I am telling the following events not to show-up anyone, but for employers to realize that harsh treatment does not improve a worker's productivity.

4. How to ruin a good business

In the early part of the 90’s the driving school was placed under another department within the MCA. It brought major changes. Immediately we had our weekly quota of driving lessons increased from 34 to 35 lessons for the same pay. We looked puzzled at each other, considering it a wage cut. The new management labeled it an adjustment.

We felt looked upon as lazy, unproductive. Changes were made to make our operation more profitable. The new management started to interfere in our everyday affairs, which we resented, knowing that we instructors all had years of experience in driving instruction. Rules were shaped and decisions made from theoretical knowledge; some were unworkable.

One example: We discussed the new laws on bicycle lanes. The law did not mention about using a bicycle lane to overtake a right turning vehicle. Everyone in their right mind does it; otherwise it places the learner driver in danger from traffic behind. But we were not to follow this practice, as the new law on bicycle lanes, did not mention about right turning vehicle.

The other occasion, where I always felt guilty, but broke the rules anyway, was when my learners did not carry their L-permit. The rule was, if they do not carry the permit I should not conduct the lesson, but take the money anyway. (This was part of the road traffic law). But I kept records of permits and expiry dates of every student.  When I knew the student was licenced I went ahead and conducted lessons anyway. I just could not bring myself to be so bureaucratic and rigid and take $ 35 and walk away. In my mind this is a cruel (possibly discriminatory) law.

Especially from unemployed people, I felt, I could not take the money,  just because they had left their permit in mum's car.  A first time customer was an exception, because I had never seen the permit. This did not happen very often. When it did, I normally did not conduct the lesson or take the money, which meant I was not paid either.

In the driving school car I was teaching in I installed a photo of my wife and children on the dashboard. I also displayed the slogan “God is love” in a little frame next to it. The students liked to see my family. It was a talking point. The religious words placed my conviction right into the open.

One of my clients must have been complaining about it, because one day I was called into the office and told I had to remove all religious slogans from the vehicle. I was also told that I was not allowed to talk religion to my students. At the time I was considering taking the matter to a higher authority. I felt gagged and did not like it. I ignored the order and kept talking to my students at an opportune time. A simple phrase like 'God loves you' surely is not preaching religion, I argued with my conscience.

Later someone else must have taken offence, even though I talked about it very discreetly and always after the lesson had finished. This second time (I also handed out an invitation to a play I was part of) I received a warning and later a second warning. I was wondering if I would lose my job because I am telling young people about a God who loves them? 

Enterprise bargaining was the order of the day. I was one of the representatives to “bargain” with management when our contracts ran out. We instructors had no power and no experience to stand up against the might of a large employer. There was the constant threat of closing the driving school. We don’t need a driving school we were told. It was true. We were only a small part of this large organization.

We had freedom to arrange our own working hours, which suited us. Management had been happy as long as we worked a reasonable number of overtime hours. One year, when a contact was due to be renegotiated we were simply tricked: Our original agreement was that we were to take off one day per week. The clause ensured that an instructor only works (max.) on six days of the week. We could please ourselves when to put in the hours.

I worked most Saturday mornings anyway, but was suddenly reprimanded for having an occasional Saturday off. Suddenly however, this clause took on a different meaning. The clause was interpreted as meaning: you must work on six days, virtually forcing me to work every Saturday. Grudgingly, I fulfilled the contract. But instead of the usual four or five lessons I just worked two lessons then went home. The result was a drop in productivity to half every Saturday.  

Following this issue we insisted that if the contract states we must work on six days that we also must be paid when a public holiday falls on a Saturday. After that we had to be paid for every Easter Saturday. We were not well liked after this small victory. Morale was very low. To become more profitable management was moving in the wrong direction.

Chapter 5

Index