2+2=3

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North Western Australia   © PJ Croft 2017

I’m a bit quiet these days, I agree. Insomnia is a big problem. It’s reached the stage of sometimes not sleeping at all at night, making me feel awful by mid morning. Then I might sleep a couple of hours and feel better, but that’s not good enough. Yesterday was like that, and I resisted sleeping during the day, but by 7:00pm I was swaying, hardly able to stand. I watched TV until 9.30pm, not wanting to break routine, then took a sedative and crashed.

The sedatives work, but there’s a marked hangover the next morning, such as now. At 12:40pm I’m bleary eyed,struggling to type this and considering going back for more sleep, even though I supposedly slept right through last night. I was woken at 8.30am by a phone call from a friend wanting a phone number, and I could hardly read the computer screen.

Problem!

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Coincidences again. You’ve probably heard the news in the past few days with the tragic case of the woman in the NSW town of Moama who drowned her son. Then yesterday, Moama cropped up again, this time as the home town of our Eurovision entrant.

Then today, this headline:   Jason Momoa Goes From Superhero To Video Game Hero. I know it’s not the same, but to have Moama and Momoa occur purely by coincidence in the same week …

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You’ve probably noticed the news reports showing that the wages of ordinary workers are barely rising over a long period, and are mostly decreasing by being below the rate of inflation, small though it is.

Yet the salaries of managers are doing the opposite, increasing by leaps and bounds, far higher than inflation. How is this so? Because they set their own salaries, adding very large bonuses, simply for doing their jobs.

Ordinary workers have no such control. Their wages have long been set by an independent tribunal, with the cases being argued by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). As well, trade unions covering categories of workers bargain collectively for their members with individual companies.

But trade union memberships have been falling for decades, such that only about 20% of employees are prepared to support unions.

See any connection here? When union membership was strong, in the 1970s and ’80s, wages were good and rises were frequent. But when union membership fell out of favour, such as now, wage growth slowed and has gone backwards.

There was a good article in The Guardian a few days ago:

There’s an odd form of double-think in political and business circles when it comes to productivity. Each and every year, our corporate leaders explain the wonderful benefits of the bonus system. If they perform well, they often earn several times their salaries via the magic of incentive schemes.

Higher pay equals better performance in the executive suite.

But the opposite apparently applies at the other end of the scale. Our business leaders often argue, mistakenly, that lower pay will result in better labour productivity.

But if you cut someone’s wages, you can guarantee with absolute certainly that you won’t get a lift in productivity. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll achieve the exact opposite.

Productivity, and the forces that drive it, are complex and not well understood. Partly, improvements are driven by better work structures or organisation. Mostly though, it is better technology.

I have experience of this. First, as union delegate at my workplace, I only had about 40% of my work colleagues as members. The rest weren’t prepared to join, the usual reason being they just didn’t want to pay the fees, which were about $120 a year I think (long time ago).

I couldn’t convince them that just one pay rise achieved by the union would repay their membership tenfold or more!

The other reasons were pure selfishness, seeing they got the pay increase whether they were a member or not; and some vague ideology, that they didn’t like unions. Yet they’d pay to belong to a health fund or the RAC.

It was also notable that around 2000 and 2001, when the Sydney management became aggressive about making people redundant (after I’d taken mine voluntarily, glad to get out), being a union member suddenly looked like being a form of protection. Most of the union members were left untouched – only non-members got forced out.

Boring, boring – my message is, why won’t people join the union when the union works for YOU?

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I had my appointment with Gastro-boy last week, and the result is that I’m set to have my gall bladder removed on Tuesday 28 March. Scans have shown “large stones” and although I’ve said I’m not having any problems, the message is I’ve been lucky, and leaving them in place is not a good idea. If a stone moves and blocks the bile duct you can be in emergency trouble, the pain is like stabbing knives and you wouldn’t want it to happen in Bali. So be it.

I was able to mention that I’ve noticed a good thing recently. I used to get a moderate pain, enough to have me squirming, in my lower left abdomen, just below my rib cage after eating. But since having my gastric band removed, I haven’t noticed it recently. As we agreed, it’s harder to notice an absence of pain than its presence. Good doogs.

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I made the trip into the city by train and bus as usual, and on the way back I thought to wonder how much credit I have left on my Smart Rider card. I remember putting $20 in a few years ago – how much is left? So I asked.

Train-bus

Sorry about the horizontal format, but turn your head and you’ll see the balance left is $27.46. As you can see, each trip costs me $zero. That’s because I travel after 10am and before 3pm.

But just as noticeable is that TransPerth has a complete record of all my recent trips, with destinations, dates and times. Big brother knows!

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Next job is to get a refund of my postage on a parcel back to Amazon in the USA. I bought one of these recently:

81DdFrpzlaL._UY445_

Not expensive, about A$87. But when it arrived it was very noticeable that the analogue and digital sections didn’t agree. The analogue hands were about 30mins out in three hours. They don’t have to be the same, of course, but they have to run at the same rate.

So I posted it back yesterday, at a cost to me of $15.85 in postage. Having used PayPal, I should be able to reclaim that. I’ve done it once before and it was OK.

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My phone call this morning was from a friend in the USA (Denver, Colorado), a former Northam High School and Hut Lad, still in touch after 55 years! He’s retired, of course, and he said the temp at 5.40pm his end was 52degF but clear, with a cold wind bringing it down to 19 degF wind chill factor. Ugh! He’s off on a cruise from Dubai, through the Med to Italy this month, to beat the cold. As well, he’s thinking of moving back to Australia to beat The Trump. He loathes the guy, just as we do.

My friend’s 27yo son works for Amazon in a suburb of Seattle. He works a 12 hour shift each day, 6am to 6pm, four days a week, and as he’s filling boxes, walks tens of miles each day. That’s a 48 hour week as routine! There are no penalty rates, it’s a flat hourly rate, and if things get busy such as Xmas, he can be required to work five days. No unions are allowed.

But he’s making around $100,000 a year for those 48 hr weeks, with three day weekends, and being allocated Amazon shares (“stock”), currently worth around $90 each. He’s a lower level manager, and has the prospect of rising to a $200,000 salary.  Hmmm.

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Phew, my mind is fuzzy. I think it’s the sleep. I’ll go back now for an hour and hope it helps.

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