Shorter working day = happier, healthier workers

20/05/2016

An experiment in Sweden seems to indicate that a reduction of 2 hours to the working day leaves workers “brimming with energy” and has “sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health”.

Nurses at the Svartedalens retirement home have worked six-hour days on an eight-hour salary. They’re part of an experiment funded by the Swedish government to see if a shorter workday can increase productivity. The conclusion? It does.

Arturo Perez, a caregiver at the retirement home, used to come home frazzled from work.  His eight-hour stretches of tending to residents with senility or Alzheimer’s would leave him sapped with little time to spend with his three children.  But life changed when Svartedalens was selected for a Swedish experiment about the future of work. In a bid to improve well-being, employees were switched to a six-hour workday last year with no pay cut. Within a week, Mr. Perez was brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care was higher.

“What’s good is that we’re happy,” said Mr. Perez, a single father. “And a happy worker is a better worker.”

The experiment at Svartedalens mandating a 30-hour week seems to have worked wonders. An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health.  Daniel Bernmar, leader of the Left party on Gothenburg’s City Council, which is running the trial and hopes to make it the standard, said:

““We’ve had 40 years of a 40-hour workweek, and now we’re looking at a society with higher sick leaves and early retirement.  We want a new discussion in Sweden about how work life should be to maintain a good welfare state for the next 40 years.”

But not everyone in Gothenburg sees it as a success.  If Gothenburg, let alone Sweden, were to adopt a six-hour workday, opponents say, the economy would suffer from reduced competitiveness and strained finances.

Maria Rydén, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor and a member of the opposition Moderates party, says bluntly: ““We can’t pay people to not work.”  Which, on first glance, seems obvious.  But think about it: why can’t we people not to work?  Because companies else where would undercut us?  Well, no, if they also adopted this freer, healthier way of doing things.

The world is so in love with Capitalism, and with the idea of buying workers’ labour as cheaply as possible, it dare not imagine alternatives.  Because Capitalism has been the system for so long, it must continue, say its advocates.  That same way of thinking would ultimately claim that feudalism and slavery are the right way to run the economy as they survived for many hundreds of years.

We need a radical rethink about these matters.  Or we will continue to be slaves to the Capitalist economy that sees individuals as units of work-hours to be exploited as efficiently as possible.  Why don’t we live in the long-heralded science fiction utopia where increasing mechanisation frees us up to enjoy ourselves?  The robots exist.  But it is easier to hire, exploit and fire human workers who have few employment rights.

Maybe it would be good if Skynet took over.  At least they don’t pretend that we are equal to them.  Our managers like to make out that we’re all in it together.  What a joke.


The rich will vape, the poor will smoke. And guess who will died first.

29/01/2016

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette is cheap and flimsy

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette and others based on the CE4 battery are inexpensive; which is just as well, as it is of poor quality and easily broken. I have accidentally broken these devices a few times, and only its low price has convinced me to buy more. When first introduced, it was priced similarly to its competitors (around £17), but the manufacturer has clearly realised that the product has a short working life and has reduced the price accordingly so as to stay on the market.

ego-ce4

The EGO CE4.  Cheap, poorly made, and on its way out

The EGO’s problem is its battery. It takes only a relatively short number of recharges before it starts to fail, keeping a working charge for much less time than competitors. And the construction of the battery and the rest of the e-cigarette is poorly designed. If the user drops it a short distance (the kind of fall that a laptop computer, for instance, takes in its stride) the battery can separate from the e-cig’s body easily. The same can happen if, for instance, the user puts the EGO in a trouser pocket and then sits down: stress that should not pose a problem for such a device.

The battery easily detaches from the part of the body that should keep it in place, the mouthpiece and the part of the body that holds the operation button comes apart far too easily. If the battery wires do not disconnect, the e-cigarette can be fixed: a thin, blunt object such as the non-business end of a pencil can push the battery back into the body, and the mouthpiece/button section can be reconnected. But of course such a McGuyver-style repair is not a lasting solution. And if the battery wires become disconnected, that is the end of the e-cigarette’s useful life. The wires are far too thin and weak to attempt soldering, even if such an operation could be deemed safe and satisfactory.

Luckily, the manufacturer has recognised the problem, and has priced the device accordingly. When e-cigarettes first became popular, the cost per unit was about £17. Now, replacement batteries are available via Amazon for as little as £3.50; and the glass “clearomizer” can be found at outlets such as Poundland, costing £1 per unit. Also, it seems manufacturers of the e-liquid are finding the market too saturated: at my local Poundland, 10 ml bottles of 88vape e-liquid in a range of flavours can be bought, again for £1.

vype-epen-kit

The safer, pricier Vype e-pen.  That’s where the smart money’s going.  If you actually have any money, that is.  Twenty Benson & Hedges is so much cheaper… if you don’t mind the hacking cough and cancer…

Of course this situation will not last. Stocks of 88vape will run out, the clearomisers and batteries will not work with the pen-style devices that are now taking over the market, and so the days of cheap EGO-CE4 e-cigarettes are numbered. It is a shame that it costs more than £20 to get a starter kit of the modern pen-like device. Poorer smokers will continue to smoke tobacco, which does not have such a “starter kit” expense. So poorer nicotine addicts will keep using the much more harmful tobacco product, perhaps forming a kind of economic apartheid wherein the less affluent will get higher rates of cancer and pulmonary-cardiac illness. When the cheaper but more electrically dangerous CE4 runs out of stock, less affluent nicotine addicts will be stuch with cigarettes and will most likely live shorter, harsher lives than their richer counterparts. This will remain the case until the pen-like devices are sold for less. And at the moment it doesn’t look like a price drop is likely.


CPS drop case against Iceland skip-divers as “not in public interest” anymore…

29/01/2014

In my original post on this issue I wrote “you couldn’t make this stuff up!” And reality goes on to prove I’m right!

The Guardian reported that the CPS was going to prosecute 3 men for “stealing” out-of-date tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from a skip round the back of a branch of Iceland, after a member of the public told the police he’d seen them climbing over the wall. The Crown Prosecution Service were intent on prosecuting the “thieves” even though Malcolm Walker, the chief executive of Iceland, had asked the CPS not to continue with the case. In a statement, Iceland said “We are currently trying to find out from the Crown Prosecution Service why they believe that it is in the public interest to pursue a case against these three individuals.”

One of the men, freelance web designer Paul May was going to say that he was taking the food because he needed it to eat and does not consider he has done anything illegal or dishonest in removing food destined for landfill from a skip.

This is hardly the first time the CPS have tried to prosecute people for taking out-of-date food from supermarket skips. Many years ago, two of my friends were arrested with chickens they had taken from a Leo’s (now the Co-operative) supermarket bin. They were charged with theft, elected for trial by jury at Crown Court as was their right, and the presiding judge threw out the case, angry that the court’s time was being wasted in such a way.

In this latest case, the CPS originally said there was “significant public interest” in prosecuting the three men caught last year taking tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes from the dustbins behind a branch of Iceland. But a public furore persuaded them to see sense.

The case would have brought to the public eye the fact that poor members of society have to go through bins of rotten food looking for something to assuage their hunger, in scenes more reminiscent of the 19th century rather than the present day.

The case has prompted new focus on the phenomenon of “skipping” – taking discarded supermarket waste to cook and eat – and reopened the debate over how much supermarket food is still discarded. Several online petitions were launched, calling on the CPS to reconsider its decision to prosecute.

Baljit Ubhey, the chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said: “This case has been reviewed by a senior lawyer and it has been decided that a prosecution is not required in the public interest.”

He added: “In reconsidering this case, we have had particular regard to the seriousness of the alleged offence and the level of harm done. Both of these factors weigh against a prosecution. Additionally, further representations received today from Iceland Foods have affected our assessment of the public interest in prosecuting.

“We hope this demonstrates our willingness to review decisions and take appropriate and swift action when necessary. The Crown Prosecution Service is committed to bringing the right charges to court when – and only when – it is proper to do so.”

But of course Ubhey’s explanation is a load of crap. As I reported before, the CPS have considered it correct to prosecute hungry poor people for taking out-of-date food from shop waste bins. The CPS originally valued the food “stolen” from Iceland at £33! And they would no doubt have carried on the case if online petitions hadn’t been produced.

All this case demonstrates is that the police and Crown Prosecution Service are happy to oppress the very poorest members of society.

EDIT: Since posting this, a couple of my friends suggested I might like to see the Daily Mail’s take on this story.  I don’t usually bother reading the Mail (it makes me so furious sometimes, there have been occasions in the past where I have actually shouted at a copy of the paper) but my friends’ comments intrigued me so I had a peek.

I was just about to type “Unbelievable!” but then I remembered: this is the Mail.  The story’s headline reads

A licence to steal? Let off, the ‘freegans’ who raided supermarket bins for £33 of cakes, cheese and mushrooms

The Mail clearly has a problem with “freegans” (their term for the criminals who blatantly steal unwanted garbage out of bins); their angle on the story is horror that such evil crooks are being set free to continue their crime sprees.  They mention that 15 million tons of food are being thrown away each year in the UK, Tesco alone generated 28,500 tons of food waste at its stores and distribution centres in the first 6 months of last year alone, but the Mail’s major problem is the fact that people are being “encouraged” to steal by the CPS’s decision to drop the charges.

Interestingly, they also mention that the three men involved (Paul May, Jason Chan and William James) were held in police cells for nineteen hours before being released!   I hadn’t seen or heard that anywhere else.  It shows how petty and arrogant the police can be, and is another reason why the police do not automatically deserve the respect they think they are due.  Basically, the police stink.  And to think, I wouldn’t have learnt this particular fact but for the Daily Mail’s website.  Keep an eye out for low-flying pigs ha ha!!!

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Don’t give unwanted food to the hungry – just throw it away!

21/10/2013
Tesco - Every little helps... but won't help anyone who needs it

Tesco – Every little helps… but won’t help anyone who needs it

Tesco are throwing away huge amounts of unwanted food.  They have revealed their food waste figures, revealing that 68% of salad to be sold in bags is thrown out.  They also confessed that 40% of apples were wasted, and just under half of bakery items.  A quarter of grapes are wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl and a fifth of all bananas are unused – with customers throwing one in 10 in the bin.

So, what does Tesco plan to do about this appalling waste?  Are they going to give food to homeless people, day centres, or night shelters, people who could really use the produce?  No:  they’re going to change their packaging, remove “display until” dates from fresh fruit and vegetables, and tell their in-store bakeries to “aim for better stock control and less waste.”

This is nothing new.  Years ago I lived in a series of squats, and it was standard practice to go to supermarkets and rifle through the skips round the back.  We usually found loads of produce that had been thrown away because it had reached its “best before” dates.  Obviously, some “out of date” food can’t be used: dairy products, for instance, go off quickly, and it doesn’t take long for fresh vegetables to stop being “fresh”.  But there were usually lots of stuff that was still okay.  Pies and pasties, pizzas, oven meals, some of the fruit, yogurts, mousses, dented cans – one time I found 20 cans of beer in a Leo’s (now Cooperative) skip.  A couple of mates were arrested on their way back home from the skip with loads of defrosting frozen chickens, and Leo’s actually wanted them to be prosecuted.  Claiming that the chickens should be considered to be worth the amount they would have sold for if they hadn’t been chucked!  So my mates were charged; but they pleaded not guilty and elected for trial by jury – ie at Crown Court.  A cunning strategy: when their case came up the judge dismissed all charges, furious that the court’s time (and his golf-playing time) was being wasted to prosecute people for stealing garbage!

This made Leo’s very unhappy.  They were determined to stop us from stealing their unwanted produce, and actually had a big cage erected to secure their skips.  But the cage had a big gap, to allow the skips’ lids to be raised, and it didn’t take us long to figure out how to get in and out of the cages, still taking bagfuls of perfectly good food.  Finally, Leo’s staff cut open all packaging going into the skip then pouring bleach over everything.  A local day centre for the homeless and vulnerable heard about it all, and they asked Leo’s if they could have the food rather than it being taken away to use as land-fill.  The supermarket management replied that they wouldn’t give away any of it but that the day centre could buy it!

It seems no supermarket wants to give away their waste, not where I lived anyway.  I think Marks & Spencer gave some stuff to the day centre;  but their skips always contained a bonanza of “rubbish”, and if staff saw anyone in the bins they would send out uniformed goons to chase us off.

So, why are the supermarkets so mean about this?  I know some skip-raiders leave a mess, but my mates and I never did.  And there were occasions when I’d find someone else had left a mess and I’d tidy up before I left.  But supermarkets put up high fences and lock the gates to keep out the skip-raiders, and of course nowadays in our surveillance state they have CCTV cameras covering the skip areas.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on skips any more, but there are more needy people nowadays and with benefit cuts and the recession and all they rely on salvage and scavenging more than I ever did.

I understand that some people hate the poor and think it’s an affront if a beggar asks them for “spare change”.  But I find it hard to get my head round the fact that people don’t want anyone to take their unwanted garbage.  If you don’t want something and have thrown it in the bin so it will be taken away for land-fill, why would you go out of your way to keep it safe from the hungry poor?  Seriously, if you are one of the selfish brigade, please explain your rationale in Comments.  I’d really like to see what people have to say on this matter.

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If it walks like a Nazi, talks like a Nazi, smells like a Nazi… it must be David Cameron

30/07/2013

Ol’ Cameron’s so desperate to win the next election, he’s trying to steal back Ukip supporters with his “Immigrants go home” mobile billboards. But it looks like he’s shot himself in the foot: Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, has described the campaign as Big Brother-like and “nasty”. The BBC report says:

Speaking on Daybreak, Mr Farage – whose party campaigns for the UK’s exit from the European Union and includes curbing immigration in its wider policies, said the campaign was really a reaction to his party’s success in English local elections.

“What the billboard should say is: Please don’t vote UKIP, we are doing something. That’s what it’s all about.

“I think the actual tone of the billboards, it really is Big Brother, nasty, it’s unpleasant. I don’t think using messaging like this makes any difference, what would make a difference is enforcing our borders properly.”

The BBC also quoted Former Children’s Minister Ms Teather, MP for Brent Central, one of the boroughs targeted by the campaign as saying the “cost” would be community relations.

“It’s really unpleasant and we don’t need it here,” she said.

“If the Home Office want to deal with problems, frankly they should be looking at themselves and their own practice.”

And it seems pretty clear that this campaign is a Tory initiative rather than something dreamt up by the Coalition. The Guardian reports that Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg “launched a strong attack on the government’s ‘go home” campaign against illegal immigrants, suggesting it was out of step with the ‘decent’ centre-ground tradition in British politics.

In a phone-in on Radio 5 Live on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said he did not condone people breaking immigration laws but that he objected to the tone of the campaign launched by the Home Office.

He also said it would be hard for his ministerial colleagues in the coalition to persuade him that the campaign should be extended.

Problem is, Clegg and his buddies have already revealed how low they can go in order to keep their illusion in power. Also, I have no links, but I seem to remember the LibDems using racist language in local authority elections in the past.

It’s kinda funny: Ukip’s Farage accusing the Tories of racism. What next? The BNP gonna promise more lax immigration policies to win marginal Tory seats?

Hitler was a charismatic guy operating in a time of economic crisis to gain power. Similar circumstances to now: except Cameron’s got the charisma of a cauliflower. And don’t forget: Cameron has some despicable ideas in the pipeline. Why should sick and disabled people totally unfit to work get benefits? Why should low-paid central London workers like cleaners be able to live close to work when they can commute and spend their paltry wages on travel? Why shouldn’t MPs (public servants paid by us, the taxpayers) have free central London homes as well as constituency homes, all paid for by us, the saps who are suffering austerity pay cuts when the MPs vote themselves massive pay rises?

Foreigners, poor people, the sick and disabled, unemployed people who can’t get a job with a living wage cos none exist: they are the enemy. You want more of the same? Of course you do, you’re the British electorate who are only happy when you’re being butt-fucked by deformed Tory penises. So Vote Conservative As Often As You Can. FFS.

Oh, and before you think voting Labour might save us: don’t be so stupid. Miliband bad-mouths Cameron in public, but in private they’re probably very good friends. Think about it: what kind of person wants a career that allows them to control us? Apart from crazy power freaks that is.  And even crazy power freaks have an off-duty switch, otherwise they’d go round disembowelling everyone who disobeyed them (ie everyone).

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Kill the poor!

03/04/2013

There have been a bunch of online petitions calling on government ministers to try living on the derisory welfare levels the unemployed and disabled have to live on – maybe you’ve signed one or two. But they’re a waste of time, right? IDS is already calling these petitions “a complete stunt” and claims he knows what it’s like on the breadline because he’s been unemployed a couple of times.

But there is a petition that the government are supposedly duty-bound to take notice of – the one at epetitions.direct.gov.org. According to the government:

Iain-Duncan-Smith

e-petitions are an easy, personal way for you to influence government and Parliament in the UK. You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons. You can find more information about how the House of Commons deals with e-petitions on the Backbench Business Committee website.

So how about we all sign this petition, urge our friends to sign it, urge our friends to urge their friends to sign… you can see where I’m going with this, right?

Let’s go get ’em, tiger!

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Kids gotta eat, don’t they?

14/02/2013

The ConDem’s “Universal Credit” benefits overhaul is fulla bad, as one might expect of a scheme dreamed up by Cameron and Osborne as a way to kill as many poor people as possible before 2015 (that’s when the next general election is due – and fewer poor people = fewer votes against the Tories). But there is some good that could come from the Universal Benefit plan. As 38 Degrees explained to me in a recent email, the introduction of the new benefits system means the government could easily decide to extend free school meals to all children living in poverty. And there are plenty of impoverished families in Britain: up to 1.2 million kids are missing out on free school meals. And as free school meals are often the only decent meals a kid gets to eat every day, this all adds up to one huge shed-load of malnourished children living here in Britain, one of the richest nations in the world.

Should this sad state of affairs be allowed to continue? Or should our children – our nation’s future – get a proper meal at least once a day? I know what I think. And I really really hope you think the same.

You can help 38 Degree’s campaign to feed our children really simply. And it won’t cost you a penny. All you gotta do is follow this link: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/school-meals. Really, it’s as simple as that. Think of those schoolchildren you see when you’re on your way to work. Chances are, some of them haven’t eaten breakfast and probably won’t get anything to eat when they return from school later. Don’t let children in Britain starve to death. Click the link: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/school-meals

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I wonder how many British children died of malnutrition while you thought about clicking the link?

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