Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Irish Web Awards 2009

Banshee bones, Wheelies, Tayto’s, Lovehearts, Lindt Chocolate, Glow-glasses…and that was just Thursday! Its been a long few weeks.

What can be said about the Irish Web Awards that hasn’t been said before or someone hasn’t commented about yet this week? They are different to the Bloggies but are veering towards the Bloggies in terms of the fun element. I think the Webbies were seen as different due to the business element attending, but having seen how awards should be done, everyone embraces it now to make it the best awards ceremony in town.

I was sitting beside Hugh Linehan from the Irish Times and his wife, my cousin Jeanette, who were bowled over by the awards. They have been to all the other ceremonies – Spiders, Digital Media Awards, Film & TV awards and everything else - and they said that, without a doubt, they have never enjoyed an awards ceremony so much. They loved it. They loved the fact that the audience could see, via the bestest powerpoint presentation ever created (let John or myself know if you want a copy of the 160MB of goodness) pictures of the nominees. They loved the presentation. They loved Ricks interaction with the audience and the audience being asked to assist. They loved the actual awards which were fab (thanks Fran from Made In Hollywood). They loved the cupcakes, the sweets, the crisps, the food, the atmosphere – I mean, what wasn’t there to love about the awards.

I’ve seen some bitching and back-biting already about the awards. About the food, the judging, the winners, the PowerPoint, etc and it’s not nice. The amount of work that goes into this is phenomenal. It truly is. And considering all those who work on it have a full time job it makes it all the more remarkable. There is no panel of people whose sole job it is to make the awards happen. This is done afterhours, over lunch, weekends and other hours that people can find to make it happen. Certain items are intentional. The PowerPoint was meant to be like that as Rick said. We know its not the best that could be done but the challenge to make it that bad was nearly as tough as a challenge to make something brilliant. The effort that went into setting up the event, to get sponsors on board, to get the crisps & sweets & other items was huge as lots of companies hadn’t heard of the awards and were reluctant to help out. Some were great. So, before I give a good view on things, here some things I would like to point out:

1) If you didn’t volunteer to be a judge, you have no right to bitch about who won. You had a chance to help influence the winner by helping with judging. If your favourite site didn’t make either long or short list did you nominate it? It not, then shut up.
2) Did you volunteer or ask to help out with any part of the ceremony? If not, then don’t bitch about how it was. This was run with everyones best intentions and on peoples ‘free’ time people. If its not up to your usual standards then people will understand why you are not there next year.
3) Don’t bitch about the food and everything else. Show me where you can get something different each year, free food, some free drink, awards ceremony, chance to network and have a great laugh for €35? Again, fun events are meant to be fun hence the whole glow-glasses and sweeties.

Now, onto happy joy-joy things. Firstly, thanks Damien for a great event. Another stormer. Thanks Rick for presenting in such an affable and interactive manner. You do set the tone for the rest of the evening. Thanks Lexia for running the ppt show and John for doing my nut in ;) . Lexia, I know you were reluctant to run this but no one else could have done it. Ryan, again great pics. Thanks to everyone else for making it a great night and lovely to catch up with some heads that I’ve only just met through Twitter and in person. I enjoyed the night immensely and can’t wait for the bloggies. Both are growing into great events.

Damien, if you need help…count me in.

NB: Pics from Ryan (Rymus).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Its a long road home

Date: 21st December 2008
Camera: Sony Cybershot 7.2 mega pixels
Settings: Automatic settings

Another picture on the ickle digital camera taken on the west coast of oz. I love driving on these roads. Air con up full, tunes turned up, shades on, car in top gear and only having to stop to wee or get petrol. That's the life.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A view to kill for

Date: 19th December 2008
Camera: Sony Cybershot 7.2 mega pixels
Settings: Automatic settings

Took this pic with our little travel camera. This was the view from my back door for a few days last Xmas in Oz. We were staying in Monkey Mia which is in Western Australia. What a view to wake up to in the mornings.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

We need to act now

Following the revelations in today's Sunday Tribune regarding the expenses accrued by John O'Donoghue, our supposed Ceann Comhairle, while in that office I think its time something happened. Something big.

In the last two budgets the ordinary person has been severely hit in the pocket. Everyone, private sector and public sector, has been hit and yet this tool continues to squander our money on lavish trips. He stays in the best hotels, travels well above his station and worst of all - we've paid for his wife to see the world. Show me other business men that take their wife's with them on work? This is not good enough and not acceptable.

He must be sacked immediately for gross misconduct. An apology is not enough. Saying sorry for the needless spending of huge amounts of our money is not acceptable.

He should not be given the chance to explain or to pass it off onto the Joe-soap that booked trips. What I don't understand, is that the person who booked the trips when he was a minister still has a job. Surely if they booked trips that were extravagant and above what should have been spent, that's not doing the job right. But again everything glossed over and we were told to leave him alone as he said sorry...poor little bunny.

This man MUST be fired. He is not an appropriate representative of the Irish People, never has been in my eyes, and never will be. He is an example of everything that is wrong in Irish politics and with Fine Fail. He spends the tax-payers money without any thought or care for the people he was supposed to stand for and who worked harder than him to earn.

All money spent on his wife should be paid back into the tax coffers from his own personal wages. All hotels and use of car hire that was not related to his job (for example, car hire to go to horse racing events or flights to events other than state-related items) should be paid back from his personal money. His job should be terminated and he should only receive the pension money that he has accrued until now. No golden handshakes, no car, no pay off. Legislation must be changed now so that no more tax money is wasted on wasters like him or Rory Molloy. People who show disregard for their fellow people should not be rewarded as has been the case.

I think we as a people need to start to stand up and be counted or the budget will only serve to shaft us again. If we were French, German or Italian we would have taken to the streets at this stage instead of bending over and asking the Government for more sir.

Molloy needs to give back money. O'Donoghue needs to give back money and both never working in a public office job again.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Taxi regulation

A few months ago, I got a taxi from Dublin City Centre back home to northside.

I was talking to the lovely fella, lets call him Tom, about the whole taxi regulation thing and striking. A strike was coming up that weekend and he said he wouldn't be attending. His reason was he felt it was uncalled for and that taxi drivers brought it upon themselves.

Tom had been a taxi driver when it was fully regulated. Back when you had to queue for 2 hours on a Friday or Saturday night in Dublin for a taxi. Back when you called for a taxi at 7am and at 8.30am you were ringing for the 4th time to be told it would still be 10mins. Something had to change and did.

These strikes and most people marching never care about the customers. They care about themselves. When it was regulated they minted it. The customers suffered but they didn't care. When it became easier to get a plate, the customer rejoiced as it was now a much better service. Prices went up over the last few years to compensate for loss of earnings but its easier than ever before to get a plate, that itself is wrong.

Tom told me he knew people who worked 3 or 4 days a week during full regulation and that kept the family going. If they were going on holidays or needed extra money for Christmas they would work 5 or 6 days. he knew drivers that had massive houses from 3 days work.

When the news of regulation was coming in, taxi unions and drivers were approached to agree on a way forward. They refused all proposals put before them and hence what we have today was put in place. The main idea mooted to them was that each taxi driver would be issued with another plate - each of them would have two plates. They could sell that plate onto anyone and double the amount of taxis in Dublin and elsewhere. Tom told me that lots of drivers liked that idea as it would help control the numbers. Lots didn't like it as it would mean they may have to work 5 days now to earn their keep. Taxi and union heads refused and so the regulation was opened up.

Tom left the taxi business and went on the building sites during the boom. He's now near retiring age and is back in the taxi game just for something to do. He works day time hours just to have some social interaction and to "keep out of the wife's hair". He has no sympathy for the current situation as he was saying it was too controlled with no proper rota system or care for customers. He felt the two-plate idea was great but his voice, and the voice of many colleagues, wasn't heard or listened to by those apparently representing them.

If they hadn't been so pig-headed before, things could be so different now.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Llama Face.

For the day thats in it...

From Fota a few years back...and next just because its a top, top movie.

Simple Economics

I’ve been listening to The Frontline and all the Radio station debates on the possible pay cuts in the public sector. As you would expect from our Unions, their number one answer is to strike rather than look at the overall picture.

The debate on The Frontline on Monday was good but it done nothing other than open up an us-and-them debate between private and public sectors with each outlining exactly what they’ve lost. However, I do despise when the public sector mention they have had an X% pay decrease and talk as if no-one else has had the same decreases. In my view, when these debates are going on no-one should mention pay decreases that have affected everyone – such as the 2% tax levy and the PRSI levy. Then talk about what else you’ve had reduced.

The public sector also are bitching about their pensions as if they have a god given right to have one in the first place. It’s great that they had it but why should my taxes go towards someone else’s retirement. One man on The Frontline mentioned about his friend in Siemens getting a 10% company donation to his pension. I’ve never seen anyone get 10% in the companies I worked for or heard any of my friends in other companies getting it. In fact, in most private sector companies they will assist you in setting up a pension but might not donate anything or you have to be a minimum of 1 year in the company before you are entitled to a pension. And even then it’s a raising scale starting at around 3% and moving up to around 6% as long as you match it. In the public sector, do you get one straight away? If so, that’s no right.

Personally, I think the only way out of the mess is to start treating every single section of the public sector as a business – let’s call the overall company FFCo. At the moment, FFCo do not make enough money to make up what they are spending. In any normal circumstances, this would mean administration or closure for that company. You can’t spend what you don’t have, a factor that the employees of FFCo don’t seem to understand.

FFCo make their money from people working in PrivateCo. The more people working in PrivateCo the more money FFCo make. Until late last year, FFCo made lots of money from PrivateCo but did not invest wisely assuming PrivateCo would continue to have vast employees making them money. On the back of this, FFCo made deals with UnionCo to give pay rises to FFCo staff for no reason other than that they felt they deserved them. We have yet to see reasons for pay rises such as meeting, or indeed exceeding, set objectives as happens in PrivateCo. Maybe giving good ideas to their part of FFC0, applying for roles, increasing productivity in their jobs or any other the other reason that PrivateCo workers are measured against? Is it right that some FFCo people giving out about not getting the 3.5% pay rise are in the same job for 30 years? Where are the career aspirations? Where’s the proof you’re entitled to a pay rise? Can you justify why you need to get more money for doing the same job and meeting the same targets year after year? Matching inflation is not a reason. PrivateCo workers are not judged on inflation but rather on performance, attitude, ability and many other attributes. In one job I had, I got 2 pay-rises in 5 years - one for promotion, one for performance related work as I helped the company keep vital contracts happy. If the contract went, I went. Simple economics – if there was no job then why have someone on the books?

I don’t think that the frontline staff in FFCo should suffer as people in FFCo think will happen. On The Frontline, it only seemed to talk to the FFCo frontline workers. Where were the consultants who work less than 35 hours per week and Jabba The Hut gave big wages to 2 years ago? Where are the admin staff that merged as part of the HSE and were not let-go? How could FFCo employ several people to do the same job when the work wasn’t there?

Something needs to happen in FFCo or else it will fold and people in PrivateCo will also suffer. Striking is not the answer. In order to keep afloat, I know a company that done the following:
  • They assessed their staff and it was unfortunate, but some had to go as they had no current work for them and nothing incoming to put them on.
  • They reduced some staffs working hours to what was affordable.
  • The company cut all company pension contributions to 1% until we are out of the recession. Once things are better, it will be restored to pre-recession levels.

I think the above is perfectly acceptable. Employees can still put in as much as they can to their fund but the company can’t afford to keep up their payments. Again simple economics – money out does not exceed money coming in. If people didn’t accept the company would have to close or else make more people redundant.

One last point I would like to make before outlining my solution to the problem is this. FFCo workers work a 35-hour week. PrivateCo workers work a 40-hour week. When the recent ERSI report was released, did it adjust for this? Earning €30k for 35-hours means a higher wage than €30k for 40-hours.

To help ease the overall pain and keep FFCo in business, I feel the following are something’s that FFCo needs to do:

  • Reduce pension contributions down for everybody in FFCo down to 1%. Make a deal for it to be reviewed on a 6 or 9 month basis. Once the country is out of recession AND making money start to increase again over a period of time. All new staff in FFCo should not get a pension by default but rather only after 1 year.
  • Increase FFCo workers from 35 to 40 hours per week in line with PrivateCo. No extra pay for this. This is a form of benchmarking as well.
  • We can’t reduce the Frontline staff in hospitals, schools, special needs assistants, fire service, paramedics, etc. We need these areas to be staffed correctly to ensure the country remains safe and in health. But, maybe look at rotas, staffing etc. Could there be some efficiency here?
  • Look at the admin staff in FFCo. In order to keep people of the live-register full time, reduce some working hours. When the HSE merged how were people not let go? We can’t afford full-time dole payments but we could endure some people on 3 days a week rather than 5 as the dole is less than wages.
  • Offer time-in-lieu instead of overtime.
  • Entice job-sharing with those staff that are close to retirement or would like more time off. I’m sure some FFCo employees would like to work less hours.
  • Review job objectives, targets, etc for all FFCo employees and these staff need proper reviews with their departments results made public. In a call-centre in PrivateCo, if more calls come in then employees will take more calls. In FFCo it appears that you are told you’ll have to wait longer for an answer. I’m not saying hugely increase targets but are they ever increased.
  • We can’t increase taxes or reduce wages anymore. FFCo not making contributions to your pension is NOT a reduction in wages.
  • The child benefit should be means tested based on your net income AFTER you have paid everything per month. Not on your gross salaries added together. You should be asked to show 12 month evidence of your mortgage payments, loans, monthly donation to charities and how much you need to live per month for food and bills. You should also have a realistic amount of money for savings. After that if you have more than XX amount you don’t get child benefit.
  • Reduce VAT by to 1% lower than the previous version. Encourage people to spend a bit more.
  • Banks won’t give a mortgage to people if they have loads of re-possessed houses on their books at their own cost. FFCo to set up a house-based Bank or set up a dept within each bank we’ll call BankCo. People are in serious debt at the moment with some struggling to make payments. Anyone can apply – with all necessary evidence (letters stating they have been made redundant or on reduced hours, banks statements, proof of loans and mortgage etc – to have their mortgage transferred to BankCo. BankCo reduces the mortgage payments they pay each month to what is affordable (judged and agreed by BankCo and the mortgage payers) but the amount of interest currently being paid is still paid to the main bank. This means the main bank still makes money, people keep their houses and will deduce rental assistance payments being made to those out of work and kicked from their homes and now renting. Your home can still repossessed I f you don’t make the payments you agreed to. Once the recession slows down and you are back on your feet your mortgage is moved from BankCo to the previous holder with the previous payments happening again. Just to note, the length of your mortgage is not reduced so at some stage you will have to pay what you were unable to pay during the recession.
  • Finally, chase those people who have got or wasted taxpayers’ money such as FAS, etc., and received redundancy. The mismanagement of FAS is tantamount to gross negligence or gross misconduct with our money. They should be fired with no handshakes. They take what they have right now and leave.

These are just some of my views on the situation. I’ll leave with one item that is really bugging me. People like Peter McLoone and weirdy-beardy Jack O’Connor keep going on about the Unions helping the ordinary people on the frontline keep their jobs. We need to stop concentrating on your Joe Soap FFCo employee and chase the developers and bankers that brought the country to its knees. The same people, of which, some are your members? Why should we trust Unions whose members are also responsible? The same FAS company which McLoone was a member off and sat idly by watching the ‘due-process’ take place when he could have stopped millions being wasted by intervening earlier?