Why the Bullshit Virgin Trains?

I’m a mature student so do a fair bit of casual work to top up my student loan because I don’t have rich middle class parents to support me through universitiy. I’m making the most of the casual work just in case red Ed gets in (RIP Britain) and bans zero hours contracts. I work for some shit employers such as G4S but equally work for a big transport company that provides transport services to other big transport companies. I respect this company but have to admit I lost a tad of this respect at a recent refresher training exercise. My trainer spoke of her disgust for the compensation and something for nothing cultures. As I’m big on personal responsibility, the trainer was my kind of woman! The training was dull. Usual health and safety stuff to ensure everyone covers their arses (because of the aforementioned compensation and Something for nothing cultures). I very much enjoy working for this company so I’m not going to name them as unfortunately their social media policy out trumps my freedom to express a valid argument online. 

It got to 3pm, the end of the long days training was in sight when the trainer announced we would do something a little difference. One of the clients of my company is Virgin Trains and old Richard Branson requested an element of my companies training incorporated an element of Virgin’s. This seems very fair as my company provide services on behalf of Virgin Trains. Also I have a lot of respect for Richard Branson (apart from when he wants to hug a junkie) so I was really disappointed to see he had sold out to the HR bullshit buzz word consultant industry.

The trainer put up pictures of Simon Cowell and Supernanny Jo Frost and asked what our first thoughts were when we saw these people. I suggested “fakes” and “shallow” but apparently I was wrong and so she ignored my answers and said the correct answer was these people were “deciders”. 

Next up was Steve Jobs, One of the Attenborough’s and Victoria Beckham. I mean come on. Victoria Beckham is not in the same league as Apple man Jobs. She might put her name to things others design but she is as shallow as the kids but if the swimming pool. I was wrong again and apparently they are “innovative”, “go-getters” or something or other.

Finally it was Princess Diana, David Beckham and some other twat I can’t remember. I gave in by this point. I don’t think she was interested in what I really thought of these guys, just what the bullshit merchant consultants had decided these guys represented. I think they were “kind” and “caring” but like I said I had shut down by this point otherwise I might have got the sack had I spoke my mind! We then had to stand by the group we thought was closest to our own personalities. I feel old but unlike Diana and Steve Jobs I’m not dead yet. And I haven’t been murdered by the Queen either. I’m honest and direct but unlike Cowell and Supernanny I’m not stage managed. If I’m like David or Victoria Beckham kill me now! The trainer would just not accept I wouldn’t be put in a box and neither should we try to put our customers in a box!

The moral to the bullshit was different staff and customers have different personalities and we need to change the way we approach different customers! Doh! I would have never have thought to treat a little old man with loads of luggage and unsure of his travel plans differently to a middle aged woman who knew exactly what her plans were but just needed to know which platform the train went from. Do the consultant cunts sit in an ivory tower thinking front line customer service staff are just idiots?

How does this make me deliver better service? It is just the brainchild of some talentless twat of a consultant trying to defend his huge salary by coming up with some utter bullshit to inflict on innocent front line staff who have  already the common sense to know how to deliver customer service which is more then the bullshit merchants creating this shit do!
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Zero hours contracts: my experience and other unscrupulous working practices 

I’m not completely against zero hours contracts. As a mature student I am employed by a few employers (they can all go screw if they think I’m signing exclusivity agreements!) and it suits me to pick and choose when I work to top up my student loan. I can see how they would not benefit someone on benefits although in my opinion this is the fault of the local authorities and Job Centres for not having not an ounce of flexibility in benefits applications to change from week to week. The minute you have a minute change in circumstances your housing benefit application or other benefits are cancelled and you start again and have to wait weeks for the cash in the meantime your landlord kicks you out because you haven’t paid your rent. There really is no incentive to go to work unless it’s secure, long-term and well paid. Here is a radical idea. Why don’t we make zero hours contracts work? Instead of Red Ed trying to dictate how business does business by banning them why don’t we modernise (and computerise) the welfare system (making huge public spending savings at the same time cutting out these public sector jobsworths) and allow people on benefits to take zero hours work. At the end of the month the benefit claimant logs on to their benefit account (much like the much widely used and trusted online banking systems) types in how much they earned, the system does a quick calculation and adjusts the benefit in an instance. It uses the same formulas the jobsworths take four weeks to work out! Simples!

There is in my opinion a much bigger employment issue practised by big companies who obviously see they will be crucified for having zero hours contracts so go for another sneaky underhand employment practice. This is when they create lots of 8 hour part-time jobs. This benefits the company as a large employee base creates flexibility ( one full timer off sick is worse then a couple of part timers off ill) and lots of part-timers reduces the tax bill. Part-time jobs are not a problem. On the contrary they offer flexibility to employees with other commitments, or they should. Instead however big “reputable” companies create 8 hour part time jobs but expect complete flexibility out of their employees. 8 hours is nothing so is good for parents to fit around school hours or students around study but you tell the employer you’re a parent, carer or student and you’re immediately out of the running for the job because they want someone with nothing else in their lives ready for when the employer wants them to do 8 hours in the week! This is a far bigger and widespread problem then zero-hours! Obviously business needs some flexibility in its employees but you can’t offer minuscule contracts and advertise them demanding maximum flexibility from employees. Employees are people,with more to life then work!

As I mentioned my zero hours work suits me but one of my employees,G4S are still cunts! It’s good that I don’t  particularly need the work or inclusion on my CV and hence references so I can speak freely about this joke of a company who apparently in the limited training they provide boast of being an amazing company to their clients and staff. Just don’t mention the London Olympics security fiasco! They have a computer system where I can see all the available work and select suitable shifts. No problems so far. They then hound you by text and e-mail sometimes over ten messages a day when they are struggling to fill shifts. It’s not just “can you work, we are short staffed and would appreciate your help” messages either. They expect you to text back either way and offer a good explanation why you can’t work making a mockery of the whole official computer system to select work. No mate, you have given me a zero hours contracts because you can’t be arsed to employee proper staff and don’t respect your employees enough to offer holiday and sick pay but don’t then think when you can’t satisfy your clients I’m going to be at your beck and call! I’m not sure they appreciated my reply to why I couldn’t steward at the foot all match ” because I’m watching it on Sky at home”.

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And it all starts again! A blog about Morrisons recruitment and @Manpower

After a 3 month stint as a Christmas Temp for a well known retailer I’m back on the employment scrap heap. Although the second instalment of my student loan is due in days I have pretty much already spent it on an educational holiday to Finland and a not so educational holiday to the South of France so I’m looking for a part time job to give me a few extra pennies whilst at Uni as a mature student!

My first job 16 years ago was in retail as a butchers shop Saturday boy (26 years ago if you include my job as a paperboy at a newsagent), followed by a stint at a supermarket, a supervisor at a stationers, assistant manger at a food retailer before being a department manager at a well know supermarket that I won’t name but it rhymes with Dorrisons. In all my time as a retailer I never called a customer a cunt to their face, remained polite, put up with crappy hours and pay but worked bloody hard with a common sense approach that is somewhat lacking in the World today!

You would have thought with my experience and flexibility to work the crappiest late shifts and weekends I would be an ideal candidate to return to “Dorrisons” as a minion in their new City Centre Metro store. I went online, gave my e-mail address and name and before being asked anything else I was lurched into a maths test. Nothing too difficult, if man buys 3 tins of beans for 50p each on 3 for 2 offer, how much change would he get for £5? I passed the test and I suppose basic maths is good for retail work although tills do work out change in a fraction of a second. Then I was given a personality test to do. I have no personality! Which of these is most like you? The life and soul of the party or a loner? This really was one of the questions. I would actually put myself somewhere between the two. What would “Dorrisons” want from an employee? Surely not a loner? But would they really want someone who is the life and soul, turning up drunk, flirting with the fit girl on the deli counter and being obnoxious with customers! There were 250 questions like this. Nothing remotely customer service related. I failed. Without knowing anything about me other then that I’m a cat loving, life and soul of the party type who likes to see a project through to the end. They have no idea I have worked for them successfully in the past and that I have a strong track record in retail. They have no idea I have a good handshake and talk common sense. How can you reject someone on bullshit questions?

It turns out “Dorrisons” a Yorkshire family run business until recently have hired in bullshit merchant outfit Manpower. In the olden days a personnel manager interviewed peopled face to face, talked about past experience, your skills and qualifications. I mean for God sake, we’re not talking brain surgeons or ambassador to the UN general secretary, I’m applying to operate a till at a small city-centre supermarket. Why are a bunch of overpaid cunts like Manpower who are a job creation service, creating jobs for consultants and other bullshit merchants. Coming up with bullshit personality tests that only they know the answer to, sticking two fingers up at decent ordinary people who can’t get an interview for jobs they could do blindfolded!

I’m not bitter thought!

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The inequalities of new housing developments

I was in Eastbourne the other day and noticed a huge housing and leisure development near the harbour. As these create jobs and housing one would say these are good for a towns economy. Especially a relatively deprived seaside town. However when looking a bit closer they don’t really offer much benefit to the locals. The leisure complex has probably created a fair few jobs with waterside bars and restaurants. This is good for the local economy. Nobody would argue otherwise. I can’t help but think though that it has created 100’s of minimum wage jobs. Although around 500 new homes have been built, with their penthouse sea and marina views at prices of upwards of £1/2 million for a one bedroom box on the ground floor where you can see the sea stood on a stool,they are not going to provide homes for the people getting minimum wage at the Harvester restaurant on the complex. They will be home to wealthy business folk as evidenced by the jags and mercs in the underground parking lots who commute up to London in the week but fancy a sea view and being close to their yacht on a weekend. They will contribute in local taxes to Eastbourne’s economy so it’s not all bad and they will let the locals serve them in Harvester but it would be good if the locals working in Harvester could afford a home in their town with a sea view!

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Can you be a flexible part time worker?

As a mature student heading back to study I’m looking for some meaningless part time work to top up my student loan. You will recall from my previous blogs the first barrier is actually getting an interview. I’m fed up of doing online assessments for computer to say no. The second barrier is finding part time work to fit around a uni timetable ( even bearing in mind it’s true what everyone says that you are barely ever in lectures). I imagine the only people who want part time work are people like me in that we want part time work to fit around something else wether that be studies, raising children,caring for someone or to fit in around other family members work/life habits. There is an abundance of part time jobs out there. I’m sure employers in some industries prefer 4 x ten hour part timers to 1 x 40 hour full timer for some sneaky reduction in the tax they pay or some other benefit to them. You can let businesses have their devious ways if it means creating lots of job opportunities. The problem is they only want to offer you 8 hours work a week but they want you to be completely flexible about when you can work. Take for example the pub chain Wetherspoons. They offer 8 hours a week kitchen staff but in exchange you have to be available between 0600 and 0000 Monday to Sunday. How does that help a student/parent/ carer? These are no better then zero hours contracts. Asda (apparently one of the UK’s best employers) have a compulsory weekend working policy in all their contracts so a parent who wanted to work 10am- 2pm for 5 days a week would have to have a day off mid week and do Saturday or Sunday instead. Surely though there is an abundance of students to work weekends so there is no operational reason why Asda’s parent workers couldn’t just work weekdays with students plugging the weekend gaps. I can understand how a small employer might struggle but the amount of staff an Asda store employs should make it a doddle. Just on the subject of draconian employment issues, did you know Primark staff have to call their bosses Mr or Mrs…

You would think that local authority employers would be better but take Metro, West Yorkshire’s passenger transport authority which is made up of the local councils are looking for a customer service advisor for one full day a week but when I enquired which day it was they told me it could be any and they would discuss it at the interview. Do I waste my time and Metro’s time applying for a job that I might not be available to do?

I’m no communist leaning socialist workers party member. I think the militant unions (like the RMT) are destroying industries where as weaker ones like USDAW representing shop workers are not worth you’re £3 a week subs the little power they have. I’m on the side of the business. I just think they could be a bit fairer with their part time colleagues. Most employees (except train drivers) will show a bit of flexibility in extreme circumstances but in normal mode surely businesses can plan their resources to be a bit more specific which 8 hours they need you.

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John Lewis Partner? Don’t make me laugh!

At the ripe old age of 32 I’m taking a career break and off to university as a mature student to do something I wished I had done when I was 18. I’m not too worried about finances. I can get a student loan ( if student finance ever pay the funds into my bank – but that’s a different rant!). I have been looking for some part time work. I have worked in retail before and with Christmas approaching their are an abundance of part time retail positions available. The trouble is I just can’t get an interview. I have an abundance of experience. I can just about manage a smile at customers and won shelf stacker of the year 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004……. You get the idea. I’m sure if I could somehow get in front of a personnel manager. Sorry HR executive then I could impress them with my wit, boyish good looks and seriously, talk to them about my experience and what I could offer them. The trouble is I can’t get to the interview with a real person because I can’t get beyond the online assessment stage!

I’m not bitter but it seems grossly unfair. I’m happy to do maths, English or reasoning tests to prove I’m competent in these areas but the tests they have you doing are random questions that seem designed to catch you out. Why would John Lewis want to catch people out? The questions give you two statements of which one you have to select as being the most like you with the other you have to select as being least like you. If the choices were smack customers around the face or deliver good customer service it would be easy to select the answers they desire but when the two statements are very similar such as two ways of issuing refunds (something surely you would only know the right way for Waitrose after your training!) what is the right answer?

The blurb on their website suggests you are not a colleague or member of staff at Waitrose. You are a partner (better then Subway where you are a sandwich artist) and you have an active say in how the partnership is run. As a perspective partner I propose a fairer recruitment process where people get an interview on skills, experience and ability rather then ticking the right boxes in a rigged assessments devised by overpaid HR consultants where nobody knows the correct answers except the said consultants who secure their own huge consultancy fees by being the only people to understand the assessments!

And why do organisations make pledges on diversity but still ask you for your religion and race. Surely if this does not matter then why even ask for it?

It really was easier to climb the ladder as a professional planner in the transport industry (my proper trade) then it is to get a part time job at Waitrose!

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