Plus ça change….

About three months ago I hinted at impending change in the household. It wasn’t planned to happen for a while yet, but as so often happens in life, things rarely arrange themselves to suit our convenience. My wife (who has a particular congenital musculo-skeletal condition) suffered a work injury over two years ago, as a result of not having the correct workstation equipment. Her employers decided, following a recommendation from their Occupational Health Consultants, that, “…the cost of providing the correct equipment outweighed the benefits.” (sic). For obvious reasons, I won’t go into great detail about the case (both medical and legal), except to say that she worked for a large organisation in West Berkshire, was a key practitioner in her department of the organisation, and highly respected as a very experienced professional by the sector which she served. During a “re-organisation” exercise a couple of months ago, her post was “deleted” by the management of her department. Co-incidentally,by this time, she had taken out an action against them under the Disability Discrimination Act. Because of her age, she was lucky that she could retire early on becoming redundant, and didn’t have to rely on a redundancy payment alone – though it is hardly the way we had planned the next couple of years to work out before we eventually retired. Her injury finally resulted in shoulder surgery a few weeks ago, and it is now much improved, but she has not recovered yet from the way she was treated by her employers. For my part I have had to sit and watch the saga unfold, watch her physically suffer, and witness the gross mismanagement of what should have been a straightforward situation to resolve. Had she been working for a very small and struggling business, I could understand the reluctance of her employers to spend about £600 GBP on appropriate equipment had she requested it, but given that she worked for a public organisation with many hundreds of employees, and whom should have been setting an example of good practice and legal compliance for the rest of employers in this area. I am, to say the least, gobsmacked. In a former life, I had dealings, on behalf of their employees, with a number of similar organisations in different parts of the UK and also spent over 25 years in management. I can honestly say that in all that time, I never encountered such misplaced complacency as I have experienced with my wife’s former employers here – both with regard to her case, and to my own dealings with them in various capacities. The entire saga brings to mind the old tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and yet another old Welsh proverb – apologies for quoting them so often, but they make points so eloquently – “Nid oes Paradwys fel Paradwys Ffwl”, or “There is no Paradise like a Fool’s Paradise”

Another of those canny old Welsh sayings claims that, “There’s never any bad anywhere that doesn’t have good coming out of it…” . In this case, that is yet again true because, as a result of the timing of our retirement date having been partly decided by the “deletion” of my wife’s job (what a tellingly inhuman way of referring to someone’s livelihood and the service they provided!), we shall now be moving to North Devon in the near future. The downside of that will be the fact that we shall have to leave behind some very good and loyal friends – including those whom I have been privileged to count as my brothers – and we shall leave behind some very “pretty” countryside and a wonderful diversity of wildlife. On the other hand, we shall also be leaving behind the chronically diseased body of an organisation which, in the best traditions of Little Britain, has the most outrageously misplaced high opinion of its competence and suitability to serve those who pay for its existence. To paraphrase dear old Winston Churchill – Never in the field of human effort was so little done by so many for so much! I hope you get my drift, as they say ….

Postscript: It occurs to me that for various reasons, I ought to add a little footnote to this particular blog entry, as follows:
The opinions expressed in this entry are those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of any other person, including his wife, with whom he has had contact in recent months. They refer only to his informed observations as a family member who has had to sit, uncharacteristically quietly, on the sidelines and watch a situation unfold, knowing that had the details of the case been more widely publicised and been scrutinised by the Press, there would have been public indignation, and probably a number of other posts would have been “deleted” also. Unfortunately, my financial position does not allow me the luxury of speaking my mind as freely as I would like, because I could never afford the legal protection and advice that is available to those who have the money to avail themselves of such luxuries. Encore un fois – c’est la vie!

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