Wednesday 18 February 2015

there were no complaints from workers

Maybe it is just the scruffy pepper-and-salt hair but my mother's postman, Mick Leak [L], looks a bit like the slightly more famous Mick Palin [R].  It doesn't stop there!  They have the same first name . . . they both travel for a living . . . they are both famous for being decent and kind. Mick Leak was in the National news in England a fortnight ago because he has been allowed to continue doing the same job that he's been in for 24 years - until he retires in two years time. In January, he had been told that he was going to have to shift his round to accommodate the wishes of a fellow postman who had seniority on him. The background of this is that the Royal Mail management, like other postal services across the Western World, is slipping deeper into the red every year because we none of us send letters anymore. Management wants more efficiency out of their delivery service which means maybe turning 10 post-rounds into 9 or some such economy, because if nobody is sending letters anymore there are fewer dwellings to visit every morning and Pat the Post could cover more ground in the same time. This shakes things up but Royal Mail management doesn't decide who gets which of the reconstituted rounds; no, this is in the gift of the Communication Workers Union CMU. Which effectively means the local shop-steward and his cronies. The trade union is managing the human resources!

Our trade union at The Institute has signed up to a number of austerity measures as part of a series of agreements with the government, the management and the Teachers Union of Ireland. As public sector pay workers, all members of the TUI are dependent on how much the besieged Irish tax-payer is prepared to cough up each month in order that their children can get an education at second- and third-level.
Q. How much is that? A. Not very much, given how much more than the minimum wage teachers get.
ANNyway, the negotiators for the TUI shamefully agreed to a clause that allowed the pay of assistant lecturers who started after 1st Jan 2011 to be 90% of their peers who started before 31st December 2010.  Thus the senior TUI people at the Haddington Road table sacrificed the youngest, least articulate, most vulnerable and most recent members of their own union to ring-fence the pay-and-conditions of the Old Soldiers who got their knees under the table years ago. The nursing unions signed up to a similar pact with the devil. We the TUI could have spread the the necessary cuts over all members, so that everyone lost a little. But they chose to make their constituency less equable.  That's rather a long way from the starry eyed, socialist, financially equilibrating, ideals of unions when they were founded as bands of brother-workers in the 19thC.

Now get this: since a long time ago, teachers on the Lecturer grade do 2 contact hours of work less a week than beginners on the Assistant Lecturer grade. Why is that?  In my socialist paradise you'd remember just how hard it was to get going in a new job with new courses to prep, the t'ilets to locate, new faces to meet and new conventions to learn . . . and cut beginners some slack with fewer hours.  Believe me, it's far easier to teach the same course the second time around. Thus the TUI condones the fact that older people, whose valuable experience would benefit the students most (!?), work less for more money. Is that fair? Is that efficient?

Over in England, the CWU shop-stewards hand out the new Royal Mail delivery routes according to seniority!  The oldest people on the rota get first dibs on which round they fancy doing. The desirable rounds include Chetnole and its delightful surroundings: ye village greene, ye antient churchyard, ye antient old ladies living in detached houses who give you folding money or a voucher at Christmas. Mick Leak, pal of my mother and all the world, was being closed out of his bailiwick by another chap who had 3 months seniority on him.

Mick diffidently mentioned that he was being shifted and that it took a bit of getting used to: after the 24 years, and all. The response of his customers was less diffident and more ballistic, as in: The End of Ye Antient Worlde as Wee Know Itt! Petitions were signed; tea was made; scones were baked, cakes and books were sold in the village hall; posters were hung; irony was employed  . . . and the CWU and its restrictive practices were seen off; the would-be new postman affected to be frightened (by the prospect of being hand-bagged by some elderly and scrupulously well-brought up pensioners) and Mick Leak was reinstated. Identical story last June in the next County. An anonymous apparatchik from CWU blustered 'It's disgraceful that customers have been allowed to intimidate a postal worker out of his new delivery round,' he said. 'The changes applied in Royal Mail's Sherborne office were voted through by the staff and there were no complaints from workers about the agreed changes'. "No Complaints" doesn't mean that everybody is happy; some of the workers may have been felt intimidated.

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