Thursday 1 August 2013

For a Price

I was called in to do a couple of days work at the Post Office the other day. I don’t mind the work, it is generally easy and mindless, just the way I like it. I get to visit some old friends and make a few bucks doing it. Plus, it reaffirms my decision to stay retired if at all possible. Getting up early to enjoy more of the day is good, getting up early to do some easy but mindless work leaves a lot to be desired.

I have worked for the Post office now and then for the past four years or so and it is all for the Postal Transformation. I’m not exactly sure what they are transforming into, one can only hope a kinder, gentler Post Office. Unfortunately, it seems that they are going away from service to Canadians and focusing more on the bottom line. The odd thing is, the Post Office made a profit for fifteen or twenty years, until they began the transformation. Maybe it’s all of the money they are paying me. I don’t like the direction it is going, but no one asked my opinion and since I am not privy to the “big” picture, my opinion would be flawed anyways.

What I have been called in to do is to help with the testing of a new automated system for parcel sortation. It is a technological marvel! The parcels are loaded onto a belt (by humans), spaced just so and from there they take a trip around the postal plant trying to find the right ramp to slide down, where another human waits. He/she will put the parcels on carts according to a light that the system will flash either right, left or centre. Some parcels will find themselves sliding down a ramp and into a transport truck to be sent to some exotic location like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Trois Rivieres, Newark or Kookamunga. There are miles and miles of wires, connecting optical readers, rollers, conveyor belts, gleaming metal and when it is running a constant sound level of just under 80 DBs. Well, that’s what they are telling the workers anyways.

We always thought that humans would be replaced by robots at some time in the future, but the opposite is true. Robots are very expensive and humans it appears are a dime a dozen. If you wear one out, somewhere, someone has created a replacement who will be more than happy to serve the conveyor belt.

I’m not a big fan of automation. I know that it is cost effective and that automated systems can do what humans do, only many times better. I suppose that eventually there will be one old guy working at the Post Office that comes in every morning and turns on the machine. The machine could do it faster and better, but the old guy has a union/management agreement behind him.

I have probably mentioned this before, but we need to start making things in our own country again. We have to ignore the bottom line and hire people to do the jobs. We have to pay those people a living wage so that they can take pride in their work and themselves. People who make minimum wage don’t buy cars, TV’s, computers, cell phones, expensive clothing or eat out at nice restaurants. People who make a living wage do those things.

I picture a time in the not too distant future when our leaders will lament the poor work ethic of the people. They will cite a lack of education and a poorly trained populace for why all of the industries have left for foreign shores. Canadians will supply the raw materials for other countries to make shiny things, but we won’t be able to afford them because all of the good jobs are overseas. Our tax base will crumble and Canada will go bankrupt, but I’m sure one of those countries that our industry fled to will bail us out. For a price…

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