Four stories this week in the MSM could be pulled together and used as a case study for a number of NZ’s economic and social failings in my view.
The increase in the practices of psychometric and drug testing by companies to employ and dismiss staff is the first. The increased reliance on them shows a laziness in the single biggest investment that will make companies successful, the quality of staff. That is the first problem. They shut staff out at the front door who could be the best they could hire.
The psychometric testing is humiliating pseudo religious crap that belittles both the participants and those that use them. Asking people that have shown an interest in working for you if they like Pina Colada and getting caught in the rain, will not help you find the right staff and hurts them before they start. It is part of the “employee as beneficiary” narrative, asserting that workers are lucky to have the job and should be prepared to be humiliated to get it. Such personal information about you collected at step one. Take your clothes off and dance naked and lets us judge if we like what we see. It is irrelevant information and the fact so much money is being spent on it makes fools of those that use them.
The drug testing is a low trust model and doesn’t improve workplace culture. The most dangerous industries use it – and guess what – they remain the most dangerous industries. Having safety policies that deal with impairment at work is a good idea. Drugs, fatigue, lack of training, productivity pressures, personal or work issues all create impairment, but the drug testing “one trick pony” approach hurts people. It is like the NSA spying – everyone is a suspect – and people feel humiliated by being judged in this way. Addressing the other impairment issues challenges management practices and profit and is therefore often avoided.
When will we learn how to relate to each other and value each others humanity? These polices are hurting us – socially and economically – both those that use them and those that have them used against them. Economically they distort the employment market and exclude good people from work. The demotivate and reinforce a low trust model where all work is insecure and workers must manipulate the system to be sure of economic security. They create unnecessary hierarchies that ensure everyone has a place, removing creativity and discretionary effort. Socially they break good peoples hearts and damage their spirits as they are told through these policies that they are untrustworthy – trust is something people want to have – it is a basic human dignity and condition of wellbeing.
The third story is that of Pike River. There really has been no mercy shown to these families leaving a deep legacy of hurt, disfunction and anger. The recent revelation that the meagre amount of money available for compensation ($2 Million in liability insurance) was almost exhausted from meeting the legal fees of the company and its directors etc shows that no-one either tried or was able to secure the interests of the families in these funds.
The testimonies last week at the hurt of never having received an apology, the statement by Daniel Rockhouse that sometimes he wished he had died down that mine, the call to get the bodies out and the feeling that they have wasted endless hours of discussions and consultations with no progress on this was a symbol of how badly the country has been at caring for these families. There is a sense that everyone else got their pounds worth politically from this disaster (think the PM here) but that for the families, the understanding of what might be needed to give them a sense that they have honoured their dead to the best of their ability, has not been addressed. This leaves them unable to settle. Unable to sleep. Unable to move on. Justice is something people want to have – it is a basic human dignity and a condition of wellbeing.
And the last story was a little one tucked away on Stuff about rest home workers at the Elderslea rest home in Upper Hutt. There are 120 of them. They were told last week that the management want to remove permanent rosters and roster them casually according to occupancy. For these women on very low wages, unless they can be available anytime, they will no longer get sufficient income to be able to stay in the job. Elderslea management maintains that the changes will make the rest home more efficient and workers will not lose many hours if they are flexible about when they work. Workers cried when they were told and one worker who had worked there for 10 years described how it would damage her. It is not true that a rest home of this size cannot offer decent stable jobs with regular hours. Its unilateral determination not to do so is a symbol of its power over these workers. It has reminded its staff of their value to it and its dominance of their lives including their social and economic wellbeing. It has damaged their spirits and their souls and made them weep. It has also inflicted economic damage on the communities of these workers and it is unnecessary. Maybe it will even drug or psychometric test them to see which ones will stay and go. It may as well finish the job!
I wrote this blog this morning after a worker I am doing a little work for wrote to me about an apology we have secured as part of a settlement for an outrage inflicted on him by his employer. He hasn’t blinked an eye about the other elements of the settlement but he has come back and back on the apology. Today, Sunday morning, he wrote to ask how we would know it was sincere. I know he needs it to be sincere for his future wellbeing, for a sense of justice, a sense his trustworthiness is understood and a sense the employer will not continue to unfairly influence his chances of economic and social wellbeing both in this job but in any other job he may apply for. Reading the tea leaves (well that is as good as any other test used these days), I just don’t think it will be that sort of apology.