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the king of ireland

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The King of Ireland


This is not intended to be a comprehensive report on all that was discussed at the Staff Assembly called by ESTAT's new Director General, Mr Radermacher. The boring, official report is at http://cybernews.eurostat.cec/previous.cfm?news=16092008. The Staff Assembly itself was better, the best that we can remember; there were interesting exchanges and even a few jokes. Some of the statements, questions and answers are worth repeating because they concern much more than just the EU's statistical office.

Mr Radermacher mentioned how the German Federal Statistical Office, from where he comes, managed to boost productivity by 3% or 4% annually for years on end and how he hoped to do that at ESTAT.

A German colleague asked cleverly how the productivity of a statistical office can be measured with an accuracy of ±1%. The new DG's reply was both alarming and disarming; with the friendliest of smiles, he explained that resources had been cut by 3% to 4% annually without the Office going bust.

The management logic here seems to be that if output stays constant and input decreases, then obviously productivity has risen. The new DG is likely to be subjectively honest when he implies that by sheer coincidence when the politicians cut the budget by X%, the ingenious managers find ways to reorganize the work so brilliantly that the average employee achieves exactly X% more results per hour worked. Well, here is some union logic.

Our German colleagues made up the cuts to budget and staff by doing unpaid extra work. This was decent of them, but there is a nasty side effect; a concession from staff makes the boss feel like a new man, and the first thing that this new man wants is a concession from staff. And then he turns around and calls us unionists a bunch of greedy so-and-sos.

On quality, Mr Radermacher spoke out for Total Quality Management (TQM) with some enthusiasm. (He might have avoided those three letters if someone had told him that Mr Yves "I am not a micro manager" Franchet had already flogged that poor old horse to death by July 2003. Remember July 2003 at ESTAT?) Anyway; what, if anything, does TQM mean? Well, Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TQM remarks that the word "Quality" has "its usual definitions, with all its complexities".

The TQM concept originated in Japanese corporations and it may have had real impact in a culture steeped in Confucian values. But how many of us have even read the works of Master Kung? In Europe TQM is little more than the good intention to learn from the Orient. A Scottish colleague put the shrewd question as to what role ISO 9000 (Reference: 1 ), especially the section "Summary of ISO 9001:2000 in informal language") would play in the quality drive. Here the enthusiasm cooled a bit.

You see, ISO 9000 is an international norm with a precise written definition. Before calling your organisation "ISO 9000 conform" you must pass an audit by an independent agency. Top management is not thrilled by processes that are beyond its control.

SID asked its usual questions, like "What about the Holmquist Report and the target of having four Contractual Agents for every Official?" and "How come 200 colleagues at INFSO have volunteered to have RFID chips in their badges? Are there any such plans for ESTAT?" Mr Radermacher replied, reasonably enough, that he was too new to know all the answers and promised to inform us about RFID plans when he found out. Good for now.

The invited speaker was Mr Almunia, who spoke about the threats of the bankrupt banks, the rising energy prices, etc. and the urgent need for the tools that the Treaty of Lisbon would have provided in order to protect the EU citizens.

From there he went on to describe the "failed" Irish Referendum as a problem to be solved by the Irish. After all, the Lisbon Treaty was "legally" an international treaty, for which the Irish Constitution mandates referenda.

But it was just impossible that 24 Member States, plus two more who are sure to ratify, should be blocked by one. (Note that polls in several Member States have reported majorities of citizens against the unfortunate Treaty. It was majorities of politicians who decided to ratify it anyway.) If he expressed serious respect for Irish sovereignty and the democratic rights of its people, we must have been out to lunch, because we missed that part entirely.

Now the "D" in SID stands for "Democracy in all decisions taken by groups of sane, adult human beings", so we were not going to take that kind of talk lying down.

After a few introductory comments we asked "Who made you the King of Ireland?" With admirable aplomb he replied that he really did respect the rights of Ireland and its people.

He pointed out that some of the anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigners had deliberately misled the voters. He also referred to the "risks" of holding referenda about complex questions.

"Who made you the King of Ireland?" was intended as a satirical way of getting some of our radically democratic ideas across to a couple of hundred colleagues during a 30 second time slot.

Millions of people have made big sacrifices for Irish independence and for democracy in Europe, so let's be serious for a moment.

That some politicians lie all of the time and that many of them lie some of the time is old news.

That people voting on complex issues at a referendum can and sometimes do get confused is normal.

That MPs, MEPs, Ministers, even Heads of State can handle complexity better than you and we is just an assertion. Where is the proof? The high and mighty blunder and stumble through this complicated world just like ordinary mortals.

Naturally, those who rose to the top of representative democracies think that the system is excellent.

But there is a deep paradox in arguments that warn about the dangers of direct democracy and extol the advantages of leaving the most important decisions to elected, well paid, highly privileged, representatives.

If citizens are wise enough to select good lawmakers, how could they be too foolish to select good laws? Be wary of those "elites" who try to sell you contradictions as logic.


Michael Ashbrook
Secretary General of SID

Created by: admin last modification: Monday 24 of November, 2008 [21:44:47 UTC] by admin


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