Thursday, November 1, 2012

...And that's why I don't work retail

From the New York Times, the uncomfortable reality of attempting to work retail In Our Times -- that you'll be working shorter and shorter shifts:
At its store here, just east of San Diego, Shannon Hardin oversees seven self-checkout stations, usually by herself. Typically working shifts of five or six hours, she hops between stations — bagging groceries, approving alcohol purchases, explaining the checkout system to shoppers and urging customers to join the retailer’s loyalty program, all while watching for shoplifters. “I like it. I’m a people person,” said Ms. Hardin, 50, who used to work as an office assistant at a construction company until times went bad. 
But after nearly five years at Fresh & Easy, she remains a part-time worker despite her desire to work full-time. In fact, all 22 employees at her store are part-time except for the five managers. She earns $10.90 an hour, and with workweeks averaging 28 hours, her yearly pay equals $16,500. “I can’t live on this,” said Ms. Hardin, who is single. “It’s almost impossible.” 
While there have always been part-time workers, especially at restaurants and retailers, employers today rely on them far more than before as they seek to cut costs and align staffing to customer traffic. This trend has frustrated millions of Americans who want to work full-time, reducing their pay and benefits. “Over the past two decades, many major retailers went from a quotient of 70 to 80 percent full-time to at least 70 percent part-time across the industry,” said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm.
If you read further, large retailers like Jamba Juice have software that surges employees around lunchtime, and then cuts them shortly thereafter.

When I was coming up on the end of my postdoc, I thought to myself, "The worst case scenario is that I will work at the Walmart at the bottom of the hill." (the one next to the Fry's, for San Diego readers) But I am well-aware that retail is, in its own way, a terrible Wheel of Pain.

If that much is not clear, Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant puts a little English on the ball at the end of the article:
Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours.”
When you're comparing your workers to sharecroppers, you know that things aren't going so well for workers. Thank goodness that chemistry doesn't make people work part-time. Right? Right?

11 comments:

  1. As a chemist I have worked full-time, part-time, on short-term contracts, and even on a casual ongoing contract basis that could be terminated with 3 hours notice by either myself or my employer.

    I don't recommend the final form of work contract. Highly stressful and it does not make for an environment for high productivity.

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    1. Yikes! That's awful. (I mean, to a certain extent, we're all "at-will employed", but some employers wield the axe easier than others.)

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    2. Indeed they do. I've always found it relatively easy to demonstrate why I should be kept. I'm often the only one employers have had who can or is willing to do the job at hand. Once the job is done, it is rare that I am given an opportunity to become a permanent employee so I move on before being asked quietly to go. Sadly it's quite clear where things stand when I hand in my resignation especially when there is no counter offer.

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  2. As you wrote the last line, a dozen Vertex "Three Month Temp Process Chemist" ads went up in flames.
    Coincidence?

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  3. I was galled (at LLY, not at you) with on your post about AMRI contractors being "insourced" at in Indianapolis. Part time work, or "job sharing" as some morons from BCG or McKinsey would likely prefer to call it for chemists, sadly, is the step down.

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  4. I have been lucky i guess... I spent 14 years with Dupont before getting laid off and then 14 years at a pharma startup that did not make it. After that I was out of work for a year and a half before I got my current job... been there for two years now... If this job goes away I hope I can get another job... and that it's won't be contract/temporary.... Retail is not my forte.

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  5. This is why I don't use those self checkout things. Just more job killers. Also I can't figure out how to ring up my produce correctly.

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  6. I was galled (at LLY, not at you) with on your post about AMRI contractors being "insourced" at in Indianapolis. Part time work, or "job sharing" as some morons from BCG or McKinsey would likely prefer to call it for chemists, sadly, is the step down.

    I guess I don't quite understand what you are trying to say here. The folks down at LLY who are AMRI employees are all full time, full benefits employees. I know a few people who work down there, actually. Salaries aren't exactly pharma level(~15-20% lower), which is in line with working at a CRO.

    Given the alternate which is to send those 40-50+ jobs to WuXi or ChemPartner, it's hard to complain about LLY keeping these jobs in the US.

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  7. "I guess I don't quite understand what you are trying to say here."

    My problem is with this "Salaries aren't exactly pharma level(~15-20% lower), which is in line with working at a CRO".

    It strikes me as very cynical that LLY is using these AMRI employees in their facility but paying them less. To me, this is the same dodge companies are playing by designating ppl as "part-time". I may well be wrongheaded here, but it bugs me.

    "Given the alternate which is to send those 40-50+ jobs to WuXi or ChemPartner, it's hard to complain about LLY keeping these jobs in the US."

    This is a valid point, unfortunately. I think it may be a shock to many when American workers to find out that one of the consequences of globablization will be equilibration of wages with countries most people would not want to live in. Logically, if Americans remain insistent on spending more money for trivial stuff like "air quality" and "clean water" then wages in this country will actually have to dip below places like the PRC, where luxuries like 'breathing clean air' and 'being able to swim at beaches' are not valued.

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  8. It strikes me as very cynical that LLY is using these AMRI employees in their facility but paying them less.

    The AMRI employees have a very different job description than that of their LLY counterparts. To put it bluntly, they are hands on flasks. They don't have access to biological data, they don't make intellectual contributions to the projects, design synthetic routes, come up with new targets, etc. They are there to put compounds into bottles. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The only difference between those guys and their counterparts in Albany (the ones that are left, that is) is their location. I'm surprised more pharma companies don't consider this model, to be honest. It scares me, of course, but it wouldn't shock me to see it implemented elsewhere.

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  9. Even I don't like working for retail for similar reason. It looks like this is a common issue.

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