Tuesday, 21 December 2010

This I Am Enjoying

Much as it might seem odd – looking through my last posts – I like this site!


It has given me food for thought and is set in a nice clear manner, a dude like me can follow it.

I got involved in politics when I first started work way back in the 1970’s under Prime Minster Edward Heath (1970-1974).  No I did not work for Teddy!

As a low paid NHS worker without the means to improve my lot I got involved in what was then NUPE (National Union of Public Employees).  Got elected as a Shop Steward (Union Representative if you don’t like SS) for the department I worked in.

The standards required of me as an employee were high, as were the standards of ward cleanliness and hygiene.  What has happened to that?  There were no fancy labels such as “hospitality assistant”.  You were a ancillary worker – cleaning staff, kitchen staff, porter staff, laundry and linen staff etc., you get my drift.  Nursing Managers were in the making and the age of Matron, Sister, Staff Nurse along with the Consultant Director (medically trained) had been slowly eroded for the post-modern nursing “manager” species.

Then came the shake ups.  The staff remained the same but the job title changed, “hospitality assistant” – and more management and admin staff appeared; more paper work for the ‘nursing manager’ who in truth became a ‘non-nursing’ personnel.  It was pass the buck time.  Very complicated system. 

Harold Wilson (1974-1976) then James Callaghan (1979-1990) came next, both Labour dudes.  Both not in touch with reality.  Agreed public sector workers needed a wage increase and decided on incentive bonus scheme implementation, allowing for the departmental staff to vote in the one they wanted – fixed or fluctuating depending on output, rather than overall pay increase.  Save money?  They thought so because bonus payments were not paid on holiday or sick pay. 

Save money?  Nope.  The continuous admin costs and payment to work-study (time and motion) teams to measure the cost of items to be produced and the time and method carried out to produce said items were astronomical.  Cheaper to have given a small overall wage increase.

Departmental staff voted for the bonus schemes to be implemented and put into action not through knowledge and concept of what it meant but through ignorance and lethargy.  The dude with the better articulation of the system or a management ‘friend’ persuaded and coerced employees to get what was ‘applicable’.

The department I worked in was work-studied three times because our bonus was deemed too high – good for us – at 40%.  The average fluctuation bonus payment ranged from 15-30%  The fixed bonuses at 12-15%  It cost a lot to try and revamp the work study measurements that never stopped the high bonus.  And of course an admin dude had to put in the figures every week to get an out put measure, sometimes more than twice when the management balked at the result – however and whichever way it was tried we still hit 40+%.  They succumbed to the inevitable – bonus schemes in some industries do not save money (the real intention) nor do they impress upon the worker an overall incentive to work harder. 

In the department I worked it meant a continued work load with extra hospitals being targeted to ‘subscribe’ to us – with the hope that the staff would work harder for their bonus; but not get any extra money as in agreement for the top level to be capped there was an agreement that there would be a low level cap.  Hmm LOL.  All serious stuff at the time, peoples livelihoods at stake.

Imagine how I felt when I went to another town, same department doing the same thing, slightly less amount of workload, and the highest payment they received was 22+%.  They did not believe me at first but hey that’s life.  Took a pay drop to do the same thing and workload in the end :) But that is free market for you, in a very roundabout way.  Remember the NHS was still government run with set rules and applications to be abided by all NHS personnel. 

Labour had problems with the labour force, inherited from Edward Heath, the Unions had their own agenda, as all organisations should, the clash was spectacular and acrimonious.  [But that was nothing to compare with the clash of ideals that would rise up between the Conservative Government, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the TUC.]

It was in the above climate that Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) came to power.  There was bound to be a clash of ideals, how could there not be?  If only she had kept to the Libertarian guidance of Milton Friedman, if not F.A. Hayek. 

Private out-sourcing was the mantra, not necessarily a bad thing, but with reduced staff to cut costs, the only way the out-sources were cheaper, and the same staff being employed, the ignorant statement of a dude at university with me who said that all ancillary workers, in this case talking about cleaners, were lazy and that out-sourcing would fix it was definitely infantile and or on something, same staff dude!  However, regardless, inducements of exceptions of taxes and sweeteners were all lurking in the background, a no no for free-market ideology.

By the giving of incentives and sweeteners to such organisations, for then indeed there was money to be made as hand-outs were expected, not forgetting the other ‘monetary’ sweeteners to induce investment and building, Margaret Thatcher had moved away from the ideology of the relationship between capitalist markets as described by Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom, through the auspices of the Adam Smith Institute ideology, and though she has been criticised as bending towards the more austere F.A. Hayek in 'The Road to Serfdom, the test was in the servitude to market ventures and the insidious government interference in the market to ‘cobble’ the playing field to create a favourable climate for such ventures to be led and sweetened into.  The market was if you like ‘corrupted’ into paving the way for investors and capitalists rather than let the capitalist organisations flex, retract or extend within the flow of free market structures.  The rest, as they say, is history, or should it be ‘herstory’?

To be continued…

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