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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A difficult choice to make

Since I got back from Iceland just over 2 weeks ago (it seems like forever) I have been trying to figure out what to do about my job - or to be more precise, whether it is time to move on. There has been a feeling of discontent brewing in the background for a while now, which when I think about it, began in May when the Care Home Manager rostered me to do some extra work without bothering to ask. It was a genuine mistake, and we have spoken about it since, but it still left me feeling very much taken for granted, and only served to highlight the cracks which have begun to appear of late.

This one seemingly small but nevertheless significant incident was for me merely a symptom of a much deeper unease. In the past few months there have a series of little things that have conspired to niggle away, which when put together seem a lot bigger - the fact that we haven't had a pay rise for one, when we all work so hard. This would not be so bad were it not for the fact that the Director who owns the home continually picks holes in the hard work that the four housekeepers do, finding fault and complaining about stupid things like a few specks of dust or some sellotape marks on the wall, things which most ordinary and sensible people would not worry about. He seems to think that this will affect his three star rating, but as my colleague pointed out to me last night, this rating stems purely from the quality of the staff that he employs. The discontent is such at the moment, especially among us housekeepers, that at least three of the four are looking for other jobs. I can safely say that he would have great difficulty finding anyone who is willing to work anywhere near as hard as we do, and put up with the flack that we get from him, for the money that is on offer.

It is not all about money of course, although it does play a part. There are other things as well. The fact that I am always told that they cannot justify paying me to work between 2 and 5pm when I dom split shifts of 8am to 2pm and 5 to 7pm, yet find the money to take on a Deputy Manager whom I will never see. The fact that trays of dirty plates are still being dumped on chairs with the assumption that the housekeeprs will deal with it when it has been mentioned time and time again at staff meetings that this looks bad for visitors. The fact that the housekeepers seem to be continually marginalised in so many things and rarely if ever consulted on matters that affect them - the decision to serve lunch later than usual at certain times, but expecting us to still finish at the same time. The thing that has annoyed me most of all however is the fact that we have been asked to undertake a distance learning course on health and safety which is a mandatory requirement for the job, in our own time, with no remumeration offered. Like I said, it seems like a series of little things of seemingly small signfificance, but them together and it becomes quite a big thing.

Despite my protestations of money not being everything, the fact is I am not being paid nearly enough for the work that I do. When I did my tax return for last year, after taking business losses into account, and despite the fact that I have 2 part time jobs, I earned a grand total of £7700. This is just not enough. It covers the basics but leaves nothing over for a rainy day, and leaves me without the ability to save for my retirement, something which at the age of 45, is increasingly on my mind. In the end it may be this more than anything that forces me to leave, even though in my heart of hearts, I do not wish to do this at all.

The reason I say this is because I have bonded so well with the residents and their families - their faces light up when I walk into the room, and I am able to talk to them in a way that somehow none of the other staff members can. Just the other night I was sitting in the lounge chatting on one of the men, who is in 80's and really quite frail. I asked him how he was and he looked into my eyes when he answered and took my hand. I have never seen him do that with any of the other staff. Then there was the experience with Lulu, who died just before Christmas, and allowed me to share in my dream state, the moment of her passing. This was an experience I shall never forget.

The job to me is so much more than a job - I am not there to clean and to wash up, but to spend time with the residents making their lives better, that to me is what it is really all about - making a difference in my own unique way. I am afraid that if I move to another job I will lose that connection, and so I have this dilemma - do I settle for second rate pay and conditions in return for a job that does make this difference, or I sell my soul for more money? What a difficult choice to make.

I guess a compromise for me would me to continue working here at the weekends and ditch the evening job, replacing this with another part time job two maybe three days a week. That seems a sensible compromise which could work quite well, but jobs like these are hard to find and what type of job would I want to do? It seems so overwhelming at the moment that I am doing the only thing I can do - placing it in the hands of the Universe to see what transpires.

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