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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 6 (October 24, 1926)

Staff Discipline

page 34

Staff Discipline

In all large organisations, such as railway systems, it is obvious that there must be some form of discipline which will, in the case of delinquencies of staff, permit of punishment being inflicted. If it were not so, the standard of efficiency would very quickly suffer, with the consequent result that the safety of the public and also of employees would be seriously jeopardised. In any form of discipline the aim should be to evolve a system which, while not pressing with undue harshness upon the staff, will yet be sufficient to ensure that they will use their best efforts to carry out their duties in a satisfactory manner, and not relax their vigilance in working. The application of a system which will satisfactorily meet these demands has given employing authorities a considerable amount of thought, and it has come to be recognised by a large number of railway organisations that the Brown system of discipline, or a modification thereof, best meets requirements. This system, already in operation on many important railways, has now been put into operation on the New Zealand Railways.

Prior to the adoption of the Brown system the majority of the railway companies in the United States—and, to some extent, in Great Britain—had a system whereby men were laid off duty by way of punishment. This system was known as discipline by suspension, and was much more drastic than that in operation in this country; for, whereas employees were reprimanded or fined for minor offences, the punishment of suspension was seldom exercised unless the misdemeanour was likely to result in the employee's reduction or dismissal.

“K” Class Locomotive (1878)

“K” Class Locomotive (1878)

The basic principle governing the Brown system of discipline is that punishment by means of suspension or fines is abolished and discipline is maintained by means of merit and demerit marks. Demerit marks are inflicted in cases of minor breaches of discipline which do not warrant reduction or dismissal, and merit marks are awarded for clear records covering stated periods and also for special acts of merit. In so far as discipline by means of fining is concerned, it has the disadvantage that it not only directly affects the employee, but also indirectly affects his family inasmuch as his earnings are reduced. Thus, in effect, the fine constitutes a double punishment. Another disadvantage of discipline by fining is that although it may be warranted it tends to engender resentment on the part of the employee who is so disciplined. Any system, therefore, that will ensure efficiency without monetary punishment is a distinct step in advance both on the part of the employee and incidentally of the management. Without the loyal and wholehearted co-operation of its employees, no railway system can be said to be thoroughly efficient.

page 35

The Board of Management of the New Zealand Railway Service has for some time past been considering the question of discipline of staff, and after a thorough investigation of the various systems in operation elsewhere has decided that the Brown system of discipline, with modifications to suit New Zealand conditions, is the one most likely to give general satisfaction.

The system as approved by the Board was brought into operation on 1st October, 1926, and particulars have been embodied in a circular which has been issued to all employees. As this circular gives full details of the proposals little need be said by way of elaboration except in regard to one or two points. It will be observed that traffic and locomotive running employees, who may be classed as operating staff, are awarded two merit marks for each six months’ clear record, as against two merit marks for each twelve months’ clear record for all other employees. This differentiation is made by reason of the fact that the duties of the operating staff are such that they are far more liable to commit breaches of the rules and regulations or acts of carelessness which may result in punishment, than other members of the staff and there is therefore more merit in their clear records than in the case of employees who are not connected with the operating side of railway working.

A point in the new system which should appeal to the staff is that the employee with a good record is given full value for such record in assessing any punishment to be inflicted.

In many of the railway concerns which have adopted the Brown system where an employee has accumulated a number of demerit marks ranging from 70 to 100 he is dismissed. There is, however, no such provision under the New Zealand scheme, the penalty for an accumulation of demerit marks being confined to reduction in pay or status.

It is recognised that the success or otherwise of any scheme of discipline depends to a great extent upon its administration. Care should be exercised, therefore, in the direction of bringing uniform methods to bear and also to see that the scheme is administered in a sympathetic manner.

At the outset it is quite possible that anomalies may arise and that it may take some little time to place matters on a thoroughly satisfactory basis, but with the hearty co-operation of the staff there is no reason why the scheme, which is a distinct step forward, should not be a success.

Trucking Cars.

A great improvement in the arrangements for the trucking of motor cars for the West Coast has recently been provided at Springfield by the construction of an end-on loading bank. The construction of this bank (and of a similar bank at Otira) will be welcomed by the many motorists who make the trip to the West Coast during the summer months. With these new arrangements the number of trucks required for the transport of cars either at Springfield or Otira will be backed up at one end of the bank enabling the motorist (after the ends and fronts of the trucks have been lowered) to drive his car from the loading bank to the farthest truck. Succeeding cars will fill up the trucks in that order. As a result of the provision of these loading banks, Mr. Hawkes (Secretary-Organiser of the Canterbury Automobile Association) anticipates that many motorists who have been deterred in the past owing to the inconvenience of trucking ears, will make the journey to the West Coast.

Railway Improvements At Dunedin.
New Overbridge.

The problem of dealing with the huge volume of traffice to and from the harbour side at Dunedin, at present restricted to two routes, one of which (Rattray Street) is becoming increasingly congested, is being dealt with by the construction of a new overbridge. The overbridge will be approached on the town side from Frederick and Hanover Streets by ramps with a grade of 1 in 20, and will be a handsome and substantial structure. Concrete abutments, a reinforced concrete deck and superstructure, a roadway 44 feet wide and footpaths eight feet wide, will be features of the new overbridge under which will pass two main lines of railway, two sidings and four back-shunts. The completion of the new overbridge, moreover, will mean the elimination of the level crossings at the foot of Hanover and Frederick Streets.

The rapidly increasing number of oil-electric locomotives placed in service is turning the attention of locomotive engineers and railroad maintenance men to the study of the subject so that they may become qualified to manipulate and maintain these new units. Quick recognition of the opportunities in this field of service has led the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York, to organise a course of study in oil-electric engineering.

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All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.