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Friday, 14 September 2007

The Long, Bad Monday

A pleasant September morning, en route to Leeds, and I am busy contemplating castration. Not mine, I should emphasize, but castration as it relates to the debate on the relative merits of East vs West Civilization. Mr Hobson is very enthusiastic about castration, especially the Chinese type, and points out that a Chinese eunuch, Cheng Ho, was not only made an Admiral, but led fleets of Chinese treasure ships round the World in epic voyages of discovery that made Vasco De Gama's seafaring look like a trip to the local mall. More evidence of the supremacy of Eastern Civilization, Mr Hobson declares. I'm outraged, because I happen to know that here in the West, we also castrated huge numbers of young boys, mostly so that Vatican Mass not only looked great but sounded awesome as well. Not only this, but the USA is STILL castrating people, thus conclusively proving that as far as castration goes, we in the West are at least as civilized as the East.

At Selby, the train stops for longer than usual, and the delay gets confirmed by an announcement that the train will now discontinue and coaches will replace it. It appears that the cable between Selby and Leeds (all thirty two miles of it) has been stolen, and the train cannot proceed. We are all to alight, mindful of the gap, and await coaches. A gaggle of about 100 passengers, obviously day -trippers, holiday makers and other occasional users, catch up with the Transpennine staff just as they are about to enter a room on the station platform labelled "Staff Only". I can hear Pete, the conductor, saying "No", "Nothing we can do", "I do'nt know" and "Passenger's Charter" in between trying to get his breath back. . It was a close race.

The remaining 60 or so, hardened veteran commuters all, pass the Transpennine's supplicants, and rapidly head for a place in the queue on the road outside the station. We are, mostly, undismayed, even though, to us, it is obvious that someone has blundered. 59 cellphones flash in the sunlight as employers are called, and for some, I can hear the explanation of traindelays is beginning to sound like an excuse. "No, no no, really, I'm standing at Selby station waiting for a coach - I took photos, I'll show you when I get in" I hear this phrase, and variations thereof, from phones to the left, right and behind me.

I am conspicuous in having no cellphone, the only person in the UK not to possess one of the infernal devices. A fellow train warrior, next in the queue, offers his telephone so I can call Icksy, and on completion a conversation ensues. David has travelled to Leeds daily for the past month. I know this because he usually sits opposite me. However, on a "normal" daily journey, we follow the rules of commuting assiduously, and completely ignore each other for an hour, starting at 7.33am. In cases of interrupted journey's the unwritten rules allow conversations, so, after establishing to our mutual satisfaction that the other is not gay, or unemployed, and agreeing that at least "Its not raining" we chat happily.

We also speculate on whether, as TransPennine allege, the "cable" has been stolen, or whether this is merely a story. "Cable theft" seems such a frequent delay-causing occurrence that Cable Barons must rival Drug-Lords and People Smugglers for pole position in the League Table of Bad People that our statistically obsessed Government undoubtedly publishes (semi-annually). Personally, I am undecided on how I view the cable theft. The Eurocentrist part of me can see how its a good example of how enterprising and innovative us Europeans can be. The resource was there, we exploited it in a new, innovative way. Mr Hobson would undoubtedly see a different perspective. When I eventually arrive in work, Icksy does'nt care. He just tells me that I've got to work an extra two hours to make up for the time TransPennine have lost me.


JoeyMac said...

The extra weekend you put in a while back already forgotten, eh? Bad project planning, excess cheap labour, insufficient skilled labour or shaky labour laws (or any combination) means forced overtime in any business these days. Despite the hours, I still consider myself lucky at the moment since the bosses are genuinely grateful for the extra pull. occasional tahnk-you's and a few hours or a day off in lieu when needed are all it takes. There's never any question at Oculus, and rarely even a need to calculate banked hours. They realize that granting them without question is the only way to keep the truth that the company would go bankrupt if we all demanded the total hours owed. Compared to many I've seen, I will gladly accept simple courtesy and gratitude.
So are you going to start collecting a list of everyone's hours owed and send it (anonymously) to the labour standards board? (or did Blair/Thatcher tag team get rid of that too?)

MJN said...

Actually since I started work as an employee, I have worked 5 out of 7 weekends.
As far as Labour Standards goes, my contract is entirely legal.

I should say that I love what I actually DO at work, and the people I work with ARE very cool. I just find the terms and conditions a BIG step backward, even from when I worked in the same industry less than 10 years ago.

It's not just me though. The Thatcher revolution in the UK has been completed by Blair and here, MUCH more than in Canada, the Unions are completely broken and powerless. My impression (and I only have two countries to compare) is that the UK has become much more like America in it's labour practises than anywhere else.

I was reading a book at the weekend, The Economist's Annual World Statistical Guide covering many things such as population demagraphics, economy etc etc. Uk has (like the US) significantly reduced its industrial base over the last 10 years - very similar to US, and VERY dissimilar to Canada. Worker's right have always been related to the "muscle" we have, and for both the US and the UK, worker influence has waned as each economy has moved towards a service economy. This probably explains why Canadian workers enjoy much better conditions (and believe me, they really do, even in construction), because Canada still has a significant industrial base, and therefore the workers have more leverage.

I'm going to post on this very issue soon - shock horror, a serious post!!!