Friday, October 23, 2015

Treatment Of Staff: Partial Victory For WSM Employees

I do not often toot my own horn - unless it is about my book or Pop Voxx / Geoff Gilson. But you will know that I responded ... um ... aggressively to the proposed changes to the WSM Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff,' notice of which we were given only last Friday, with feedback supposed to be in this coming Monday.

People wonder why I care. Why I go out on a limb. Well. Because I don't like seeing my friends hurting. I am not a brave person. I am terrified every time I take on WSM management. I have bills, too. But, sod it. Friends come first.

So, I posted on Facebook. Tagged the world. Put up a post on OrangePolitics. Recorded a Commentary to go out on WCHL on Monday. Spent two hours yesterday with a local newspaper. Their journalist spoke at length with the WSM General Manager.

Five minutes ago before I left for work this morning. Fifteen minutes before I was due to have a private meeting with the WSM Human Resources Manager. The newspaper in question received a letter from the WSM Board, saying they are withdrawing the changes, and are going to re-consider, due to employee feedback.

You guys responded. And it worked. I hope I played some small part in triggering the employee and consumer feedback. Now. Follow through. Demand the changes to 'Treatment of Staff' are simply binned. Permanently.

Now. This is only the first step. Second step is for the WSM Board to act further. As I set out in the e-mail I sent to them today:

"I have just heard that the WSM Board sent to The Chapel Hill News a letter stating that the Board would be reconsidering the proposed changes to its policy 'Treatment of Staff.'

We have had only a very short period to consider those proposed changes. It has taken me a while fully to grasp their impact. Time, I would add, which has all been off-the-clock. Those proposing the changes are paid when they produce their paperwork. I do it on my own time.

In any event, I now formally request of the WSM Board that they leave the policy 'Treatment of Staff' intact, in its entirety.

Rather I request that they ask the WSM General Manager immediately to hold a consultative exercise with WSM employees to design a process fully and properly to implement the said policy.

I have spent much time over the years discussing with former Board members why the policy that exists does exist. 'Treatment of Staff' was not a whim. It was a carefully-considered response to the special worker-consumer hybrid that is WSM.

It is no good saying the proposed changes are merely bringing WSM into line with other co-ops. Other co-ops are not worker-consumer hybrids.

There is a need to ensure parity between worker and consumer agendas. That is achieved on the Board.

There is also a need to ensure protection for the work conditions and for the return on the very considerable investment ($500) that workers-owners make, within the workplace itself, so as to be sure that managers do not impinge upon those conditions and that return.

Hence 'Treatment of Staff.'

The proposed changes would take away completely the right of workers to be involved in decisions made by managers that affect their workplace. Those changes should not be made. Seeking worker opinion is not sufficient safeguard against management. However irritating that safeguard may be to management.

The proposed changes also remove from Board protection the worker right to dissent ethically (to complain about overbearing management, and therefore to protect work conditions and return on worker investment), and the right to take grievance about breach of Board policy by management to the Board.

It has, quite rightly, been pointed out that the right to dissent ethically and to take grievance about breach of Board policy is contained elsewhere in WSM Employee Policy. But that's the point. That is not Board policy. Protected by the Board.

If 'Treatment of Staff' is altered, the right ethically to dissent will, henceforth, only be guaranteed by the General Manager, not his boss. Bit of a problem if it's the General Manager you're ethically dissenting against.

Same thing with appeal to the Board. It follows that appeal from the General Manager to the Board has to be guaranteed by the Board, not by the General Manager.

So. Bottom line? Unless there is really good reason. Which to date I have not heard. Then please leave the existing 'Treatment of Staff' completely alone.

But. It goes further than that. I have been campaigning for three years now to get the terms of 'Treatment of Staff' which relate to including employees in decision-making fully and properly implemented. Without success.

Please now take this opportunity to stop leaving those terms dormant. In 2007, a consultation exercise was held among workers in WSM to determine which decisions should get covered by those terms. A document was produced. If you ask the General Manager, he will produce it.

What I would wish now, on behalf of all the workers of WSM, is for a new consultation exercise to be held, which would design how we could successfully implement the policy calling for employees to be included in decision-making, in a way that fully meets the terms of the policy, without overbearingly interfering with day-to-day operations.

Therefore, I formally request with this e-mail that the WSM Board do so make request of the WSM General Manager, as expeditiously as possible, but certainly before the end of 2016, that he conduct a full consultation exercise with all WSM employees, to allow them the opportunity to help design a process for fully and properly including them in the making of the decisions outlined in the said 2007 document.

I wish this e-mail to be forwarded to all members of the WSM Board, including the two members just elected.

Yours truly,