lexin: (Default)
Monday, June 16th, 2014 01:00 pm
I've spent part of the morning today trying to support a member who's lost her cat. She's devastated, and probably shouldn't be at work. No doubt management would regard this as a waste of time, but people love their animals, and some total bastard – a person with no conscience whatsoever – poisoned my member's cat with strychnine.

Yes, she is reporting it to the police; her husband is a policeman. We gather that her cat was not the only moggy poisoned in this way, and there is a risk that if some animal picked something poisoned up and then was scared off, a child might pick up whatever it is and end up the same way. So it has to be taken seriously.

But my member is really upset. As I was for her – I can't help thinking that an indoor cat is much easier on the whole. I'm probably over-careful with Smokey, but I love her so much.
lexin: (Default)
Friday, May 23rd, 2014 12:22 pm
I am back from my trade union's conference. Go me! I got out of London Bridge Station yesterday, straight into one of the worst thunderstorms I've seen in years. The rain was lashing down, and thunder and lightning were right overheard. I've not been physically out in a thunderstorm for years, and it was quite frightening.

Having said that, I had a good time at conference with my friends, but got very tired towards the end.

I am walking very slowly because in addition to my normal problems with my legs (I fell out of a pub in Belgium in 2000 and my right leg never fully recovered) I also have tendonitis of my right ankle. So walking with me is very much of a trial right now, and I felt it very much as we limped between conference centre, restaurant and hotel.

I was so tired I passed up the chance to see the comedian Jeremy Hardy live. With very great regret, because he's often on the Friday Night Comedy from the BBC and is very funny. But I couldn't face another hour awake at that stage. Or with people. I run out of patience with having to make conversation quite fast, too. Comes of being an introvert, I suppose.

So I'm very glad to be home with my little Smokey and am giving and getting lots of cuddles. The cat sitter I got this time weren't as good as the first lady I used. They didn't notice, for instance, that she'd hawked up a hairball on the bedroom carpet, and it must have been there a while because it had dried in place. Yuk. And very hard on the poor kitty, too, I'd think.

Luckily for the kitty, my next trip anywhere isn't until August. So she's got a couple of months where it'll be me to look after her and that should give her some confidence. The cat sitter did say that she has noticeably more confidence when I'm there than when I'm not. Which is nice to know.

So I'm back. Did I miss anything important?
lexin: (Default)
Friday, March 14th, 2014 12:35 pm
Very saddened by the death first of Bob Crow on Tuesday and secondly of Tony Benn today.

For those of you who have never heard of either, both were leaders of the left wing of British politics. Tony was 88, and the signs had not been good for some time, but Bob was only 52 – scary because I’m the same age, and probably in worse health.

Tony has been an inspiration to me practically since I was old enough to say his name. It was something my parents thought rather amusing that I should venerate someone simply because I’d heard him speak at meetings. When he spoke – something he and Bob shared - he was a mixture of amusing, angry and inspiring. I never missed a chance to hear either of them.

True leaders of the left, now lost to us. A very sad week for progressive politics in the UK.
lexin: (Default)
Monday, October 7th, 2013 03:53 pm
This is very much the case where I work - does it sound familiar to you?

An extract from Risks 624 - TUC Health and safety newsletter

28 September 2013

A managerial offensive is taking place at work, with a new report claiming the government's blitz on employment rights and welfare is being mirrored in a 'new workplace tyranny' and a massive intensification of work.

Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde Business School, writing in Hazards magazine, says the phenomenon 'has brought narrow tasking, stress, bullying and lack of voice.

The combination of unremitting intensity, insecurity and claustrophobic control and coercion is now characteristic of work across the economy.' He warns that performance management is the main tool used to up the pressure at work, with a proportion of workers set up to fail by design. Professor Taylor warns: 'In the worst cases, managers are given targets for the numbers of workers under their control who should be underperforming, put on sickness absence management actions or 'exited' out of the organisation. Should they fail to meet these targets, the managers themselves will be judged to be underperforming.'

The professor concludes: 'Unrelenting work intensity and the insecurity caused by fear of the consequences of underperforming induce profound pressure and cause deep anxiety,' adding: 'The outcome frequently is a vicious circle. A worker gets a poor performance ranking and it affects their confidence. They are put on a PIP [performance improvement programme] and they believe that they have been targeted. Stress might follow and they go off sick.

When they return to work, often prematurely, they are in 'a two-pronged cycle', facing warnings over their performance and sickness absence triggers. The resultant pressure compounds their insecurity making them even less likely to make the improvements the performance managers are demanding. The result can be acute mental ill-health with the threat of capability dismissal looming.'

Comment: I've had several lambkins come to me caught in that stress - sickness - underperforming - stress - sickness - underperforming cycle. It's seriously not funny and you can be eased out of even a government job in as little as three months.
lexin: (Default)
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 04:00 pm
I hate this government so very, very much. They would look good on a lamppost, like Mussolini.

The Spending Review. Yes, that’s what it’s about. For welfare claimants none of it is an improvement.

The key policy elements of the settlement include:
• 7 waiting days at the start of UC, ESA and JSA
• Increased requirements at start of claim, including an English language test for JSA, mandation* for CV and UJ (Universal Jobmatch) registration
• Increased signing, weekly for at least 50% of claimants
• UC claimants subject to full conditionality to verify claim every year
• Increased requirements for IS lone parents
• Looking at pilots for new ways of encouraging ESA(WRAG) to take steps to improve their health and significantly increasing requirements for claimants over 3.5 years on JSA

Seven waiting days at the start of a UC, ESA or JSA claim. Now, that’s seven days without money for the poorest people. My savings are such that I could last seven days without pay, but many people, including many poorly paid people, are skin-close to borrowing from loan sharks to keep the wolf from the door as it is.

Increased requirements for the start of claim…we may live in England, but nowhere is there a requirement to be able to speak English. Speak what you like has always been the rule.

Besides, I can think of at least one or two situations where the outcome of this would be very unfair indeed. Think of the situation of a woman who has come here as the wife of a Pakistani man. She speaks only Gujarati. He’s abusive and she leaves him, leaving the children behind her. She can’t go to family: they will shun her because she left her husband. She can only claim UC/JSA – but now she can’t because she doesn’t speak English. What does she do? Her only option is to return to her abuser, because she can’t live any other way.

It’s not that unusual a situation in the district where I live. One of my colleagues has a wife who manages a Jobcentre in central London. Where she works, about 65% of the clients don’t speak good English.

The mandatory registration on Universal Jobmatch means putting your details on a site known to be unsafe (see what Johnny Void has to say about it) and known to be glitchy, in a way which means the staff at your Jobcentre can see what you’ve applied for and harass you to apply for unsuitable jobs in places you can't travel to. It’s a rubbish idea and someone’s going to be killed, I swear it.

The rest of the ideas are appalling, too. It’s as if they think that there are jobs to be had easily which people are not applying for. If there were decent** jobs to be had, people would take them. That’s how it’s always worked in the past and it would work that way now, too.

* Is mandation even a word? I don’t think it is.

** Properly paid, not part time zero hours contracts, or weird jobs which don’t exist when you make further enquiries.
lexin: (Default)
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 11:11 am
Point the first

The national ballot result for my union is 60% in favour of industrial action. So that will be fun, though I hope it will take place as the weather warms up. I could wish turnout had been higher, but then you can't take into account the views of people too lazy to vote.

Voting could not be simpler, it's by postal ballot. You are sent a ballot paper. You fill it in. You post it back in the pre-paid envelope – you don't even have to find a stamp. There is no excuse. And still people don't vote.

Point the second

I still have that cold which started on Friday 22nd February. It's not been three weeks yet, so not quite worth going to the doctor with it, but it's definitely outstayed its welcome as far as I'm concerned. I'm currently getting three hours sleep a night, what with having to wake up to cough for an hour, dozing off for an hour, then waking up to do it all again.

Plus, of course, I'm a pain in the neck as far as my colleagues are concerned and I coughed through breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] gloria1 on Sunday, which must have been unpleasant for her. But I did want to hear all her news and have a yummy breakfast.

Point the third

I have collected my new glasses, which are very nice.

My eyes, though, haven't got used to being able to see properly and are giving me grief about it. They were used to having to compensate for a pair of specs which were long out of date, and suddenly facing them with ones which aren't has come as a shock to them. They will get used to it, though.
lexin: (Default)
Monday, December 17th, 2012 12:46 pm
You know the theory that there are scads of families out there where there are three generations who have not worked? And they're all living on benefits? And the people in them are so used to not working that they no longer want to work?

I turns out that when researchers went out in Glasgow and Middlesborough (both areas with substantial worklessness) looking for examples of such families, they did not exist.
lexin: (Default)
Monday, October 22nd, 2012 05:01 pm
On Saturday I went on the TUC’s march for a Future that Works (stupid name, not at all catchy) and I’ve uploaded a few photographs.

None of them are very good because I did the short march for the crocked, which started from St James Street, and it took a long time for people to start forming up, and by the time they’d started and formed up I’d lost interest in taking photos.

Turnout was about 150,000 or so. Not as many as on the march in March, which was disappointing. But then I don’t think the big unions pushed it as much as they could have done. Our union really rammed it down our throats, which probably explains why there were so many of us compared with our size and so few of some of the bigger ones.

In other news

I’m carefully taking blood sugar readings every day at least once a day and so far I’ve come up with the following things that are reliably not good for me to eat:

Mashed potato

This does make some kind of logical sense given what they’re made from. But why those two, when syrup filled flapjacks are (comparatively) fine. Must be the oats, I suppose.
lexin: (Default)
Friday, May 25th, 2012 04:30 pm
I'm back from sunny Brighton! I'm going to rest and watch TV for the rest of the afternoon and it will be good.
lexin: (Default)
Thursday, May 24th, 2012 09:06 pm
Nearly at the end - am having a good time. Saw a discussion on tax justice, which I will turn into a proper post when I get home. If I remember.
lexin: (Default)
Thursday, May 10th, 2012 12:03 pm
Picketing went well, I collected money for our harship fund - I don't know how much yet because I always count with a witness - but there were a couple of £20 notes put in my collecting tin.

It's always hard to know how many people crossed the picket line in my building because we have members of two other unions workting there, but I don't think it was all that many. We gave out a lot of leaflets, too.

Then I went and had breakfast and now I'm home. I wanted to go to the rally, but I'm in too much pain.
lexin: (Default)
Thursday, August 4th, 2011 04:15 pm
I've also asked around the managers of my office about this, but this came up in my union work recently and I thought I'd find out what everyone thinks.

Poll #7675 Reasonable ad-hoc tasks
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 57

You employ a person whose normal job is to do post opening, stamping, preparation of papers, scanning - adminstrative tasks, in other words. Would you regard it as reasonable for them to be asked to do "sweeping out the filthy basement" as an ad-hoc task?

3 (5.3%)

9 (15.8%)

In the context of an office move or "tidy friday" when everyone's mucking in, but not otherwise
44 (77.2%)

Something else I will tell you about in comments
1 (1.8%)

lexin: (Default)
Friday, July 1st, 2011 01:02 pm
People in the UK will have noticed (one hopes) that there was a strike on yesterday.

What people don't tell you about being an activist when you step forward to share the burden is how much it's going to bloody hurt! Every bone aches and I thought when I got up this morning that I wasn't going to make it to work. As it is I'm limping around like a limping thing that limps – and I didn't make it all the way round the march.

It was thus

I got up yesterday morning at what felt like the crack of dawn, and made it to the picket line at just after 7am. Our enthusiastic young member, Comrade L, preceded me and he had the leaflets to hand out so that was good. I had the collecting tin for the Hardship Fund, which I proceeded to deploy: I shout "Hardship Fund!" at scabs and members of other unions alike, for all the world like that bloke in Monty Python shouting 'Albatross!'

At 10am we decided we'd had enough – which was good as the security guard at our building came out to try to limit our numbers. As there was only six of us, we were rather peeved, but not as much as we'd have been if he'd tried that trick at an earlier point in rather than just when we were heading off for breakfast.

After breakfast we made a move towards the march assembly point at Lincoln's Inn Fields. As soon as we arrived we all spied other friends in the movement and split up. I touched base with an old friend, the secretary of the first branch executive I was on, who's left the Ministry of Magic for a full time job in a teacher's union. So that was enjoyable. I was noodling around wincing at the noise when a bloke came up to me, asked me if I was in PCS and said they were looking for people to be interviewed on Radio 5 Live. I agreed (what was I thinking of?) and went along with him.

I don't know if anyone caught it, probably not, but I thought I acquitted myself quite well on radio. I made the point, as did one of the teachers who was interviewed that our pension schemes were looked at with a view to affordability within the last six years and are scheduled to reduce in cost as a percentage of GDP over the next fifty years. This is also the point which tripped up a minister in an interview on Radio 4, so that was interesting as none of the people interviewed on R5Live had heard the earlier interview at that point. We'd been too busy picketing.

I also made the point that despite what the government may be saying, this strike was the best supported that I have ever been on. We had significantly fewer people crossing our picket line than we've had before, even from other unions who were not balloted for action.


It took a long time for the march to move off, and it was hot and I was starting to feel rather ill. I don't do well standing in any case. So when the march reached Aldwych, I'm afraid I bottled out – I thought I was going to faint, which would have been humiliating so I slipped out and went to sit down. By the time I felt well enough to move, the march had long gone so I went home, feeling a bit guilty.

Interestingly, people seeing my "Coalition of Resistance" tee shirt stopped to talk to me about the march and the strike, asked why we were doing it and actually listened to the points that I made. This included two staff from London Underground. So I didn't feel it was a complete waste, even though I missed what sounded from Twitter like an excellent rally.

I learned, though, that I can either picket (which I'd done for nearly three hours) or march, but not both. Both means too much time on my feet and I really can't cope with it.

Counting the money this morning we raised £143.44 for the hardship fund. So not bad.
lexin: (Default)
Thursday, April 7th, 2011 03:26 pm
I've just posted a comment on someone's journal that I thought deserves to be a post in itself.

You would not believe (or, actually, you possibly would) the number of people who seem to think that pay rises and improvements in conditions are handed out by the employer out of the goodness of their little hearts and don't have to be fought for and constantly protected. Likewise improvements in the way that minorities are treated in the workplace.

In other news

ONGAR: Thieves steal beehives. Just the headline made me smile.
lexin: (Default)
Sunday, March 27th, 2011 03:00 pm
Well, [livejournal.com profile] gloria1 and I went to the March for the Alternative yesterday. More about the march... )

What I learned: there are nearly as many squirrels in London as there are anarchists.
lexin: (eye)
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 08:39 pm
I am up to my eyes in preparations for the March for the Alternative on Saturday. I spent all day doing union-type-things around personal cases, then signed off for the day. And then spent an hour putting leaflets on my colleagues' desks.

Weirdly, the very senior managers were very polite about taking a leaflet and asked me about it - what was it, when was it, what were our aims, etc, but some of my more junior colleagues were quite sniffy. On the other hand, I could hear discussions breaking out about it as I moved between desks, so leafleting did serve a purpose even if no extra people come along. A surprisingly large number of people said they were coming, so I was heartened by that - estimates of the numbers expected on Saturday range from 250,000 to 1m. Obviously, the more the better.

I'm going to start from the disabled persons starting point on St James's Street; I looked at the map of the route and realised quite quickly that I'm just not up to doing the whole march. It's huge! What were they thinking of?
lexin: (eye)
Monday, March 14th, 2011 10:56 am
The 'have a nice day' fixed grin required of many hospitality and other service staff could be seriously bad for their health.

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal has discovered that fake smiles can actually depress mood and hurt health. The researchers examined a group of bus drivers who often have to display a positive, courteous demeanour as part of their job description.

Lead author Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University, said the findings suggest customer service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. 'Employers may think that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organisation, but that's not necessarily the case,' he said. 'Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that's bad for the organisation.'

The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences, Scott said. The results were stronger for the women bus drivers. 'Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work,' Scott said.

The fake smile is an employment pre-requisite for many in the service sector, particularly retail and hospitality staff. The practice is more widespread than you might think. Many call centres require a fixed smile when dealing with callers, despite the penned-in workforce being visible only to their supervisors.

  • Brent A Scott, Christopher M Barnes. A multilevel field investigation of emotional labor, affect, work withdrawal, and gender, Academy of Management Journal, volume 54, number 1, February 2011

(I always had a suspicion that the fixed grin of shop workers was bad for them as well as annoying for me.)

lexin: (Default)
Friday, May 21st, 2010 03:39 pm
I'm back from my trade union's annual conference...and about to settle down in front of the TV and watch something which requires 0.01% of my attention span.

This is because after 4.5 days of sitting on hard and uncomfortable chairs listening to speeches that start "President, Conference, Comrades..." I really can't do with anything which might be hard work.
lexin: (Default)
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 06:37 pm
I picketed, I demonstrated, I went home, I went to sleep.


I'm still in pain from all that standing about.