Sunday, October 18, 2015

Proposed Changes To WSM Board Policy - Treatment Of Staff

In the most recent WSM Worker-Owner Director election, 95 Weaver Street Market Co-operative worker-owners (out of a total of 220) voted to protect and enhance the democratic rights of employees within our co-op.

This past Friday, we WSM employees received in our WSM employee mailboxes a lengthy document from senior WSM management detailing proposed changes to WSM Employee Policy. Including a draconian proposed change to the WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff.’

Workers of The Weave. If you do nothing else, please read the very specific proposed changes to ‘Treatment of Staff.’ Those changes are the very opposite of what Caitlyn was proposing when she called for more conversation within our co-op. The very antithesis of what Charles wanted, when he campaigned to create more space for workers to be heard within The Weave.

The changes to the existing ‘Treatment of Staff’ policy would take away the policy I’ve been campaigning about these past three years. That would be the one where it states that employees should be included in decision-making which affects their workplace. In its stead, WSM senior management want a weakly-worded clause saying that the WSM General Manager only has to seek our opinion. Not the same.

In addition, that same management, in the same section on ‘Treatment of Staff,’ appear to want to remove the right of employees to appeal to the WSM Board when management is in breach of co-op policy, as I have undertaken on no less than three occasions in the past three years.

Yup. You’re reading this right. After three years of my campaigning on this issue (namely, the co-op policy that demands that WSM management include WSM employees in decision-making), the response of WSM management is now to attempt to have the WSM Board simply erase the policy, and remove the right to complain about it.

We can do something about it. But only together. We can make a difference. We just did. We elected a Worker-Owner Director who says he cares about workers having a voice in The Weave. So, let’s keep up the pressure.

First, speak to your manager. Tell them you totally oppose any changes to the WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff’ which dilute the right of employees to be included in decision-making. Any changes.

Secondly, write to the WSM Board ( and to Ruffin Slater, the WSM General Manager (, and tell them the same thing: you do not want any changes to the WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff’ which diminish the right of WSM workers to be included in decision-making.

Finally, please do me a favor. I have no contact details for Charles Trainer, the recently elected WSM Worker-Owner Director. If you work with him, please, on my behalf, remind him he was elected on a platform for creating space for workers to be heard, and that the proposed changes to WSM Board Policy ‘Treatment of Staff’ represent a curtailment on the space that already exists. Ask him to fight tooth and nail to stop the WSM Board doing this. Ask him please to contact me if he doesn’t understand (

Now, if you want to know what I have already written to Ruffin and the WSM Board, have a look below. But. They will not listen to me, if it is me alone. We all need to register our concern. And if you are one who voted for either Caitlyn or Charles, you should be concerned.

We only have until October 26 to complain. One week. Make your voice heard today. Please. While we still can!

E-mail to Ruffin, WSM Management and the WSM Board:

"Dear Ruffin, WSM Management and WSM Board,

I have for almost three years been campaigning to have implemented the section of the WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' which declares quite clearly that WSM employees should be included in operational decision-making within WSM which affects their workplace. I direct you to my most recent blog post on the subject, here.

I have not sought an extension of the policy, nor even a clarification, but merely its proper implementation. I take the view that, if we are to avoid the perception of double standards in our co-op, where all are equal, then it is incumbent on all employees, managers as well as workers, to comply with all co-op policies equally. There is no given right to managers to ignore those policies they find inconvenient.

There was a consultative exercise in 2007 which determined which decisions within WSM would be covered by the policy in question. What was required was a further consultative exercise to decide how to implement the policy. Such an exercise was interrupted by the Great Recession of 2009.

I have these past three years been pressing senior management within WSM to conduct that consultation exercise. Their response is now evident in the document which was posted in all employee mailboxes on October 16, dealing with proposed changes to WSM Employee Policy, and including draconian changes to the WSM Board Policy, 'Treatment of Staff.'

WSM senior management have decided to recommend to the WSM Board simply to do away with the policy relating to inclusion of employees within decision-making. Frankly, when you change a policy from one requiring inclusion of employees in decision-making to a weakly worded alternative inviting opinion, you have effectively done away with the original policy.

On no less than three occasions, I have filed formal complaint against the senior management of WSM for making important decisions without including employees in the decision-making process. On one occasion, I went as far as appealing to the Board. Which is completely appropriate. The rights under 'Treatment of Staff' are guaranteed by the WSM Board. There should naturally be a right of appeal to the Board.

The proposed changes to the WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' appear to include a provision that employees will no longer have the right to appeal to the WSM Board perceived breaches of this Board Policy by WSM management.

In case you are in any doubt, I strenuously object to these changes. There are other proposed changes. But these are the two which exercise me the most, along with one other. WSM senior management wish to remove from the existing WSM Board Policy on 'Treatment of Staff' the word "Co-operative." We are a co-operative. why remove reference to that fact?

In compliance with WSM Employee Policy, I will not disseminate the document setting out the proposed changes to WSM Board Policy. But I give notice that, under the WSM Employee Policy allowing for ethical dissent, and bearing in mind that the proposed changes identified above are to Board Policy, and therefore affect all owners, consumer as well as worker, I will be making known widely and publicly my opposition to these proposed Board Policy changes.

WSM management has at its disposal the bi-weekly WSM employee Market Messenger to promulgate its views. Along with the mailbox of each and every employee. I do not have equal access. Communication among workers within WSM has been so reduced that the only way I am able to communicate with my peers is by means of vehicles outside of WSM, including my blog, my Facebook account, local news outlets and local forums.

With this e-mail, I am letting the WSM Human Resources Manager know that I do indeed want a meeting with her to discuss these proposed changes. Perhaps she could liaise with my Department Manager for a suitable time?

I am also asking the WSM Owner Services Co-ordinator please to forward this e-mail to all WSM Board members, including those recently elected. I have no contact details for Charles Traitor, other than by this means. I have comment to direct to him, but it applies to all Board members:

Charles received 62 votes (out of some 220 WSM worker-owners) standing on a platform promising to create the space to allow workers to be heard within our co-op. Another candidate (out of three) stood on a platform calling for more conversation within WSM. A total of some 95 worker-owners calling for more democracy for workers within WSM.

The proposed changes to 'Treatment of Staff' considerably reduce the opportunity for workers to impact decision-making which affects them. And to engage in conversation. These proposed changes would almost halve the space afforded to employees to have their voices heard.

Let's be quite clear. This is not some armchair philosophical musing about utopian ideals. This is the sharp end of co-operative democracy, business model and operational efficiency.

A decision was taken last year to double the size of the buffet hot bar. There was no meaningful discussion with employees, let alone any kind of process to include us in the original decision-making.

As part of being a co-operative, we subscribe to the triple bottom line. The social bottom line is not about our financial contribution to the community. It is about tempering financial decisions with consideration of their social impact. In this case, the impact upon workers.

There was no such consideration. Because those employees who were to be impacted were not included in the decision-making. As a consequence, when decisions were made about staff levels following the doubling of the size of the hot bar, the only criterion considered was sales per labor hour. No discussion about the physical or emotional impact upon employees.

In my ten years with the Southern Village outlet of WSM, I have never heard of any WSM employee requesting a move due to physical or emotional hardship arising from a change in work practices. In the space of three months this past summer, three employees requested a move from the SV kitchen precisely for such reasons, and due to the doubling of the size of the hot bar.

In other words, failure to comply with the policy in question resulted not merely in a loss of democracy to workers, but in deleterious impact upon the smooth running of the kitchen. This is precisely why we have the policy. And now, instead of seeing it properly implemented, the WSM Board are being asked by the WSM General Manager simply to do away with it.

I urge the WSM Board to reject all of the changes being proposed to the existing Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff.' Whatever else those changes are supposed to be achieving, they absolutely should not be diminishing the co-operative and economic rights of WSM employees.

Yours truly,