Mental health at work: bosses’ approaches and ours

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Mon, 20/08/2018 - 15:50,

No capitalist solution to workplace mental health issues

The charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness have set up a campaign called “Time to Change” which, although not instantly recognisable, is aimed at increasing dialogue around mental health issues in the workplace.

The campaign suggests several pledges, most of them around management encouraging and initiating dialogue, but nothing about what the boss can do to actually reduce workplace stress and workplace related mental Ill health.

This campaign seems at best a sticking plaster to a capitalist system that uses workers to the benefit of the bosses and the rich, and at worst an excuse for a shoddy employer who has no real concern for the wellbeing of its employees.

Mind’s local groups can be very helpful to individuals, but nationally, we believe that this campaign fails to challenge the causes of mental ill-health. And worse, it collaborates with the Department for Work and Pensions in its punitive regime towards benefit claimants.

Our experience on London Underground is that bosses make the right noises about taking mental health seriously, but still manage us in ways that seem almost deliberately calculated to make our mental health worse.

Here are some brief suggestions Tubeworker has on how significant improvement could be made for the mental health of the London Underground workforce:

  • Listen to our unions, they are the workforce

  • Reduce hours to a 32-hour week. The extra time with friends and families, or for pursuits that don't involve selling our labour will be greatly beneficial to many workers’ mental health. Make our working hours less anti-social as well as shorter: fewer extreme turns.

  • Reduce the risk of trauma in the workplace: end lone working, ensure safe staffing levels, minimise other factors that lead to conflict at work (increasing fares, disruption, overcrowded and overheated stations and trains).

  • Decent facilities: a quiet room, as well as a mess room, in every workplace.

  • Directly employ cleaners, caterers, and other outsourced workers. They are treated and paid badly. LU is responsible for that.

  • Pay the lowest earners more so we can all afford to live and have a bit of fun in the city we work. Being priced out of social and cultural life in the city we make move is profoundly alienating and damaging to mental health.

  • Stop bullying and harrasing us with unfair and unnecessary disciplinary action. In particular, stop treating illness, including mental illness, punitively!
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