Friday, August 12, 2005

Reasons not to have Kids pt22


I’ve ducked the decision whether to become a father or not for so long now it’s getting to a point where it might be too late. There are lots of reasons why I haven’t bit the bullet, including such old chestnuts as ‘Do I really want to bring a child into this World?’ but there’s another, much more significant, reason why I fear parenthood so…

Who, but a parent, would in their right mind book their f*cking holidays in August?

After watching the TV coverage of the chaos in Heathrow Airport over the last couple of days there won’t be any mood music or bottles of red wine opened chez nous tonight. No sirreee Jimbob.


The particular dispute that’s causing the current bout of chaos serves as a interesting illustration of the Brave New World that we are all living in.

Gate Gourmet, the company at the centre of the strikes at Heathrow Airport, is one of the world's largest providers of in-flight meals. Reading the rather sketchy company profile put up on the BBC website, I was struck in particular by this bit …

Although enjoying a turnover of 2.4bn Swiss francs (£1bn; $2bn) in 2004, the company hasn't actually made a profit since 2000, and revenues have fallen 35% as the airlines have continued to tighten their belts post 11 September 2001.

The sacking of 350 employees at Heathrow (the company's own figure as opposed to the widely reported 600) came after a dispute over pay, working conditions and the appointment of part time workers, who the full time staff believe are being brought in to replace them.

Its managing director Eric Born said Gate had tried for months to try and find a consensual deal with unions and staff at Heathrow "to resolve the financial crisis and secure the future of the company".

Which isn’t the same thing as saying the number of meals produced since 9/11 by Gate Gourmet has fallen. This attempt to connect reducing workers’ pay and conditions with a terror attack four years ago is what is known technically as a revolting, slimy lie. If demand for in-flight meals had fallen, Gate Gourmet would simply employ fewer staff rather than cut pay and conditions of its entire workforce. Hands up anyone who thinks the Gate Gourmet management team has had its pay cut as a result of its failure to perform over the last four years.

Our Brave New World is increasingly staffed by people working on shit money, doing crappy menial work for outsourced contracting firms. As well as offering the claimed economies of scale, the other key advantage to outsourcing is that big firms like British Airways can reduce their own workforce and wash their hands if their contractors fuck up or treat their minimum wage employees like shit. So, when a company like Gate Gourmet tries to screw over its existing workforce of unskilled, largely ethnic minority employees by replacing them with even more desperate ethnic labour, straight off the boat, British Airways can pretend that is nothing to do with them. Clearly, at least some of the staff at Heathrow aren’t buying that bullshit and walked out in sympathy.

That’s the future boys and girls – a lifetime of job insecurity, working for incompetent management, doing crap menial tasks, in competition with newly arrived 3rd World labour; willing to live five to a room and eating millet.

Sounds fantastic doesn’t it?

Of course, the reason why so many of us let this happen without a grumble is our belief that we, ourselves, would never end up working under these kinds of conditions.

Dream on.

Now, what was I saying about having kids...


homemade said...

What was most interesting, in my opinion in this affair, was the lack of background behind why the Gate Gourmet staff refused to return to work and had to be sacked. Like that happens everyday. I watched quite a bit of news that day, and they all reported that they were sacked after refusing to go back to work, but never a mention why so many staff would refuse to work. Was that not an important part of the story?

Stef said...

I totally agree. And the lack of an explanation was noticeable straight away by its very absence. Strangely these thoughts seem to have eluded the journalists covering the story...