Sometimes I hate my colleagues, because they are so loving. I work on a hospital ward, as a health care assistant. We wash and feed patients, measure their blood pressure, talk to them on twelve and a half hour shifts. Many patients are elderly, are confused, are at risk of falls. It often feels like juggling with six balls. At the moment we don’t have enough house keepers on the ward, the fellow workers who hand out tea and coffee, collect the menu forms from patients and dish out food. Management either can’t or doesn’t want to get in a replacement, so we are supposed to take on the extra job. As a result people are exhausted and patients have to wait in pissy sheets.
After yet another shift with an older guy slipping alone in the toilet and a colleague close to tears I suggested on our WhatsApp group that we should raise the issue with management. The first response is supportive, but ranty. “Yeah, management doesn’t give a shit”. The practical proposal is not taken up. Another response in a similar style. After that the love fest starts, pretty unrelated to the actual issue. Relationships even amongst colleagues at work seem fragile and people avoid ‘divisive’ topics. “I really love that we are such a great team, that we always support each other”. Half a dozen replies with as many heart emojis. “I really love the job. I suggest having chocolate on a bad day, diet is just a four letter word. LOL!”. A dozen of smile emojis and more LOLs. More love declarations for chocolate. The whole issue smothered in sweetness.
At least the idea of a collective response was put out there. At least you find out who else is disgruntled. At least another little chink that you can refer to when you are working together on the same shift again. In the meantime, in a remote corner of the hospital, the official union campaign for a better pay rise dies a slow, unwitnessed and mediocre death. Unrelated to these daily issues, the unions are not able to mobilise more than a dozen out of over 4,000 members in the hospital to come to their pay campaign drop-ins, despite bribing them with canteen vouchers and free coffee. So in the end it will be a 3% increase, eaten up by post-Brexit inflation and financed by ourselves thanks to the national insurance increase. Let’s stop blaming the Tories. Let’s stop whinging about betrayal from the union headquarters. The problem is love.