Monday, December 3, 2012

Worker Oppression Continues

"We appreciate our staff" bragged the banks in the 1940s, when they closed their branches on Saturdays. Banks then operated six days a week. With the new policy, employees enjoyed a full weekend.

Sometime in the 1970s, the banks withdrew staff appreciation, and replaced it with Saturday service "for customer convenience". 

In February 2011, the banks announced Sunday openings.  Research showed that "customers were looking for banking hours to better suit their lifestyle", TD-Canada Trust half-apologized.  "Being open Sundays is about working around peoples' lives."

In its current ad campaign, TD proclaims, "Banking can be this comfortable".   Perhaps, but not for staff whose family weekends have been destroyed.   Six days a week, evening hours and 24-hour ATMs are not enough for customer lifestyles?  

With high unemployment, jobs, salaries and benefits are at the discretion (read mercy) of corporate bosses.   Bank employees no longer receive extra pay for weekend work.   What's to complain?  Staff will enjoy their Tuesday-Wednesday week.  That's just great for family weekends. 

TD chief executive Ed Clark worries about bank costs. "Politically it's difficult" to raise fees," he contends. His gaze drifts to his staff.  But fear not.  "We are not going to do this on the backs of the average employee," he promises. Is he aware that that's how the did it in the recent past? One suggestion might be to close operations on weekends, and return staff to their families. Clark's fear was not shared by CIBC who have just announced a banking fee increase.

September 2011 brought word that Loblaw Companies, the grocery people, would also destroy employee family weekends.  Staff must work Sundays at regular pay.  If they object, they are told their replacements are knocking at the door.   

John Steinbeck's masterful The Grapes of Wrath is not history but contemporary -- the business plan where the unemployed are played off one against the other, or the under-paid against those at the door.  Comes to mind Target's take-over of  Zellers whose former staff were invited to apply for their old jobs  at reduced salaries.

The August 2011 issue of Harper's magazine reported that 75 per cent of the increase in US corporate profits since 2001 has come from depressed wages.  Doubtless, the same holds true for Canada.  This explains the gap between the rich and the working poor.

In the 1950s, my father worked for the Loblaw Companies.  He was told to work on Saturdays or be fired. He quit, and soon got another job.  In today's world of downsizing, rationalizing, part-time or temporary work, low wages, and no benefits, workers no longer enjoy the freedom of earlier generations. 

When my generation finished university in the fifties and sixties, companies invited us their their hospitality suites to explain their employment benefits.  All that changed in the seventies and eighties.

As our standard of living declines, corporate profits soar.  Trickle down is code for urinated on.

Formerly, it was called the Personnel Department where humans were deemed persons.  Now it's Human Resources on the same level as Natural Resources, that is, something to be exploited. Humans have become commodities. Dare we fear the next stage of this degradation -- employees described as human cargo or livestock? 

Pope Benedict XVI described this situation in its most brutal form:  "Man is nowadays considered in predominately biological terms or as 'human capital', a 'resource', part of a dominant or financial mechanism." 

 The sword of Damocles hanging over our world is not the atomic bomb; it is the depersonalization of man. -- Anton Pegis,  The Wisdom of Catholicism.

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