May 23, 2015

Robots To Replace Fast Food Workers

Could the decrease in McDonald's fast food sales mean that it's the beginning of the end? That is, the end of the convenience of being able to get a drive-through, decaf soya latte  - or a luscious, full-fat 60 cent ice-cream? I know disturbingly, and conspicuously - low-brow, high-bogan, and outer suburban!  

But to me McDonalds represents egalitarianism, and the opportunity to run in off the street, and use their facilities (rare as telephone boxes these days) without "spending a penny" so  to speak. And, you skip being served by snooty, po-faced waiters ...who you know have calculated your BMI and hipster-rating, before you even say flat-white, single origin coffee, 5 sugars, and a locally sourced bocconcini on sourdough panini ...please. Can't stand that.

News Examiner reports that McDonalds is apparently in the middle of a prolonged domestic turnaround attempt amid fierce restaurant competition. CEO Steve Easterbrook has said McDonald's needs to act boldly to revitalize itself as the outside world has changed more quickly outside of McDonald's than inside the chain.

So after seeing a decline in earnings for the first time in nine years, in an effort to trim their budgets – they’ve decided to cut costs by replacing employees with robots, just as many grocery stores across the world have started doing.

In fact,  News Examiner has announced a new McDonalds location is set to open in Phoenix, Arizona (on July 4). The new location will be run entirely by robots, aside from a small crew of humans (no I'm not making this up), who will be hired to help operate and oversee the robots - to insure all of the robots are working correctly, the food and cleaning supplies remain stocked, along with removing the money collected by the robots. They say it'll be a test run to see if a mostly robot staff will work in other McDonalds restaurants. 

Visitors to the restaurant will see the new robots working in harmony at a speed of 50 times faster than the average human employee, with no chance of error. If the test launch for the store is a success, people can expect to see robots located in every store all over the country and across the globe.

Phoenix resident, 52-year-old Tom Downey, who has been unemployed for the last 3 years, was excited about the opening of a nearby McDonald’s until he heard about the robots.  “Now that they hire only robots, I don’t know what I can even do. I don’t have an education, a car, and now I’m not gonna even be able to get a burger job. Just the thought of having to go to the state unemployment office and stand in line with those scumbags!”

42-year-old Irwin Waddams, an unemployed fast food worker, told reporters he is extremely disappointed by the decision to employ only robots instead of humans. Another disheartened [human] applicant said, "McDonald’s had my resume, I already completed two job interviews there and they said I was scheduled to work once the new store opened ....Then I hear of the robots [doing the job] instead of a regular human."

Who knows when we will see MacRobots in Australia? Perhaps my recent experience, is a sample of things to come ....soon. For it was only a second after entering one eastern suburbs McDonalds, that I was approached by an overconfident, customer services wizard/pimply kid, who ushered me - against my will - over to a "self-order kiosk". I tried to stand my ground. I protested...

Me: "No don't make me do that!"
Pimply kid: "Don't be scared, it's really easy."
Me: "But I like the face-to-face stuff. I WANT to go over to the counter. I'm a people person!"
Pimply kid: "Look it won't take long."
Me: "But I DON'T want to push any more buttons today thankYOU!"

Of course, Pimply Kid wouldn't take no for an answer. And before I knew it I'd ordered - who knows what - via a giant instore iPad. And then I gave it my money!

Meantime, back in Arizona, the store’s new manager, Jay Funkhouser, is said to be over the moon, with the robots, "They get their work done in a fast and orderly manner. And they don’t ask for cigarette breaks.” A spokesman for McDonald’s said that because of the demand for a $15/hr wage, the company has been considering the idea of a restaurant run entirely by robots for years, and believes their “McRobots” are the answer.

The Guardian reports that McDonald’s “dinosaur” culture may be to blame for its declining sales and waning stature. Nell Minow, a co-founder of governance advisory firm GMI Ratings, who has been dubbed the “the queen of good corporate governance”, said McDonald’s should immediately move to shake up its “dinosaur” board. She said the company must also bring the board’s average age “down at least a couple of decades”. Now I don't like the sound of that ....Ageist hussy.

And when will reinvention obsessed, greed is good, corporate CEOs learn that making a "customer" interact with a screen to get service, does not always equal forward thinking and innovation. Yes it's possibly true that half of McDonald's customer base are poised for "The Jetsons" family fast-food experience ....however it's likely the other half still expect what they'd get at"The Waltons". That is, food and service, that's provided via "staff" that are unplugged. 

So regarding the overconfident, pimply kids serving us - it's about time they wake-up and smell their coffee - and rethink the assumption that a customer's reluctance to use an iService kiosk, does not instantly mean they're some kind of digitally challenged, iTech refusenik.

Alas .... I’m beginning to have a rethink about re-engaging permanently, with snooty nose cafe waiters, and not minding if they serve me my home-spun lemon curd tart on a manky wooden chopping board. 

Mike Licht


Why Robots?

5 Reasons Coffee is a Job Seeker's Friend

What's Age Got To To With It?

Image: Mike Licht,

May 19, 2015

Welfare Word of The Week: Double-Dipping

Word origin

In a Seinfeld episode George Costanza stands in front of a buffet table at a social gathering, snacking on chips and dip. An onlooker spies him dipping a chip, taking a small bite, and then diving in for more dip. 

Tim: "Did you just double-dip that chip?"
George: "Excuse me?"
Tim: "You double-dipped the chip!"
George: "Double-dipped? What are you talking about?"
Tim: "You dipped the chip, you took a bite, and you dipped again."
George: "So?"
Tim: "That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. Look, from now on when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it."
George: "Well, I'm sorry Timmy, but I don't dip that way."
Tim: "Oh, you don't, huh?"
George: "No. You dip the way you want to dip, I'll dip the way I want to dip." 

And so Urban Dictionary confirms that the essence of double dipping, is to dip a piece of something - maybe a shrimp, into a tangy communal cocktail sauce - bite it and then dip the bitten part back into the sauce. Ok to do, if you're a cute, free-range toddler - on a mission. But not if you're 45. That's when double dippers are considered to be plain unhygienic mongrels. Alas, it's recommended you only double-dip, with the curtains closed, and when you're home alone with Fido.

Other accepted common usage

Free Dictionary says double dipping is also the practice of receiving compensation, benefits, etc. from two or more sources in a way regarded as unethical, as from a military pension and a government job. Or receiving two incomes from the same source - as by holding a government job and receiving a government pension. Gosh WHO would do that . . .? 

The Guardian reports Australian treasurer Joe Hockey saying, that the wives of government ministers Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann, might have “double-dipped” on paid parental leave and not told their partners.

The government wants to stop parents – predominantly mothers – from accessing both their employers’ and the federal PPL scheme. It has been criticised for accusing parents who “double-dip” of engaging in rorts. 

Shortly after the budget was announced last week, finance minister Mathias Cormann and assistant treasurer Josh Frydenberg admitted that they had benefited from accessing two forms of entitlements

Hockey would not be drawn on whether Cormann and Frydenberg had alerted their colleagues to the fact that their wives had used both concurrent schemes.

“I can’t recall,” Hockey said.

So is this domestic double-dipping,  astute home economics - or just a clever rort ...?

Next week we explore the word "rort", and (a) when is a rort not a rort? ....but a wild, drunken party (according to, and  (b) does it essentially depend on marriage to an Australian politician? If you ticked both boxes, the law apparently embraces your multi-dipping. So it can't possibly be rorting (...that's something only, riff-raff poor people, and welfare recipients would do!), and you're clearly, justifiably entitled to continue double-dipping that crunchy chip - as you so please - with bells on ....going forward.

May 12, 2015

To all you brilliant, yet unemployed people...

I have technically been unemployed since late 2012. I have had some temporary jobs here and there, but nothing I would put on my resume. Those jobs were the sorts of jobs who would hire anybody to do them, and those aren’t usually very good jobs. In fact, all of them were pretty miserable.

I mourn my old, long-term job sometimes, but I never regret leaving. You see, the first four or five years I worked there were great! I was kicking butt and taking names and the sky was the limit! Then the economy crashed, technology dramatically changed the industry I worked in, and if that wasn’t enough, the owner decided to merge her other company in with mine, and all of those people resented me for it. They had to take it out on someone, right? So I had to try and work with people who did not, under any circumstances, want to do their jobs (which meant I got to do my job AND all of their jobs) and the owner just shrugged her shoulders and told me I just needed to find a way to fix it.

Yeah….that would be like telling a drowning man to just you know, like, not drown. I put up with that for three horrible years that probably shaved some time off my life. I wish I had left way before I did.

Some things I have figured out while being unemployed/job hunting: If you need a break, take one. Mental health is dramatically underrated in our culture. We’re all raised with this mentality that we have to be busy and productive 24-7. I’m not telling you to take a permanent ticket to lazytown, but if all you’re being met with is rejection, or no interviews at all, just walk away for a little bit. It’s better to come back refreshed than to read bitter in an interview. If you sound bitter and cynical, nobody will ever give you a job.

Make up something the interviewer can’t disprove to explain gaps in your employment. Never tell them you have been searching all that time and not gotten hired, which is totally not your fault, by the way, but they read that as a red flag not to hire you. It’s totally unfair, but true.

Which leads me to another point: Unless you have experienced this misery first-hand, nobody, especially HR people, have absolutely no clue what it’s like to be looking for work right now. It breaks my heart knowing that there are so many worthless jerks who are employed, and so many great people who are not. 

EVERYONE lies. Don’t completely fabricate things like education, though I’m pretty sure very few companies actually check that. But don’t feel bad about embellishing your skills. At my old job I would work with the most incompetent retards with super-fancy careers and even fancier paychecks and think “How in the world did they get that job?” The answer: They flat-out lied about their qualifications. And guess who got to fix their stuff and make them look good to their bosses? ME! You’re welcome.

The level of both apathy and ineptitude of “the system” is a major problem right now. I wish I knew a way to fix it, but I don't. The only thing we can do is keep moving. My heart goes out to all those brilliant people out there who just can’t seem to catch a break. At least you’re not alone.

Originally published April 11, 2015 on Lady Un(Employed) and reposted here with Lady (Un)Employed's generous permission.


The Secret To Surviving Long-Term Unemployment

Photo: Kerem Tapani via flickr

May 11, 2015

Haiku Poem — 18 December 2013 [By Cathy Tenzo]

       number seven bus 
       paper bag in his pocket 
       open beer can 

       crucial interview 
       beer spilled onto my suit 
       didn't get the job


Poem by Cathy Tenzo. She writes a daily Haiku at -

May 10, 2015

When One Door Closes . . .

Last week the Job Services Australia agency, that I've been obliged to visit over a longer period than I want to remember, announced its closure. I was told it had failed to pass the competitive tender process, required for the new Australian Employment Services 2015-20 model that's replacing JSA - called jobactive. Official start date is July 1, 2015.

I've had the best of times and the worst of times in that agency so I'm glad to see the back of it.  Best of times? ... having a midlife  Monsieur conduct our job readiness course. Too true. Worst of times? ... having to go through another job readiness course - six months later - with a vicious, backstabbing Barbie Doll as class facilitator (I kid you not).

I was told that many of the agency's employees, are not guaranteed ongoing work, and will shortly - more than likely - find themselves in the same unemployment queue as me! Such is life. And come July 1, Centrelink has informed all "orphaned" jobseekers that they'll be required to choose a new Job Services (jobactive) Provider.


The Saturday Paper reports that US company MAX Solutions, now dominates the “welfare business” in Australia - having secured more than a quarter of the 51 Work for the Dole co-ordinator roles tendered last year for the jobactive scheme. MAX Solutions is an Australian business subsidiary of controversial government services provider Maximus, whose annual revenue in 2014 was more than $US1.7 billion. Questionable aspects of its operations were outlined in The Jobs Game, a February 2015 edition of ABC's Four Corners.

MAX Solutions already held the largest share of Australia’s employment and disability employment services market.  It earned $800 million from the federal government over the past five years under its existing employment department contracts.

In a joint venture with Mission Australia, another US company Mission Providence, picked up the other sizeable share of the Work for the Dole co-ordinator contracts that form the new jobactive model.

On the company website, Mission Providence is described as “a national leader in the management and provision of the highest-quality human social services”,  with its 2013 annual report recording that its “revenue rose modestly to over $US1.1 billion, net income more than doubled to $US19.4 million”.

So maybe a fast tracked (bona fide) recruitment/social services qualification is the way to go then? But will the new jobactive regime offer me a training opportunity that'll parachute me into a lucrative unemployment industries job? (or even a "work-for-the-dole" opportunity in the "job placement" sector?) I don’t think so. Although as a Newstart recipient, I guess I’m a stakeholder of sorts.

The new system

Meantime, the key changes to be implemented in jobactive include:
  • fewer jobseeker classifications, determined according to level of disadvantage and length of unemployment;
  • a requirement for jobseekers to look for 40 jobs a month (yet to be confirmed), in addition to the current requirement they apply for 20 a month; and,
  • a reduction in the number of employment service providers from which the government accepts tenders, from 79 to 44, thus consolidating those it considers the best performers.

Key elements include:
  • Job Commitment Bonus programme to encourage young, long-term unemployed job seekers aged 18-30 to find and keep a job;
  • Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job programme for eligible job seekers to receive financial assistance if they move to a regional area to take up a job;
  • Restart programme will encourage businesses to employ mature age job seekers
  • Work for the Dole to help job seekers to learn new skills and remain socially active and engaged while looking for work

Sounds like the old system . . .with new curtains

In jobactive terms "any training that job seekers do will be relevant to what local employers need, and real job opportunities".  And so no doubt, as a jobactive unemployee (aka cash cow) I won't be surprised if I'm required to: 1) undertake yet another job readiness course - that they'll tell me is different to the other two (but won't be)  2) undertake another compulsory online course "of my choosing" (oh really?) - which has zero relevance and credibility. 

So in the Unemployment Industry of Australia, everything old is unremarkably new again.

Desired outcomes

Admittedly, a Job Services Australia employee did once candidly inform me, that the sole purpose of their compulsory job readiness training programs, was to drive participants to such a level of crazed hysteria, that even a dubious pole-dancing vacancy in Nhill, would seem a valid and positive employment option.  They've succeeded in getting that part right.

Image: via flickr

First Dog on the Moon ...welfare facts

May 3, 2015

Haiku Poem — 25 November 2013 [By Cathy Tenzo]

dressed to the nines
        toilet paper stuck to shoe
 she meets her future

Poem by Cathy Tenzo. She writes a daily Haiku at -

Photo credit: via flickr