View Full Version : The Pride Of British Management

23-08-2005, 08:42:48
If that doesn't prove management idiocy I don't know what does. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4175316.stm)

Who, in their right mind, swallows the out-sourcing creed from the gurus to such an extent that they outsource a vital area of their business to an external company that has no competition ? "Hey, we want you to have us over a barrel. Please take on this vital role as there is no one else we can go to if you don't turn out to be suitable".

In addition the company who has the contract not only mismanages things so madly they lose millions, they then think they can just sack staff who, due to a dispute, have withdrawn their labour, as if it was just a fortunate excuse to drop an irrelevant commodity and help get them out of the shit. And now they wonder why they're in such a mess, they don't even appear to know how to act civilised.

The Norks
23-08-2005, 08:45:59
BA are going to have no customers left soon, they collapse every summer

23-08-2005, 11:18:52
It sounds like Gate Gourmet is all screwed up and really does need to reorganize. If there really is only one company in all of the UK that can make packaged airline food then something is wrong. That doesn't sound like it would be to hard for some other company to break into the packaged food industry and inject a little competition.

I have no simpathy for those people who got fired. They were upset that a company losing millions was going to lay off staff so they decided to break their collective barginning agreement and strike. The company told them to honor the agreement or be fired so they got fired. I bet most of them were going to be laid off during the reorganization anyway.

23-08-2005, 11:20:45
Originally posted by The Norks
BA are going to have no customers left soon, they collapse every summer

Supposedly if you took all the money the airlines have ever made since the first airline opened it comes out to be a money losing business. That's why governments ended up nationalize and regulating most of the airlines to begin with' the sector only survives due to subsidies and regularly declaring bankruptcy.

Provost Harrison
23-08-2005, 11:39:05
So it's quite acceptable to just ruin hundreds of people's lives?

23-08-2005, 12:38:38
if the result is laid off last week or laid off this week...

The company is screwed so no jobs either way

23-08-2005, 12:50:12
With BA messing themselves up so that they rely on Gate Gourmet, and offering to pay more for the service : and the unions being prepared to negotiate lay-offs as long as everyone who has been sacked for withdrawing their labour is reinstated first, the company need not be screwed. It's in everyone's interest for it not to be so, at the moment. Only intransigence will cause problems, and I see that as mainly a Gate Gourmet management failing.

Meanwhile, latest from BBC website is more optimistic.

23-08-2005, 13:09:32
Originally posted by Provost Harrison
So it's quite acceptable to just ruin hundreds of people's lives?

It's a for profit business not a charity institution.

23-08-2005, 13:56:30
But it has to operate within what society considers to be acceptable behaviour. That means treating staff better than other resources since society only wants industry for it's potential to improve individuals' lives. Otherwise what's the point ?

*End Is Forever*
23-08-2005, 14:29:03
BA is heading for more turbulence as militants rule the roost again (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/08/23/do2301.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2005/08/23/ixopinion.html)
By Christopher Hope
(Filed: 23/08/2005)

British Airways flights leaving Heathrow yesterday were offering passengers in economy class a choice of chicken casserole or spinach risotto, while those in the bigger seats were able to tuck into fillet steak or chicken with mushroom sauce.

Not much to write home about there, you might say, but the serving of these meals was significant for BA - it was the first time in two weeks that the world's favourite airline has been able to offer hot food to its passengers. What was not on the menu was a dish of cold industrial logic for the workers at the company which prepared the meals, Gate Gourmet.

BA's in-flight food may have improved a fair bit since the 1970s but the problem is that the way the meals are made has hardly moved forward. Yes, just when you thought it was dead, the scourge of British business for the past 30 years, the dead-hand of "1970s working practices", is back.

The examples cited by Gate Gourmet's management (without corroboration from the unions) about the working practices at its Heathrow South and Heathrow West kitchens yesterday sounded like a throwback to the days when the likes of Derek "Red Robbo" Robinson ruled the roost at Longbridge.

How about the Meiko industrial washer that cleans meal trolleys at Heathrow West before they are loaded on to another BA jet? The German maker stipulates that three workers are required to operate it. Yet working practices at Gate Gourmet dictate that at least five people must use the machine, some using only one hand because of the crush around the machine.

Or how about the working hours of Gate Gourmet's delivery drivers, paid between 25,000 and 30,000 a year including overtime? If they finish their deliveries with time to spare, they are permitted to put up their feet for the remaining hours of the shift. If a manager at Gate Gourmet tries to get them to make more deliveries, the drivers can charge another two and a half hours of overtime for every extra job they are asked to do. Oh, and some of them will only deliver to certain airlines.

Work breaks are equally prescribed. Gate Gourmet's 2,000 workers are allowed 50 minutes' worth of breaks a day (30 minutes for lunch and a 20-minute tea break) as well as another 15 minutes to go to the lavatory. However, this 15-minute "toilet break" is often taken as extra time, because workers are not inclined to wait for their toilet break before going to the loo.

Similarly, the 6am shift actually starts at 6.20 because staff are allowed a 20-minute break to get changed. The shift is meant to finish at two o'clock, but actually finishes at 1.40pm - to allow the staff to take off their overalls. The cost to Gate Gourmet of these breaks is the equivalent of adding 70 people to the company's 2,000 full-strength staff roster. These working practices, which union officials were unable to confirm or deny yesterday, might have stayed behind the kitchen door at Gate Gourmet if it had not been for the attempts by managers to modernise them earlier this year.

Their timing was crucial. Gate Gourmet was facing a crunch. BA accounted for 80 per cent of its revenues, yet the contract was losing the company 25 million a year and was due to run out in 2008. It had to agree a new deal, on better terms, and start to operate more efficiently.

After 32 meetings in 10 months with the Transport and General Workers' Union, Gate Gourmet managers thought they had a deal that would see most of the outdated practices consigned to the industrial furnace. But when the proposals were put to the workers, they were surprisingly rejected.

Gate Gourmet's private travails became a public concern earlier this month when its managers tried to hire some temporary staff to cover for holiday shortages. Immediately, hundreds of staff walked out. After they failed to return to work, 667 of them were sacked.

This prompted 1,000 baggage handlers and other staff at BA to stage a sympathy strike action, leaving the airline with thousands of stranded passengers when it cancelled all flights from Heathrow for a day.

With all to play for, Gate Gourmet's US owner is playing hardball, threatening to push the business into administration unless the contract extension with BA can be agreed. Meanwhile, the T&G is demanding that all of the striking workers be reinstated.

So who's to blame? Undoubtedly, Gate Gourmet and its American owner Texas Pacific Group should have acted earlier to reform these outdated working practices which they inherited when they bought the business from Swissair in 2002. The company can also be criticised for the heavy-handed manner in which it has attempted to get its own way (managers infamously fired workers two weeks ago by yelling instructions through a megaphone).

Similarly, BA has only aggravated a difficult situation by insisting on the changes to working practices before it agreed better terms for the two-year extension to the contract. The delay to this contract is now threatening the future of Gate Gourmet.

But the real villain appears to be the union, which allowed itself to be dictated to by a minority of militants among Gate Gourmet's staff.

Yesterday the T&G's boss, Tony Woodley, could be found at Southall Sikh temple, addressing a rally of the sacked staff. Yet earlier this summer, his officials presented a package to staff which they had agreed with Gate Gourmet. It was only the surprising decision by the workforce to reject the offer that forced the union to change tack and side with the militants. The choice was a tough one, even for a seasoned political operator like Woodley. But the T&G's position now - reinstatement of all of the sacked workers - is unrealistic, for Gate Gourmet will never allow it.

And so the macabre dance continues. The key to this saga is BA. If the airline agrees terms with Gate Gourmet by tonight, it risks the wrath of the T&G, which also holds the key to industrial peace at Heathrow. If there is no deal, Gate Gourmet will pull the plug on its UK operation and hand the whole business over to the administrators, increasing the likelihood of more job losses and turbulence for BA's passengers.

Flying a plane has never been more difficult.

Dyl Ulenspiegel
23-08-2005, 15:03:01
"outdated working practices which they inherited when they bought the business from Swissair in 2002"

That explains everything.

Dyl Ulenspiegel
23-08-2005, 15:05:24
Originally posted by Oerdin
the sector only survives due to subsidies and regularly declaring bankruptcy.

Well a general subsidy is the non-taxation of fuel. Apart from that, most european airlines only recieved insurance subsidies after the 9/11 attacks.

What I don't get: How can you run a buisness model that includes regular bankruptcy? Why do creditors fork over the money again and again, without demanding 100 % interest?

23-08-2005, 16:23:36
I guess they believe that the government will bail them out or something. Lord knows there has been enough of that in this industry.

23-08-2005, 17:01:47
Ah the good ol' Torygraph eh ?

Well the 3 to 5 staff per trolley aside (and one would need to know more details) none of the rest seems particularly unreasonable. If you're taken on with the 'changing times' as part of the contact then that's how it is. If a company wishes to change that, then it is only right that those affected agree compensation of some sort. And if folk are paid to get an agreed number of jobs done rather than hours solid work put in, then that's a perfectly reasonable option for a contract.

I find it difficult to believe that 'cover staff' for holiday periods would cause a walk out. I have no doubt there was more to it than that, as if 'cover staff' were needed it would be an annual occurrence. It makes no sense that it would be ok previous years and not this year. Some vital information is missing.

Folk don't walk out for fun. They lose out by choosing to do so and so only do so when they feel they've no further option. And so we see the unreasonable reaction to the strike. A massive number of sackings. If management had any ability they must have known this would cause a major industrial incident. If they are totally incompetent, then maybe they need to move on.

'Sympathy strike action' for folk who used to be colleagues before they were hived off to an external company. Takes a real wally to manage that these days.

The real villain doesn't seem to be the union to me. It is reacting as one would expect an union to act, to try to prevent management pushing the staff around as if they didn't matter, they'll do as they are told and lump it, or get fired.

The workforce rejected the offer, so you go negotiate if you've any sense. The reinstatement of all who were sacked is perfectly realistic if the GG management are interested in saving the company, rather than saving face. No union should be prepared to find scapegoats to cover the arses for those who've made a bad decision.

I think let the GG management have their sulk. BA should buy up whatever from the administrators and do the job themselves, properly, as they ought to have done all along.

Provost Harrison
23-08-2005, 23:35:09
I'm with Gary, I don't think the whole story has been made clear by the Torygraph (no surprise there). If they wanted to make layoffs they should have done it far more professionally. Then they wouldn't have caused this backlash.

Lazarus and the Gimp
24-08-2005, 19:16:51
Originally posted by Gary

I find it difficult to believe that 'cover staff' for holiday periods would cause a walk out. I have no doubt there was more to it than that, as if 'cover staff' were needed it would be an annual occurrence. It makes no sense that it would be ok previous years and not this year. Some vital information is missing.

I think it's all there.

"Well, folks. We're losing money, so we're going to lay permanent staff off. In the meantime, we're going to pay a Temp agency to provide us with inexperienced workers that you'll need to train up. This is, of course, madness- but it's easier than actually managing holiday absence planning. Incidentally, these temps are less likely to be union members and won't get pensions. Now get back to work, peons."

That would cause a walk-out (or strong words, at least) in many places.

24-08-2005, 21:40:35
With that sort of insight / interpretation you're either management, or a shop steward.

Lazarus and the Gimp
24-08-2005, 21:55:12
I've been both.