Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Gagged by My Employer for Telling the Truth

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have worked on contracts in every job I have had. Most last 2 years. In my current employment I am on my second 2-year contract. Now, under EU legislation, that means at the end of this period of work, i.e. August 2009, I should be made permanent in my post. However, when I contacted the human resources department of my employer, they said that somehow none of this work legislation applied to them, nor did a recent court case about contract workers working for a similar company. I quoted the law chapter and verse at them and they yielded a little saying I could apply for permanency in February, though they thought it was unlikely I would get it. Since then the company has been through an extended period of making redundancies, a process which has now been lengthened since the credit crunch kicked in. Thus, it seems highly unlikely that I will be employed by the company after August 2009. Given that I am now over 40 and have always found it difficult to find work (usually it takes 125 applications and 5 interviews from those before I get one), I am likely to be unemployed by September 2009, whatever the economy does, and we have all been promised a recession lasting until at least 2010 if not 2012. Now, I part bought a house last December, and it is clear that when I lose my job, I will lose my house which has fallen £25,000 (€31,000; US$39,500 - I find it difficult to believe that £1 has fallen from US$2.04 to only US$1.58) since it was bought. I cannot sustain the payments of my part of the house if I am not in employment or even if I get a job that pays less than my current one. I want to sell the house, but the market is incredibly slow, so repossession which is rocketing (11,000 houses repossessed in the UK in October alone) is the likely outcome.

Last Wednesday I was switching off my computer before being on leave and travelling to Whitby on the Thursday to help the woman in my house trade. My email system has an 'Out of Office' function which you switch on to tell people when you are not in the office and when you will be back. Now earlier in the day we had had an email from the very head of the company whining how the company cannot afford our pay rise and how it is going to have to break with national collective bargaining so it can keep our salaries down, of course he earns over £180,000 (€223,200; US$284,400). In that atmosphere I wrote on my out of office message 'I am away from my office trying to help earn enough money so that my house will not be immediately reposessed when my contract expires'. This was entirely truthful. The woman in my house was trading to earn money to pay her share of the mortgage. It is also true that the house will be repossessed after my contract expires next year.

Given the extreme reaction, you would have thought I had said something rude or damaging about the company, not the truth about my own life. While I was away messages were criss-crossing the company and my immediate manager was questioned about how could he permit me to tell the truth in this way. The IT section was contacted to remove the message from my email system and also lock me out of all my work accounts. I was hauled into see my manager the moment I got into the office and was told to write such a thing was damaging to my standing in the company. I am so angry, that actually just stating what is going to happen to me is so shocking to the bosses that it offends them and they have it removed. I was completely offended by the head of the company whining about how greedy we are. I know workers have no comeback and are free to be kicked around by employers. I have already commented on how bullying is carried on without any action against it and in fact support for bullies in senior positions. I need to cling to this job but I am going to leave it as soon as I can. The company has a vaunted policy of free speech and communication but come down heavily on a minor observation about my own life not them.

I would love them to tell me that it is a lie and that I have a permanent position or that the contract is extended, but they are not saying that at all. They have destroyed any lingering loyalty I had to them and have turned my resentment into hostility. I will have revenge on them as soon as I can and in the meantime I am going to stop doing anything more than the most obvious work. What is the point anyway if I have no idea whether I will be there any longer than 9 months? There is no point planning events that I cannot guarantee I will oversee. Who wants to work for a company that is so petty that it puts all the wheels of its machine into action over a single sentence on an email. Surely they should realise that if they cannot stomach such a simple statement and have to so over-react there is something seriously wrong with them. I have not whistle blown, I have not revealed the bullying through naming them, I have not sold secrets to a rival, I have simply said (in line with what they have told me) that I will lose my job and then my house. They want me to be grateful, to kiss their feet for being treated this way. They want to behave badly and treat me like scum and yet not be alerted to the fact of how they are behaving.

People say I am wrong when I say I am powerless, but it is clear that I am if I am unable to make such a simple statement without provoking such a harsh reaction. My only power comes in revenge and I am going to turn my efforts to that now. My intention is to wreck the company as best I can even if it takes the rest of my life.


Anonymous said...

They sound like a right bunch of - well, I'm sure a few things spring to your mind as readily as they do to mine ;-)

Good luck with it all, don't let them grind you down!

Rooksmoor said...

Bristle, thank you for the support. So far I have received criticism for what I did from two family members but two colleagues have backed my actions and another was startled to find that the company would go into the email system to censor its employees that way.

I think a key problem which is very prevalent in UK companies is that most senior managers have a fantasy perception of their company. They believe there is no bullying going on and seem surprised that their employees are concerned about losing their jobs when there are redundancies and general economic difficulties. This is why they do not like the truth as it wakes them up from this perception of their business as a perfect place to work. This is why British companies on average last only 40 years and in some sectors, 50% collapse within 6 months of being set up.

I was angered when government ministers said people should stop worrying about losing their jobs. How insulting was that? Unemployment is rising quickly and many of us will be out of work and with it will go our houses and the basic standard of living we try and maintain. Of course we are going to worry and complain. To think we would do anything different is to totally misunderstand human fears, though of course few managers have the ability to understand anything about their workforce.