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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Reconstructive surgery

If I had any doubts as to whether I was doing the right thing in leaving my current job, then they have most definitely been swept aside by the revelations of the past few days.

On Wednesday of last week, I began to hear rumours of other staff receiving letters from the Home Manager about a series of meetings to be held this week regarding staff rotas and shift times. These letters I was told, informed practically all staff apart from the domestic and catering teams that they were invited to attend one of three meetings to be held at different times. I thought little of it at the time, assuming that since all roles other than mine were invited, whatever it was that was to be discussed did not relate to me. On Thursday though when I got home from work, I found such a letter waiting for me. I immediately rang the home back to query whether I needed to attend, and was told that the domestic team had been left off the list of roles due to an "oversight", in other words, we were deemed too unimportant to even remember.

When I looked at the letter in more detail it said that both the District Manager and a representative from Employee Relations were to be present. These are the people who act as a liaison between staff and management when important changes are in the offing, taking the place of the Unions in companies that do not have Union representation, so I knew that it would not be good news, and how right I was.  

The first of these meetings took place on Monday (yesterday) at 10am, with the second which was the one that I attended, at 2.30pm and a third later one at 6pm, primarily for those who work nights. I was happy in some ways to be attending the second one, as I knew that I could pump those who attended the first meeting, which included most of my housekeeping colleagues, for information. This is what I and the majority of other staff did, and we were shocked to the core with what we were told.    
What they are proposing are a range of wide sweeping changes that will affect as usual everyone it seems except the Managers. Us Housekeepers will predictably be among the worst affected. My Line Manager, who has been with the company for 26 years was told 10 minutes before the meeting that her role is to be "removed", in other words, she is facing redundancy. My immediate Manager, the Head Housekeeper was not even given this courtesy, as she was told during the meeting, in front of all her colleagues that her own role is to be incorporated into the role of General Housekeeper. In addition to this, laundry duties will also be incorporated into the role of Housekeeper, meaning that we will no longer have separate Laundry Assistants. They have been trying to get rid of the lady who currently does this role for a variety of different reasons, and I suspect that this is the latest in their long line of rouses to achieve these ends, as they know full well that she will unwilling to undertake a more general housekeeping role. What they don't as yet know is that she has already secured a position at the same home that I am going to work at. It was her in fact that told me about this home in the first place. 

As if all of this were not bad enough, they have also proposed to cut the hours of the Housekeepers who are currently on 40 hour contracts to 37.5, and those on 22.5 hour contracts, of which my friend the Laundry Assistant is one, to 20 hours. The duties of the Head Housekeeper will not though disappear, as someone still needs to check that standards are being maintained, show prospective new clients around the home and order the stores, so what this means in practise is that the person who is currently doing this job will still be doing it, but for less money and less hours.

In addition to all of this, they have also proposed that everyone work alternate weekends and varied shifts, covering the hours of between 8am and 6pm. At the moment we work either 8-3.30 or 4.30pm, so this will be a major change, especially for those without cars.

While I can see that the change to weekend working is very much needed, and needs to take place, the fact remains that for many, weekend working is just not viable, due to family commitments, and the logistics of non existing public transport.

The ironic thing is that if I were to stay here, these changes would probably, barring the introduction of these late shifts, be quite a positive thing, as I would no longer be working alone at the weekends, but I am leaving, and despite this change, the way in which these other changes have been proposed has made me even more determined than ever to leave. To treat people in the way they have treated my two Managers, not to mention my friend the Laundry Assistant who was unable to attend either meeting due to car trouble, in the way that they have, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. They think that she does not know about any of these proposed changes, but she had in fact been pre-warned  of at least some of them by her Union, and the remainder by myself when I telephoned her last night. When she returns to work  tomorrow, she is under strict instructions to feign ignorance.

Because though there is no Union recognition in this company, they need to set up a panel of employees to represent each of the job roles that is affected. In many ways I would be ideal for this,
given my experience in representing myself through both a grievance and disciplinary hearing with a former employer, but the fact remains that I am leaving, and these changes, which are due to be implemented at the end of March next year, will not directly affect me. The preliminary meeting for this panel will also be held on a day that I have booked off from work in order to attend a concert at Wembley Arena. Quite apart from this, it is not for me to fight other peoples battles, they have to do this for themselves. I can though offer my support and guidance, and this I have already begun to do during lengthy discussions today.

All of this though has been pressing my buttons like mad, as it represents all those uncleared and undealt with issues from my own past - issues to do with fairness, victimisation and bullying among others, but most of all issues to do with communication and respect. Helping my colleagues will then I hope enable me to clear and deal with much of this before I move on. Time is of the essence as the first of these meetings is a mere three weeks from now, and there are elections to be held, deciding who is to represent each of the relevant job roles first.

I get the feeling though that by the time all of this is over, I will not be the only one to have left, and that this company may very soon be waking up to realise that more than a few of their chickens are coming home to roost.  

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