Mutiny at RNLI as volunteers strike

RNLI Shop protest. Protesters, Pam Jones ,Stephanie Stuart,Caroline Beck,Jill Hunter,Sandra Smith.Picture Richard Ponter 141411

RNLI Shop protest. Protesters, Pam Jones ,Stephanie Stuart,Caroline Beck,Jill Hunter,Sandra Smith.Picture Richard Ponter 141411

Volunteers at the best performing RNLI charity shop in the country have gone on strike in protest at the sacking of its hard-working manager.

The doors are now closed at the Whitby branch of the shop during the week because Shirley Jenkinson’s contract has not been renewed.

One helper has resigned from her dealings with the RNLI altogether after claiming she has come under pressure when she chose to speak out.

Sandra Smith, who says she will no longer support the RNLI due to the handling of the whole affair, told the Gazette: “The way the RNLI has treated Shirley is appalling and we are on strike.”

It also means the RNLI museum is closed to the public during weekdays - which is thought to be losing the lifeboat charity thousands of pounds.

For the last 20 years there has been a paid manager working at the Pier Road shop from Monday to Friday.

She was helped out by a 12 strong team of volunteers who also manned the shop at weekends- keeping it open seven days a week and earning the RNLI over £245,000 last year.

Mrs Jenkinson has been the manager for the last six years and her contract ran from March to December.

In those winter months she continued to work at the shop on a voluntary basis, but now the RNLI has decided not to renew her contract.

This is despite the shop making the lifeboat charity over £70,000 more than the second performing shop in Lyme Regis, plus over £15,700 in donations.

The Whitby shop has made well over £3 million since it opened in 1993.

While the RNLI says it took the decision to bring the Whitby shop in line with its others across the country and is launching a volunteer recruitment drove, the Whitby helpers are urging a U-turn.

Sandra said: “The shop is a prime asset for Whitby and a lot of people are asking why it’s not open. A 25 year-old with a clipboard is convinced that this recruitment drive will work and volunteers will come forward and can run the shop. I don’t think it is going to happen.

“They are not listening to our argument that a shop making £250,000 can’t be managed by volunteers.

“They will stand there and take the money but banking, taking deliveries - it is not fair for volunteers to do that. It is going to be an absolute disaster and very sad.”

There are 27 volunteer crew members on the Whitby Lifeboat and it costs £1500 per year to train each one and a further £2000 to kit them out.

A spokesperson for the RNLI said the closure of the shop would have no effect on the resources being out into the operation of the lifeboat.

They added that a paid manager was employed at Whitby when it was proving difficult to recruit volunteers and it was now the right time to bring the shop in line with others in the country.

The six month role of museum development co-ordinator will review the current volunteer roles and numbers, recruit new volunteers and train them.

Jon Knight, public engagement officer said: “We hope to have this person in place by mid-May.

“We have spoken to all our shop and museum volunteers at Whitby about these plans. While some are not happy with the change, most understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.

“We are not asking the Whitby shop volunteers to take on anything more onerous or different to what hundreds of volunteers in other RNLI shops are already doing.”




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