Tuesday, June 07, 2005


"Workers in warehouses across Britain are being "electronically tagged" by being asked to wear small computers to cut costs and increase the efficient delivery of goods and food to supermarkets.
New US satellite- and radio-based computer technology is turning some workplaces into "battery farms" and creating conditions similar to "prison surveillance", according to a report from Michael Blakemore, professor of geography at Durham University.
The technology, introduced six months ago, is spreading rapidly, with up to 10,000 employees using it to supply household names such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Boots and Marks & Spencer.
There is also concern that the new technology might create new industrial injuries because of the need for workers to make repetitive movements with their arms and wrists, similar to repetitive strain injuries caused by overusing computers.

One firm, Peacock Retail Group, claims workers like the system. The company, which has a modern centre in Nantgarw, south Wales, where employees have 28 wearable computers and six mounted on trucks, says the system has a positive impact on team morale. "Everybody likes the wearables because they are comfortable and easy to use. The result is the team finds it easier to do the job," it says on the company website.
A spokeswoman for Tesco last night insisted that the company was not using the technology to monitor the staff and said it was making employees' work easier and reducing the need for paper.
But at the GMB's annual conference in Newcastle yesterday one of the union's national officers, Paul Campbell, said: "We are having reports of people walking out of jobs after a few days' work, in some cases just a few hours. They are all saying that they don't like the job because they have no input. They just followed a computer's instructions."
"The supermarkets that rely on just-in-time shelf-filling rather than holding buffer stocks are incredibly profitable companies. They can well afford to operate a humanised supply team."
Other monitoring devices are being developed in the US, including ones that can check on the productivity of secretaries by measuring the number of key strokes on their word processors; satellite technology is also being developed to monitor productivity in manufacturing jobs.
Two London firms are considering using satellites to direct sandwich board holders, making sure they are not shirking and moving them to areas with more people."
(Guardian, 7th June)

So much evil involved in this it is difficult to believe. Firstly the whole nature of control, you are basically saying "we don’t trust our staff, they are morons, thieves and have to be told everything". Secondly it is as they say creating a battery farm out of work, the fact that they will try to introduce it into all other spheres of work is also disturbing. I bet it will go first to the call centres where they already monitor how much time you spend on each call, your breaks down to the very minute and listen in to increase "efficiency".
I don’t think they system will be very efficient, it will utterly fuck morale because who wants to be watched all the time? Why wants to work in a place where they are not trusted. I bet the directors of fucking Tesco will never have their efficiency monitored, only the lower echelons have to walk around with a computer tied to them. it is genuinely ridiculous but unfortunately the logical extension of the past hundred odd years of attempts to control workers behaviour, to enforce efficiency because value for money is more important than employees welfare.
I cry bullshit on the claim of the company in Wales that the employees like them. Nobody likes being watched, and nobody likes being treated like a fucking machine
As for the sandwich board men, surely there are better things to do with that technology? Is this the future then, all the technology in the world used just to save a few pennies by screwing over the workers?
Plus it will probably not reduce theft, any system can be circumvented by the people who know how to use it. And despite the massive surveillance in Britain we still have a shit load of crimes. This and outlawing hoodies will not make us a better society.


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