It’s just like the ’70s all over again

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In the early 1970s I worked in the steelworks in Sheffield, and for six weeks I and my colleagues were followed around by a man with a clipboard timing every job that we did.

Management used this information to decide what was considered to be a reasonable day’s work for the money we were being paid.

This was a target figure, which we had to attain every week and if we exceeded this, a small bonus would be paid.

This bonus was a “perk” of the job which we soon realised we could capitalise on by working at more than a normal speed, missing agreed tea breaks and cutting back on our lunch breaks.

It seemed a win-win situation, the company got more production and we earned a couple of pounds more.

However, the company soon decided that they liked the extra production, but not paying us the extra money.

They then threw the clipboard man’s figures out of the window and upped the targets to some that they made up off the top of their heads.

The workers had difficulty reaching these new targets and earned much less – the directors continued driving around in their Jaguars and Bentleys.

Isn’t this similar to the position with the binmen? At some point the council, and then Veolia, agreed what they considered to be a reasonable day’s work for the salary they were paying.

Targets were based on the number of bins emptied per day and they were quite happy for the binmen to finish work early provided they met these agreed targets.

I had often wondered why I see binmen running around the streets in all weathers, including main roads, dragging bins behind them and dodging traffic.

I do wonder how they will keep up this pace when they are expected to work until they are 70, just to get their pension.

Just like the ’70s, everyone should have been happy. Targets were being met and the workers were getting their perks by running around and by working harder to go home earlier.

Needless to say, the employers decided that they enjoyed the output of the workers, but not the perks they were getting by exceeding the agreed targets.

So, they threw out the targets and decided that the perks to the worker should be taken away altogether by expecting them to do their normal work, then take on extra work to fill in the time left after doing their normal round.

They also decided to reduce the workforce, just to add to the fiasco, but with fewer binmen they apparently need the same number of managers.

It’s just like the ’70s all over again.

Set the targets and if the workforce meet them, shift the goalposts.

The workers lose out, but the managers continue to live the good life.

My advice to the binmen is that if you lose the perk of finishing early, then stop running around like headless chickens because they will just pile more work onto to you.

Go back to working at a pace that is realistic and no longer dangerous to you or the traffic and see what happens when there is no one finishing early enough to undertake the extra work that might have been done by those bin men who have been made redundant.

SC, Sheffield