Friday, 24 February 2006

Work Your Proper Hours Day

Today is Work Your Proper Hours Day. In the UK we work longer hours than in the rest of Europe, yet productivity doesn't always follow. In lots of companies (and this is certainly true in my field of IT) there is a certain amount of pressure to work beyond contracted hours despite not being paid for doing so. Sometimes there is pressure from 'on high', but oddly it seems that in most cases the pressure comes from the fact that other people do it. This results in a sort of peer pressure in that people don't want to be seen as slackers, so they stay late too. The company gets used to this and reduces estimates for work based on this free overtime, thus making it impossible to reach targets unless everyone works late.

I don't think that it is reasonable to refuse to work long hours in a professional workplace, but these long hours should be the exception. Employers need reminding of this occassionally, so events like this Work Your Proper Hours Day are important. Make sure you take part! Note that there's also an 'anonymous email' generator on the site where you can send an email to your boss telling him about the day (it doesn't reveal your name!). Make sure you use it!

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Freedoms, and lack of them

It has been an interesting few days. Yesterday we learned that parliament has voted in favour of ID cards, despite it being one of the more obviously stupid ideas that the government has ever come up with. ID cards now look increasingly likely unless people actually do something about it.

Elections are the way we get rid of politicians with fascist aspirations of course, but what can we do at a more immediate level? Well I for one am a member of No2ID, and along with many thousands of other people I will refuse to carry an ID card whatever the law says. No2ID have started a fund to pay the legal costs for defending anyone who does this, but hopefully it won't come to that. The point is that if enough people refuse to carry the card the whole thing will become unworkable and the government will have to drop the plans. I won't say any more about it - check out the No2ID site to see for yourself.

In other news, smoking will be banned in enclosed public places from next summer. Smokers have tried to use 'civil liberties' and 'freedom' against this decision, but that is nonsense. I'm afraid that freedom of speech and movement are freedoms, not the ability to go and give other people lung cancer. Smokers are addicts who are too weak to give up and I don't have any sympathy for them - go and pollute your own homes. Hopefully I'll be able to go for a night out without choking on smoke and coming home stinking. All good things. If you want the 'freedom' to smoke near me, then I want to freedom to carry a canister of chlorine gas with me and empty it into every pub I go to. As I enjoy breathing poisonous fumes then it's my 'right' to inflict that on everyone else, according to smokers logic.

Freedom and civil liberties aren't words and phrases to band around willy-nilly. Smoking in public isn't a 'freedom' to defend - smoking itself is a relic of an age where science didn't know that it caused so many illnesses, and the sooner it stops completely the better. There are some real, important and critical freedoms which we're in the process of losing, and we must fight for these. If necessary we must break these laws if they are passed. It's the least we can do to defend freedoms that our ancestors died for.