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Starcross ferry discrimination?

bramling

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You have zero argument or justification.

Given virtually all at risk people have already been offered vaccines quite some time ago, and given the risk of transmission outdoors is negligible, and given the individual(s) with the irrational phobia of unmasked human faces can choose to wear an N95 mask if they wish, there can be no justification for saying it is "reasonable" to break the law.

I destroyed your argument; to claim I have no argument is absurd.

Whilst I entirely agree with the sentiments, the difficulty seems to be that this doesn’t seem to have been tested in court, though I seem to remember there have been a couple of minor cases involving supermarkets (no doubt settled before reaching court)?

As it’s quite clear the example this thread is based on has been doing this for a while, it’s not a new thing, it does (unfortunately) seem to be the case that no one is sufficiently bothered to test the law. They’re not the only business doing this - there’s Bridgnorth Cliff Railway for a start (I presume they’re still same as they were last year), and even a walk round my town will find plenty of “no mask no entry” signs in shop windows, including a few extra nasty ones with wording like “cover your face you big dirty disgrace”.

Presumably a shop who wanted to enforce a policy that every person wears a mask could do so providing they made a reasonable adjustment to accommodate exemptions, which could presumably include (in a small shop) allowing no one else in at the time and serving them from behind a protective screen, or perhaps serving them outside. Could the ferry operator in question reasonably claim that the nature of their operation means they’re unable to practicably adjust?

I’m not advocating any of this, on the complete contrary I completely object to masks, just saying that unfortunately it hasn’t really been tested, and the body of public opinion (again unfortunately) seems to fit into two camps - obsessively pro-mask and keep the peace. The government’s very lackadaisical attitude to exemptions unfortunately reflects and encourages this.

If masks do get binned next month, though it does unfortunately seem like transport may well be the exception to this, no doubt we will see some businesses choose to keep mask requirements. Let’s hope there is a high-profile challenge.
 
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35B

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Whilst I entirely agree with the sentiments, the difficulty seems to be that this doesn’t seem to have been tested in court, though I seem to remember there have been a couple of minor cases involving supermarkets (no doubt settled before reaching court)?

As it’s quite clear the example this thread is based on has been doing this for a while, it’s not a new thing, it does (unfortunately) seem to be the case that no one is sufficiently bothered to test the law. They’re not the only business doing this - there’s Bridgnorth Cliff Railway for a start (I presume they’re still same as they were last year), and even a walk round my town will find plenty of “no mask no entry” signs in shop windows, including a few extra nasty ones with wording like “cover your face you big disgrace”.

Presumably a shop who wanted to enforce a policy that every person wears a mask could do so providing they made a reasonable adjustment to accommodate exemptions, which could presumably include (in a small shop) allowing no one else in at the time and serving them from behind a protective screen, or perhaps serving them outside. Could the ferry operator in question reasonably claim that the nature of their operation means they’re unable to practicable adjust?

I’m not advocating any of this, on the complete contrary I completely object to masks, just saying that unfortunately it hasn’t really been tested, and the body of public opinion (again unfortunately) seems to fit into two camps - obsessively pro-mask and keep the peace. The government’s very lackadaisical attitude to exemptions unfortunately reflects and encourages this.

If masks do get binned next month, though it does unfortunately seem like transport may well be the exception to this, no doubt we will see some businesses choose to keep mask requirements. Let’s hope there is a high-profile challenge.
If memory serves right, they did state that they were unable to adjust last year, which is why the concept of reasonable adjustment is so central to this case.
 

lkpridgeon

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From what I can see they haven't made any adjustment for those exempt that could be tested for reasonableness, as don't use the service isn't an adjustment. One could argue that there's multiple multiple alternative adjustments that could've been made in court such as extra distancing of staff/passengers from the exempt passenger, face visor (like my hairdresser asks for) and as has been mentioned up thread higher quality masks for staff in the form of N95

I would expect a company to have performed a risk assessment and matrix with multiple mitigating measures alongside a specific one should an employee be at risk/pose a risk to someone. The HSE provide quite a bit of guidance on covid safe measures if asked.

On the court situation wait and see as something may be coming soon against a different public transport provider.
 

NLC1072

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It's this sort of carry on that really disgusts me. I have a hidden (not so hidden if I wasn't wearing clothes) disability, called pectus excavatum - search it if you're not eating lunch... I am 30 years old and look quite healthy fitness wise with my clothes on. With the disability however I find some days taking a deep breath painful, and most days I tire really quickly, let alone wearing a mask and do the same. I get hounded and harassed everywhere I go and made to either go away or have my order taken from outside like I am a dirty and disgusting. I have read in books about our past histories, where we had signs that instead of "no service to people without masks", read "no negros, no dogs, no Irish"... Now I know how they felt as I have lived it and it is/was disgusting.
 

Ianno87

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From what I can see they haven't made any adjustment for those exempt that could be tested for reasonableness, as don't use the service isn't an adjustment.

Though one might argue the rail service between Starcross and Exmouth fulfils that purpose, if the "service" is deemed not as the ferry specifically, but the general ability to travel between the two locations.

A bit like how TfL got away with old Routemasters in normal service on the grounds that they ran as short workings of "normal" fully accessible journeys; nobody was deprived of doing the journey.
 

duncanp

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Though one might argue the rail service between Starcross and Exmouth fulfils that purpose, if the "service" is deemed not as the ferry specifically, but the general ability to travel between the two locations.

A bit like how TfL got away with old Routemasters in normal service on the grounds that they ran as short workings of "normal" fully accessible journeys; nobody was deprived of doing the journey.

But travelling by train between Starcross and Exmouth would still require someone to wear a face covering, unless they are exempt.

The issue here is that one public transport provider (the ferry) has taken it upon themselves to ignore the rules about exemptions for face coverings, and also the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, and ban people who do not have a face covering.

Their argument that they are a small family business, and would be disproportionately affected if one of them caught COVID, has to be set against the likelihood of actually catching COVID on a short journey, and the inconvenience caused to those who cannot wear face coverings and as a result can't use the ferry.

The point about the heritage routemasters on TfL service 15 is that they are following the same route as the fully accessible buses on that service. TfL could not, for example, run a heritage routemaster service from Tower Hill to Victoria or Marble Arch, as there is no bus route with accessible vehicles that runs along the same route.
 

yorkie

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It's this sort of carry on that really disgusts me. I have a hidden (not so hidden if I wasn't wearing clothes) disability, called pectus excavatum - search it if you're not eating lunch... I am 30 years old and look quite healthy fitness wise with my clothes on. With the disability however I find some days taking a deep breath painful, and most days I tire really quickly, let alone wearing a mask and do the same. I get hounded and harassed everywhere I go and made to either go away or have my order taken from outside like I am a dirty and disgusting. I have read in books about our past histories, where we had signs that instead of "no service to people without masks", read "no negros, no dogs, no Irish"... Now I know how they felt as I have lived it and it is/was disgusting.
Really sorry to hear that.

I know I will fall out with people over what I believe in, but I won't stop fighting for what I think is right.

Hope you are well; it was a long time ago that I last saw you (at the ticket office, if I recall correctly). Drop me a message if you see any forum events that you'd like to attend; it would be great to see you again.

Though one might argue the rail service between Starcross and Exmouth fulfils that purpose, if the "service" is deemed not as the ferry specifically, but the general ability to travel between the two locations.
By that logic, Avanti could deny passengers the right to travel on the basis that they can get services operated by West Midlands Trains.

It's not a logical argument.

A bit like how TfL got away with old Routemasters in normal service on the grounds that they ran as short workings of "normal" fully accessible journeys; nobody was deprived of doing the journey.
That's different; the buses themselves lacked accessibility features and the whole point of the attraction was incompatible with that. The concept of reasonable adjustments would take into account costs and other factors. It's not the same principle at all.
 

lkpridgeon

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Though one might argue the rail service between Starcross and Exmouth fulfils that purpose, if the "service" is deemed not as the ferry specifically, but the general ability to travel between the two locations.

A bit like how TfL got away with old Routemasters in normal service on the grounds that they ran as short workings of "normal" fully accessible journeys; nobody was deprived of doing the journey.
However in this case they're offered by different service providers. You can't say it's not discrimination because a different company is capable of offering the service.

In your scenario there landlords, shops, etc could all discriminate as they wish as long as there's at least one place in the country that offers the same service.
 

Ianno87

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Their argument that they are a small family business, and would be disproportionately affected if one of them caught COVID, has to be set against the likelihood of actually catching COVID on a short journey, and the inconvenience caused to those who cannot wear face coverings and as a result can't use the ferry.

And those, succinctly, at the factors that need to be weighed up to determine whether or not the ferry operator is being "reasonable" (plus the fact that the ferry performs a public transport purpose, and so needs to operated from a community perspective)

By that logic, Avanti could deny passengers the right to travel on the basis that they can get services operated by West Midlands Trains.

It's not a logical argument.
Except that, for a company of Avanti's size, shielding/furloughing staff who are vulnerable (or exposing a vulnerable household member to risk) is reasonable, as the service can be maintained (albeit reduced) with the remaining staff, with any losses underwritten by the government.

For the ferry, the consequence is the entire (tiny) operation being reliant upon the availability of one staff member. No staff = No ferry = No business.

In your scenario there landlords, shops, etc could all discriminate as they wish as long as there's at least one place in the country that offers the same service.

Is there a precedent of (say) a shop being in a similar situation to the ferry?
 
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yorkie

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Except that, for a company of Avanti's size, shielding/furloughing staff who are vulnerable (or exposing a vulnerable household member to risk) is reasonable, as the service can be maintained (albeit reduced) with the remaining staff, with any losses underwritten by the government.

For the ferry, the consequence is the entire (tiny) operation being reliant upon the availability of one staff member.
If the claim is that the ferry company has a key employee who is extremely vulnerable but has also not been vaccinated then it is up to the company to either provide that person with the relevant PPE (i.e. an N95 mask) if applicable/appropriate and/or to recruit an alternative/additional member of staff.

In the unlikely event that there is a key individual who has to operate the ferry and they cannot wear an N95 mask and have not been vaccinated and there is no replacement for that person (is that really the claim? This sounds very hypothetical and implausible to me!), then quite frankly they ought to realise that the chance of transmission in the circumstances of a ferry crossing of this nature is negligible anyway, given that the vast majority of infections come from close prolonged indoor contact.
 

lkpridgeon

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Is there a precedent of (say) a shop being in a similar situation to the ferry?
I don't have a direct link to the case however a Bakery lost a case a few years back when they refused to bake a cake for a gay couples wedding on the basis of their religion. They used the argument that there are other bakeries.

Churches have been forced to officiate gay weddings even though their argument was that the couple could get it done at the registry office.
 

Ianno87

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If the claim is that the ferry company has a key employee who is extremely vulnerable but has also not been vaccinated then it is up to the company to either provide that person with the relevant PPE (i.e. an N95 mask) if applicable/appropriate and/or to recruit an alternative/additional member of staff.

In the unlikely event that there is a key individual who has to operate the ferry and they cannot wear an N95 mask and have not been vaccinated and there is no replacement for that person (is that really the claim? This sounds very hypothetical and implausible to me!), then quite frankly they ought to realise that the chance of transmission in the circumstances of a ferry crossing of this nature is negligible anyway, given that the vast majority of infections come from close prolonged indoor contact.

Perhaps now, yes, I agree with you. Pre-vaccine they may have had a point. People are told to shield for a reason, so not unreasonable to take some level of precaution against spreading things to them

I don't have a direct link to the case however a Bakery lost a case a few years back when they refused to bake a cake for a gay couples wedding on the basis of their religion. They used the argument that there are other bakeries.

Churches have been forced to officiate gay weddings even though their argument was that the couple could get it done at the registry office.

Nobody is put at risk to their health or wellbeing by serving a gay couple.
 

GB

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I know I will fall out with people over what I believe in, but I won't stop fighting for what I think is right.
What exactly are you doing to fight this? Are you mounting a legal challenge, physically protesting or boycotting them? As far as I can see you are just getting hot on a forum and arguing with anyone that happens to disagree with your point of view.
 

nedchester

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What exactly are you doing to fight this? Are you mounting a legal challenge, physically protesting or boycotting them? As far as I can see you are just getting hot on a forum and arguing with anyone that happens to disagree with your point of view.
He will write to Starcross Ferries and show them this thread. That'll tell em.......
 

PeterC

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I don't have a direct link to the case however a Bakery lost a case a few years back when they refused to bake a cake for a gay couples wedding on the basis of their religion. They used the argument that there are other bakeries.

Churches have been forced to officiate gay weddings even though their argument was that the couple could get it done at the registry office.
The bakery case was decided in the bakery's favour on appeal. Remember they did NOT refuse to bake the cake, they refused to put a specific slogan on the cake.

My googling skills don't seem to extend to finding these churches forced to carry out gay weddings. The original act was quite clear that not only were they not so required but that individual priests could not be forced to officiate against their beliefs regardless of their hierarchy's official stance.
 

NLC1072

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Really sorry to hear that.

I know I will fall out with people over what I believe in, but I won't stop fighting for what I think is right.

Hope you are well; it was a long time ago that I last saw you (at the ticket office, if I recall correctly). Drop me a message if you see any forum events that you'd like to attend; it would be great to see you again.


By that logic, Avanti could deny passengers the right to travel on the basis that they can get services operated by West Midlands Trains.

It's not a logical argument.


That's different; the buses themselves lacked accessibility features and the whole point of the attraction was incompatible with that. The concept of reasonable adjustments would take into account costs and other factors. It's not the same principle at all.
Thank you Yorkie, I will keep that in mind for the meetings, we did once meet at a booking office, and a few times in the London meet ups.

To wade in further on this debate; it is the responsibility of the ferry company to accommodate the disabled. What ever steps they need to take to do so, doesn't matter. They may hire in another person to furlough the other that needs to care for their relatives. They may also book a taxi to drive the disabled person around to the other side of the crossing as TOCs do now when they can't facilitate a disabled person at a station that is unstaffed etc.
 

35B

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I don't have a direct link to the case however a Bakery lost a case a few years back when they refused to bake a cake for a gay couples wedding on the basis of their religion. They used the argument that there are other bakeries.

Churches have been forced to officiate gay weddings even though their argument was that the couple could get it done at the registry office.
They won on appeal - because their rights were being infringed by being made to write what was to go on the cake, rather than the purpose to which it would be put. And the gay wedding provision is a myth.
If the claim is that the ferry company has a key employee who is extremely vulnerable but has also not been vaccinated then it is up to the company to either provide that person with the relevant PPE (i.e. an N95 mask) if applicable/appropriate and/or to recruit an alternative/additional member of staff.

In the unlikely event that there is a key individual who has to operate the ferry and they cannot wear an N95 mask and have not been vaccinated and there is no replacement for that person (is that really the claim? This sounds very hypothetical and implausible to me!), then quite frankly they ought to realise that the chance of transmission in the circumstances of a ferry crossing of this nature is negligible anyway, given that the vast majority of infections come from close prolonged indoor contact.
It was their argument, and it has now drifted for precisely the reasons you give about the effect of vaccination (though you give insufficient credence to resourcing challenges within a small business). Which comes back to how they are to be engaged with, and whether the right approach is the authoritarian "this is the law - obey it or else" that Priti "Judge Dredd" Patel might apply, or a more consensual approach based on establishing an understanding of concerns and how they can be set aside or mitigated, which would be my preference.

To wade in further on this debate; it is the responsibility of the ferry company to accommodate the disabled. What ever steps they need to take to do so, doesn't matter. They may hire in another person to furlough the other that needs to care for their relatives. They may also book a taxi to drive the disabled person around to the other side of the crossing as TOCs do now when they can't facilitate a disabled person at a station that is unstaffed etc.
The Equalities Act does not require that, it requires "reasonable accommodation" where the test of reasonableness includes consideration of the resources available to the service provider. Much of the conversation in this thread seems to assume that the Starcross ferry is a business equivalent to the TOCs frequently discussed in the ticketing threads; it is not, but a small seasonal family business and that would be a factor in any enforcement of this legislation.

As a large campaigning organisation have very robustly been reminded in another (off topic) context, the law does not always say what one would wish it to say, no matter how strong one's views. Noticing your location, I don't know whether or how Irish law differs to English law in this area.
 
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NLC1072

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They won on appeal - because their rights were being infringed by being made to write what was to go on the cake, rather than the purpose to which it would be put. And the gay wedding provision is a myth.

It was their argument, and it has now drifted for precisely the reasons you give about the effect of vaccination (though you give insufficient credence to resourcing challenges within a small business). Which comes back to how they are to be engaged with, and whether the right approach is the authoritarian "this is the law - obey it or else" that Priti "Judge Dredd" Patel might apply, or a more consensual approach based on establishing an understanding of concerns and how they can be set aside or mitigated, which would be my preference.


The Equalities Act does not require that, it requires "reasonable accommodation" where the test of reasonableness includes consideration of the resources available to the service provider. Much of the conversation in this thread seems to assume that the Starcross ferry is a business equivalent to the TOCs frequently discussed in the ticketing threads; it is not, but a small seasonal family business and that would be a factor in any enforcement of this legislation.

As a large campaigning organisation have very robustly been reminded in another (off topic) context, the law does not always say what one would wish it to say, no matter how strong one's views. Noticing your location, I don't know whether or how Irish law differs to English law in this area.
I think it is quite reasonable that they provide an alternative, if they can not provide the service themselves... I mean a 30 minute taxi ride isn't going to cost the earth, they're well able to accommodate that should they feel the need to not accommodate disabled persons on their vessels.

Regardless of my location, I understand UK legislation.
 

Ediswan

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To wade in further on this debate; it is the responsibility of the ferry company to accommodate the disabled. What ever steps they need to take to do so, doesn't matter. They may hire in another person to furlough the other that needs to care for their relatives. They may also book a taxi to drive the disabled person around to the other side of the crossing as TOCs do now when they can't facilitate a disabled person at a station that is unstaffed etc.
The modifications required to make the ferry service step-free accessible would include adding lfts or a ramp to the footbridge at Starcross station, or a separate means to cross the railway.
 

NLC1072

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The modifications required to make the ferry service step-free accessible would include adding lfts or a ramp to the footbridge at Starcross station, or a separate means to cross the railway.
And until such installation is viable, they'll have to just cab those customers around...
 

ExRes

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Just as a point of reality I'd like to see anyone doing Starcross to Exmouth in 30 minutes, regardless of what google says, the real world journey time would make a taxi fare far more than some might be thinking
 

NLC1072

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Just as a point of reality I'd like to see anyone doing Starcross to Exmouth in 30 minutes, regardless of what google says, the real world journey time would make a taxi fare far more than some might be thinking
And still far, far less than the upgrades that were suggested earlier. But, that's their problem, not the end users problem.
 

greyman42

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What I would say in mitigation is that many service providers have been bullied into an overzealous interpretation and enforcement of the COVID-19 regulations by nasty, petty and spiteful jobsworths from the police and local authorities who are on a power trip and have got nothing better to do.
And if these service providers end up in court, will the nasty, petty and spiteful jobsworths from the police and local authorities be there to defend them?
 

duncanp

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And until such installation is viable, they'll have to just cab those customers around...

but we are not talking about making the Starcross Ferry accessible to people in wheelchairs.

We are talking about making it accessible to people who, by reasons of disability, are unable to wear face coverings.

The cost of making the ferry accessible to such people is, er, £0.00.

And if these service providers end up in court, will the nasty, petty and spiteful jobsworths from the police and local authorities be there to defend them?

Of course not, bullies always pick on someone weaker than themselves, who they think is unable to fight back.
 

WelshBluebird

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From what I can see they haven't made any adjustment for those exempt that could be tested for reasonableness, as don't use the service isn't an adjustment.
The law doesn't say they have to make adjustments, or even try to make adjustments, it says they have to make reasonable adjustments. Presumably their argument would be that they don't think there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made so there's no point trying. Some people will disagree with that, but ultimately it would be for a court to decide as the law leaves "reasonable adjustment" specifically vague on detail. We can all play lawyers and argue one way or the other but it isn't our opinions that matter from a legal sense (from a non legal sense though, things like campaigns or boycotts can often work to change company policies on things that make them look bad).
 

Ediswan

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And until such installation is viable, they'll have to just cab those customers around...
Hard to tell how they would respond to such a request. The only information on their FB page is a statement that there are steps at the Starcross side.
 

35B

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I think it is quite reasonable that they provide an alternative, if they can not provide the service themselves... I mean a 30 minute taxi ride isn't going to cost the earth, they're well able to accommodate that should they feel the need to not accommodate disabled persons on their vessels.

Regardless of my location, I understand UK legislation.
That is not, however, the way the law operates, or the test that is applied.
 

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