Fight for Your Right to Potty


From our “Insert Punchline Here” department….

Courtesy of the BBC: Row over firm’s toilet break rule

A meat company supplying [British retail giant] Tesco has been accused of “Dickensian employment practices” by making workers clock off when they go the toilet.
The Unite union is now calling on Tesco to intervene to stamp out the practice at Dumfriesshire-based Brown Brothers.
One worker said staff felt “angry” that time spent in the toilet was not included in their working week.
The firm said the policy was part of a deal agreed with workers and unions to ensure production ran smoothly.

I have practically nothing to say about this, um, interesting story. I merely bring it to your attention. OK, wait, two things to add.
1) As labour issues go, this one is not exactly earth-shattering. Maybe the most interesting thing about it is that it became an issue at all. Surely reasonable adults could resolve this without getting the media involved. From a managerial point of view, it seems like once this has become an issue, you’ve already lost.
2) There is a suggestion in the story that the regulated bathroom breaks are part of a deal worked out between labour and management to streamline production: workers agreed to avoid (and be penalized for) unscheduled breaks, in return for some sort of financial inducement. But the fact that a particular arrangement has been agreed to doesn’t mean it’s immune to criticism. Abstracting from this case a bit, one can imagine all kinds of voluntary arrangements that would be subject to criticism either because, although voluntary, they violate community standards of some sort, or because the method (perhaps democratic, in the case of unions) that resulted in agreement leaves some interests (e.g., the interests of those with small bladders) poorly served.

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(Apologies to the Beastie Boys.)

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