I work in a warehouse more or less looking after the product distribution equipment (I fix the cranes and conveyors) Basically I’m sub-contracted to a transport group who are sub-contracted to the people who own and run the factory supplying the warehouse and who the warehouse supplies various supermarkets and other distribution networks. What you do notice when working on the site is product placement. The company goes to great lengths to make sure that its product is on display within the site and can be used by the staff by way of discounts at the staff shop, the company is not unique by any means, a lot of companies expect those who work for them to use their products at work and offer discounts outside of work. It’s a bit like going into a canteen at a Cadbury factory and finding all the products are by Rowntree’s, it’s just not going to happen and the person responsible will face some sort of disciplinary action, even if it’s just a talking too. So, what are we to make of Peter Williams, commercial director of East Coast Railways…
A senior executive at state-owned rail firm publicly trumpeted the benefits of travelling by train – while clocking up £1,400 in plane tickets for routes covered by his own franchise.
Peter Williams, commercial director of East Coast, boasted of the advantages of rail journeys in a marketing campaign earlier this year.
But figures showed that he took seven flights between Glasgow and London, even though the route is covered by his own network.
The details emerged after a Freedom of Information request – which also revealed thousands of pounds spending by East Coast’s directors on hotels and restaurants.
It is embarrassing for a company whose advertising, featuring impressionist Rory Bremner, highlights the benefits of travelling by rail and enjoying the scenery.
In a press release earlier this year, East Coast claimed it was “winning the battle” for custom against the airlines.
In the same way I wouldn’t expect Richard Branson to travel any other way other than Virgin unless there were no option, I’d pretty much expect the senior executives of a railway company to use the train if it went to their destination, sure it’s freedom of choice, but it doesn’t exactly set a great example.
So, where does freedom of choice start or end? Well, if you aren’t connected to the company involved then it’s unlimited save only by your budget, but if you work for a specific company? I dare say many Cadbury workers have partaken of the odd Kit Kat, but that’s outside of work, as I posited above I doubt you’d find many (or any) rival products on the site. And that’s where Peter Williams has badly let his side down, it might have been quicker, it might have been more convenient, but it doesn’t set a great example to his customers.
When you work for a company you have to abide by certain standards, they don’t even have to make sense (look at Beefeaters in the Tower of London) It’s why I despite having a degree in electro-mechanical engineering occasionally have to push a broom around at weekends be cause that’s the standing order on site safety, plus it makes it a better place to work.
Now being of a libertarian bent, this actually makes sense from a my gaff my rules sort of view, even if it impinges to an extent on my personal freedom of choice, then again in such a world an employers freedom of choice to dispense with anyone not doing as they are told essentially trumps all anyway.
Question is, where do we set the lines for freedom of choice. Do corporate rules override individual liberty, you’d think not, but the examples I’ve provided should give you pause, what I expect and what should be the case, sometimes don’t match up too well. Essentially in any sort of contract you need balance, at the moment our society is over-regulated and imbalanced in a lot of way (see previous posts) however anarchy, or rather warlordism which is what many assume anarchy to be is not the answer anyway, whilst you should always be free to do what you want, you also have to be free to take the consequences of your actions which in the end is the ultimate freedom. Too many people today know their rights, too few know (or act upon) their responsibilities.
In the end it boils down to this, if we want to change society (and we do) we have to set in place certain checks and balances where if you break the rules you pay a price be it using someone else’s product in your working environment, to wandering out in the streets armed to the teeth and shooting at people.
Society works on rules and accepted practices, even a tolerant and libertarian society, we just have to decide what the rules are, but we will need some rules.