Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ash Nazg Durbatulûk, Ash Nazg Gimbatul, Ash Nazg Thrakatulûk Agh Burzum-ishi Krimpatul.*

We're coming to you today from the "Where are they now" department here in the marbled halls of IM Central. You may remember a while back we visited the boys of Mordor to see what forward looking labor policies they had formulated. We found that lunch was a passe' concept. Well, it's been a while and we got to wondering what the mischievous merchants of mirth have been up to lately, so we dosed ourselves with holy water and cast our thoughts down Bentonville way (motto: Work Makes You Free).

Wal-Mart is set to shake up the lives of its 1.3 million workers with a staff scheduling system that is set to end predictable shift patterns. "Hey, if you work at Walmart what kind of life do you have?" said a spokesperson for the company. "If they're not here, most of our employees are home watching Jerry Springer reruns anyway."

The computerized system, called the “eviscerator”, is due to be implemented by the end of the year and allocates staff based on the number of customers in a store at any time. "Eventually we plan to have employees live in trailers out behind the store," said Lee Scott, Walmart president. "We scapped the idea of keeping them on leashes though."

The system alerts managers when a worker’s schedule is approaching full-time. This allows the company to scale back shifts to prevent part-time staff from winning permanent status and entitlement to higher wages and benefits. Scott confirmed that the software would keep the number of employees categorized as full time at a bare minimum. "How do you think we can offer such a good benefits package?' he asked. "Why, it's because no one qualifies for it, that's how."

The system is likely to demand increased flexibility from workers, leaving many “on call” and uncertain of what their next pay check would be. "You say that like it's a bad thing," a spokesperson who did not wish to be identified commented.

Wal-Mart said that the new system would cut lines and have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. A spokeswoman said that 70 per cent of customers reported better service under the system in one test last year. "Of course you have to understand that our customers don't expect much service anyway," the spokeswoman continued. "So the bar is set pretty low to begin with."

A spokesman said that Wal-Mart was not the first retailer to use the technology and added: “This goes on all the time in Bangladesh, Thailand, and other forward looking countries. We're just sorry repressive child labor laws in the United States are making us less competitive in the world market.”

* One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

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