Saturday, 5 May 2007

Things that make me go hmmnn

I was going to ask about extra work at the West Bromwich warehouse. I'm not even earning £200 a week.

Just as well as I didn't.

I'm earning £5.94 per hour. The permanent employees are earning minimum wage. I'm earning about 60p an hour more than they are. To ask for more when they are feeling the financial squeeze would be a bit cheeky.

Thursday afternoon the site manager stood up on the portable stairs and, using it like a pulpit, had a little talk with everyone "not to worry anyone" but to "get them all on board".

There have been errors when they outsourced the IT functions to Malaysia (Malaysia? India wasn't far enough away??) and yes, things are moving very slowly. They are monitoring the IT systems for any changes and reporting to London on a regular basis.

However, there are pressures to reduce headcount but nothing has been finalised yet.

Then we were allowed to go early.

There was a chat to people "in the know" at Black Lake. There are approximately 150 people at the warehouse. There is a plan (not finalised yet) to get rid of about 70 people. There are 60 temps so that could potentially see a loss of 10 permanent employees.

It could take weeks for anything to be finalised and, as they are swamped with work at the minute, they won't be getting rid of too many people too quickly. That would be silly.

I suspect that once the IT functions pick up, they will be moving a lot of people on. I'm part of the monitoring process. For the past week I've been keeping a time log. I've got a form to fill in so that when I perform a specific function on the database, I have to log the time it takes. Once an hour. The 'freezes' between screens are embarrassingly long. I've got time to flip through a few pages of a magazine when I flip between screens.

Part of my current employers' job is to monitor the efficiency of the Royal Mail. They do this by seeding real Royal Mail mailing lists with the names of volunteer panellists who have agreed to be sent stuff in the post.

Mail shots, magazine subscriptions and correspondence from utility companies, banks and Government agencies are all sent out in monitored batches and then, after they've been delivered to the panellists, they are sent to the West Bromwich warehouse along with details about when they arrived and in what condition.

After all the envelopes have been opened and the mail sorted into categories, each item has to be logged onto the database and batched. That's where I come in. That's my job. To take box after box of magazines and log the labels that have been attached to the mail items by the recepients.

And what magazines?!

There are the normal magazines that everyone has heard of - Private Eye, Good Homes, Gardeners' World, The Economist, Autosport and so on.

The Times supplements - Nursery World, THES, TLS, TES and more.

Then there are the lesser read more "specialist" lay magazines and newspapers for enthusiasts that you still might find in a darker corner of WH Smith - The Week, Mac User, Trout and Salmon, Shooting Times (sent under plain cover like porn), Country Walking, Garden News.

The publications from smaller niche publishers such as Christian Publishing House - Woman Alive, Funeral Services Journal or Rebellion - 2000AD show up regularly. I like Fridays. Lunchtimes I get to catch up with Judge Dredd.

Then there are the niche, the specialised and the "industry specific" journals and publications - Law Society Gazette, Farmers Weekly, Scottish Farmer, Woodworking News, Design Week, Communications Review, Campaign, The Appointment (specialising in retail), Mortgage Solutions and so on and so forth.

The sorters routinely "sort out" any kind of free gift like packets of seeds, diaries, calendars and free magazines and catalogues - you know the sort of thing "FREE! In this weeks issue 50 space saving ideas for your kitchen!". Whoopee.

All these and the specialist social and health care magazines all pass before me. Nursing Older People. Nursing Standard. Nursing Management. Regeneration and Renewal. Children Now. Young People Now. Building. Social Care and Practice.

The really specialist ones have titles that don't mess you around. There's no need to keep guessing what they're about.

Bus and Coach Buyer. The second hand pages at the back of that one are surreal.

Environmental Health News. Front page of this weeks issue - man falls and nearly hurts himself on a rotten staircase at a pub.

The BMJ Publishing Group have the BMJ (of course) and Heart (just that, Heart), their Thorax magazine is rarely seen round my way but now and again we see (oh the glamour conjured by this title) Gut.