Friday, May 20, 2016

Bigging up Harold Wilson

An interesting late afternoon in Huddersfield's St George's Square with the Labour for EU bus tour.
A group of young 'Thick of It' wannabes handed out placards, stickers and balloons before a warm up speech by the town's long-standing Labour MP Barry Shearman climbed onto the plinth of Harold Wilson's statue. Having invoked the late Prime Minister's name as a blessing for the Remain campaign, Shearman handed over to Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, who made a rather strange speech. Referencing Godfrey Blood's infamous 'slut' speech before going on to say how she'd found 4 steak knives when she did clean behind her fridge, she then handed over to Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson. His speech tied Wilson's legacy of the 1975 Euro referendum, equality legislation and employment rights, before going on to contrast this with Tory EU disunity, the perfidity of Johnson's EU volte face and the dangers an EU-free, unrestrained right-wing Tory party would undoubtedly pose to employment rights and the manufacturing industries.
The speakers were accompanied by Linda, an MEP with unspecified surname and Paula Sherrif, MP for Dewsbury. Conspicuous by her absence was the clearly still unforgiven Jo Cox, MP for Spen Valley and recent Corbyn critic of 'Knifing' infamy.
Stage-managed to a tee, the event did at least provoke applause in the right places for a northern Labour audience, but a low turnout (why a Friday afternoon and only 24 hours' notice) might not exactly have the Brexiters quaking in their boots - even if Watson did take a couple of swipes at UKIP.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Royal Mail - a guide for teenagers: is there an FAQ for that?

For me, one of the most depressing phrases I have to deal with is: "we are currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes...". And when it trickled into my ear barely 15 minutes after the advertised start of business at the mobile phone insurance company's call centre - on a Monday morning - I saw more than a hint of red. On visiting the website - where all claims can be managed (apparently) and taking a glance through the FAQ, only to find that my AQ hadn't made it into the Frequent category, I then found the only way to interact with a human - aside from making an open-ended time commitment to Vivaldi - was to write a letter. The problem was (and still is) my son's phone. It was returned to us last on Thursday of last week after having a new screen fitted owing to a distressing pocket fall, pavement impact scenario - made no less distressing by the fact that it took place out the front door, as he tried to retrieve his key from the same pocket as his phone. By Friday, the repaired/replacement phone (can't tell which) had ceased to play sounds via the earphone jack (thereby rendering the device utterly useless to anyone under the age of 30). On Saturday evening, the screen froze - meaning that all control was thereby eliminated and the phone then went on to emit a series of alarm signals. As the battery was by this time at 75% capacity, my son decided the only way to deal with the issue was to lock the phone away in the garage, where it could emit whatever the bloody hell it liked until its sodding battery ran down. Now, while I appreciate that a FAQ specific to this precise train of events could be somewhat difficult to put into words, I do think the company was being overly optimistic by not providing generic instructions as to what a policyholder should do in the event that they need to return a repaired/replaced handset if the repair/replacement itself doesn't come up to snuff. My letter pointing out a) the problem and b) the shortfall in FAQ information was duly typed, printed out, signed and enveloped before being handed to my son, who was on his way out to College. He looked quizzically at the stamped addressed envelope and asked what he should do with it (he's a bright guy, but it was Monday morning and he is sitting an exam today, so might be forgiven for not being up to speed with older forms of written communication). I answered by pointing out that red pillar boxes can be found on most streets and that there is an added sense of excitement in that they come in both free-standing or wall mounted forms. The week, I fear, has not started well...

Friday, May 13, 2016

'Hiring for free' - oxymoron or HR inspired nightmare?

Judging by the BBC report, Sainsbury's in Camden look to have got the kicking they so richly deserved by advertising for a local artist to decorate the store's staff canteen for free. But when did expecting things to be done for nothing become an accepted part of the employer-employee relationship or commercial life in general? Is this something that has crept in from the egregious practice of unpaid work experience/internships? Or has the employer-employee relationship now become so slewed in favour of the former that the latter is expected to receive no consideration in return for expending their skill and labour? Either way, the practice is contrary to the rules governing formation of a contract - where there is a presumption in favour of creating legal relations where a person (be they employee or contractor) is taken to have entered into a binding contract if the circumstances are those where payment is usual. In this case, an artist would expect payment for carrying out a commission (or a painter and decorator would expect to be paid if they painted the walls or hung some wallpaper). I suppose you could try to see if the opposite applied: see how Sainsbury's would react if several hundred Camden folk entered the store, loaded their trolleys and then left without paying?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Leeds - the Northern Powerhouse?

After the rejection of its planned (and long needed) supertram system, Leeds went all out on a trolleybus replacement. However, this has just been rejected by Tory Transport Secretary, Patrick McLouglin. As city councillors and rapid transit supporters go back to the drawing board, the 'northern powerhouse' seems to have relegated Leeds to the status of cramped garden shed. Another fine mess, and more years of choking in traffic. I can remember when Leeds styled itself 'Motorway city of the seventies' - it's now 'Gridlocked city going nowhere'.

High horse or high heels - HR disaster for Portico

This all seems so obvious. It's sexist to demand that female temporary workers/colleagues/staff (delete as appropriate) wear shoes with a heel of between 2-4 inches when male temporary workers/colleagues/staff don't. It's also - arguably - discriminatory on disability grounds, so why did the outsourcer Portico stick to its guns - even to the point of sending Nicola Thorp home without pay when she refused? Presumably we're now going to see hordes of HR types hastily checking employment handbooks and policies - shame it took a temp to teach them what should, after all, have been the bleeding obvious. Oh, and if the temporary worker/colleagues/staff member showing you to your important business meeting or corporate function appears a bit tottery or unsteady on their pins, you might just want to ask HR/temp agency (delete as appropriate) a few questions.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Brenda, in her own words

Royal protocol apparently dictates that the Queen's conversations should not be revealed, so if Brenda said nasty things about the Chinese at her garden party that were picked up by the only camera crew there (on the Palace's instructions, presumably) then either she or one of her flunkies must have authorised the leak. Similarly, Cameron's unintentionally ironic corruption comment must also have been known to her Maj - it was recorded in Buckingham Palace after all. Aside therefore, from Nicholas Witchell and a few other professional toadying sycophants, neither 'indiscretions' (if that's what they were) merit anywhere near the media coverage they're getting. This has all the feel of a late Summer silly season, rather than serious political cock-up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Up to London to (not) see the Queen

Journey back from London saw me fall prey to guilty pleasure of listening in to the conversation of four people seated at the opposite table. Dressed in their finery, the two couples had been invitees to a Buck House garden party. Of the four, however, it soon transpired that only on had managed a glimpse of the Queen. All in all, it sounded quite a rigmarole to go through to stand around in the rain to munch on cucumber sarnies.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Time wasty McTime faces

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is going to review the process by which the public voted overwhelmingly to name the new Arctic and Antarctic exploration vessel Boaty McBoatface, even though the aptly named Nerc (the Natural Environment Research Council to use its Sunday name) - shades of Fletcher's great Porridge putdown - has decided to depart from democratic precedent. Do they really want to waste time and money trying to justify what is, after all, merely the great British sense of humour having a communal laugh at their expense?