Looking back in my diary I see it was as early as May 2016 that we started to hear murmurings about some big changes ahead. I remember this because I had annual leave at the beginning of June and I asked my colleagues to keep me posted as I did not want to miss any announcements. Little did I realize that almost ONE YEAR later the process is still going on and that it would get a hell of a lot worse!
At the beginning we heard that cuts needed to be made and therefore there would be a restructure and part of that would result in less POSITIONS (FTE’s ) at most Libraries. We also heard that it could involve people working across more Libraries. The “more for less” motto was alive and well from the get go. Being amazing, hard working flexible people that love our job we all groaned a bit and smiled and got on with the job.
Little by little we were fed messages from above. Most of them, to be honest, said absolutely nothing. They were I guess what you would call placating, big statements about how we were going to take Libraries into the new era (of digital) and they sounded like corporate speak. Every week or so we would receive such an email which meant the working party could start ticking boxes. This was known as consultation.
Most people I spoke to felt the formal feedback process was just a box ticking exercise as well. Nevertheless many of us spent days (our own time) writing our feedback. One of the questions was:
5F Please provide your feedback on the impact of the proposal on your position(s).
Well!!!! Throughout the whole process and even till today when the first round of positions have been sent out – there has NEVER been any detail about what the new positions will actually look like. Like which library, what days and how will the hours be spread out. There has never been any clarification about the “scheduling tool” How does it work etc. So in our feedback we were expected to comment without all the information. Yep: Box ticking.
Meanwhile the months rolled on. I must make mention here that since about the beginning of 2016 there had been been a hiring freeze so there had been quite a lot of natural attrition. Till now I would guess probably enough to make the savings needed – of course if you include the money that could have been saved not paying all the “change experts” and working groups etc.
Then the big proposed FFF document was released earlier this year. This is the point when I resigned. (More about my personal experience in part 2.) This document had proposed organisational charts showing how many and of what type – librarian, library assistant, network library assistant – there would be across each local board area. More questions were raised. Try as we may the questions did not get answered. We had road shows, we had a visit from the area manager, the PSA. NO ONE!!!!!! seemed to be able to answer our specific questions – namely what is my position going to look like? How will it work? No one had answers.
Then came the voluntary redundancies; 70 something. We did hear that some were not so voluntary.
The stress grew, the tensions grew. Staff could see that they would be competing against their colleagues and friends for positions. They started to try to do what they could to have more strings to their bow so they could write it on their CV. So much for “working as a team” Morale was very low – now even lower. And still the secrecy – “don’t say anything to the public”. We were reminded that we were still employed by Auckland Council and even if we are angry or distressed we needed to smile at the customers, fake it if necessary and not show what we are feeling and not say what we are thinking.
A CV writing workshop was organised (more $$$$) outsourced of course. People were literally told what to and not to write for better results. Only 2 pages, don’t forget digital competency digital competency digital competency! No cover letter. Breeding ROBOTS! Even your CV isn’t yours anymore.
Now the final draft with the positions has been released. For many the worst is realised : there are not enough positions that give enough hours for many to live on. My colleagues are besides themselves. They can’t live on 20 or 22 hours. It’s also causing terrible rifts and bad blood between previous friends as they scrap for the few available positions. And still… no-one knows what their position will look like. This is as nasty a process as I’ve seen in my working life.
To apply for a position you have to answer a series of questions: The first question is “What does Our Promise to Auckland mean to you?” Words cannot express what I feel about this question. Answer: Just parrot back their words. The second question is “How can you DEMONSTRATE your WILLINGNESS to work in an AGILE and FLEXIBLE environment?” ANSWER: I’ll send my kids away, give up all extra curricular activities and despite the part time position not being enough to live on I won’t get another job, I’ll do anything at all so I can be available 24/7 at short notice with no overtime or allowances. Then “Why do you believe you are suitable for this position?” Answer: because I have been doing it for the last umpteem months/years. So I guess the job goes to whoever can best regurgitate the spin of the “Fit for the Future”. It’s become not about who you are as a person not about the amazing depth of experience you bring to your work, but how much you can parrot off what they want to hear.
What sums up this process of restructure for me is a lack of respect for the hard working, lowest paid front line people. These are the people affected most. I don’t see senior management making any contribution whatsoever to the savings! I’m glad they have enough comfortable hours to make ends meet. They need to live in our shoes for a while.