THE WORST trades union in the country, the woeful NUJ, is at it again. This time the union is backing a national initiative designed to encourage employees to leave work on time. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet says: “We should have time to be with our loved ones, to have time to read a book or go out with our friends as well as doing a day’s or night’s work. On 25 September, we will be encouraging our members and their colleagues to put on their coats when their shift is over and go home.”
Right, where to begin? For a start, I don’t recall ever seeing a journalist’s contract that listed set hours of work. It may mention a notional 75-hour fortnight, but even that is ring-fenced by sub-clauses about working “whatever hours and times might be necessary at the editor’s discretion”, so what then is our Go Home On Time time? I suspect that the only people in our industry who know that are employees of the NUJ, who no doubt enjoy a tidy 9-5 existence. It ain’t like that in the real world.
Secondly, journalists are not clock-watchers; it’s not in our nature. If a job needs doing, then we do it. And what happens if someone rings up with a cracking story just as you pull your coat on? Are you going to put the phone down and walk away? Of course not. And what would happen if you did? I’ve seen careers ended for less.
Thirdly, the day of inaction is planned for a Wednesday, which also happens to be deadline day for a whole host of weekly newspapers. The NUJ obviously doesn’t know this, but if Ms Stanistreet can point me to a single editorial employee of those titles who will be able to leave at a notional 5.30pm on that particular day, I’ll show my arse in Woolworth’s window.
The sadness of the union’s support for this silly publicity stunt is that there is a real issue to be tackled regarding hours. Fewer and fewer journalists are having to do more and more work. While we don’t expect regular hours or even overtime, it would be nice to get some of that extra time back in the form of the occasional lieu day. I’m sure well-run offices try to do this, but for many the impact will be simply to put even more pressure on those left behind.
What is needed then is some spare resource, money to pay for a casual to come in and cover a shift so a full-time employee can take a lieu day. God only knows, there are enough redundant hacks milling around out here to satisfy any demand.
THE MUMPRENEURS are gearing up for Christmas with their party bags, artisan jewellery and bespoke cupcakes. My latest client is running wreath-making workshops from her home, all materials provided plus coffee and a light lunch, for just £70 a head. Seventy pounds a fucking head so the ladies-who-lunch can fill their empty day until hubby arrives home from that London. It’s money for old rope – or old plastic mistletoe in this case.
Elsewhere I see news of another local kitchen table ‘business’. This one involves plain organic cotton bags (Why organic? You’re not going to eat the fucking things) on which is printed an outline of a drawing. The bag contains a packet of crayons and the idea is that children at weddings and the like stop being bothersome because they’re too busy colouring-in the drawing. Yours, squire, for £13.75 apiece, or six for £75.
How much? Even if the bags contain a few extras alongside the crayons – a gift tag, some ‘treat-sized’ sweets, some stickers – £13.75 is taking the piss, big style. I’m beginning to think that these ‘businesses’ are only temporarily sustainable because they’re all buying from each other. The Cupcake Woman buys from the Party Bag Woman, who buys from the Artisan Jewellery Woman, who coughs up £70 to go and make a Christmas wreath.
It’s a virtuous circle of bored housewives with disposable income – and a market well worth an old smoothie like me tapping into.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan