Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Colin Wilson was a Hospital Porter

Somehow that figures!... I have to add another name to my "Hospital Porters who Changed the World" article, see: https://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2011/07/hospital-porters-who-changed-world.html. Colin Wilson was a writer and philosopher. He originally wrote fiction and was one of the "angry young men" literary school that included other famous authors such as Kinsley Amis, Harold Pinter and John Osborne. Then he began investigating UFO's, the paranormal, the afterlife and the nature of consciousness. He did several experiments with psychedelic drugs many years before Strassman and Grof etc. When my mother died I inherited some of her library and it included some books by Colin Wilson (Lyall Watson too) on mysterious phenomena. It shows that in her youth my mother had a far more open mind than she exhibited when she got older. Wilson was known to be an eccentric and in a biography of Ayn Rand I've just finished reading, the author recounts an incident when Wilson wrote to Rand, but his correspondence was so weird in tone that Rand's assistant, Nathaniel Branden, who was as rational and conservative as his mentor, thought he was just a nutter and sent him a rude reply, see: https://www.amazon.com/Passion-Ayn-Rand-Barbara-Branden/dp/038524388X. I enjoyed the books my mum left me and when Colin Wilson died I wrote an obituary, see: https://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2013/12/colin-wilson-dies.html. I knew he was a pharmacy assistant at a hospital in the Nottingham area because he describes an incident where he was very depressed and planned to commit suicide. He went to the pharmacy storeroom with a syringe and prepared to inject himself with a massive overdose of some medication that would certainly have killed him, but then he suddenly stopped. He had a profound and powerful spiritual experience, what some people call a kundalini experience. He put down the bottle of medication and never considered suicide again, thankfully. I only discovered he was a hospital porter when I read a review of a recent conference in Nottingham all about Colin Wilson and his work, see: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/07/meeting-to-some-purpose/. I have seen no independent confirmation of Wilson's portering status, and it is something the reporter only says was talked about at the event; but somehow it fits him like a glove. It just feels so appropriate for him and it makes me feel enormously proud. If ever there is a third International Colin Wilson Conference I'll make sure I go along.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

NHS Seventieth Anniversary

At times I have the bad habit of letting my heart overwhelm my head. I am well aware that the UK's National Health Service will be seventy years old on the fifth of July and, indeed, I remember the sixtieth ten years ago. I attended a special event at Oxford Town Hall where I received a medal from the Lord Mayor, Susanna Pressel (She was my teacher at school and she totally failed to recognize me. I didn't feel inclined to remind her). The seventieth anniversary is going to be a far more glitzy showbiz event than the sixty-year mark and I don't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed that I will not be taking part. Prince William has given a very passionate speech about the NHS and its servicemen, see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44102318. A number of servicemen will be singled out for special recognition, but the prince made sure to point out the "inspirational skill, care and dedication" of everybody in the NHS. The tinseltown nature of the upcoming gala is going to need a separate review, but ITV and the Daily Mirror are hosting the celebrations. I must not allow myself to be star-struck into irrationality. Probably the pageant will be intended to have that very effect on the viewer. Will we be given even a hint of the truth? This seventieth birthday of the NHS will actually be a deathbed gathering, or maybe even a wake. See here for more details: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.com/2014/07/allyson-pollock-at-tedx.html.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Happy St Theo’s Day 2018

On behalf of every serving hospital porter, every former hospital porter, and everybody else who loves, appreciates and supports us, with all the Pride and Dignity of my Extremely Proud and Dignified Brother and Sister Porters, I'd like to wish all my friends and readers, a very happy St Theo's Day. Sorry it's a day early, but I'll be away on St Theo's Day itself, the first of June. Here is my HPANWO TV video for St Theo's this year: (coming soon)

Saturday, 19 May 2018

St Theo's Day 2018 Fliers

The fliers for this year's St Theo's Day are finished. Pretty soon I shall print and distribute them. This year, as with last year, I have produced two different fliers, one for the Oxfordshire hospitals on my doorstep; and another to be distributed to other institutions around the country. I will send the second national flier by post, addressed to the porters in those institutions. Apologies for the long delay between St Theo's Day 2018 and the St Theo's Day 2018 official get-together. This is due to staff availability.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Porters' Payrise

A new pay deal from the government has been announced that appears to be one of the most generous in the seventy year history of the National Health Service. If NHS servicemen agree to it, which they almost certainly will, it will see an average basic grade porter's income rise by 15% to above £18,000 pa. Some staff will receive 29%. The payrise will be backdated to this month if they agree by the summer. Despite the title I've given this article, porters are only some of the beneficiaries. The deal will improve the salaries of the lowest earners in the NHS most of all; porters, cleaners, nursing auxiliaries and junior nurses. However even higher paid staff, such as nursing sisters, will gain 6.5%. The rise will not be an instant handout; it is going to be spread over three years. The health unions are very much behind it but the GMB has voiced a note of pessimism. This payrise does not make up for the massive blow caused by the "Austerity crush" in the late 2000's that saw five or more years of frozen pay. That's true, but it is a step in the right direction. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43481341. When I first heard about this, I thought it sounded too good to be true. Indeed many other similar situations have emerged in which apparently generous payrises have been offered, but only in exchange for a massive increase in workload and difficult new roles added to job descriptions. For example, maternity midwifery auxiliaries were originally on Band 1 of the Agenda for Change pay reshuffle. Their duties were simple tasks like making beds and blanket-bathing adult patients. They were then offered Band 2, the same as a basic grade porter; but they had to agree to taking on additional duties previously only carried out by qualified midwives on a far higher salary. This is called being "labour intensive"; that's Orwell-speak for getting the lowest paid personnel in your organization to do the most amount of work. However, this new pay deal appears not to have any of these strings attached; and, believe me, I was on my guard against them. Is this really too good to be true? It's out of my hands now; I shall just have to wait and see.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Carillion Collapse Update

Carillion plc has often been described as "one of the biggest companies in the world that you've never heard of". Today everybody knows its name. The negotiations of the last few weeks have failed to come up with a rescue package and so Carillion is officially in liquidation. On the morning of January the 15th it issued an administration notice to the London stock exchange and all its asset holders have been notified. Two other companies in the construction sector, Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try, have been given extra cash contributions to complete the highway projects Carillion were carrying out. The costs so far are about thirty-five million pounds. I image the same deal will be organized for the support services it is involved in, such as the Facilities management at NHS hospitals. Carillion employees are still being paid. Yesterday I saw a Carillion van parked outside a student accommodation block under construction. I have heard from an informant inside JR Portering that their management are still on site until at least the 16th of February; after that, nobody knows. Obviously this situation cannot last. Probably there will be a bigger feeding frenzy as other contractors swoop down like vultures to feed off the Carillion carcass. This is not ideal. As I suggested, it would have been nice if the government had given smaller businesses a chance; but this is way better than a bailout. This affair is also going to throw the entire PFI ethos into question. Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May some searching questions about the whole business at Prime Minister's Question Time. He did not mention the fact that PFI is the brainchild of a Labour government, not the Tories. The government has established a "Carillion task force" which includes representatives of business, construction experts, trade unions, financial services and the state. We will have to wait until they've been through a tedious and lengthy process of umm-ing and ahh-ing before they eventually publish a coherent report. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42687032#. The best analysis of the Carillion collapse has come from Ian R Crane who explains how people were lured into buying Carillion stock options that were not as lucrative as they pretended. In this way the entire operation was a bubble and it has now burst and left many people who trusted advisers with their investment totally penniless. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4wJ6lFMc4g.
And: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/jr-porters-strike-update-2.html.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Carillion Collapse

Carillion plc was founded in 1999 at just the right time. It rode the grand ascending surf of PFI- private finance initiatives brought in by Tony Blair's Labour government as they tried to become an extremist caricature of the Conservatives they had defeated in the election two years earlier. Carillion is primarily a construction and civil engineering contractor, but it also provides management for the facilities it builds. It has thrown up many grand edifices all over the world, from a motor racing circuit in Thailand to a hotel in Abu Dhabi. In the 2000's it was brought in by the UK government to build the newest and most ambitious phase of my old hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, see: https://web.archive.org/web/20080218081523/http://www.oxfordradcliffe.nhs.uk/news/newsrecords/On%20the%20Roof%20for%20the%20Oxford%20Childrens%20Hospital%20Lord%20Drayson%20tops%20out%20the%20Oxford%20Childrens%20Hospit.aspx. As part of the deal, it took over management of the entire Facilities department; domestics, catering and, of course, portering. None of us were ever employed directly by Carillion; we retained our NHS positions, but we were completely under their control. In the background links I provide details of that period of my portering life and give you an idea about what it was like.

Last year it was revealed that all was not well at the mill. The share price of Carillion plc plunged in a steady spiraling slope broken by two catastrophic dips. They started the New Year by dropping a 1.5 billion pound debt bomb. Some financial commentators claim that the firm has simply overstretched itself, gambling on too many difficult licenses that turned out not to be profitable. It has also suffered delayed payments from some of its jobs in the Middle East. It also has a 600 million pound pension deficit that will not affect me personally, luckily; but it will cause problems for many of its twenty thousand employees, mostly skilled men in the building trades. The big fear comes from the fact that Carillion is now so integrated into public services that those very services would be threatened by the company's bankruptcy. As I said the other day, it's a network, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/bransons-nhs-billion.html. The NHS, prisons, railways, the armed forces, highway maintenance and education could all be seriously hampered by the shutting down of Carillion. It might also delay the construction of the high speed railway "HS2"; a good job I say, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/stonehenge-tunnel.html. This quandary could be solved by a bailout. Sir Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader, has urged the government not to bail out Carillion. What he says is the perfect illustration of the stupidity of PFI. It is essentially the privatization of profits together with the nationalization of losses. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42666275, and: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42675427. I recommend that the company be allowed to tank, and then the government can repossess its assets as collateral. This would include everything it has built at the John Radcliffe, all eight hundred million pounds worth of the neurological centre, the new eye hospital, the children's hospital and everything else. It should be the perfect opportunity to relieve itself of the ridiculous loan system by which Carillion built the place and then the government bought it back at 33% APR, a rate of interest that would be... somewhat uncompetitive... if it were offered by any high street bank. The government could easily provide its own management, indeed there is a massive untapped source of skill and experience within the portering community itself. Some of the senior porters could act up for a while until the situation settles down and permanent posts can be filled. Maybe this will make the government think again about the supposed wisdom of the PFI system. If they absolutely insist on privatization as a deep-seated cultural and emotional principle, privatization for privatization's sake alone; then why not let the services set up their own small outfits and bid for the contract themselves? This was an idea I explored when I was a porter, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2007/09/copy-of-my-jrhpc-letter.html.