State of the Union

Some council workers got sacked because they spent too much time on the internet (eBay in particular). Apparently this isn’t really their fault, with Union officials blaming bosses for “putting temptation in their way” – by allowing access to the internet.

Now, I’ve never had access to, or worked within an organisation that has, a Union but I thought they were supposed to help protect the workers? If so, how does this help?

And, without wanting to come across all curmudgeony, what is it with people these days? Can’t they just fess up and admit they were in the wrong?

There seems to be a feeling that if you make a mistake you no longer have to say sorry, you can just feign embarassment, mumble something about understanding that you made a mistake and then point the finger at someone else.

To those council workers who got sacked. I’m sorry you don’t have a job anymore, but IT IS YOUR OWN FAULT.

I say this whilst sitting in work, typing up a blog post but then again I don’t work in a prescriptive environment, I don’t have “tea breaks” or “lunch hours” I just have a contract and it’s down to me to be professional and thorough and get my work done. I can stop and start when I like. I’ve always worked in this kind of environment, and find anything else utterly bewildering.

There is a further thread to this, about the fall in moral values, work ethic and so on, part of which is aimed at the education system (kiboshed as it is by the people who, ultimately, run it) and an understanding the Unions are there to protect those who can’t protect themselves. But I’m going to leave it alone as, from this ivory tower in which I’m installed, EVERYTHING looks worse than it probably is…

16 comments

  1. Unions say it’s employers’ fault for allowing access? Didn’t Unions say a couple of weeks ago that it was unfair (I dare say someone mentioned Human Rights) not to allow access?

  2. We are all assuming that the employer had a stated internet usage policy. If they did and the employees broke that policy, then it’s a fair cop and they should be burned at the nearest stake.

    In general, though, this needs to be filed in the "people are idiots" file. Two examples from my wife’s company in recent times – first, a company meeting. The MD stands up and says "As you know, we can monitor which websites you access using the company systems. I notice that Facebook is being accessed more than 3000 times per week (in an office with less than 100 people). I’m not saying anything more on that subject today." (Apparently there were a few red faces around the room. Given that probably only one employee in ten is on Facebook, you do the maths.)
    Second example: sales person has been warned about shockingly poor productivity (which is measured in terms of how many sales calls he makes per week) – as low as ten calls per week (i.e. just two per working day). Given a new target of 100 calls per week, he presents a call log (written by himself) that shows that he is now making 50 calls per week. This is considered to be progress, but Hels decides to check the switchboard records (all calls in and out are logged). Oh dear, it seems that of his 50 calls, 25 per cent are to his mate in Australia. Coals are warmed and he is hauled.

    These people are, supposedly, not idiots. They know that the company systems log internet usage and phone calls. So, why do they do it? It’s like the vandals who sign their graffiti.

  3. part of which is aimed at the education system (kiboshed as it is by the people who, ultimately, run it)

    That’ll be Brown et al then? Hear here.

    What I don’t understand is why companies *let* employees have access to known ‘personal usage’ sites in working hours. It’s bound to be abused!

    Where Mr BW works, such sites are banned (but can easily and quickly be unbanned temporarily or permanently on a case-by-case basis for a good business reason, if necessary). People are allowed such usage before and after work hours, and during lunchtimes. It’s not rocket science, and it’s a large company. Anyone caught blogging, ebaying, facebooking would be warned, and then sacked for a second offence, as per the company internet usage policy (as graybo mentions). People looking at pron are sacked instantly, again as per the policy (and 3 have been).

    I’m sure the internet now wastes more working time than sickies due to hangovers.

  4. To be honest I really don’t see anything wrong with accessing the internet at work if you still get your work done.

    I worked in a place where they apparently sacked an evening receptionist for being on the internet too much. Yet the poor woman hadn’t enough work to do. She was stuck in a quiet office, in the quiet evenings answering the occasional phone call, doing a small amount of filing and greeting visitors. Other than that she was bored shitless. Surely she wouldn’t have been sacked if she had read a book to while away the quiet hours.

  5. I’m probably in a similar situation to Mr Blue Witch. My work has a clear policy on internet use. Sites like eBay are blocked throughout the day and available only between 12 – 2 and after 4pm. Similarly, online shops (Amazon, Tesco etc) are restricted, as are banks, cinemas, football clubs and media sites. (I have no idea about Facebook and MySpace etc as I don’t use them, but I assume they’re blocked too.)

    I can access media orientated sites at any time because of my job, after completing a special request form – which I blatantly abuse by listening to Radio One through my PC – but my colleagues are unable to spend their days reading the news online.

    I think this is fair enough. I’m professional enough to manage my own workload, even if I use the internet, but not everyone is as disciplined. That said, I do think these people have been made an example of, and that sacking them was perhaps a little harsh. And I can’t quite work out why their union didn’t protect them…

  6. Hmmmm.

    I agree that an internet usage policy is a must (don’t have one currently), but, and again it might be a profession thing or, hell, it might just be me, but I’m increasingly finding that there is no work/life here just life.

    Admittedly I enjoy my job, but I tend to mix and match what I do and (crucially) where I do it. That may mean that I blog (or respond to blog comments) on working hours, but that also means that I will work during my personal hours. I do keep a track of such things and can prove that I am doing more than my contract hours every week and, the bottom line I think, my work is getting done (disclaimer: I set my work outlines myself, but I am an aggressive perfectionist so tend to give myself too much rather than too little).

    I guess it depends on the mindset of the organisation and their ability to hire ‘good’ people.

    Mind you, MisssyM, “not having enough work” is just an excuse, I’d suggest she needed to be pro-active in finding things that needed done… but again I’m projecting my mindset, and professional qualities, onto others.

  7. And Gordon, I think that sums it up. Unfortunately, not everyone shares your high standards and professionalism.

    In fact, I’d say that fewer and fewer people do these days… from looking/listening in on the employed world as a consumer and self-employed person, I know I could never be happy half-doing a job, seeing how little they can get away with, or sitting whiling away time like many seem to.

    There is just not the same work ethic in this country as there was 10 years ago (and maybe that’s partly because of the way employers treat people eg your recent post about your wife).

  8. As someone who’s never even seen inside an office, far less “worked” in one, this whole thing leaves me a wee bit baffled. Why do council workers “need” the internet in the first place? Most strange, especially as the internet consists solely and entirely of wrong facts, chatrooms, and an encyclopaedia you can write yourself.

    Perhaps officeworld should take a look at itself. I mean, is this what my council tax is wasted on?

  9. I know if I had been the employee fired for accessing e-bay during work ours, I would have taken it on the chin and tried not to mess up next time. Grasping at straws springs to mind in this instance.

  10. A sidenote, WordPress, on which this blog runs, sometimes moderates comments. I don´t check these every single day so please don´t feel bad. I ALWAYS approve legitimate comments, whether I agree with them or not.

    (as you can see, Cat & Peter, your comments are now resplendent on the page!)

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