Tuesday, 7 September 2010


On the day that Bob Crow led his merry band out on yet another crusade, a few thoughts about the rights of the working man.  I’ll start by saying that I’m under no illusion as to the plain fact that a lot of people have a clear intention to do sod-all for a living.  Recent finds in the work archive have served only to further reinforce that view.

How on earth some people manage to get away with what they do (probable theft, and definite negligence of a kind which was ultimately classed as gross negligence; blatant feigning of injury – including photographic evidence of such – to swing extended periods of sick leave. These are to name but two of the ‘matters’ on a certain member of staff’s file.  And the resulting action? The man was promoted! Really) is little short of incredible.  Any employing manager has to be sure he has dotted every single sodding ‘i’ and crossed every single fucking ‘t’ if he is to successfully dismiss one of these bastards.

But.  That said, I still feel that a Union is an important organisation, and one which provides some sterling support for the individual worker.  Not everyone (thankfully) is quite as bad as the example cited above, and many more people have been fucked over by their employer, so  I support the idea (if not always the real world execution) of a union.  A couple of points I need to make however:
  1. I’m not (and have never been) a member of any union
  2. I’m now a (very very junior) part of the arch enemy of the union – management
Point number 1 might explain why I have only been in temporary employment for the past 3 years. Although there would have been no guarantee that union representation would have saved my job(s), it might just have made a difference.  My father, before he retired, was a lifelong member of the T&GWU, but things were very different then.  Should I ever succeed in turning my current role into a permanent one, I may consider joining one, although Point number 2 might have some bearing on that.  Maybe it would be an ‘association’ instead...

Anyway, point number 2 means I am expected not only to present a business as usual face, refusing to allow the disruption to have any effect on our service, ensuring that my staff are docked pay for taking industrial action, etc, but it is also kind of expected to make knowing comments and sneer at the general concept of unions.  This I cannot do, despite the fact that I find the reasons for this particular walkout more than a little spurious.  I do have some inside information (though nothing which has not been in the media, I hasten to add) and there really is very little justification for bringing the capital to its knees this time, aside from the ongoing ideological war which must never cease.

I believe the culprit this time is technology, in the shape of the wondrous Oyster card.  Nowadays, there is no need for many Londoners ever to visit a ticket office at Underground stations.  If they are not topping up the card online, they can simply interact with machines.  Some stations (according to the official TfL line) are only selling 6 tickets an hour, and so around 800 ticket office posts will be cut.  Further communication says that safety will not be compromised, and that the remaining thumb twiddlers will be moved from their ghost-like cabins to the stations themselves, in ‘customer-oriented’ roles. That remains to be seen, but few can deny the logic that it will be a waste of what little money may be forthcoming from Gideon’s coffers in April to pay people for not selling tickets.

These jobs are under threat as a direct consequence of advances in technology, and this is just another manifestation of the enormous changes which are steadily engulfing us.  I am a regular library user, and have been very happy to see the changes wrought by the internet on this particular institution.  By that, I don’t mean Kindles or any other readers (iPad included. I’m not anti, just haven’t got into it yet. I’m sure that if I do, there will be no turning back. Until I get to have a go on one...) but rather automated check-in and return of borrowed books.  I now receive an email on the day before my books are due back, and can even check out my items without ever having to interact with a member of staff.

Of course, somebody still needs to understand the Dewey system sufficiently to take all of the books out of the returns bin and place them back on the shelf, as well as sticking those return date sheets in the front along with the magnetic anti-theft things, but for how long will this be the case?


Michael said...

Come the revolution...

Myeral said...

Ah yes. I also get off on Marxist theory