Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Is there any constraint on the growth of mandatory courses?

A long time ago, there used to be a single induction course for new entrants here but now that the induction seems to have been passed on, rightly, to the appropriate line manager, the subjects that would formerly have been covered as part of that are now taken up by courses in their own right.

The reason for that seems fairly clear: the personnel people want to be sure that the subjects are properly covered so that the company doesn’t get sued. However, that reasoning leads to the “flight safety” problem i.e. that the courses are just being done for the sake of saying that they’re being done.

So, we have the, clearly important, fire safety course which is generally seen as a chore to do when, of course, it could be rather important one day. We have a data protection / freedom of information course which skims over the information. We have a diversity course which is one that really seems, unfortunately, to fall into the “we have to do this, so we’re doing it” camp. Then there’s fraud awareness which seems mainly to have the message “we’ll catch you on”. Finally, for now, there’s the display screen awareness course which does have some useful points but which needs to come with a little manual as most of those points will be quickly forgotten.

As all of those except for the main fire safety course are online, personnel don’t seem to worry about targeting them in any way and, as they find their feet with the technology, it would seem that we can all look forward to a diet increasingly made up of mandatory courses, many of which may well be on the mandatory list because they can be put on it.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

To strike or not to strike for public service pensions

Pension payments for all but the lowest paid in the public sector are going up (mostly doubling) and they’re going to have to work longer before they are entitled to the maximum pension. Surely it must only be right that the well paid public servants in secure jobs pay more for their gold plated pensions? Why should the rest of us pay for their pensions anyway?

The snag with public sector pensions is that the employer is the government so therefore, yes, the rest of us do have to pay for their pensions. Unless you’d rather that they get no pensions at all (in which case, I hope you don’t mind doing without schools, hospitals, etc.) then the government (ie taxpayers) must act as responsible employers and pay for those pensions. The other snag is that, unlike private sector pensions, the public sectors operate on a pay as you go system which means that the current workers pay for the pensions of the current pensioners or rather taxes do (that’s how the normal retirement pension operates too).

OK, so we should pay them a pension, but surely we shouldn’t be paying the well-paid public servants gold plated pensions? Actually, well-paid public servants are very much in the minority with a considerable number getting close to the minimum wage. Courtesy of a number of changes in recent years, that “gold-plating” is looking distinctly tarnished with three separate schemes being introduced over the last 10 years, the prior schemes being closed to new members and each new scheme being markedly poorer than the one before. The latest offering is a lurch towards an average salary rather than the current final salary scheme which will be a major, major drop in the pensions that people will be eligible for though, as usual with pensions, a magnitude of a drop that most people wouldn’t realise until it was far too late.

In some ways it could be a good thing. The net effect, for public servants who realise it, is that their lifetime earnings is being cut quite dramatically so it might encourage more to leave for the private sector. The only snag with that is that we need those public services that the people most likely to leave provide. On the whole, those most likely to leave would be the higher earners. Do you really want to have an exodus of teachers, nurses, etc.? What about the well-paid Whitehall people perhaps? Surely they can be done without? Certainly, if you’re happy to have poor advice given to the government on all kinds of matters, you could do without them.

Should you strike? Despite being what I’d say was one of the most right wing union representatives ever, I think, yes, this is a time to show that you support your union negotiators.

Should you support the strike as a taxpayer? I think yes too as it’s really going to impact on the quality of public servants and hence public services that you get over the years to come.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Asking for the moon in employment terms

I went for a job interview yesterday which was unusual in that, whilst I felt that I did meet the requirements for the job on the whole, I didn’t fulfil all their essential requirements. So, I shouldn’t have been asked for the interview.

The snag is that, as with many other employers at the moment, these guys basically wrote a wish list rather than a list of requirements that anybody they could expect to recruit would actually possess. Not quite in the same league as one notorious job advert a few years back which had as an essential requirement a minimum of 5 years experience in using a particular version of software that had only been released the year before, but certainly getting there. That wish-list approach is one reason why it’s best to apply for a job that you like the sound of but which you feel you can only do a small fraction of: employers have been known to get a zero response from some job adverts these days as a consequence of that wish-list mentality.

For example, they asked for experience of a product that was written by a company who have since gone bankrupt and which seems to be mainly used in a different continent. I’m guessing that the number of people who could cover that will be quite limited and indeed the acknowledged local expert is returning to Canada later this year.

Other things had an air of inconsistency about them. Things like an essential requirement of experience in a product that is long past its heyday whilst also having a complete knowledge of the latest of technologies.

One question was particularly interesting in that they reckoned that the team would largely be made up of people in their 20s who would be “very sharp and know all the latest software” so how would I deal with that. Actually, chances are that I’d be even more up to date than they are since, as y’all know, I’m in the midst of a university IT course. It’s been a long time since I met anyone who could talk me under the table in terms of computer technology and even then it was a telecoms guy and they don’t count.

Oh well, I guess I better keep at the job applications.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.