Let’s have an Open Salary Policy!

Interesting press coverage recently on Executive pay. Interesting because this was a bone of contention with husband and his company. We often discussed the sometimes ocean of difference between those at the bottom and those at the top of the salary structure and wondered what would be the consequences of his company adopting an “Open Salary Policy”. Google this subject and it is noticeable that not many hits come up for this policy in the UK. Happy Computers publish the salaries of all their staff, and probably their employee’s expenses as well, making it impossible to hide such things as “gifts” purchased for customers, Tumi suitcases for colleagues, Faconnable coats or other dubious items.   Another advantage of publishing salaries would be to tackle gender inequality in pay – are you receiving the same as your male counterpart…….?

I work rurally, here we have to drive to work and I love looking at office car parks (I know, I should get a life). It’s interesting that the spaces near the front door are normally reserved for directors and these painted oblongs often resemble a two year old episode of Top Gear. Porsche Targas, shiny Audi’s, Range Rooney’s and the like. However, the further back you go in the car park, there you will see the workhorses, they need a clean and a service but are probably good family cars that are economical to run. And don’t even get me started on personalised number plates – you want one? Don’t you realise it’s cheaper to change your name by deed poll to match your existing plate?

Am I digressing again, probably. Open salaries. Where you work, do you know what your receptionist earns? Or if that’s too much to bear, how about as a percentage? You might not want to know the exact amount, but what if it was published that the Sales Manager earned 10% more than the Sales Team and the Sales Team earned 10% more than the Administrators etc etc. Then this travels upwards. Those above earn 10% more than the Sales Managers until finally you arrive at the top. Fudging the issue I know, but this could be more palatable that actually saying the boss earns £200k whereas the Receptionist takes home £16k. And no, I do not have a mathematical brain to work out the difference in percentage terms of these two amounts but I know it’s huge.

There are those who’d say “but why?” Why should everyone know what the boss earns. It’s not just being nosey; don’t you think you’d be happy as an employee knowing you were worth as much to the company as your boss? And for a boss, come on, what are you trying to hide? If you are running a fair and open company, rewarding those whose hard work it is that has put you in your position, or kept you there, wouldn’t you like your staff to know that they were appreciated – or do you really appreciate them?

Baby steps are sometimes needed, how about starting with bonuses. Round about this time Christmas bonuses are often discussed by staff – often against company policy – why? More secrecy? Who’s getting more than me? Well, blow it all out in the open and do a John Lewis. Staff meeting, announce your profits and/or losses and tell everyone they are getting the same percentage of their annual salary as everyone else. This reminds me of a spectacularly “gobsmacking” moment I had at a previous job. The small team that we were (about five of us) were discussing a business idea we had come up with. We all thought this idea was THE best thing and that we should put our money where our mouths were and invest our own cash in the “thing”. Then we began to metaphorically spend our dividends. Now, stick with me here, our 5 were made up of owner of company, sales manager, IT person, admin and fulfilment. The sales manager actually said that he should earn more in profit sharing because he was going to do all the sales. This was in front of his three colleagues.  I have to say, I was rendered speechless, temporarily. Once I’d scooped my jaw off the table, I argued, why was this fair (yes, those were the days when I believed that fairness existed). And even though I tried to point out that if I didn’t answer the phone, do his paperwork, send out invoices, he wouldn’t get any commission, he still wouldn’t be swayed from his belief that he should earn the largest portion.

Moral of this tale: You’re right, big bad world, there is no fair and unfair in this world, but there is secrecy and that creates bad feelings. Rather than wielding knives, wouldn’t you rather have your workforce united behind you?

100 Nights of Solitude

So what has the Criminal Justice System taught me? I have now spent 100 nights away from my husband and he’s not yet halfway through his custodial sentence. I suppose it’s not me who’s supposed to have been taught anything, but I consider it a lesson in life. I have learned that morals do not enter into our courts. Just facts. You either do wrong, or you do not. You might speed in a car = wrong. You might be rushing to attend an emergency = morally right, but criminally wrong. You might steal money to fund something you believe is essential = wrong. Funding by theft a foster child after they have turned 18 and your benefits have been cut = morally right, but criminally wrong. I have learned to dig deeper into stories, not accept at face value what I am being told, not to jump to conclusions – there is ALWAYS another side to a story. You don’t have to agree with it, but it’s there.

I have learned that not everyone lives to my moral and ethical standards, but that the criminal justice system is there hopefully to prevent a complete breakdown of law and order. I might not agree with some things, but I have a vote, I have a choice.

I have discovered that there is a whole new world out there, one that I was totally unaware of before. Where women queue up to see their loved ones every Saturday, where they carry on life temporarily alone and tick off the days. There are women that have done this many times before and who am I to judge – you could be wondering why I stuck with my husband after he did what he did. There are kids out there jumping for joy when daddy comes through the open door of the visiting room. I’ve seen streetwise “yoofs” looking rather more sheepish in front of visiting parents, about to embark on a life with a criminal record now attached to their cv. I’ve come to know people with nothing, because they have had to pay for what they did, pay financially as well as custodially. How do they start again?

I’ve learned that it’s difficult and more expensive to get home and vehicle insurance – not just for the ex-offender, but for anyone who shelters them and mortgages for fraudsters are excluded. That crimes with sentences of 3 years or more are never spent and must be disclosed upon request. That far from a temporary blip in a person’s life, it is a sentence that will travel with them for many, many years – 20, 30, a lifetime. Jobs will be difficult to come by, therefore money will be in short supply, housing will be almost an impossibility.

Friends will be lost, but real friends gained. Families will rally round and food parcels arrive unexpectedly, just as they are needed. Most scarily, I discovered the best way to fight a solicitor is through a solicitor, and if you don’t have one yourself, well, you’re done for. I’ve learned that some people love, just love, to take the moral high ground, imagining themselves to be totally without guilt, selectively airbrushing the times they have transgressed and others take you at face value, are not interested in your past, only concerned as you are now. Most interestingly, I have discovered that there are many, many people out there who have had a brush with the law either directly or indirectly and once this is teased out there are some sad stories to be heard in the most unexpected of places.

But I think, most of all, I have learned how lucky I am. Lucky to have found a person that I continue to love. Lucky that he stuck with me during my most annoying episodes. Lucky I have a roof over my head and money to buy food. In fact, as far as Maslow goes, I’ve got my bases covered.

I heard an interview the other day with Aung San Suu Kyi. She was asked something like “do you feel sorry for all the years you lost to imprisonment?” Her answer was revealing and inspirational. Given all the deprivations she had endured, she answered in suprise saying she felt luckier than those who had died in the cause of fighting for freedom. She is alive, she has her future in front of her, those no longer living do not have that luxury.

(with apologies to Daily Mail readers) Thankfully Prisoners Call Home

Well, I seem to have got my knickers in a twist for nothing.  Husband has just called me.  He doesn’t normally call on a Sunday, but on a whim, decided to.  Of course I told him how upset I’d made myself believing he was not due home until 2013, and he calmly explained that he’d already received notification of his FLED – Facility Licence Eligibility Date (thanks to http://www.insidetime.org/info-glossary.asp for the explanation)  and this is when he will be due for his “town visit” and that’s on 11 May 2012.  So I’ve just spent the last 24hours in a deep gloom all for nothing.  He promises me he will try not to let the boredom overcome him and that he will get through this.

That’s all I needed to know.  I’m happy again now.

The wrong sort of Remembrance Day

It’s Remembrance Day.  And I am sitting in my attic bedroom, on a surprisingly sunny Sunday, enjoying the breeze through the window and remembering.

Firstly, I remember Gladys Alice Sparkes, http://www.kentfallen.com/PDF%20REPORTS/SPARKES%20G.A.pdf who would have been my great, great grand Auntie (I think that’s right) had she not fallen victim on 25 May 1915 at age 18 to a Gotha bomber who’s real target was apparently Ashford’s railway works, not Gladys’ head.  I should be campaigning for her name to be up there on a war memorial, but d’you know what…….  She’s remembered by me, that’s all that matters.

I do remember our war dead and normally, in previous years, I take time out to be by myself for two minutes and such is my imaginations of what they must have gone through, that I shed tears.   But this year, today, I am unable to do so.  In fact I selfishly shed tears for myself.

I suppose it must be the solemn time of the year, or else coming off the anti-d’s, but several sad strands have converged and now I find my thoughts spun together in a nice thick morass of self pity.   What is upper most on my mind is the continuance of a thread I spun out a few posts back – when I saw the couple, lawyers, who were both serving time for some misdemeanour.  At the end of yesterday’s visit, I gave a lift back to town of Mrs lawyer.  She must be about my age, or even younger, and before she got in the car she looked me steadily in the eye and announced that she too was a criminal, just so I knew, and not just a visiting wife, in case I decided to change my mind and not give her a lift.  I was astounded.  Why would I not help out someone just because they had committed a crime, as long as it wasn’t car-jacking at gun point, what was the problem.  I was more concerned because when waiting (for a full 35 minutes) for our other halves to be let in the visiting room, I had been chatting to her and said “sometimes I feel like a criminal when I come and visit” and I was mortified when husband reminded me who she was – I was terrified that she’d take offence.   So, we drove into town and given her status I found her company refreshing.  I didn’t have to hide who my husband was and what he had done.  She knew.  We could cut through that embarrassing explanation.  And amazingly, she’d applied for, and got, the Sainsbury’s job that I had turned down – well, poetic licence that, it was on another counter, but same sort of position.  So next time you are in Sainsbury’s, look out for the ex-lawyer now working on the fish and meat counter……    I was correct in my previous musings.  She now has a situation whereby her husband is entitled to “home leave”.  But where is home?  Gone, proceeds of crime, confiscation order, gone.  They have no home, so how do they have home leave?  Tragically she is now looking for a place to rent on her part time, nearly minimum wage Sainsbury’s earnings.  In the South East??????  She’ll be incredibly lucky to find a shed on her salary.

So that’s upset me.  I was right in my musings.  She has no home, no prospects of earning a decent income and with husband outside, her only place of refuge is her prison room.  And yes, I can hear the clamour of “well, she should have thought of that before she committed a crime”.  As I like, often, to say “do me a lemon!”  What did she and her husband do?  I have no idea.  I do know that it was a “victimless” crime and yes, I know that no crime is really victimless, but some crimes have a definite “victim” whereas others are more nebulous.   Did my husband’s crime have a victim?  Did anyone or any group suffer?  Did the company he worked for have to lay off staff because he was taking money?  Did the managing directors have to forgo the purchase of a Porsche Targa for a year because my husband had taken all the profits?  Did they have to holiday in Scarborough instead of jetting off to Argentina, New Zealand and a small island I can’t remember where…….. NO, NO, NO AND NO.  Their company went from strength to strength because he stole money from the account reserved for companies that had paid twice.  That money was never returned (not his instructions) and that is what he dipped into.  And when you read the reports of how much he took, you’ll be aware of how much people overpaid SBS.  They should do their own audits and maybe they could be in for a Christmas bonus.

But I’ve gone off track.

I’m also in a mood because it has only just, two months down the line, dawned on me that a prisoner has to serve half of his sentence inside before he can be considered for tagging and all the other stuff that means potential coming out time.  That’s one and a half years in my husband’s case.  I had been ignoring this fact, pushing it back, not wanting to think about it, but now I have and have taken the time to work it out, this means the next TWO Christmases’ without my husband.  As much as I love my niece and nephew who have rallied round, I want Christmas with my husband.

And finally, I have been in contact with another family going through what sounds like an extremely similar crime as experienced by us.  And that depresses me – for them.  It reminds me of the horrors we went through in the early days.  The grinding awareness every time we awoke that it was there, had not disappeared into our dreams.  The dread of every day, of what was going to happen, who was going to call, write.  The desire for it all to be over and done with – in any way possible.  It was a truly nasty time for us and so for me, that is what Remembrance 2011 is all about.

In the Red

I don’t know when my bank account was last in the red….back in my twenties I think!  So, it’s no food shopping next week and hopefully I can contain matters until this weeks’ money goes in.  Don’t think my stomach dropped that much since the time we logged into our account and discovered it had been suspended.

Whilst husband may be inside, I still have to service one final investment that remains in his name.   It’s complicated but apparently we will not benefit when this gets sold, but we have to furnish the loan – so that’s what the small sum of pension that husband has remaining is going on….. just thought I’d let you know in case you thought he’d stashed stuff away and I was only play acting the  grieving prison widow.

Well, you know what they they – crime doesn’t pay.  And I’m living testimony to that fact.