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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Robbing Peter to pay bonuses

I'm not sure where it all started. I know that Michael Moore highlighted it in his first film "Roger and me" back in 1989.The film is a documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less.
I identified with this unsavoury fact when a firm that I worked for got into trouble through bad leadership and poor buying decisions and was taken over by a larger concern. I was very much an innocent party in all this, yet my salary percentage increase was about one twentieth of what the new CEO paid himself.

It's a form of theft. Pay your workers less, or reduce the size of the workforce. You've now made an "efficiency saving". Under the terms of your contact you're entitled to a bonus for any efficiencies made, so you take the money formerly set aside to pay my wages and put it into your own pocket.

In Blanchard & Peake's book "The Power of Ethical Management" the authors set out their philosophy in one simple sentence.

"There is no right way to do a wrong thing"

A very powerful statement that's easy to say and, like many of Jesus' sayings, hard if not impossible to live up to.

I was reading my friend Bendy Girl's blog today
where she writes about the problems in filling in all the forms so that she can continue to receive Disability Living Allowance. I'm with her on this. I hate form filling. Fortune may favour the brave, but only those who can fill in forms get benefits.
This is what I wrote on her comments form:

"The problem in dealing with gummint is this- they spend money (on new offices, jollies, etc)without regard to the fact that it's the taxpayers cash they're spending. But when it comes to giving money to legitimate claimants then you'd think it was their own.
The prime purpose of the DHS and other benefits agencies seems to be to prevent money being given out. The more they hold back, they more efficient they are judged to be and the more there is in the bonus pot.
I've had to fill in the dreaded forms for my current benefit. I'm off sick and my SSP has run out. No doubt I'll be hauled before a "doctor" who doesn't know me or my medical history and whose main concern is to prevent me from getting any benefit, because the more they "save", the more there is in the bonus pot for them.
I go to pieces when confronted by forms. I'm reduced to a gibbering wreck when confronted to pages of questions along the lines of "when did you last stop beating your wife?".
I rang the helpline and got her to fill the form in for me. She asked me the questions and I answered them (at length) and she wrote down the answer most likely to find favour. A couple of days later a draft of my questionnaire arrived in the post. I read it through, signed it and posted it off.
Bingo. Benefits paid and at the higher rate.
Now all I need is to persuade my GP to accompany me when I have to go for my medical assessment."

There is a knack, a trick to getting benefits. How else can you explain why some people do well out of them while others are denied?
I'm in favour of cutting wasteful government spending, but it seems that Cameron is looking at the wrong place.I worked for Tesco and Superdrug, two of the most successful and profitable companies in the last forty years. They didn't grow to the size they are now by overcharging the customer and spending on fancy head offices and jollies for the directors. They kept the overheads to a minimum and only spent on the back office when it was justified.
I read that Cameron has asked Sir Philip Green to have a look at Whitehall. I fear he will have a fight on his hands.
He has to challenge a culture that goes back centuries.
A culture that defines one's status according to how many staff he/she has under him. No-one will willingly lose status by shedding staff.
A culture that defines one's status by the size of the budget he/she controls. No one will willingly lose status by having the budget cut.
A culture that encourages overspending by not rewarding prudence. No one will be prudent when his reward will be a smaller budget next year.

So saving will have to be made and turkeys don't vote for Christmas. The bosses will view their empires as sacrosanct and their budgets as untouchable, and conclude that the only place savings can be made is by denying benefits to the needy

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