If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 3 May 2012

My contribution to the Recession ...

The last six months have been fairly crappy from a work point of view.  I said a while ago that things were getting awkward, but I didn't go into any detail.  This was mainly because I know that my employers (or, rather, the marketing people) review the web regularly for business reasons, and if anyone had accidentally found that I was writing about work issues here I suspect it would not have gone in my favour.  Unlikely, given that I have never mentioned the name of my employer, but possible.  In a company where 'being negative' is a disciplinary issue, if I had been found letting fly with what I was really feeling I would have been down the Job Centre within the half hour.  We were in 'negotiations' and it seemed good judgement to keep a little bit schtumm about the situation.  Now, things seem to be resolving themselves, everyone's a bit happier, and life can go on.

What happened was this: the company is in a fairly desperate position financially, and the backers have started to lose patience and insist on real economies, especially on the payroll side of things.  Our 4-on/4-off rota system was deemed to be inefficient and wasteful, and we were told that we would be doing fewer hours, on a 5-on/2-off system, and with half the staff.  For me and the other supervisory staff, this would have meant a pay cut of around 2k per year, and a shift system that was chaotic and unpredictable.  Out of the nine of us, seven put in a formal grievance.  In my case, it was clear - I was contracted, in writing and signed on both sides, to work a 4/4 shift pattern and to be paid £x per year.  Any variation on that had to be agreed by both sides - and I didn't agree.  I joined Unite (holding my nose to do so, I must admit) and had their support during a series of meetings.

I'll say this now, and say it fairly and clearly - the Unite rep was supportive to me and combative with my employers (in a way that I would not have been), but throughout his contribution was for fairness and justice, and I was grateful for it.  None of this 'evil capitalist bosses' stuff - just a focus on my contract and my reasonable expectations from my employment.  I was very glad to have him there.

The next communication frm On High was that the matter had been referred back to the Board for 'further discussion'.  My guess is that they realised that they would have been marmalised if the matter had gone to court, and thought better of it.  The next proposal was different, and more in line with employment law.  We were all offered redundancy, or the opportunity to apply for new jobs, which were quite different from the old jobs.  My supervisory position has disappeared, but the 'new job' is surprisingly similar to the old one, only with additional responsibilities.  Heh.  I am now no longer salaried but paid by the hour, but I have kept the 4/4 shift pattern.  My pay will be cut by about £1,300 a year rather than £2,000, and I will be paid for additional hours worked, instead of the old system of Time Off In Lieu (TOIL - ho bloody ho).  I work only nights now, and there's a lot more to do; but if it's not a victory, at least it is less of a defeat.

However, the great thing from my point of view is the relief from the endless discussion.  Every shift from start to finish, and every time different teams met during handovers, all we talked about was The Situation.  Some guys have left to other employment, and the real 'negatives' have all taken redundancy, and what is left is a core of fairly good guys who just want to get on with it.  It's actually quite refreshing.  Last night I worked with a guy I haven't worked with before, and we talked about religion and death, amongst other things.  Quite a change.  I have enjoyed the last round of nights, although being out and about rather than supervising from the office means less opportunity to crank up the blog and say something irrelevant and pointless on a company computer.

Anyway, that's me: a bit poorer, a bit demoted, but still in work.  We're in a recession and I have taken a hit, but that's how it is, and I have vanishingly little sympathy for anyone in the public sector who bleats about how they haven't had a pay rise this year.  YOU HAVE A JOB AND A PENSION, FOLKS and there are plenty who don't have either.

All right, I am off to Ireland tomorrow for a few days, to sample the pleasures of a fabulous step-daughter and her family, a few pints of the black stuff, and the nutty but wonderful hospitality of the Irish people.  And no netbook - it is DEAD.  So communications will be minimal if not non-existent for the weekend.  See you after the jump.

And have a good one.


  1. Good to hear it's not as bad as you'd feared! Have a great weekend.

  2. It's good to learn that at least the issue's been resolved. Although not to your total satisfaction, as you've said, it could have been worse.

    The 'Threat', with its inherent uncertainty, is often worse than the 'Execution'.

    Enjoy your break.

  3. Glad to hear things will resume some form of normalcy at your work. Or at least everyone can finally move on. Not exactly as you would have like it to be resolved but resolved none-the-less.

    Have fun in Ireland. Sounds like you deserve a few days away to play.

  4. Richard:

    It's great to have a job. I have friends who work for the Government and they can't wait to get out of there. I don't understand their thinking as they get indexed pensions and lots of time off. In fact they get a month or more vacation time, their birthday paid, and also every other Friday as another paid day off, and they still complain.

    Have a good few days off and relax

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

  5. Well, thanks to you all! Yup, a few days off and having some quality R&R will be welcome.

    And I've got a job to go back to ...

  6. Pleased to hear the news, Rich. Shame it wasn't a completely favourable result, but well done for holding on to your principles and the bits that matter most. Hope the stress levels can come down now.

    Unfortunately, despite the high-profile bleaters such as Bob Crow and the best efforts of the Daily Mail to use "gold-plated" as often as possible, much of the public sector isn't living that high a life, either. I know plenty of people there with miserable, stressful jobs, low salaries and minimal pensions to look forward to. It may be fractionally better than the way some private sector employees are treated, but, hell, I didn't think the purpose of society was to race to the lowest common denominator.

    Sorry to sound like a bit of a Leftie, there, but it's been my experience that it's no real bed of roses for an awful lot of folk in both public and private employment...


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