Monday 20 February 2012

Slaves cost more than you think

I was reading Stumbling and Mumbling's A case for workfare.
Over there its believed that SOME form of compulsory work for the long term unemployed might be a good idea. Perhaps not the shelf stacking as envisaged by the government. More a sort of New Deal with community projects in mind.
The evidence apparently points to happier people when employed.

Guido Fawkes had a post In Praise of Workfare at the weekend that generated 650+ comments. His argument was that any work is better than none and in the days before mollycoddling and high benefits people had to get jobs and if they were crappy jobs they just got two or three of them to get by.

The response was a bit lunatic as expected. Ranging from the 'cut all benefits after 6 months' from the right, to the student claiming breach of human rights if she must do two weeks in Poundland on the left. There was a fair amount of attacks made on the employers. Small business claiming larger business were getting free labour that would undercut a small business even more that they do already. Tesco came in for a barrel full of abuse for seeking to exploit workers for no pay and lay off staff to take on 'these slaves.'

Only a leftie with no experience of business could think of that last one. What the articles missed was that its incredibly expensive to take on a free worker.

1. The registration of employees and unpaid workers is a nightmare with potential {and very often prosecuted} immigration law breaches costing £20,000 an employee. Any company of any size that fails to do its immigration checks properly is looking at a big bill. As Baroness Scotland found out in a beautiful piece of schadenfreude when she employed an illegal domestic cleaner.
It must be assumed that if the government is sending the person along from the DSS, and they are working for free, then immigration checks at least are unnecessary. But still an employer needs to have all the details of who it is allowing onto its private premises. The usual checks for a new history are going to look a little thin for a long term unemployed person.

2. Companies don't have a labour shortage as they did 5-10 years ago. When you read of Landrover having 20,000 applications for 1,000 jobs and A Tesco mini mart having 1,000 applications for 80 shelf stacking jobs its pretty clear that companies aren't desperate for workers.

3. No business wants to take on unskilled labour. Even for an unskilled job. Shelf stacking may look like a brain dead job but any employee would take someone who already knows how to do it over someone who doesn't. Primark would much rather take on someone who knows what 3442 x 4/3 x 3L means than someone who doesn't. {No..I'm not going to tell you. Not as easy as you thought this filling up is it? Answers in the comments. Lets see who's done retail.} Its a simple code but some employees never, ever master it because their basic maths isn't strong enough.

4. Any company can take on free workers but only the largest will do so. This is because its an administration and red tape nightmare. Ask any chain how long before a new employee actually starts doing any work, even watching someone else work, and they'll tell you its 16 hours minimum. Maybe 40 hours of admin for a very large chain. That's an entire week of just listening to lectures and filling in forms. A quick look at BQ Industries latest H+S compliance form for the local council {there are different ones for company/insurance/ H+S departments} lists:
H+S policy
Information and instruction training
Management of Health and Safety regs 1999
General workplace safety
Working at height {anything not on the floor is considered at height. A footstool is at height.}
Manual handling
First aid and first aid training and regulations {+ pages on legal medical equipment}
Conditions in the workplace
rest periods
Transport and traffic routes
Accident reporting and investigation {everyone has to know about it, even if they won't deal with it}
Maintenance of equipment and reporting of faulty equipment
Violence and aggression {many companies also have their own separate regulations to fit their own policies}
Computers and display screen - rest periods and electrical safety.
Action {unspecified other junk.}

The H+S manual in the picture costs £100 and is the most basic there is. There are another 10 differentones to work through too. - This is just H+S. It doesn't cover fire safety and equipment/evacuation/drill or equality in the workplace and sexual and religious discrimination. these are lengthy sessions as there is unlimited compensation available to those who sue and win.
Then if there is food involved there's the whole Hygiene and Health and food preparation booklets to add. + much more care about temperatures and storage. Obviously supermarkets are going to have this. They are also working with sharp objects and in areas with vehicles. With slippery or cold surfaces. Or unsupervised. All these areas need covering.

5. On top of that will be the companies own standards and expectations to drill home. More so if they are going to be putting unwilling workers into a uniform. The public won't know that the bloke who just told them 'dunno where the fish is luv- Don't care neither' was just a 30 day wonder.
Large companies have training and recruitment departments to deal with all this. Small ones don't. Any decent sized shop, say a normal Primark @ 10,000 sq/ft will be used to recruiting every single week. I doubt there are many McDonald's that don't hire at least 1 new worker each week. The last store I personally managed had 100+ staff and we recruited every week of my 104 weeks there except one.

6. No one wants to swap experienced for inexperienced. All these long term unemployed, even assuming that they want to be there and are the brightest and best available, still won't know anything. They will have to be monitored and evaluated and trained on every aspect of everything from what 'face up' means to where to put their mobile phone when working. Its a long process and the people screaming that the 'big corporations' will sack skilled for unskilled labour, every 5-6 weeks , have no idea of what that means. Its a soundbite. I've never known it.
Not in any company for even the meanest boss.
No one wants to make their life harder and taking on new people makes your life very hard. They are slow. Have no initiative. Have no idea of workload. Waste time. Can't prioritise. Its all new to them.

7. These are free workers coerced by the state to turn up for their benefits. The same people who, in some cases, threaten to put a chair through a Job Center Plus worker's head if their benefits are late.
They aren't even students looking for a temporary summer job. They have no interest in learning a job if they aren't seriously thinking about going to work. At best they can coast to a tick box finish. At worst they'll be sullen, angry, disruptive & potentially criminal.

3/10 school work-experience kids don't finish a two week placement. 2 of the remaining 7 will be dismissed from a FREE job.

Of the half who manage to get through the two weeks maybe 1 or 2 would be considered for even the most basic of Saturday job roles.
And these are kids. 14-15 years old who are used to being told what to do by teachers and parents. Used to getting up and getting a bus in the morning. Have a vague notion of time of day and have accepted a job in the first place. I expect non working adults would have far worse statistics than that. Mainly because, like these kids, they just aren't used to work for long hours.

8 . Think of the paperwork workfare is going to bring. The government forms and assessments and target monitoring and supervision that the state is going to want to be able to report what a great success the scheme has been. All the overseeing by the committees to make sure no exploitation is taking place. Someone will have to deal with all that and liaise with the DWP and report outcomes and provide concrete reasons for any failures.

After all benefit payments will be at stake. Court cases for 'unfair assessments' a possibility. So great care and mentoring and retraining and counseling
with full record keeping undertaken to ensure that fairness has been demonstrated at all times. Exactly as a company would do with its own paid employees.

BQ Industries is not currently looking for any of these free workers. We couldn't possibly afford them.


Anonymous said...

just heard from my mole at my local council that they are taking on 'apprentices' for two years,in a deal with the local college.

my mole tells me that these suckers are working for a low amount-hoping that they will have a job at the end of two years.

guess what?

i suggest we all find out what is being done in the fascist scumbag state we are saddled with....
contact your local councils..ffs

Anonymous said...

'Only a leftie with no experience of business could think of that last one. What the articles missed was that its incredibly expensive to take on a free worker.'

Well, if it's so bad why not take them on as fully-paid workers and call it A JOB? That's all anyone wants.

CityUnslicker said...

Anon - you miss the point, they are being asked to help out. Workfare gfits under corporate social responsibility, not commercial success.

As BQ points out if you had read the artcle with hundreds of applications per real job the Companies don't NEED to do this - they are trying to help but Lefties can't see itas all companies are evil in their eyes as is work.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon -{2} because they aren't jobs. This is a scheme to give people who haven't had experience of working for a long time a chance to experience it.
As I pointed out at present, if companies want to recruit they can choose from the very best candidates of the hundreds who apply. They would have no need or incentive to choose the worst.

Bill Quango MP said...

CU - snap!

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Excellent post, just one thought - that ridiculous list of procedures and training requirements is only relevant because it's a public sector client (or a public sector employer) where money and customer service don't matter.

Any real business will have all those, but will get its people into productive work much, much quicker - usually after the first day, or even on the first day if it's a small outfit; the boxes can be ticked later.

In every other respect, you are spot on.

Bill Quango MP said...

Weekend Yachtsman: The larger the company the longer and induction and training. I recall an interview for a company with a 3 hour safe and safety before we began. For an Interview!

As you say there are work arounds and tick lists but often free workers get the whole lot as there is little they can do unsupervised.

"Read this booklet on weights and sizes and watch this video of a man picking up a box. I'll be back in an hour."

I have just had another letter from the county council come through this morning :

Please confirm that these statutory topics have been considered and outline the measures taken.

Fire Safety
Gas fired equipment
Hazardous substances
nursing and pregnant mothers
work equipment including safety wear.

I've never even heard of four of those

Anonymous said...

Think the answer to #3 is 13768 (it reduces to 3442x4) - my O Level Arithmetic skills are still used in my day job even though I have Excel on my PC. I have done retail in the distant past while I was at college and there was a whole day induction to cover the items in section #4.

I've no problem with this policy. After leaving college 17 year ago, I did a year of part time voluntary work along with looking for a job; it got me off my backside and into the work ethic mentality to do a real job. It also showed my employer that I really wanted to work and not just a benefits scrounging layabout.

Anonymous said...

My employer sometimes takes people on work experience. They are often idle, feckless souls who are there because they were told to be.

BUT. One proved themselves so good that after their college course finished, we took them on.

Michael Fowke said...

What are they going to do, these firms? Employ someone they have to pay? Or employ someone they don't have to pay?

ChrisM said...

Michael, did you even read the article?

These workers are not free, they are going to cost one way or another.

In any event, the answer to your rhetorical question is that firms would rather employ and pay people who can do the job, than not pay people who cannot.

Electro-Kevin said...

BQ - I can see your point. Taking on a person who is a liability more than a help.

I always thought a better idea would be to have these people doing a few hours a week sweeping the streets and clearing grafitti.

Then I tried to get the council on board to help me set up a litter picking group "Oooh ... risk assessments ... Oooh ... hi viz vests ... Oooh ... insurance..."

And I went "Ooooh ... fuck it..." and so I just go out and pick the litter up anyway and shove it in the nearest bin.

Why is it always working people having to do the voluntary work ???

Michael Fowke said...

ChrisM, it's still cheaper to employ people you don't have to pay. And there are too many stories of these "slaves" being dumped for new workers at the end of their placement.

Nick Drew said...

with a 3 hour safe and safety before we began. For an Interview!


when I started in the oil industry you could go offshore onto a platform after watching a half-hour helicopter-drills vid

oh, & struggled into a bright orange jump-suit, of course

(& when I was 16 I went solo in an RAF glider on Day 5 of the cadet training: the better ones did it on Day 3)

never did me any harm, ahem

ChrisM said...

Personal anecdata aside, that is something to be demonstrated rather than something to be assumed.

If a person is totally incapable of doing a job, then no they are not cheaper than paying someone who can do the job.

Old BE said...

My boss tells me that taking graduates on to do the level of highly skilled work that I do (well, some of it is highly skilled) means that it takes at least a year for the new person to be useful. We have people offering themselves for work experience the whole time, but we don't have the capacity to take on free labour.

It's not quite as simple as most people would have it. Taking on someone who has been unemployed for five years is going to be a huge risk: will they manage to turn up on time five days a week, every week? Taking on a geology graduate to do low-skilled work may also be risky: will they be able to handle the injured pride?

I think the best thing the government can do is make it easier to employ people properly: cut payroll taxes, make the first year or two more "hire and fire", etc.

Bill Quango MP said...

Michael Fowke.
What are they going to do, these firms? Employ someone they have to pay? Or employ someone they don't have to pay?

They are going to take the best possible person they can get for the money on offer.

The 19th century US Southern economy was slave driven. Proper slaves. No rights. Property of their owners.

A southern farm was 100 times larger than a northern one. Maybe 1000 acres. They were farmed by slaves with a few white overseers.
A southern farm was 1/10 as productive as a northern farm that was paying a very minimal wage to its agricultural labourers.

During WW2 the occupied French Morane aircraft factory produced planes for the Nazis. It was staffed by slave Russian POWs and forced worker french technicians.

In 1940 it made about 2,000 planes for the french airforce.
In 1943, for the nazis, it made 60.

History has as many examples as you wish to examine. And I expect they are the same.
Unwilling workers are a desperate remedy. Even when they are free.

Michael Fowke said...

"Unwilling workers are a desperate remedy. Even when they are free."

Why does Tescos want them, then?

Anonymous said...

Michael Fowke,

I think the point is that Tesco doesn't really want them, the government is "encouraging them" to take them on.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon{10.34} No. Not the right answer. Its not an equation. Your story was like many on the order-order comments.
I was a feckless, disloyal youth. But I always worked. Never unemployed until I was 40. And I left school in 1982 - the big 3 million that the media are salivating in anticipation of.

Anon {11:16} Agree 100% with that.

ChrisM. We like MF here. Even give him top billing link. but i think he's being deliberately obtuse today.
I have never known an employer chucking out a trained worker for an untrained, unless the trained was a pain. I HAVE known employers getting rid of a worker before the {in the old days} 3 month 'training' period was up. That was because they decided they were not suitable.

Maybe some small firms do it. hairdresser trainees. Coffee shop washer up. As you say, if anyone has any examples I'd like to know of them.

EK: Have a look over at stumbling from the link. there's some good comments there.
I'm more in favour of those schemes too. But Its expensive to put people on social projects, as you highlight. Because its local councils who do clean the streets and repair potholes etc, the regulations are immense.

but it wouldn't hurt to try. national trust might find a use?

sconzey said...

The economics of slavery is a fascinating thing. On the Southern Plantations they had to implement a kind of assembly-line, with each slave-gang assigned a simple straightforward task, so that the overseer could tell whether or not it had been done satisfactorily.

I worked a lot when I was younger. First a supermarket, then a pub. I've scrubbed dishes, poured pints; stacked, stocked and faced-up, but I've no idea what 3442 x 4/3 x 3L means :P.

Anonymous said...


As Anon{10.34} I've had another think and I suspect that I do recall something similar that indicates how to merchandise a product (or 'shelf stacking'). If I recall the numbers are a combination of number of items across, deep and high. Looking at the example I'm not sure what the 3442 is, probably a length in mm but not sure.

Bill Quango MP said...

3442 x 4/3 x 3L was deliberately overly complicated and unlikely to be needed. I thought some may have recognised the simple 3442.

3442 is a ratio. Used in a decent clothing store for a size scale.
3 small
4 medium
4 large
2 x/large.

4/3 means 4 colours with 3 patterns of each colour. So a merchansier looking at a new range might want to display all 4 colours and all 3 patterns 'face up' over 12 spaces.
{unlikely - it would look terrible.} More likely it would be 2/3 for 6 spaces. With each space having a ratio of 3442

The 3L would be for lengths. In jeans or trousers 3l means 30/32/34 leg lengths.
468 pieces in total -go get them from stock room 'B'! And use a trolley as they'll weigh about 60 kilo!

Ahh - 2442 2/2kf - Even As I write it I can still see it in 3d.

[this is all much less used nowadays. With the advent of colour printers its as easy to email down a unit plan and print a copy of which bit someone is to attend to. - but they still need to know quantity an space. ]

Demetrius said...

Great post and very informative. My quess at the question is that it is a box of a dozen cans of Stella Artois.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon: yep. That's it. Simple ratios. Many school leavers can't do it as they have probably never needed to use it since the day they did the page on ratios..
there are another number who can't do it even after they have been shown numerous times. they never mater it. If you ever go into a shop and see handwritten pieces of paper sellotaped to a shelf with long hand instructions, that'll be why.

Timbo614 said...

3442 x 4/3 x 3L: Box Contents markings?

Even tho' we have a retail shop we don't buy things in box quantities (they are generally too expensive) but I would imagine that 3442 x 4/3 x 3L means something like 3442 is a manufacturers code/stock code there a 4 Packs of 3442 in the box and each pack contains 3 x 3L(itre) or L(arge). Therefore there are 12 in the box total?

On regulations, we are fairly lucky being a very small shop :) No food. We considered offering free Coffee to Customers (and possibly biscuits) but one look at serving food/beverages regs put me right off. Even so we have 'elf and safety and first aid posters on the workshop walls, Insurance certs on the retail walls, CCTV Camera notices. We had to buy official-looking incident record books, Employee notices and of course the inevitable No smoking signs (correct size and printing - or get a wrong-size notice-fine). Fire extinguishers (two types) and they have to checked by Chubb (£100-ish per hit).

Thing is, there is actually only 1 employed person :( everyone else is self employed / casual / as needed.

I would not touch a government sponsored "Free" employee - someone might want to see where/how they are working :( There probably is not the physical space in our tiny shop to accommodate "proper" working conditions. The Loo would have to go (the loo door open outwards onto a semi-spiral staircase, LOL) :(

Timbo614 said...

Hmm, started on that over an hour ago, interruptions, interruptions! - little late to the game :(

Tim Newman said...

when I started in the oil industry you could go offshore onto a platform after watching a half-hour helicopter-drills vid

You still can.

Anonymous said...

I work for a research/consultancy company.

but we have a lot of low skilled work (like loading bits onto machines for testing, not "much" more skilled than shelf stacking).

We get students offering to work for free all the time (I see weekly offers) so they can put something on their CV.

I think in the 5 years I have been here, we took 2 up on the offer, and that was a few years ago.

dearieme said...

Health and Safety: I used to work in a university science department where we treated visitors very seriously. They'd sign in, be given an identity badge and a quick briefing, and then be led off to see whomever they were visiting. Later they'd have to sign out and return their badges. Meanwhile armies of twenty-year-olds sloshed around the place, assumed to be students with good cause to be there.

Anonymous said...

Michael Fowke and others who moan about this just do not understand that Tesco are doing these people a favour.

I can't quite work out how it has happened, but when I was a lad (20 years ago) we were happy to do work experience for nothing, not for JSA or equivalent. Now you're somehow being ripped off.

I'm now an employer and friends and acquaintances often ask if I can give their 17/18 year old some work ex.

I can't - they'd get in the way, take an employee off to monitor them etc.

In short, they're more trouble than they're worth - as I was at their age, hence I did it for nothing (and even that was too much).

Anonymous said...

One of the criticisms of Greece is that their economy is too inefficient to compete with, for example, Germany.

The UK is already in pretty bad shape, but I can't really think of one other measure that is likely to destroy our competitiveness other than taking on employees that do not contribute to the company.

Bill Quango MP said...

Timbo - better late than ..
I forgot the CCTV regulations. That's another booklet on its own AND requires adherence to data protection and sensitive waste {another few hours in the lecture room with a powerpoint.}

sconzey: I find that US slave/free society as fascinating as the east/west cold war.For historical study it gives an exact outcome. the North outproduced the South 10:1. Wage slaves performed better than slaves. The west outproduced the east. In arms the west was just deficient. In cars I think it was 100:1

Tim Newman:I'm shocked.

Anon 4:39 - yep. Its a lot of effort to take on a freebie.

Dearieme: So that explains the Iranians sudden nuclear acceleration

Ano+Anon. Well Michael + co have won the argument anyway.

One of the things i would have added if the piece wasn't too long already was the negative coverage that is plaguing the scheme. Employers who now take on a free worker have to justify it to the media.

Another reason BQ Industries won't be looking for any placements.

{Newsnight just said Tesco have pulled out of the scheme. Sounds like they are going to offer the wage. So now its just -jobs.
Paxo is really laying it on.

Minister hits back -Does the BBC take on unpaid work experience and is that offensive?

Not really the point though if the placements are to be forced.

In my constituency village there is a local shop, entirely staffed by volunteers. A local information and police post entirely staffed by volunteers and at least three volunteer toddler groups and a bus to school.

All volunteers.

Is it just the compulsory nature of having to attend that upsets some people so? Or just because "evil big business" gains ?

Kynon said...

@Tim Newman - presumably not in the UK/Norwegian sectors though...

Furor Teutonicus said...

If your points, 1 to 8 were valid, Job agencies would all be out of bussiness. Yet we know THAT is one "industry" that is booming.

Explain the descrepency.