Monday, 22 February 2010

Bullying: The Real Scandal

In 1994 I got a job at a newly opened supermarket on the outskirts of Derby (I'll refrain from naming the firm - we live in litigious times). The wages were utterly shit (£2.21/hour starting rate for 17 years olds, going up to a whopping £2.63 when I turned 18), the company was crap, working hours long and hard, and the store management were awful. They were always looking for more reasons to find fault, bully and intimidate. And it was young folk and women who especially got it in the neck.

This more than anything else taught me that class mattered. If you have to work for a wage, you place yourself on the pain of dismissal at the mercy of those who manage your labour. Now if that isn't a recipe for abusive and exploitative relationships, I don't know what is.

Thanks to these experiences, even just thinking about workplace bullying makes me angry. So what do I make of the accusations made by a dodgy-looking "charity" that claim Gordon Brown has bullied prime ministerial office staff?

Well, they piss me off. Not because the credibility of the National Bullying Helpline is
seriously suspect. Nor because the Tories, who are looking to score off a cheap attack, conveniently and hypocritically forget a bullying scandal of their own. And as heartily sick as I am of the personalist and, yes, bullying attacks on the person of Gordon Brown, that hasn't worked me up.

What has is how workplace bullying is being used as a football in the daily kickabout of pre-election politics. If, for instance the Tories gave two shits about it at the very least we're entitled to a serious examination of the link between workplace bullying, macho management and the erosion of workers' rights that took place under their watch. Any chance of that? Not on your nelly.

And before any Labour readers start feeling smug, it is an uncomfortable truth that this government has done little to redress the situation. Indeed, Brown has presided over far more serious cases of bullying the right and the media are more than happy to cheerlead. That's to name but two.

That's the real scandal here, not some half-baked accusations cynically released to damage Labour's election campaign.

11 comments:

giles said...

"So what do I make of the accusations made by a dodgy-looking "charity" that claim Gordon Brown has bullied prime ministerial office staff?"

Hang on wasn't it Rawnsley that made bullying claims against Gordon Brown?

I didn't think the Charity had actually claimed it had received calls about bullying by Brown Specifically?

I have no idea if he is a bully but I would have thought the potential for a PM to put extreme undue pressure on staff is definitely there.

IMO number 10 should be setting an example to other employers by taking any claims that there are seriously and investigating them rather than being so self defensive about it.

Brother G said...

I don't know what all the fuss is about, bullying builds character.

TGR Worzel said...

For some reason I was under the genuine misapprehension that the minimum wage was £5.83 per hour. It is currently £5.80. When I queried it recently, there was a barbed comment about "brinkmanship" and a lot of door slamming etc...

OK, so I was mistaken its £5.80, but it was a genuine misapprehension rather than "brinkmanship". Any employee be able to ask such a question without such fuss.

Do I think of that "loss of temper" as bullying...?

No.

I do, however regard it as a good indication of the character of the person I'm working for...

Phil said...

I am in two minds about this one, Giles. An inquiry might clear the air, but isn't that a tacit admission that all is not well, which in turn damages the government in an extremely tight race? Especially as the charity itself turns out to be a commercial front?

And really, outside of Westminster does anyone really care? See how quickly the story's been dropped.

ray said...

Outstanding! You have really got to what matters here. Like lots of other human failings we all have the potential to be bullies (and victims). The trick is to establish the kind of social/economic relationships that don't favour it.

Darren said...

" The trick is to establish the kind of social/economic relationships that don't favour it."

By joining the Labour Party?

Phil said...

Socialism is a struggle, Darren. The moneyless society won't fall from the sky or come through a SPGB parliamentary majority!

Anonymous said...

best of luck with labour party work phil. i hope the left makes serious gains after the election, with labour most likely in opposition. no idea if that will happen but best of luck.

are you a member of the campaign for labour party democracy?

congrats on becoming a doctor as well.

best wishes,


ks

Darren said...

It won't come via the Labour Party, Phil. We both know that. No exclamation mark needed.

Phil said...

True, but I'm not in Labour because I think it's the vehicle of the socialist future.

KS, I'm not a member of any Labour party faction yet. I'm more interested in the job at hand at the moment. How about you? Do you fancy joining up?

ID said...

"An inquiry might clear the air, but isn't that a tacit admission that all is not well, which in turn damages the government in an extremely tight race?"

Is this not the problem with supporting Labour? You end up defending the indefensible for electoral reasons. This is a classic example.