has been given the right of final decision as to which man shall fill any particular post.
The new system has removed the previously objectionable feature where promotion was made either in strict order of seniority or on account of all-round personal qualifications, but usually without special reference to the position to be occupied. This led to discontent when supersession occurred, the classification list being kept constantly in mind, and superseded members feeling that as “all-round railwaymen” they were equal to the member promoted. Appeal Boards sometimes took the same view, so that, if “classification” was departed from, a number of members had to be promoted because one position required filling. Under the new arrangement the member's qualification for one particular position is all that concerns either the appointing authority or the Appeal Board, and once the most suitable member has been chosen for that position, the chances of other applicants are not prejudiced in regard to any other position that may be advertised. The appointment does not amount to a general supersession as it would under the older system.
Admittedly the change effected is in the direction of encouraging specialisation, but this is a development that a business grown to the size of our system naturally required.
If members can be brought to feel that the progress of any one member in his own page 3 particular line is not interfering with that of others engaged in other phases of the Department's activities, then there is more likelihood of helpful co-operation, between one section and another, than has been obtained under a system where an attempt was made to weigh up general merit considerations rather than specialised capacity and then to apply the result comprehensively over a wide range of employment. General station work is really one specialised form of employment; goods work another; passenger, parcels, staff, transportation, accounting, publicity, rating and commercial work, are still other distinct forms of employment in which specialisation is necessary if the best results are to be obtained in the public interest from the Dominion's greatest business undertaking.
The new system should help to avoid misfits, rather placing the mould of each man's fortune in his own hands, and should make it possible for every member possessed of sufficient merit to succeed in the work to which his energy and studies have been chiefly devoted.
The foregoing general explanation of the intention and effect of the latest amendment to the Government Railways Act is given in order that all members of the service may know just what was in mind when the clauses were framed. Although the abolition of Ministerial veto (involving re-constitution of the Appeal Board) has not received the unanimous support of the various societies, I trust that they will appreciate the improvement when it is in operation.
A point that has to be considered is that besides taking into consideration the desires of the Railway Societies, I have to bear in mind the necessity of administering the Department in a way to make it most productive of public good, and where there is a possibility of conflict between the two, the desires of members must be subordinated to considerations of public welfare.
The new staffing system supplies modern methods of staff administration similar to those which have proved beneficial elsewhere, and there is every reason to expect that their effect upon the Railway service of this Dominion will be productive of increased efficiency and better co-operative effort.
In regard to the progress of business generally, it is too early yet to judge the full effect of changes produced in terms of my policy statement to Parliament last year, but I am pleased to see that the figures in relation to revenue are improving, and trust that during the remaining months of the financial year a big forward movement will be made in regaining and increasing traffic of all descriptions, and in further improving the operating figures in relation to our passenger and freight business.