John Taylor: Little has changed

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In the words of the song from around that time, ‘Was a hot afternoon, last day of June, and the sun was a demon.’

And in that idyllic summer of adolescence also a demon was the thought of having to find some form of employment.

And so after a less than enthusiastic peruse of the local paper it was off to Wolverton Works as a ‘clerical officer.’ So the recent news that after a long tradition the railway works is to close triggered a few memories of that time, now over 40 years ago.

But thankfully not from 160 years ago, when these were the prevailing rules for railway clerks; ‘Godliness, cleanliness, and punctuality are the necessities of a good business.... Daily prayers will be held each morning in the main office, clerical staff will attend.

Clothing must be of a sober nature, staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright colours.

A stove is provided for the benefit of clerical staff. It is recommended that each member bring four pounds of coal each day in cold weather. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission.

The calls of nature are permitted, and the staff may use the garden below the second gate. No talking is allowed during working hours.

The craving for tobacco or spirits is a human weakness, and is forbidden.

Now that the hours have been drastically reduced, the taking of food is allowed between 11.30 am and noon, but work will not on any account cease.’

Yes, a typically Victorian scenario, but in these days of ‘zero hour’ contracts, and electronic tagging of employees, in some fields it seems that not a lot has changed in the relationship between employers and employees.