I strongly dislike strawberry tarts

I like pastry, I like cream, I love strawberries. But I do not like strawberry tarts. Mainly I don’t like them because they have horrible shiny goo poured all over them, but also I find that very often the strawberries are tasteless imported ones, the cream is cheap and nasty and the pastry is heavy and tough. But even freshly made ones with perfectly ripe local strawberries are still covered in the horrible shiny goo. So those are the main reasons I don’t like strawberry tarts – they’re nasty, and the horrible shiny goo is very nasty.

The other reason though, is a bit more abstract. I feel that strawberry tarts are lacking some fundamental coherent tartiness. Something about them never feels like they’re a proper tart – they’re just pastry, cream, and a couple of strawberries plonked on top (and then covered with horrible shiny goo). Nothing about them makes me feel that the component parts have been brought together into a new, coherent creation. They’re just disparate things next to each other with no essential tartiness in their being. And always the horrible shiny goo.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 26: more employee stories

Another email arrived yesterday, responding to this post. It says

Hi there-
I’ve become very interested in your blog lately due to just having left Lush after working for them for the past 6 1/2 years.  I’m sure you’ll keep this anonymous as you always do.  I know from the description which store was being described, XXX [removed to protect anonymity of previous poster], as I was the manager there for almost 6 years.  Now I am not a huge fan of the way Lush is run, which you will find later in this email, but I do feel a little bit of a need to defend some of the points in the last post; maybe because it was my shop for so long.  It is true that the heating is broken; I was told by one heating guy that our store is too long for the 1 heater it has.  Technically it should have another one at the front of the shop but that didn’t happen in the refit.  That being said, Lush has told us if it is too cold to shut the doors.  I used to shut the doors but I can’t say if the current manager did.  We even had a sign for the window that said ‘it maybe cold outside but it’s warm in here’ and we always got emails in the cold telling us to close the door.
The bathroom and the smell are true.  It’s gross but it’s a really old building protected because it’s a landmark so I’m not sure what Lush can actually do to help with that.
It is very dodgy on that street.  I doubt Mark would ever let sweet little Clare work there but the incident in TBS finally did wake up Mark and there will be a security system installed.  Funnily enough lots of the employees were pissed at getting the new cameras.
On the mark up of the prices 1.  It is a buisness  2.  It’s in Ireland.  What the sales assistant don’t understand is the cost of trading in Ireland.  Minimum wage is €8.65 and the rent of the premises is €19,000 a month!  Between those 2 things 80% of profits for the month are blown.  There is a law that upward only rent reviews may happen and since we signed in the boom that’s going to stay.  Basically Lush Ireland is a money pit.
My issue with Lush is the treatment of the Irish employees.  They don’t look at the REPUBLIC of Ireland as being it’s own country.  Many people in the head office don’t understand that Ireland is not the UK.  I don’t think it’s just Lush people and it’s more of a UK ignorance but in a company that likes to shout about it’s ethics and fight against discrimination you’d think they’d realize they are repressing a whole country of it’s workers.  No Irish managers have been promoted; maybe we’re too far here to kiss any ass.  We’re never given prices in Euro and it’s a huge deal for them to actually get them to us.  When money is given to charities and we ask if there is an Irish charity our money can go to we’ve been told ‘but isn’t it all just the same place?’. Many of the campaigns don’t even apply to us but they’re too lazy to figure out stuff for us.
 One employee that was in the Lush players was told he needed to tone down his accent (seriously).  And the best of all, Mark called and ex-employee a fucking-Irish eejit and Jack said to her ‘wah wah wah Sunday bloody Sunday.’  Is that really ethical?  Now I know many people didn’t have a contract issued but they hadn’t even had the Irish ones written until 2013.  They don’t actually look into Irish laws; we were told by design team we wouldn’t need a tv license for our spa displays when Irish laws stipulate having a television on the premises requires a license.  When it came to maternity cover and rights the manager who left on maternity leave had to figure it all out for herself.    Mark and Mo haven’t been to Dublin in 5 years, Ro, Helen and Liz have never been there and most of the head office and the old retail support couldn’t be bothered to come over and see how the businesses are doing here.  We are literally the red headed step children of Lush.
You know what? I’m only 50% convinced that’s anything to do with the shops being in Eire. The other 50% thinks it’s just their lack of interest in employment law rearing its ugly but fragrant head again. “Employment law different there? Well, we don’t really care about it here, so why bother with it there?”
I’ll be interested to see what happens in the event of Scottish independence.

Coronation Street explores white privilege

I’m just watching last night’s episodes of Coronation Street. Paul the boring fireman (white, and to be fair the biggest nonentity of a character since Ryan in Neighbours) is in a bad mood because of some work stuff, and was angry at a decision going against him in a game of darts. Protesting the decision, he said something about “playing the white man’s game,” not realising that black characters –  Lister from Red Dwarf, his daughter Jenna and her mother Mandy had just come into the pub and heard him.

Jenna, Lister from Red Dwarf and various white characters politely challenge Paul, who says he “didn’t mean it like that” but doesn’t apologise, because he doesn’t think he should have to apologise for something he obviously wouldn’t have said if he’d known they were there and because he “didn’t mean it like that.” After a bit of a discussion which turns into a barney, Lister from Red Dwarf calls Paul a racist, which makes Paul even angrier because he thinks it’s worse to be called a racist than to use a racial insult. And then neither of them will apologise to the other unless the other apologises first which obviously results in a bad-tempered stalemate.

Now, in Paul’s defence, there is no evidence that he is racist, and it does seem that he knows the term he used is racially offensive and that is slipped out in the heat of the moment when he was angry about something happening in the here and now, underpinned by his anxiety about what’s happening at work. He’s already feeling put-upon and attacked, and sees the people challenging him about what he said in the pub as adding to that, so he’s angry and defensive about that too.

But, he doesn’t apologise. He refuses to apologise, because he says that now Lloyd (Lister from Red Dwarf) has accused him of racism, if he apologises, he’s admitting to being racist. Because he still thinks being accused of racism is worse than being the victim of it.

Several of the characters talk to him, to Lloyd and to each other about it. All of them are in agreement that although they’ve all heard worse, and although they don’t think he is a racist, what Paul said wasn’t acceptable and he should apologise. Kudos to Coronation Street, none of the characters (so far) have said “oh, it was ok, they’re making a fuss about nothing.”

I think it would have been very easy for Corrie to make this an argument over the extremes of “it was harmless, get over it” and “it was awful, Paul’s a racist” and I think the way they’ve chosen to show it is cleverer than that. All the characters, Paul included, know that “playing the white man’s game” is a phrase which implies that white people play fairly – and therefore that the non-white people don’t. (I’m using non-white there deliberately to emphasise the privilege and sense of superiority explicit and implied in the phrase Paul used, not because it’s a term I would normally use. Just wanted to make that clear). All of the characters know it’s something he wouldn’t have said if he’d been thinking clearly, and the writers have included some discussion about the fact it wouldn’t have been ok to say it even if Lloyd, Jenna and Mandy hadn’t been there.

And what I really like is that all of the characters, except Paul, are saying very clearly “being called a racist is not worse than what you said. Stop being a dick and apologise. We know you’re not a racist, but you did say something stupid and it was hurtful. Stop being a dick and apologise. We understand why Lloyd, Jenna and Mandy are upset; it’s because you said something dickish. Stop being a dick and apologise.”

There are lessons for those of us who want to be allies to a cause – for the white people who want to be allies to black people in the fight against racism, for men who want to be allies to feminists in the fight against patriarchy, for the privileged in all the fights against oppression that are going on throughout the kyriarchy. Saying something stupid in the heat of the moment when you’re not thinking clearly doesn’t make you an evil person – but the decent way to deal with it is to acknowledge you fucked up, apologise sincerely, try not to do it again, and to not pretend that being challenged about it is worse than being a victim of it.

Also, Steve McDonald going on about his superglued hands – comedy joy.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 25: working hours

Someone drew my attention to this yesterday. I’m not particularly familiar with legal terminology, especially American legal terminology, so all I can say is that it looks like some Lush shop managers in the USA are suing the company for not paying them enhanced rates for overtime which they were legally entitled to. I make no comment on the rights and wrongs of the case because I don’t know, but I thought it might be useful to offer some information about the law regarding working hours in the UK.

Now, those of you who have read all the Bullshit posts on this blog will know that Mark Constantine said quite openly on the Lush International Forum that he didn’t see why Lush should have to pay attention to employment law because they were a small family business and it would cost them too much money. And you’ll know that as far as the law goes, Mark’s feelings don’t come into it – the law is the law is the law and he doesn’t get to decide that his multi-milllion pound international business is above it.

We already talked about holiday entitlement for people on zero hours contracts, but now lets talk about basic working hours. In the UK, the law relating to working hours is shaped by the European Working Time Directive. It gives EU workers the right to a minimum number of holidays each year, rest breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week. In the UK, it is possible for employees to opt out of the maximum 48 hour week and work longer hours, but all of the other requirements of the directive must be observed.

Her Majesty’s Government’s website has a useful overview of the regulations. These are the main points:

  • workers do not normally have to work more than 48 hours in an average week
  • working hours should be set out in the employment contract or written statement of employment details
  • employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week (averaged over 17 weeks)
  • there are some jobs which are exempt from the 48 hour limit but Lush manufacturing and retail jobs do not fall into the exempt categories
  • adult workers (those who are 18 or over) can choose to opt of the 48 hour limit
  • opting out must be voluntary and it must be recorded in writing
  • opting out of the 48 hour limit can be temporary (for a set period of time) or it can be indefinite
  • opting out cannot be a collective agreement with the whole workforce, although employers can ask every worker individually if they would like to opt out
  • employers should not sack or unfairly treat a worker (eg refuse promotion) for refusing to sign an opt-out, and if they did, the worker might have grounds for legal action
  • a worker can cancel their opt out agreement whenever they like, even if it has become part of their employment contract
  • employees must give at least 7 days’ notice of cancelling their opt out agreement, and might have to give longer if their agreement requires it
  • the employer cannot force a worker to cancel their opt out agreement
  • 16 and 17 year olds cannot normally work more than  hours a day, 40 hours a week, regardless of averages, and they are not allowed to opt out and work longer

The number of hours you work per week can be averaged by your employer over the applicable 17/26 reference week period (or your contract length), rather than measured in one week, and the first 20 days holiday you are legally entitled to cannot be used to reduce your average number of hours worked. However with the daily and weekly rest breaks and the opt out above included, the maximum in any week you should work is 78 hours.

This page has useful information about calculating your working hours and what counts as work.

If someone works for more than one employer, the amount of combined hours shouldn’t be more than 48 hours on average a week. Workers with more than one job could either consider signing an opt-out agreement if their total time worked is more than 48 hours, or reduce their hours to meet the 48-hour limit.

Overtime is normally hours that are worked over the normal full time hours; it can be compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory overtime would form part of the terms and conditions of employment, but workers can still not be made to work over 48 hours on average per week if they do not agree to. There is no legal right to be paid extra for any overtime worked, but this should be detailed in the terms of employment.

Rest breaks are also important. Workers are entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 hours uninterrupted rest between finishing your job and starting the next day. (Workers aged between 15-18 are entitled to a minimum daily rest break of 12 hours). This means that if you finish work at 8pm, you cannot be asked to start again before 7am (8am for under-18s). Workers are also entitled to a weekly rest period of 24 hours uninterrupted rest within each seven day period (workers aged 15-18 are entitled to 48 hours); or, if the employer chooses, a fortnightly rest period of 48 consecutive hours within each 14 day period. The weekly rest period cannot include any part of the daily rest period.So, if you have worked 8am-6pm Monday – Friday, finished at 6pm on the Friday and had 11 hours daily rest break, the 24 hour rest period does not start until 5am Saturday and the worker wouldn’t be able to work again until 5am Sunday.

If your working day is more than 6 hours long, you are entitled to a 20 minute break. If you are 15-18 years old, and you work more than 4.5 hours at a stretch, you are entitled to a 30 minute rest break. If you are an agency temp, the employer you are working for, not the agency, is responsible for ensuring you get your breaks. Breaks are usually unpaid, but might be paid, depending on your contract of employment.

There is plenty of useful information about working hours on the internet. If you feel your employer, no matter who they are, is not treating you in line with the legal requirements, then please join the appropriate union and get assistance. Your legal rights aren’t optional.

Sometimes the pool is really really funny

Sometimes the pool is really really funny.

 
First funny thing – two women, both so orange if you put Dale Winton next to them you’d ask him if he was ok ‘cos he’d be looking a bit peaky, hair tied up, full faces of makeup, side by side talking and doing the lady breaststroke with rigid necks – no danger at all of them getting their heads wet. Giant German kid either misjudges spectacularly or judges it perfectly, does fantastic running bomb and lands just next to them. Drenched.

 
Second funny thing – 9th length, I get to the far end of the pool, struggle to find a bit of edge to hang from because two men are talking, one at either side of the lane, and the bloke in front of me is also taking a rest. I hear one of the talking men, a Scot, say something to the other man about does he like bacon? The other man, who turns out to be foreign, possibly German or Dutch, says no, he doesn’t really like bacon. The Scot says oh, I really like smoked bacon, and the man from abroad says he likes smoked fish. I think “that’s somewhat random” and set off for length 10. At the end of length 11, they’re still there, but Scottish man has moved ever so slightly closer so I feel really quite awkward in between them, and is saying something about “she’s 17 and she’s going to university next year to study music.” I set off again. At the end of length 13 the Scot has moved slightly closer again so it’s hard to choose whether to go between them or behind the Scot, but I go between them because they’re starting to annoy me by not moving out of the lane to chat. The Scot is saying something about some men think it’s good to drink as many as ten pints of beer. I wonder how on earth they’ve got from bacon to music degrees to a quiet night in, and set off. After lengths 15 and 17 they’re still there, but the Scot has moved so close to the other guy I definitely can’t fit between them, and I can’t remember what they were talking about. After length 19 they’ve moved apart and the Scot is saying something about saying hello to people you pass in the street, while the other bloke looks totally glazed over.
After length 20, I left.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 24: more stories from employees

Someone emailed this to me today

Please please please keep this anonymous, I am terrified that you are actually a secret filtration system made by lush to catch out un-loyal employees, it wouldn’t surprise me at all!!

I am a Lush employee and have been for almost 2 years.

I’m not sure where to even begin telling you about issues that I (and my colleagues) have with our workplace.

I will just give you a long list of short points I guess….

– During winter we can’t close our doors, and our heating system is old and broken, we are not allowed to have heaters on the shop floor and work in 5-12 degree temperature (this is illegal, but alas, Lush have their own laws) nothing will be done for us, and we aren’t even allowed to wear coats.

– Our building is really old and flawed to say the least…. The pipes in the building are rotten I guess, and all of our walls (behind the shop floor obviously) are stained with water marks, and brown liquid stains. There is an unbarable smell of fecal matter once you leave the shop floor, some days it’s worse than others, but regardless, it shouldn’t exist in the first place!

– We have a leak in the building at times, and water will just start pouring from the ceiling. We have one plumber who comes to check these problems, (he is the one hired by Lush, so we cannot get another one) and he keeps on insisting there is NOTHING WRONG with the building….

– Our toilet constantly blocks, and oftentimes we have to work with no working toilet.

– Our store is in a quite dodgy area to say the least, we get people stealing constantly, and even though we beg and plead we are constantly refused security. We have to stop people from taking gift boxes on a constant basis. Putting ourselves in extremely uncomfortable situations when attending to drug addicts and drunks who wander into the store.

This is not just something that makes us uncomfortable- OUR STAFF HAVE BEEN PHYSICALLY HURT before- one staff member was punched in the face by a woman attempting to steal things, we are constantly verbally abused, and I personally have been the victim of sexual harassment on a number of occasions, and know other female members of staff in the same boat. NOTHING has been done for us. Not even when someone in the store opposite us (ironically the body shop) was chased by someone attempting to rob the store with a knife, he chased this girl screaming and crying with a knife. We are in danger and lush just don’t care.

– We constantly sell things unethically at the order of our manager, we sell gift boxes that are technically passed the sell by date, gifts should be on the shop floor (including other products) for no longer than 4 months, we have sold gifts in the passed that were passed the 7 month mark.

Again another “sales tactic” we use is if we undercut a piece of soap (by lush rules we cannot sell soap under 100 grams) we are told to weigh it with wrapping papers under it. Each sheet weighs 2 grams…. I even heard my boss training the new girl and TELLING her that when selling soap, she should weigh it with the sheets underneat, trying to make every penny count.

– We were told at training, that with Emotional Brilliance, if we see a person use/open a product for sale, we need to waste it on the system, however, we are told not to do this as its a waste of too much money, so in essence, we sell makeup that has been previously used…. Delicious!

– The markups on our products, don’t even get me started, it is ridiculous on certain things!!! We get to see in the system how much the making cost is for products. If you would like info- maybe 5/10 products or whatever, I can get you the info from work.

For now, that is all I will be complaining about, but if you have questions, please let me know…

Thank you for reading this rant also!!!

 

Again, the only thing I can say to these staff members is please please join USDAW or other appropriate union and get yourselves some support. You don’t – and you shouldn’t – have to put up with being assaulted at work!