With today being Labour Day, a day celebrating the rights of workers, I thought I’d reflect on a few tidbits I personally found interesting. It seems that in Bangladesh, there’s a movement to declare the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, April 24th, Labour Safety Day. For those unfamiliar with the disaster
, over a thousand garment workers were killed when their structurally faulty building collapsed. Loblaw, which ordered Rana Plaza workers to make their Joe Fresh line of clothing for some 20 cents per hour, hired self described “retail genius” and cosplay enthusiast, Joe Jackman to help market the brand. In a 2015 op-ad
, the Globe outlined the brilliance Jackman displayed in marketing the Joe Fresh line of clothes, ensuring soccer moms across Canada needn’t leave the grocery store to purchase bland and frumpy outfits.
“They displayed a lot of the clothing like produce: on tables, rather than racks or shelves. They trumpeted the affordable prices with round orange signs that said food more than fashion. And on the day of the launch, the team placed a naval orange with a Joe Fresh sticker on every staff desk across the country.” Pure genius.
I mention this, since my employer also sought Jackman to revitalize the face of their brand, while simultaneously implementing a couple of programs designed to ensure their own cheap and abundant slave labour. Currently, our store is in the process of initiating a program plainly named “Best Way” which makes clear, in unequivocal terms, the BEST way to do your job. In the pharmacy, our project goes so far as to provide tape markings on the pharmacy floor outlining the borders of your work station. These initiatives make explicit the company’s desire to not have anyone think, or in this case, even step outside of the box.
The procedural changes happen to coincide with the latest round of buyout offers being offered to full-time, unionized workers. By dictating the “best way” for workers to do their jobs (with threats of random firings hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles), management can keep us all cheap & replaceable. Providing each worker a script to recite ensures that your workers can be new and dumb, monotonously asking when you’d like to pick up your prescription the way fast food workers ask if you’d like fries with your order. It also ensures that no one has the education or seniority required to be paid a living wage or demand benefits.
This American-based, metric-focused, assembly-line form of pharmacy was to be expected as many of our company executives have been passed, hot potato style, from large US pharmacy chains. Regardless, it represents an all new low in Canadian pharmacy practice, providing a little slice of Bangladeshi work culture closer to home. Now I know I’m breaking any new ground by stating the obvious: retail sucks. Nor am I obtuse enough to directly compare my 6-figure, professional job to a Bangladeshi garment worker.
However, as someone who was recently made to take a pay cut, has worked many overtime hours without any pay, worked virtually every weekend this summer (including all 4 long weekends), and developed excruciating neck / back pain from being hunched over a counter for 12 hours at a time, I feel the need to stand up for my rights these days. I’ll be capping off this lackluster summer with 7 AM training session this Wednesday to implement the new initiatives. All of this is pushing me dangerously close to wanting to hang up the lab coat once and for all. After spending the summer cursing my godforsaken job, I am questioning whether I actually need a job (godforsaken or otherwise).