From then to now … a huge change


It was expected that future ‘outsourcing’ of services (the Council did not like the word ‘Privatisation’) would result in a Steam Boilernumber of job losses. This was especially true for the catering services providing mass produced meals. The same number of people can produce 50 meals or 500 meals. It is just a matter of scale, and the large industrial caterers were more than used to this.

In an attempt to minimise job losses, Leeds City Council came up with a plan to try and train staff in threatened roles, to work as office staff. It was quite a big undertaking, but it was surprising how few ‘manual’ workers took up the option. It was posted in the monthly staff Word Processornewsletter, but the program only lasted 1 year before it was closed down, apparently due to lack of support. The way it worked was this: one day a week for 15 weeks, a trainee would attend a variety of courses. These were, touch typing, business letter construction, Council finances, office etiquette and, although computers were few and far between, word processing. The problem where I worked was the availability of the newsletter. It first went around the 4 Care Officers (managers in a word) who usually had it for a week or so, before it was passed to the Care Assistants. There were 20 of those, so it was often out of date before the kitchen staff got their hands on it. However the newsletter in question that had the advertisement for the course, was left in the kitchen by one of the officers, so it was only by chance that I saw the advert. I applied and much to everyone surprise, I got on the course.

<><><><><><><>

The courses went really well and I passed them all without much trouble. I did struggle with the touch-typing, but I had the speed and got away with it. Each course came with a certificate. They wouldn’t be much use to anyone outside the Council as they were not recognisable awards, but it was till nice to get something for the achievement.

Another aspect of the course was interview skills. We all were given a mock 10 minute interview and then we were given an CVassessment on where we went right or wrong. That proved really useful. One of the trainers was in constant touch with various personnel departments and they got the first notification of any suitable jobs coming up. Towards the middle of July, about 4 weeks before the courses were due to finish, a job came up that I was told that I would be suitable for. They arranged an interview and on the 26th July I found myself sat in the Parking Managers office explaining about my computer skills. I have to mention here that I had a personaTexas Instruments TI99 4al computer at the time and was very proud that I had written a game, that had been published in a leading computer magazine. I explained about the need for accuracy whilst at the same time being prepared for boring repetition. I waffled on about being able to work in a team (catering) and being able to work alone (computer). Interview over, I went back to work. I was due to finish at 5pm that day but had been asked to stay until 6:30 to help with some entertainment that was happening that night.

When I finally got home, K**h told me that Car Park Section had rung and could I ring them at around 9am the next morning. I fully believed that I must have failed the interview and that they wanted to give me the feedback I had asked for. So feeling a little dejected, I rang from the phone in the APH kitchen. I’m told, that I changed colour during that call from my Doubtfulnormal flesh colour through white to red. I had got the job, and after discussing the minimum period of notice (only a week surprisingly) I rang back to say I could start the second week of August.

This did not go down too well with the staff at the home. All wished me luck, but I could tell that they thought I was making a mistake. “You’re a cook not a typist” was one of the more often used phrases, along with “You won’t last five minutes sitting at a desk”. All this could have  been true, but I knew that I was going nowhere in the current job, so really had nothing to lose.

So on Tuesday the 6th August 1990, with my expensive scientific calculator, fountain penBriefcase, pocket dictionary and lunchbox packed neatly into my new briefcase, I found myself back in the Parking Managers office having the office rules explained to me.

A new challenge had begun.

Another post ….start of something ??


   That tickly cough I mentioned, turned into a full blown chesty experience. Not a good start to the day at all. Then to cap it all, one of my colleagues (termed used loosely) came into work, and glibly announced that he had a chest infection. No thanks mate, I already have my own (or someone’s !!)

   I had to do a finance training course today. Those guys have as many weird and wonderful words and acronyms, as IT people have. At least I can understand the IT stuff. What is ‘negative credit’ actually ? Still it was a useful course, and the trainer was interesting. It should have lasted 3 hours, but we got it down to just under 2, so not bad. Testing time will be later this week, when I have to put what I learned into practice.

   Day off tomorrow (Tuesday). Mrs H has a hospital appointment, so we will have the rest of the day in York. Hope the weather picks up a little as the forecast is not too good.

   Eldest had an interview today for a part-time job. He has not worked in well over year, and finances have hit rock bottom. Well they hit rock bottom quite a while ago, and have not got any better. He did a couple of days last weekend, but it is not enough. Unfortunately, every student is looking for part-time work at the moment, so our fingers are crossed for him.

Colleagues … what to do with them ?


I have to say, that possibly one of the downsides of working for a Local Authority, is that getting rid of ‘dead wood’ is damn near impossible. People can be totally incompetent, and they seem to be untouchable. It’s everyone elses fault that they are useless. It is all put down to ‘a training issue’ and management has not trained them properly. Well that is the case sometimes, but when some takes a shortcut to allegedly save time, after being told not to, then that is not a training issue. That is a disciplinary issue !!!!

The council is looking to save money by cutting back on recruitment. Better way …. sack the crap and employ quality staff.

An odd day …


   It has been one of those days, when nothing has gone wrong, but nothing has happened to make it memorable. It just happened. Of course, the idiots were still idiots, and still did the stupid things that idiots do. It gets me quite angry, when they do stupid things after four/five years. Grrrrrr !!

   It’s the 2nd annual Bramham Beer Fest tomorrow. There are over 20 local real ales on sale, with entertainment and food all day. If last year is anything to go by, it should be a good day. They got about 200 customers last year, and are expecting in excess of 300 this year. Eldest is coming up, and we think he may bring his flatmate, but that changes by the hour. I don’t think either will stop the night, as S**** indicated that he wants to go out in Leeds afterwards.

   The online training course and quiz, at work is turning out to be a disaster. We are moving from Lotus Notes to Outlook 2003 (2003, I ask you) next month, and we all have to go through this so called ‘training course and quiz’. The course is online, and consists of, what looks like a PowerPoint presentation. No interaction, and it is supposed to take 2 hours to get through. Everyone (except the numpties) got bored after about 20 minutes. It is not a good piece of training. Then there is the ‘quiz’. Everyone needs to get 80% on the quiz. There are 10 questions, and they are either single word or multiple choice answers. But there seems to be a problem with the results. My first attempt got me 60%. Second go, and I realised 70%. Third time, and I’m down at 50%. Problem is that the feedback from the quiz, does not tell you which questions you got wrong !!!! So, attempt number 4. This time, I am armed with the ‘official’ training handbook. Every question, and I look the answer up in the manual. Cannot fail. Result …… 70%. See the problem !! Methinks that IT need to do some work on this one.

   The  non-recyclable bins got emptied today. It will have been private contractors that covered the job. I’m not too happy about the use of contractors, but I think the unions have shot themselves in the foot here. The council has to get the best deal, and have been looking at outsourcing for some time. This strike has made them look harder. And I think, the longer it goes on, the more the public support will dwindle. I don’t think they had that much support anyway. A lot of people remember how hard the ‘binmen’ of old used to work. Carrying those steel bins on their shoulders to the bin wagon, and then putting them back in the garden. No wheelie bins in those days. What it will make people aware of, is exactly how much stuff they put in the bins on a regular basis.

Another day over


   More IT upset today. All the PC’s that were not replaced, had their memory upgraded to 4gb. Mine only had 1gb, so I’m expecting great things.

   It’ll be a bit of long day tomorrow. The two supervisors are out on a training day, so I’ll have to be there until close of play. I’m then going to pick the eldest up, so it’ll probably be around 6pm when we get in. If I need any shopping, I may have to go at lunchtime.

   That’s about it for today. Not much I know.