Friday, 22 July 2016

An open letter to Steve Rowe...

Dear Steve,

My name is Rachel O'Kelly and I have been asked to write a personal statement regarding the impact the proposed 'Pay and Pensions' changes will have on my family and I,

I want to begin by saying that I understand 'tough decisions' need to be made, If this were my company I too would be looking at what we could do not just to survive, but to improve.
Our profits are down, clothing and home are struggling and the staff who are dealing with customers on the shop floor every day, listening to them and their concerns we feel it. We know how difficult the past few years have been not just for Marks and Spencer, but for retail in general. You only have to look at B.H.S as a stark reminder of how fragile things have become.
Nobody wants to see the closure of another high street favourite. We don't want to lose our jobs or to see yet another empty shop turned into a Poundland. So we do understand that things need to change, but surely not at the expense of some of your most long serving, experienced and loyal staff?

I, just like you am an 'M&S' lifer. I started work at the Chester store in May 1996 as a Saturday girl, I had just turned 16 and worked 8 til 2 on the Ladies Casual wear department, I loved it.
I used to be so excited going up to the office when I finished my shift to get my brown envelope containing my wages. Which in hindsight, I really should have put some of aside for a 'rainy day' like my Dad suggested, but there we are.
Everybody was so friendly in the store, they were like a family to me, in fact they still are. Do you know why Steve? Because most of the people I started working with 20 years ago are still there now, loyal staff who really are passionate about their job, about M&S. They put money in the tills for you by doing the weekly food shop, buying the kids school uniforms, underwear, Percy Pigs for the kids treats,  their Mum's nighties! My personal favourites? Is our Formula skincare it beats anything else on the high street in my opinion in terms of its cost and quality, and our jeggings. I tell anyone who will listen what a excellent fit and price they are. I don't do this as I am told to, I do it because I genuinely believe in the product.
I, like the rest of your staff in Chester store take pride in what we do and are proud to recommend our products. These are the M&S lifers who have been there through the good times, the bad times and the plain ugly times (for me this was watching two women the age of my Nana fighting over the last bag of brussel sprouts one Christmas Eve true story).

When Sunday openings first began Marks and Spencer did not agree with opening like our competitors. In Chester they had a sign that would be put on the doors on a Sunday explaining to our customers why they felt the shouldn't open, that staff worked hard and deserved the time with family. Do you remember that Steve? I do. I remember thinking what a nice company I worked for, a company that cared about it's employees and their needs as well as the needs of the business.
Ultimately though we needed to move with the times, we needed to follow what the rest of the high street were doing and give the customers what they wanted, and they wanted to shop with us on a Sunday. So open we did.
I didn't want to work on a Sunday to be honest as I liked spending time with my family, and when I say spending time with my family I really mean that and do not mean sleeping off a hangover and watching the Hollyoaks omnibus (honest) A lot of the staff were against it at first as you can probably remember but we we couldn't operate as a store, we couldn't open for our customers with no staff so they introduced the Sunday premium, double pay for working a Sunday. I did not ask for this compensation it was offered to me as part of my new contract.
I worked every weekend then and continued to do so when I went off to University, I was supposed to get a degree in English you see and become a teacher, that was if my first choice of becoming an actress and marrying Leonardo DiCaprio didn't work out of course. Sadly I never finished my degree and I can promise you now more than ever, that is the biggest regret of my life. My Dad always said I'd regret it, he'd of loved to of been proven right.

I started working full time in 2002 and that's the year I met my husband, we worked every other weekend then and he was paid the Sunday premium as well. 14 years have passed in the blink of an eye. We got married, had a baby, moved house, life happened. We still both work every other weekend now, it's not ideal with a little girl who is at school as you can imagine with children yourself, but working in retail never is. Bank holidays, Boxing day in particular when we are both at work is a real low point for us, but again we were compensated and we make it work the best we can.
We aren't rich in the material sense but we're safe,settled and happy. That is all anyone can really want out of life really isn't it? But we aren't feeling safe or secure right now.

You see we are one of the 'unfortunate few' that you mentioned who are going to worse off if the proposal goes through. Do you know how much money that is to us Steve? We will lose £400 each month between us, £400. That isn't a lot of money to you, it might not be for some people but it is to us, it is an awful lot of money, in fact that's our house that you are holding in your hands.
So when you stand there and discuss how it's unfortunate that a 'few' will be worse off, but hey 62,000 staff will be better off. When you say your proposal will reward people in a "fair and consistent way" I am angry, it feels like the past 20 years have been thrown back in my face, my husbands too.
I've had my pack through I see that you are helping us for the next two years by paying us 30% of what we will actually lose overall, I cried when I saw that figure. Do you know I was finally going to finish my degree? I was going to start with the Open University. My credits from my last University can be transferred over, it's the last year they are able to do that. It would have been a struggle but worth it, there is no way we can afford for me to take that opportunity now. I feel like you've taken away my future, our daughters future.

I feel hopeless, I feel scared and I have no idea what on earth we are going to do.

I have no answers, no magic solution to make this better but what I do know is that if I was offered the full amount of what we would lose over those 2 years, I would feel that you as a company were at least recognising the enormity of the situation for those who will be worse off, we'd feel heard, we may even feel appreciated. It might give us unfortunate few some breathing space whilst we plan for the future. What you as a company are offering right now is an insult to the loyal service, the hard work, the experience and the pride that we long serving members of staff have given to Marks and Spencer.

You say you want to attract the best of the best to the company with a higher starting salary.
Did you not have the confidence in those you already had? What a shame.

 I look forward to hearing your response to the personal statements.

Rachel O'Kelly.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Note to self, it's your fault, all of it.

I didn't get the memo when I got up this morning that everything between the hours of 7.30 and 8.50 would be my fault, and yes I do mean everything.
The fact it wasn't sunny. My fault.
The fact my husband went to work this morning with her football in the boot of his car. My fault.
The fact I didn't telepathically know she wanted to take it to school today and took it out of the car last night for her. My fault.
The dog farted. My fault.
She has a cold. My fault.
No frubes left?!!! (That was my fault I forgot to buy them, I'll give her that one)
The fact that we were running late for school because she decided to throw a massive strop about the bloody football. My fault.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dear Victoria...

Dear Victoria,

I have just finished reading an article in The Daily Mail (I know don't judge me but I like the showbiz section as I'm a bit befuzzled by the whole Taylor Swift/Tom Hiddleston thing at the mo)
Anyway I saw the picture you shared of you kissing your beautiful little girl on the lips and my first thought was simply "Aww how lovely" Then I read the article, I can honestly say I had no idea that kissing your child that way could evoke such strong emotions in people. Actually lets not call them people, because anyone who took the time to tweet and comment anything negative about a picture showing a Mothers love for her child are quite simply trolls.
I am a Mother to an equally beautiful (if I do say so myself) nine year old little girl. Every single morning I drop her off at the school gate and in front of Mums, Dads, Teachers and her School friends she asks for "One last kiss and hug" She can struggle sometimes socially and this is her own little 'comfort blanket' before she goes off for the day. So I give her a kiss on the lips, we hug and off she goes safe, secure and happy in the knowledge that she is loved by her Mum.
It has never ever crossed my mind for one second that anyone could find that sensual did you? And I am so angry that anyone could look at that moment between us and see anything wrong with it.
One comment underneath the Daily Mail article (The comments section is usually the best bit of The Daily Mail to be honest)  said "I still find kissing your child on the lips as weird. I don't know why, perhaps because its a sexual act between consenting adults and to kiss child that way seems..........creepy"  Yes really, You are so weird  and creepy Vic* for showing your daughter you love her by kissing her, you freak! Another went on to say it looked 'strangely sexual' What? It's a quick peck on the lips for goodness sake! I don't know about you, but if anyone looked at that special moment between my daughter and I, sharing a quick kiss and considered it being something sexual or weird then that I'm afraid lies firmly on them, they obviously have some issues that need addressing.

My Dad giving me a kiss when I was Harpers age.

I am mad on your behalf, I really am. In a world where there is so much sadness, hardships and horrors every time we open a newspaper (and I'm not talking about Tom and Taylor here obviously)  or turn on the TV, shouldn't we find joy in even the simplest of things? Especially the honest, open and heartwarming image of a Mothers love for her child.

Ignore the haters Vic, keep sharing pictures of you and your beautiful family, keep kissing them, keep showing them you love them. There is nothing on this earth more important than showing our children how much they are loved.

Take care of yourself.



P.S  Hope you don't mind me calling you Vic?
P.P.S What do you make of the Tom/Taylor thing??