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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Two working days to go

With 2 working days to until my final departure from this toxic job, word is beginning to get around the home. I have not of course told most of them about my grievance, as I am not sure who I can trust. This is perhaps the most damning thing about this current Management, they fact that they have created an environment that fosters division rather than caring and compassion, which should be the focus. This is something that I plan to read as part of my opening statement.

This is not of course the first time that I have had to issue a grievance - when I first did this five years ago, I was also the subject of a disciplinary from them, and this I suppose is what makes it difference this time around. That and the fact that I also have Union representation to back me up. It feels different, it feels this time around as I am much more in control. Yet in many ways this has been much more difficult to deal with, because I have been there the whole time having to deal with it, rather than being placed on garden leave, which strictly speaking I should have been. The company's harassment and bullying policy (for this is what it has been) states that in a case such as this, it is normally the perpetrator who is sent home, but in certain circumstances where there is a need to separate the perpetrator from the "victim" (How I dislike that word) , it is the "victim" who is sent home. That is why after I sent my grievance I became convinced that this would happen, as I knew they would not be without their Managers. My immediate Line Manager was however on annual leave this past week, and since she was the main perpetrator, I guess this is why this did not happen.

It has worked in my favour though to an extent, as it has given me the opportunity to speak a little more freely to those members of staff who are prepared to help. One has been with the company for 32 years and other for 6 - she has grievances of her own to deal with and so knows only too well what they are like. They will give me their written statements tomorrow. Coran is also preparing one, as she has seen the results perhaps more than anyone, and has had issues with at least one of the Managers herself, who accused us of walking around the home together in work time, when Coran was actually visiting a resident. Coran is very good at reading people's energy, as am I to a lesser extent, and she knew straight away that something was not right about this Manager, that she was carrying a lot of anger. Aren't we all - the difference is though in how and whether we deal with it.

This grievance is not then about wanting heads to roll, or even for things to change, although that would be nice. None of that matters, as I will not be there to see the results. No, this is about me, and about having a chance to say what I need to say, and to clear my own unresolved issues, of which there are many. Much clearing was done after that last grievance, but there is always more to do. It is though like I said to one of my colleagues, all I want is a job where I will be treated with respect and paid what I am worth. The signs are encouraging that I have found this in my very soon to be new place of work.

This past week though really has been a nightmare, and if I were not already going, I would have seriously considered walking out. Three others have resigned since I handed in my notice, which kind of sums of whole place up. I get the feeling that before these new rotas come in, many more will follow.

The state of the laundry during my last weekend in was truly appalling - red bags strewn everywhere with piles of washed linen that was waiting to be dried  just screwed up and thrown in heaps, seemingly wherever there was a space for it. Once again, two of the washing machines and one tumble dryer were out of order, and rather than having them fixed straight away (my former boss for all his faults always did this, making sure the service contracts were up to date), we had to wait for over a week. In a place such as this, where laundry and infection control are so vitally important this is utterly ridiculous.

It has not been the only issue with infection control this week - I have lost count of the number of pads placed in incorrect bins - they are supposed to placed in the yellow bins for clinical waste, but half the time end up in just normal bins in residents rooms, and sometimes in the bathrooms. While I concede that it may be residents placing them in bedroom bins, the residents do not bathe themselves, so this is clearly the carers. It has been mentioned numerous times to the Management, but nothing ever changes. My colleague though got so fed up with it that when she found a clean pad in one of the communal toilets, she wrote on it "I am a pad, put me in the yellow bin" before pinning it up on the noticeboard!

I have also discovered that one former resident has scabies and one current resident whose room I clean every day, has shingles and dementia. I had not been told about any of these - it was left to the resident herself and her family to inform me. It is not the first time this has happened. One of the things I am complaining about is the fact that they did not inform me of this with another resident with whom I had a disagreement. It seems that nothing has been learnt.

I suspect this is a common problem in many homes, not giving housekeepers the same level of information as the carers, but it is not acceptable. The message that this contains is that the housekeeping staff are less important when this is clearly not the case. They are every bit as important as carers, arguably more so, for it is they who are responsible for infection control, for keeping the place clean and safe for everyone to live and work in.

I will get my chance though to say all of this on Friday 28th, my last day of employment, which is the date for my hearing. The time has been set for 1pm. This may though chance, as the Union Officer who is accompanying me has another appointment that day at 4pm, and asked whether it may be possible to hold my hearing a little earlier. The District Manager did not come back to me on Friday with an answer, so I shall send him an email in a minute, just in case he did not receive my voicemail. He is a busy man, so is more likely to respond to this.

I am sure I will see him at the home before then anyway. as he will have further investigations to carry out with the Manager who has been on holiday. They will have the shock of their lives when they realise that I have been carrying out investigations of my own, and have written statements from staff to back me up - not to mention a hefty diary.

I do not expect to have a decision straight away, for these things often do take time, but after that meeting, I hope I will finally be able to let this go and begin to move on. Coran and I (especially Coran I suspect) will breathe a huge sigh of relief.   

Thursday, 13 February 2014

And so it begins ....

My grievance letter was sent by Recorded Delivery on Monday, and has I am told, now arrived, so I am now in the calm of the storm, waiting for things take their course. In writing the grievance, which involves all three members of the Management team, I ask for seven incidents to be taken into account, at least half of which were witnessed by others. Sadly these witnesses are not willing to back me up, refusing in their own words not to get involved, but something tells me they may very soon change their minds. n the meantime, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

I have at least one member of the care team who is willing to help, and may even have a relative from one our own residents. She has her own issues with the Management team and the care that her relative has received, and has said that if I am able perhaps to help her, then she may be able to help me. We shall see what transpires. In the meantime, I have made copies of the latest residents survey for the home, as this is as much about my own issues as it is painting a picture of a failing home and by implication Management. If I am able to do this successfully then it can only strengthen my case.

I knew that it would take at least two days for the Regional Manager to receive my letter, as it was sent to him via the Registered Office in London. Yesterday then my stomach was in knots all day wondering whether he had seen it and what he thought. When I hadn't seen the Managers for several hours I began to wonder whether they were in a meeting discussing it all and trying to worm their way out. It would be just like them to do this. Of course this was all conjecture and as usual, my imagination running riot, for as it turned out, he did not receive my letter until today.

One of the residents though said an interesting thing. I was hovering just outside the Dining room when she began talking to me, as she often does. The carer who has stated her willingness to help was also there, having recently finished administering the lunchtime medication.  This resident became a little emotional as she said that she felt the home had changed in the last few months. Somehow she said, it did not feel the same. I sat next to her and asked her what she meant, and whether anyone had done something to upset her. She said that while no one had, the staff did not seem as nice as they once were. I have heard it said that those with dementia are sensitive to atmospheres (this is a cross that I too have to bear), so this is not surprising. There have been very significant changes in not only this home, but across the whole company in the last few months, which have been well documented on this blog. I thought that this was important enough to document in her care plan, which we housekeepers can write in, so I did this as one never knows how significant this may later turn out to be.

It turns out that I was right to do this, as when I looked at the Diary today I found a note from a member of the night staff stating that this same lady had seemed confused about her interactions with the care staff. She had mentioned care staff being rude to her and declining to help her. She had also been very confused about who it was that had actually helped her. While it is true that this may a sign of her dementia worsening, it could also be a sign of something else. This team member had then also made a note of this in her own care plan entry.      

What a day though today has been. The Laundry Assistant was not in today, and as we have been experiencing problems with the machines (again), I was asked once again to do both housekeeping and laundry.  I was in the Laundry folding some linen just after my tea break when my Line Manager came in and asked me whether I could spare a minute to go and see her. 

When I went into the room the Head Housekeeper was also there as note taker, so I immediately knew that something was up.  There had been a complaint about a room earlier in the day, so I asked them whether it was about that, to which she replied that it about a letter that they had received from me - I didn't need to ask which one. My Line Manager went on to ask whether there was anything she could help me with, to which I replied that I could not speak to her as procedures needed to be followed. She then stated that she doubted this was the case, as the Home Manager (bear in mind that this grievance is about both of them) had asked her to come and see me and she must surely know what the procedures are. Knocking the wind from her sails I then offered to ring the Union and check before stating that I would not speak to anyone without the presence of my Union rep. I then calmly got up and left the room.   

As soon as I returned to the Laundry I rang the aforementioned Union Rep and she informed me that as I suspected, by doing this they were acting outside the law. When you are in a hole you really should stop digging ...                 

One of the issues I am complaining about is an incident during the summer when I was accused of entering the staff room one minute early in order to go home. You could have knocked me down with a feather when during our own housekeepers meeting just before home time today, this same Line Manager told me to go and get changed a full five minutes early. I reminded her that I had five minutes still left, but she insisted in front of I hasten to add the rest of the housekeeping team that it would  take me this long to get changed anyway. Being very much aware that this could be a trap, I did not do as she said but went downstairs first with my keys before going back to the Laundry. Only then did I enter that staffroom and by the time I signed out it was several minutes past my home time.
All of this has really taken its toll on my stress levels this week, with all sorts of strange feelings in my digestive system and interrupted sleep. That is in addition to a blinding headache that I had for much of the last two days, which until I spoke to the Union this morning, refused to budge. Coran who like me is very sensitive and finely attuned has been coming out in sympathy with similar symptoms herself. I know though that I am doing the right thing. 
Ultimately this is not about wanting compensation, or even wanting head to roll, the only thing I want from this is change - a change to values that are more than just words, but which are acted on, and most importantly of all, to a Management style, and this starts at the top where compassion is the overriding value that is expressed. Before that can happen the managers have to start having compassion for themselves. That though is a whole other ballgame.
I felt so tired this morning and as the day wore on developed a pounding headache. Having an extra unit to clean (the Head Housekeeper had the day off to help arrange a residents funeral – apparently she has known the family for years) did not help. I could feel this ball of tension in my neck muscles that felt as if they were held in a vice. My tummy was also in knots knowing that the District Manager had probably received my letter today. I kept wondering whether any of the Managers knew about it and what their reaction might be. I half expected a Team Leader to come upstairs at any moment and inform me that I had to leave, but this did not happen. I still had the headache when I got home, and despite taking ibuprofen tablets and having a hot bath, it refused to budge. I hope I sleep a bit better tonight, as sleep has been in short supply of late.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

A Message to my soon to be ex boss

(eric woolfson - lead vocal)

Gimme one good reason why I should listen to you
I need one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Gimme some air or I can't breathe
I can't see so I can't believe
Show me just a little more
Oh oh gimme one

Gimme one good reason why I should listen to you
I need one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Under your thumb ain't no place to hide
I can't choose and I can't decide
Gotta be a better way
Oh oh gimme one

I keep making the same mistake
No win no lose no give and no take
I'm just playing a simple game
And I don't wanna ask you again and again

For one good reason why I should listen to you
Just one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Under your spell ain't no place to be
Don't mess around with a fool like me
Help me just a little more
Oh oh gimme one, gimme one

Well I keep making the same mistake
No win no lose no give and no take
And I'm just playing a simple game
And I don't wanna ask you again and again

For one good reason why I should listen to you
Just one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Pull on the string you hold in your hand
Making me jump like a one man band
Gotta be a better way
Oh oh gimme one
           One Good Reason lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

An exciting summer

Since my last post things have settled down a bit more at work - thanks mainly to the fact that I am leaving. Yes, it is now official. My notice has been accepted (in writing), and my last day of work will be Tuesday 25th February. My last day of employment will be Friday 28th, but as I am owed three days holiday I thought I might as well take it as part of my notice. I could have just taken the money, but to be honest, even though I have just had a week off, I decided I would rather have time off again. No one wants to go straight from one job to the next one.

The Managers then are tearing out their hair, as they realise that there will very soon be just two Housekeepers left - and even that is doubtful as from what I gather the two that remain (brother and sister who share a house) have requested a Council house swap to move out of Surrey altogether. If that happens - and if it does it will relatively fast - maybe within six weeks, then they may find themselves in the position of having no Housekeepers at all. After the way they have treated us, this is nothing less in my opinion that what they deserve.

The carers are beginning to fight back as well. The proposed date for the start of the new shift times and rotas has been changed from the last week of March to the second week of April, due to problems with the consultation process. It seems though that more problems are brewing, as just 3 out of 50 of the staff who work in my particular home have signed to say that they agree to the changes! I think that this is absolutely brilliant. There was a letter from the Home Manager on the Reception desk the other morning asking staff to see her to make an appointment with HR to discuss any issues that they had, but to the best of my knowledge only a handful of staff have even bothered to do that. This shows the utter contempt with which the Management team at this home, and indeed the company in general, for what I have heard their other homes are no better, are held. Those chickens are well and truly coming home to roost.

Not surprisingly now that my time is coming to an end, I am feeling considerably happier and more upbeat about my future. I have to of course continue to do my job while I am still here, but the other Housekeepers with whom I work are not happy at all about the fact that I am going, for they know that this means more work and more stress for them. My Line Manager in typical two faced towing the company line stance wrote to me accepting my letter of resignation and wished me well in my new job. Ten days prior to that she was screaming at me in front of other staff members and saying that she would be glad to leave there and never see me again! She is walking around now all smiley and happy as if nothing had happened. I have not though forgotten her words and how I felt, and neither have I forgotten the other string of incidents that have taken place during my 13 months here, the first of which was just three days after I started.

This being my weekend off I plan to sit down and write that letter to the Regional Manager detailing all of it in excruciating detail and letting him know in no uncertain terms that things at that home need to change. If they do not, then I would not be a bit surprised to learn that 12-18 months from now it has been forced to close and the residents all moved to other homes. No one wants to see that, but it really is that bad. Every day I hear about more complaints from families and the results of the recent residents satisfaction survey were not good reading either.

I am not sure at this stage then whether it needs to be an official grievance (they have certainly done enough to warrant this), or more of a whistle blowing letter. I am in two minds to be honest, as on the one hand I need closure and on the other, I do not want the grief and the stress that may come from making this official. I suspect though whether this may be the only way to make myself truly heard, as I have tried talking to them in the past but to no avail. The trouble is they make everything seem to reasonable and you find yourself almost agreeing with them, but then afterwards you stop and think "what was all that about". I know though that no matter what I do and how I do deal with this, they will try and twist my words and try to make it look like my fault. This is what the Managers there do - abdicate responsibility and blame others for their misdemeanours - anyone it seems except themselves. This is what creates such a toxic environment in the first place.

In the midst of all of this I have been making plans for a visit to Iceland in the summer. I am going on 12th June for 17 nights. The flight and my accommodation are now booked, so I have just a few domestic flights and some bus tickets to arrange. I am starting off of course in Reykjavik before flying up to Isafjordur in the northwest and then going to the deserted village of Hesteyri for 2 nights. I am really excited about this, as Hesteyri is located in one of the few remaining wilderness areas of Europe, where even in the short summer season, very few people visit.

After two nights I sail back to Isafjordur and then back to Reykjavik again, and then I fly (or bus) to Akureyi in the north before going to Myvatn in the northeast for five nights and then back to Reykjavik again for the end of the trip. There is plenty to see and explore around the Myvatn area - bird life, mud pools and waterfalls galore, not to mention of course the Askja caldera which I hope to visit too. It is then going to be an exciting summer.