Letters – 12 November

Breast cancer is not a joke

Re: ‘Taking Stock’ (8 October) and breast cancer: it is a pity that arrogance prevents you from admitting that you might have been wrong about poking fun at an attempt to draw attention to a killer disease.

I refer, of course, to Chris Jeffries’ letter (29 October), but particularly to the editorial bit alongside the reprinted photograph.

What on earth do you mean by asking: ‘Was this the best way to draw attention to breast cancer?’ Every way is the ‘best way’, if it achieves its objective in a simple and efficient manner. The objective was awareness. And self-evidently it achieved its objective!

Let’s have a little less of the arrogance which obviously prevents you from admitting that you just might have been wrong.

Fact 1: Breast cancer kills.

Fact 2; Awareness leads to early detection, and that can, and does, save lives.

Fact 3: I do actually know what I am talking about.

Fact 4: Refusing to admit you were wrong to poke fun at people making a serious attempt to save real human lives does you a great disservice.

The problem is the arrogance and insensitivity with which you treated the legitimate complaint.

Christopher M Greaves, FCA, Woodford Green, Essex

… The only people who can ‘joke’ about cancer are the sufferers.

Do you realise the daily fear endured by many women in regard to breast and ovarian cancer? It is certainly not the way to draw attention to breast cancer.

Perhaps you could do something positive instead of mimicking the worst of the tabloid press.

Tony I Woolfson, FCA, ATII, Didsbury, Manchester[QQ] There’s no excuse for overtime Re:Working Time Directive. There are only three possible reasons for working overtime and/or excessive hours:

1) you are understaffed;

2) you are inefficient; or

3) there is a genuine short-term and unforeseen increase in workload.

If you are understaffed, then you should recruit. If you are inefficient, you need to take action to improve your effectiveness and productivity.

If there is a genuine short-term, but foreseen, increase in workload, then appropriate resources should have been earmarked in advance, for example, employment of consultants or temporary staff.

If there is an unforeseen, but long-term, increase in workload, then you are probably understaffed in the mid- to long-term, and you need to recruit. This will leave you with a short-term and unforeseen increase in workload; the longer term element of the workload increase is now foreseen and you are dealing with it.

If your short and unforeseen increase in workload requires you to employ staff for an average of more than 48 hours per week for 17 weeks, then you have taken on too much work and cannot possibly do justice to all your customers.

Forty-eight hours is around 30% more than what most people nowadays consider to be a reasonable working week (37 hours) and more than 37% longer than the French government is proposing for the working week.

So, there is no need for staff to sign away their rights! There is more than adequate slack in the system for any properly staffed and well managed organisation to deal with any short term and unforeseen increase in workload.

So when I read (5 November) that Arthur Andersen’s 60,000 UK staff have been asked to sign away their rights, I have to ask myself a few questions.

Is Andersen’s understaffed? Is Andersen’s inefficient? Would I employ them to advise me on how to manage any organisation in which I had an interest?

Answers: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think not.

Peter Judge, Brighouse, West Yorkshire

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