In the October 2015 edition of the Postmark, I provided an abridged version of work and time standards in the work place and its evolution within the United States Postal Service. The information gathered from these sophisticated labor scheduling programs is the modern day equivalent of work and time standards. The “data” provided by these programs are the evidence that management uses to justify staffing cuts and label workers as lazy and inefficient. The term most used is “earned complement” or the dated term matching work hours to work load.
Then earlier this month, I posted to my Facebook account with a question concerning me wondering how many cameo appearances I made on surveillance videos that day. I was struck by how many times that day I saw video surveillance cameras while I went about my daily business.
Shortly after, I read an article in the NALC newsletter discussing the new scanners that the carriers have been assigned which have GPS tracking capabilities tied to a computer program that tracks their route to determine if they are reaching each stop as required by their route on time. This program is also monitored by individuals in Denver and their own station. If they are not making adequate progress the vehicle turns red and soon after they have their supervisor talking with them on intercom through the scanner.
Couple this with an article concerning MIT developing an employee badge which gathers 4 gigabytes of information concerning the workers habit each day sent me thinking on how much data the United States Postal Service gathers concerning individuals work output each day and the corresponding surveillance an employee is subjected to in the work environment.I have had discussions with Plant Managers concerning this information on many occasions. If goes something like a DBCS machine on tour 3 only ran five hours while two employees were assigned to it for eight hours. The report showed when the machine ran when it was not running and finally who was assigned to it. Another discussion was why is it so hard for employees to punch the right operations while they are working. The Plant Manager stated sometime in the near future it was believed that the employees badge would be needed to start the machines and sweep them. Thus, ensuring the proper operations would be correspondent to the programs being run on the machines.
This is not unlike a world found in a novel called 1984 by George Orwell in which he boldly states: “Big Brother is Watching You.” when I started at the USPS the ubiquitous inspectors’ catwalks were in all facilities, these have been replaced by video surveillance and computer programs that provide the secret surveillance in our workplace today.It used to be that we as Americans fought for our right to privacy at work and home. However, it is quite clear that this freedom we are supposed to care about and guaranteed in the Constitution has been eroded quite quickly. While I do not have a solution to the erosion of personal privacy to identify it as a problem which we must confront is a start.