Tag Archives: #Government

Doing Business

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Without doubt, the UK is a very troubled country at the moment. We have a government that is openly corrupt and sees no problem with its own behaviour. We have systematic looting of our public services by people who are blatantly breaching the Standards, Codes and Laws governing their conduct. It is blindingly obvious to anyone with a clear understanding of criminality or political wrong-doing – across all political parties – and yet we seem unable to do anything about it.

 

We are caught in a polarisation of politics where we are either committed to public service or dedicated to privatisation. Our problem is that we seem to be forced to choose one or the other. I’m not satisfied with either. The apparent total absence of morals within the private sector is totally abhorrent to me yet the politicisation and apparent corruption running through the public sector is equally repugnant. If I were choosing a way through this mess – which I am, in fact – I would want more choices.

 

One choice I have my eye on are the creation of social enterprises – which could be run by the best of our public servants  – and which start to address our most immediate needs. This police officer, for example, has identified a potentially very valuable social enterprise. If neither public nor private sectors have the stomach for such work, then maybe those of us who can see the problem need to start fixing it ourselves. We are not stupid people – there’s always a lawful way through a thicket like this. It’s just a case of finding it. We know exactly the kind of legal safeguards necessary to ensure a highly professional outcome. Successful cases will attract costs, so I’m sure that any business plan would look good. We know who to talk to and we know which people we’d like running the ship. We have plenty of good people who need jobs who might be willing to volunteer until the finances are sorted. For that we need a few rich and agreeable friends to throw us a few honest coppers to cover start-up costs. Who else do we know we could ask for help? It’s not difficult if you talk to the right people – we know that!

 

This police officer’s social enterprise would be my first priority because it recovers public money. Some of that can be used for grant-giving purposes to other social enterprises – like hospitals, transport and all those other services we used to have but don’t anymore. We become our own job creation scheme. And woe betide any PCC who fails to award contracts to policing social enterprises – they won’t be corrupt because we’ll be making sure they’re not.

 

There may be other ideas out there but whilst we are distracted into playing this rigged game of public/private, its heads they win – tails we lose, every time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of losing to these corrupt bastards and bitches. I think it’s time we took our power back. Social enterprise does this by taking the power out of private and political hands and returning it to our competent public. All we are doing is making sure public services are our business.

 

I like that idea. I think it could catch on.

Reflecting upon principles residing at the heart of the ‘Contract of Employment’

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[Disclaimer:

This blog is likely to contain serious errors in Contract of Employment law, so it is vital that anyone considering taking action utilising any of these points seeks proper and professional legal advice first. My knowledge of the detail of both employment and contract law is extremely rusty and cannot be wholly relied upon. My intention is to sift through existing wisdom in order to identify the underlying principles applying to the heart of any contract between government and its public servants. How these principles work in current practice is not my area of expertise, hence the need for professional advice.]

 

Introduction

 

In Britain, employment is governed by contract law. It can be a contract between employer and employee or a business contract between purchaser and supplier in the case of those who are self-employed. The history of how current Employment Law (pdf) came into existence is interesting because it reflects changing social relationships within the UK.

Issues surrounding employment were first set into law by the Factories Acts of 1802 and 1833, and the relationship between employer and employee was first set down within the Master and Servant Act of 1832. This act remained in force until it was succeeded by the Contracts of Employment Act 1963. This last act introduced and codified the responsibilities of both employer and employee, and it is the principles involved with this relationship that this piece seeks to explore.

Like most, employment law is not perfect and reflects the attitudes of the time.  As labour lawyer, Otto Kahn-Freund, put it:

 “the relation between an employer and an isolated employee or worker is typically a relation between a bearer of power and one who is not a bearer of power. In its inception it is an act of submission, in its operation it is a condition of subordination, however much the submission and the subordination may be concealed by the indispensable figment of the legal mind known as the ‘contract of employment’. The main object of labour law has been, and… will always be a countervailing force to counteract the inequality of bargaining power which is inherent and must be inherent in the employment relationship.”

It was the following tweet and its commentary on one person’s experience of the relationship between the UK government and its police that has prompted this particular exploration.

To all intents and purposes, the tweet describes a Master/Servant relationship where the actions of the ‘Master’ are experienced as repressive by the ‘servant’. It’s therefore worth remembering that Master/Servant approach was replaced, even if old attitudes die hard. These days, it is a legal contract that theoretically occurs between consenting adults and the contract fails if one party acts in such a way that the ‘heart’ of the contract is breached.


 

The Psychological Contract

 

Whilst any employment contract is subject to prevailing law, it will inevitably contain a psychological component simply because it legislates human relationships. This dynamic has been called the “Psychological Contract”:-

“’The Psychological Contract’ is an increasingly relevant aspect of workplace relationships and wider human behaviour.

Descriptions and definitions of the Psychological Contract first emerged in the 1960s, notably in the work of organizational and behavioural theorists Chris Argyris and Edgar Schein. Many other experts have contributed ideas to the subject since then, and continue to do so, either specifically focusing on the Psychological Contract, or approaching it from a particular perspective, of which there are many. The Psychological Contract is a deep and varied concept and is open to a wide range of interpretations and theoretical studies.

Primarily, the Psychological Contract refers to the relationship between an employer and its employees, and specifically concerns mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes.

The Psychological Contract is usually seen from the standpoint or feelings of employees, although a full appreciation requires it to be understood from both sides.

Simply, in an employment context, the Psychological Contract is the fairness or balance (typically as perceived by the employee) between:

  • how the employee is treated by the employer, and
  • what the employee puts into the job.

The words ’employees’ or ‘staff’ or ‘workforce’ are equally appropriate in the above description.

At a deeper level the concept becomes increasingly complex and significant in work and management – especially in change management and in large organizations.

Interestingly the theory and principles of the Psychological Contract can also be applied beyond the employment situation to human relationships and wider society.

Unlike many traditional theories of management and behaviour, the Psychological Contract and its surrounding ideas are still quite fluid; they are yet to be fully defined and understood, and are far from widely recognised and used in organizations.

The concept of ‘psychological contracting’ is even less well understood in other parts of society where people and organisations connect, despite its significance and potential usefulness. Hopefully what follows will encourage you to advance the appreciation and application of its important principles, in whatever way makes sense to you. It is a hugely fertile and potentially beneficial area of study.

At the heart of the Psychological Contract is a philosophy – not a process or a tool or a formula. This reflects its deeply significant, changing and dynamic nature.

The way we define and manage the Psychological Contract, and how we understand and apply its underpinning principles in our relationships – inside and outside of work – essentially defines our humanity.

Respect, compassion, trust, empathy, fairness, objectivity – qualities like these characterize the Psychological Contract, just as they characterize a civilized outlook to life as a whole.”

For the most part, addressing the issues contained within a psychological contract is actually in an employers interest and forms the bedrock of good management-employee relations. It informs the adult-to-adult dynamic of the Contract of Employment itself. For example: if a Contract of Employment recognizes that human qualities such as mutual respect, compassion, trust, empathy, and fairness reside at the heart of the agreement, then any failure impacts in the same place.

 

 

An Employee’s Perception of Power

 

If we accept Otto-Kahn-Freund’s definition that the Contract of Employment is “a relation between a bearer of power and one who is not a bearer of power”, it becomes important to explore how this dynamic impacts upon the psychological contract.

From a psychotherapeutic perspective, this relates to the uses of power within the workplace and elsewhere. As a management trainer, I used the following examples to tease out how any power dynamic functions.

Power-Over:

Power-over is the position that most people recognize when such discussions arise. It is an aggressive principle that forces its own perception upon those it deems to be less powerful than itself. To function effectively, it requires others to adopt the next position.

Power-less:

Within the power dynamic, to be powerless is to be passive; to accept, without question, the edicts of those who occupy the ‘power-over’ position. It is a depressed/oppressed position and I found it informative, when teaching this, to ask course participants whether they liked being powerless because the response would often lead directly into the third position of the power dynamic.

 Power-Under:

Power-under is the response of those who, finding themselves powerless within an unhappy power dynamic, seek to undermine those occupying the power-over position. It is a passive-aggressive response from below in reply to perceived power-over abuses from above.

All the above positions depend upon the perception that power can be divided up into hierarchies of who has power, who doesn’t and how the powerless feel about it. There is, however, a fourth position that stands outside this dynamic altogether.

 Powerful:

To be a powerful human being does not reside in any hierarchical social position – it belongs to anyone who wishes to claim it and it is the provenance of adults. To be powerful recognizes that each of us have responsibility and a duty to exercise that responsibility within any psychological contract we might consent to. For example: a Chief Executive and a cleaner can both discharge their duties in a powerful/responsible manner – it is a matter of personal choice. At the same time, individuals can divest themselves of this personal power in which case they volunteer themselves to be part of the hierarchical power dynamic where everyone blames everyone else for the failures piling up around their ears.

In a healthy psychological contract, the employer seeks to employ powerful and competent adults who will be treated with respect, compassion, trust, empathy, fairness, objectivity whilst they discharge their duties. This is the benchmark for good employment practice. Done well, it can result in employees agreeing to reductions in terms and conditions, especially through difficult economic times, because they get on well with their employer and are willing to share the burden. If, however, the employment contract serves only to reinforce the hierarchical positions of power and where the psychological contract is arbitrarily dispensed with by the employer, the results are disputes and, where unionized, industrial action.

That the UK is apparently facing the possibility of its first general strike in over eighty years suggests that there has been a significant and dramatic failure of both employment and psychological contracts. That UK police and prison officers – whose contracts of employment actually forbid industrial action – have now started considering and acting out their response to government-imposed changes to their terms and conditions points to how serious the situation has become.

 

 

The Heart of the Contract of Employment

 

I’m going to look at this from the perspective of civil and crown servants simply because the heart of the contract between Crown and Servant has been made explicit. Please bear in mind that these are only my observations. My opinion may carry no weight in law and therefore needs to be checked.

At the heart of the psychological contract are the following conditions: respect, compassion, trust, empathy, fairness, and objectivity. At the heart of the Crown contract, a servant must demonstrate the four core values detailed below:

  • ‘Integrity’:  putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests;
  • ‘Honesty’: being truthful and open;
  • ‘Objectivity’: basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and
  • ‘Impartiality’: acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions.

In addition, if a civil servant believes that that he/she is being asked to behave in a way which conflicts with the code, he/she may now report the matter direct to the Civil Service Commissioners.

It is now clearly specified that the code is part of the contractual relationship between the civil servant and his/her employer.

As an observer, I would wonder whether these legal requirements for integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality also fall upon the employer too. If they do, and there is objective and politically impartial evidence to show that the employer is failing to adhere to these requirements, I would suggest that this may go to the Heart of the employees’ Contract of Employment. It may be that an employers’ breach of the Civil Service Code could be deemed sufficient to render previously forbidden industrial action lawful especially if the action sought to impose ‘fair’ conditions, like integrity and honesty, upon government in this instance. It would probably be necessary to demonstrate that individual members of government were failing to adhere to their own Code of Conduct with objective and impartial evidence.

To the best of my knowledge, no employee of any description is ever required to obey an unlawful order. If orders can be shown to be unlawful, in my own mind it becomes the responsibility of the employee to disobey them. It may also be the case that employers issuing unlawful orders can be subject to sanctions, but this would have to be determined by competent, professional legal minds.

 

 

 

To repeat, my observations must not be assumed to be legally accurate. They need to be checked and examined by those whose social responsibility it is to understand these intricacies. My skills relate to teasing out the underlying power dynamics and principles within human relationships, coupled with an ‘ancient’ experience of employment law pertaining to the public sector of local government.

Whether my opinion has any worthwhile contribution to make in resolving the present social unrest amongst the public servants of my country remains to be seen.

Ecuador and Assange – The straw that’s breaking the global camel’s back?

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At the time of his appeal to the UK Supreme Court, I blogged about the impact its decision would have upon the collective:

“The death-dealers need to realise that the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Julian Assange has little to do with legalities anymore, even if it might appear that way. It is about which path the Heart-Energy takes now. In much the same way as Anonymous is an idea not an individual, so what is occurring around Assange and Manning is an emotion triggered by an absence of honest truth – the instinct to do what is in harmony with the planet. Death-dealers may think they can ‘take out’ these individuals, but you can’t kill the Spirit and every time you try, the Spirit grows stronger and becomes more powerful. She can’t be evaded or avoided because this Spirit resides in everything we are and everything we see around us. If Julian Assange is being judged for his choices so, too, will you be judged and the consequence of all our collective choices is in manifestation now. I don’t know how this will happen but happen it will because the Assange River has just flowed into the Heart-Spirit Ocean and no human thing will be able halt the tides of change.”

 

As events have unfolded, the essence of my intuition has proven accurate in some profoundly unexpected ways. At the time of writing this, Julian Assange has become a citizen of Ecuador having successfully sought diplomatic asylum in their UK embassy. The Latin-American country took a close look at his case and concluded that there was something very wrong in the way the laws were being applied to the whistleblower. The subsequent and extremely undiplomatic actions of the UK Foreign Office have more than demonstrated that the countries involved have a case to answer and that Ecuador has been largely correct in its view about the human rights issues involved. The US, UK and Sweden have been playing fast and loose with their own laws in ways that are now apparent to anyone who is willing to look and we are at the stage where some countries, particularly in Latin-America, are taking collective steps to put the issues involved onto the international agenda.

At the same time, Assange’s actions in seeking asylum have opened the global Pandora’s Box concerning the gender politics around rape. To be clear, Assange has not been charged with any crime. There are questions to answer and he has made it clear that he is willing to be interviewed but not in Sweden because he fears extradition to the USA on unrelated matters. The allegations of sexual misconduct fall into deeply unclear categories as far as the patriarchal mind is concerned. Regarding the man himself, I find myself profoundly ambivalent. I have a deep personal antipathy towards cults of personality that apparently exonerate bad behaviour because the individual has done something elsewhere for benefit of the collective. In my own mind, this applies to everyone not just Assange. Nevertheless, if potentially criminal behaviour is to be subject to examination, that individual has the legal human right to be treated fairly. Sweden, whose record on women’s rights falls far short of equality under law, has some very serious questions to answer in its handling of the allegations against Assange. Whilst publicly denying it, the US has been shown to have prepared secret charges against him created in equally secret courts which, potentially, could result in life imprisonment or execution whilst publicly denying this.  The UK has been exposed as willing to arbitrarily tear up international diplomatic agreements in this global witch-hunt against a single individual. In short, all three countries have been found blameworthy of manipulating facts to the point of downright lies. Anyone caught lying in such situations can be reasonably regarded as unreliable and their evidence untrustworthy. In the circumstances, Assange’s right to a fair investigation – let alone a fair trial – seems to have disappeared altogether and we find ourselves in a global battle between truth, lies and the law.

In my earlier blog, I’d described the case as the Assange River which had now become part of the Heart-Spirit Ocean and this has clearly proven to be true because it has torn open the gender politics of rape on a global scale. As a woman, some of the rape-dismissive comments made by Assange supporters have been truly terrifying. Apparently some men think their desires are justifiable regardless of whether the woman consents or is capable of consenting. If Assange is guilty of such behaviour, he is certainly not alone in his attitude. In such minds, women become a commodity where a man can freely help himself and the levels of astonishment that we might actually object to being treated that way is, in my opinion, obscene. The polarisation of attitudes in the case has become as vicious as the pursuit of the man involved. Some Assange supporters dismiss the women’s claims as unimportant or a diversionary tactic. Others have accused anyone wishing to explore these issues as a ‘rape apologist’. Both viewpoints try to impose simplistic solutions on a highly complex problem and neither contributes to humane, let alone legal, solutions. The world finds itself caught up in some very deep and destructive tides.

As a woman, the debate about what constitutes rape has been highly educational. The subtleties of the Assange case have made me realise that, under these emerging definitions, I am amongst those who have been raped in the past and I have certainly been subject to violence for my refusal to consent to sex. I didn’t report it, as many women don’t, because in practice the UK legal system fails to recognise such nuances. It is highly unlikely that my experience would have ever been taken seriously, let alone seen charges or the inside of a courtroom because these only manifest if prosecutors think there is a chance of winning. UK statistics concerning rape cases tell the sadly all-too-familiar stories about what happens to victims who do pursue much clearer cases through the courts. I don’t know anything about the Swedish legal system but I know the country doesn’t do well on a woman’s property rights, so I am inclined to be cynical about the motives in pursuing Assange purely on the basis of these allegations. I am not questioning the complaints of the women involved or their right to have their experience examined under law but I do wonder if their stories would have been given as much attention had the perpetrator not been Julian Assange.

In the global pursuit of the man himself, the governments involved have now made it clear that the subtleties and nuances involved do matter when it comes to the meaning of consent and the ability to consent. According to this interesting about-face, Assange must be prosecuted (anyone who thinks I am mistaken about this is invited to consider the likelihood of Sweden interviewing him and determining that there is no case to answer). So regardless of the case itself, I am deeply grateful to the women involved for bringing these subtleties to the international stage because their complaint has expanded the issue into other important principles.

For example, the US complaint against Assange is that he released previously secret information without their consent. They had said ‘No’. One might feel sorry for the US had its own past behaviour clearly demonstrated it’s tendency to override the democratic ‘No’ of many other countries. As a serial rapist of the democratic process, the US has been found guilty on numerous occasions. Under the auspices of the International Declaration on Human Rights, the USA could be regarded not only as a serial rapist but also a highly unrepentant one at that. The actions authorised by the UK government for invading the Ecuadorian Embassy in order to recapture Assange clearly manifest an intention to override the international diplomatic ‘No’ against the country involved. Transferred the realm of sexual politics, this could certainly be regarded as conspiracy to rape. The questions arising from Sweden’s actions and Australia’s inaction point to the possibility that they could be accessories to the rape of international law. Truly, this is the Heart-Spirit Ocean of global morality and the tsunami of Assange is laying bare a criminal level of intent by those who deem themselves to be international upholders of the law. As far as I can see, the only thing apparently being upheld by the US, UK and Sweden is the lawlessness of rapist mentality and their public statements of denial sound like every rapist who has ever been publicly accused of that crime.

The case of Assange stretches from the personal, between the man and these two women, to the international and criminal abuses of power inflicted upon the world by unlawful attitudes that turn people, and especially women, into commodities. It highlights prevailing male attitudes towards the accessibility of women’s bodies regardless of our consent. Transferred to the international arena, it highlights some ‘first-world’ attitudes regarding the accessibility of ‘third world’ countries, equally without their consent.

Had it not been for the evidence produced by Wikileaks and other activists in raising our collective awareness of the true nature of this so-called ‘diplomacy’, the chances of Assange and Ecuador being ‘raped’ by this mindset probably would have been very high indeed.  We can be grateful to the global attention created by outcry from both extremes of the Assange polarity that prevented this additional outrage from occurring. But supposing the world hadn’t been watching? In my own mind, I can almost hear these ‘diplomatic rapists’ saying to their victims that they could protest all they wanted to, no-one was going to believe them.

In all the reports I’ve heard about the case against Assange, I have yet to hear him accused of that.