Thursday, April 28, 2005

Drug Stabbing Time

A good rule of thumb for any blogger is Don't write about your work (as in don't slag off the company you work for, your bosses or any of your colleagues).

BUT I'm going to make an exception because I'm fit to burst and I either get it out of my system here or I punch a wall. This is going to be a rant and probably not very lucid but I don't care...

I'm a salaried worker and I'm good at what I do - I work hard, I don't fuck up, I get on with people and I don't swan around with the airs and graces of those who believe they deserve promotions or huge pay rises simply because they've been around for a couple of years and say the right things in meetings. I'm not ambitious in the way most people understand it in that I look at the job functions of the managers further up the pyramid and think that those jobs wouldn't appeal to me - I'm happy doing what I do and caring about the outside world instead.

I work for a major drug production company and I have quite a hands-on role, which I like. Simple ideas and changes I've made in the past 18 months or so have saved / earned the plant millions of dollars. That is no exaggeration - the value of bulk drug product is staggering and incomprehensible to most people outside the industry. I have saved the company the equivalent of my wages and pension for the rest of life and beyond and I'm only here four years. I'm a good solo worker in that if I'm told what to do, and I'm left to get on with it, then I always get the job done (this makes my boss' life that bit easier, which, he tells me regularly, he appreciates).

So what's wrong? Well I've always worked long hours but it comes and goes - sometimes you're busy and stay late, sometimes you've everything set-up nicely and running smoothly, so you get to stick to your hours. The plant is also a 24-hour facility and, every now and then, I'll get called in in the middle of the night to resolve some issue. In the last calendar year I worked 185 hours of overtime, which is nearly five full weeks or the equivalent of my holidays for the year. I don't get a penny of extra pay for that - it's free labour for the company. But still I don't mind any of this.

But, as this year has gone on, there has been an exponential increase in the company's response to what it believes to be the regulatory requirements of the facility. Simply put, there are now more and more staff tasked to assessing (interpreting, really, which is quite different) regulations and their implications for the facility. This, in turn, has greatly increased the amount of documentation and training required to keep the plant "compliant" as these bureaucrats churn out directive after directive. Don't anyone ever doubt that the big drug companies don't take people's health seriously. It may be because stock price matters more than what Jimmy Nobody's family might think of a pharmaceutical-induced premature death, but the point is they care and it is to people's benefit.

I've just come from an ordinary weekly meeting that has lasted nearly two hours. I'm typing this and skipping lunch. I have yet to do any of my own jobs today and I'm in training (again) between three and five. In that meeting my four (yes four) managers have talked and talked and talked. The Irish Medicine Board is auditing our plant next week. We should have absolutely nothing to worry about because the place is spotless and we're all diligent, honest workers. There's a paper trail for every single little thing we do, right down to cleaning the windows and checking the rodent traps. So what was the problem? One was the fact that hoses had been capped with a mixture of blue and yellow plastic caps and "that might lead to awkward questions"! Why the fuck would it? They're plastic fucking caps - some are yellow and some are blue, who gives a shit?. There was a 20 minute discussion about how to manage the situation!

But I'm used to that shite now. The problem is that the necessity to work long hours used to be intermittent, now it's permanent. The meetings, the training and the extra paperwork are taking up the whole day. The job I'm actually being paid to do, the one on which my end of year performance is assessed, can only be done on my own time and my head is wrecked. Yet the four managers, who know all this, sat and reamed off all the tasks they expect us to complete before the audit. If I'm to get it all done I needn't leave the place for the next week.

And how was the (two hour) meeting concluded? By announcing that teams comprising, yes, me, and the other nine at my level, are to be setup to do regular floor audits "to stay focused on plant cleanliness". So the union guys on shift, who earn (easily) twice what I do, can't be relied upon to keep the place clean anymore. Instead we have to do up cleaning lists to tell them where to go to clean up spillages and wipe dust from ledges. These floor audits could take the best part of two hours every two days. Fucking bastards...

This post will not be edited when I calm down. I'll assume my managers all still have their heads so far up their own holes that they'll never come across this.
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