Crikey has often commented about some of the industrial and professional practices of media monitoring giant Rehame and last week one of the workers they retrenched offered up this interesting insight into life on the factory floor on $12 an hour.

It’s a dangerous complacency for management to wield and nowhere is it more evident in the treatment of not only its clients but its staff, and in particular, entry level reporters who join the organisation thinking Rehame is a career move.

Those attracted to working in the media and the machinery of producing cultural products know how exciting, risky, unscrupulous, highly demanding and unpredictable the industry is by its very nature. And there is little disillusionment that media monitoring is part of a bigger manufacturing line, (even though finely crafted skills in such a job are highly valuable to market demands when it comes to services such as reporting current affairs programs in real time).

Rehame has been described by Crikey as giving bright-eyed journalist graduates their first taste of the media’s factory floor, if anything merely teaching them something about the callousness of industry. It is the knowledge that the media can be so highly rewarding that keeps workers in a Catch 22.

Rehame cannot flatter itself by thinking it is doing anyone a community service by deflating enthusiastic naivety. More to the point, candidates to the entry level position of the company are hardly in need of being taught a lesson in the school of hard knocks. These tertiary graduates (or undergraduates, or owners of double degrees) all bring with them not just entry-level passion, but usually some kind of prior industrial experience.

Nobody in this millennium is wide-eyed enough to think an audacious starting rate of $12 an hour is their Big Break. The people who are willing to offer their services in those kind of conditions have their occupational wits about them. They’re just trying to get ahead in the industry of their choice.

That said, I reckon it’s pretty ordinary the way Rehame exploits such a high calibre, keen workforce, knowing full well how disposable cheap labour is and even being prepared to accept the inevitably high turnover of staff as a small write-off in the hours invested in training. It’s the kind of turnover that would make even telemarketing firms blush. Reporting is Rehame’s primary material, the stuff reputation and the smooth running of the company is derived from, but sadly high quality reporting is sacrificed for inconsistencies, a quick buck and a horrific staff morale.

Sadly, Rehame’s failure to appreciate its human resources properly shocks the most cynical employees and hurtfully disenfranchises and demoralises the most devoted. The uniquely committed individuals who see pockets of goodness and potential in the organisation, those who want to be part of something bigger, are ultimately a liability and threaten the infrastructure of an information processing sweat shop.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t be fooled by the smart dress code, the lovely modern office environment, the in-house kitchen, Friday morning pastries or the occasional staff outings where reporters are graciously extended silver service in the Chairman’s Club as a bit of a treat, seated amongst high society for a day at the races. Don’t be tricked into gratitude for what is an inexpensive means of appeasing the natives whenever they get restless. Do you really want to be patronised by the surroundings of the rich and famous when you’re the one who can only afford public transport home, and dry cleaning is the equivalent to two hours work?

Rehame, your disregard for so many good natured and willing candidates who enter your company might abide by all the correct workplace agreements. But in my view your draconian management is nothing short of a twenty-first century disgrace. Such arrogance towards your own can only be your greatest undoing as an employer and a media player.

No business likes the heinous experience of retrenching workers, an unfortunate process the company started last week, but one cannot help wondering if the drastic staff cuts indicate the economic instability of narrow-minded management under Peter Maher’s leadership.

When heart broken reporters who broke their backs to stay back, come in earlier, work six day weeks, start at 4am and eat lunch at their desk for the sake of meeting unreasonable deadlines – all in schedules that literally never factored in a ten minute break let alone a toilet stop – were informed on Monday last week to return to their desk and zip up their pencil cases, they were given the further honour of being escorted out of the premises.

For fear of someone stealing a dictionary? You’ve got bigger problems to worry about. Rehame, you cannot expect to treat people so poorly and not suffer some kind of public outcry. I’m just sorry to be the one registering a voice.

Eloise 36

[email protected]

CRIKEY: The views expressed above are Eloise’s and Rehame management are extended the opportunity to reply if they wish. Crikey has toured the Rehame factory in Port Melbourne and found most of the staff seemed pretty cheerful about their conditions. At the end of the day media monitoring is a grunt business so it really is not surprising that Peter Maher, the John Singleton of Melbourne, runs the business like this. No one forces people to work for $12 an hour and clearly many of them take the opportunity to leave after a short time. Such is life and such is business. Given the strength of our unions, it is a little surprising that the ETU or the MEAA haven’t got a strong foothold in Rehame yet. This little comment has already attracted some strong feedback as follows:

Rehame is why we need strong unions

Stephen,

I read with interest the article in today’s mailout on Rehame, and in particular your follow-up comment: “Given the strength of our unions, it is a little surprising that the ETU or the MEAA haven’t got a strong foothold in Rehame yet.”

Crikey, it’s precisely because of this type of cretinous management behaviour that we NEED unions! Unfortunately, however, the word “union” obviously conjures up, in your mind, images of Trotskyite boofheads at company gates wielding rocks and placards.

The world has moved on since the forties and sixties, Stephen. Sure we have a few Neanderthals in the ranks, but generally those affiliated with the ACTU are professionals in managing industrial disputes. I can recall when Bob Hawke was dismissed as a communist in the 70s, when most of the time he was helping to save some of Australia’s largest companies from themselves.

Then his government adopted “consensus” as its platform for industrial reform – essentially that meant getting the two parties to TALK to each other. I remember it taking a hell of a long time for members of the Melbourne Club to even talk to Prime Minister Bob. Eventually they did, and how very surprised they were, too, to find that a socialist like Hawke could reason with them. Even understand them.

So, Stephen, it’s time to come out of your private school tree and see the world for what it really is. Amongst other things, its greedy and self-interested. The down-trodden workers really aren’t a lot different from you. In fact, there’s plenty of space for blokes like you in the ranks. And there’s a huge career waiting for some of the lovelies (of all three sexes) in the journalism trade, banging soft heads together and reminding their fellows that chasing fame comes with free tickets to Prostitution. For 12 bucks an hour. The far better alternative is that they have their wits about them and support each other.

Murf

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