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As an Elf, I’m disgusted my greedy colleagues are threatening to strike

Hello, I am an elf. I am writing to complain about the Elf Protest workshop, which is helping some elves to protest for changes to their working conditions. I will not be joining the elf protest on Saturday (14th December 2013) because I don’t think elves should be taking industrial action at this important elf time of year. Myself, I work as a Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) Yule Elf. My work is very traditional and well respected. I follow children in order to steal their candles so I can eat them.

A new mood of militancy is sweeping through the elf communities —  an unjustified aggression that threatens to result in the first international strike by elves since 1451. The trigger is that the contagion of casual worker discontent has now spread to elves. If elves were to strike it would be for purely self serving reasons, betraying those who trust and rely on them.

Over recent months, some elves have remorselessly cranked up the pressure on the issue of working hours, indulging in increasingly hysterical propaganda and whipping up a sense of resentment against Christmas. Indeed, in recent days, I have received up to four emails a day, urging me to reply to an elf worker survey. But I have refused to participate, because I think the indignation over working conditions, so eagerly fomented by some elves, is grossly misplaced. If elves do take industrial action on this issue, it will be one of the most disgraceful and self-serving disputes in elf history.

Even the very threat of a elf strike is a grotesque act of irresponsibility, where crude blackmail masquerades as concern for elf welfare. And this attempt to protect some elve’s narrow vested interests will do nothing to improve elf standing with the British public.

Indeed, the traditional spirit of goodwill has already been badly dented in recent years by increasing avarice in parts of the profession, such as the outrageous Heinzelmännchen (Kitchen Elf) walkout in 2004 by which family kitchen elves have negotiated substantially more for doing significantly less. Given how well-rewarded most elves are, particularly those in Christmas workshops, a dispute over working conditions would sound the death knell for the profession’s reputation.

The elf world is not meant to be like this. Working as an elf is not a mere occupation. It is a vocation —  one built on compassion for the most vulnerable in society. That is certainly the way elves used to be viewed in this country. The elf was seen as reliable, selfless, trustworthy — a pillar of the local community.

elf protesting
Tragic: There is precious little sign of responsibility from the elves now. They have become reckless, bent on self-service rather than self-sacrifice.

There has been no dramatic increase in productivity or flexibility that might justify this colossal increase in worker demands. The opposite is true. Where elves once had to provide 24-hour work and conduct regular home visits, now they essentially work office hours. Out-of-hours and weekend work is largely conducted with overtime only. For all the incessant bleating about elf conditions, too many elves do not have a clue about the real world. Unlike those who have to earn their living in the competitive marketplace, elves enjoy an effective monopoly, where their work is guaranteed.

I would like to warn parents and children against this weekend’s ‘family fun day’ workshop about helping elves think about what the future of work should be like. Designing posters for elves is making light of a serious issue.

“There is nothing child-friendly about industrial action.” – Michael Gove


everything but the first and last paragraph is taken directly from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2089135/Doctors-strike-As-GP-Im-disgusted-greedy-strike-threat-pensions.html  with the context changed for elves rather than doctors.

14 December / 12-4pm / FACT Connects Space / FREE just drop in!

Pop into our temporary Co-working Space and help the festive elves protest.

We all know elves help make toys, but do you know what working as an elf is like? There are many different types of elf, who do different hidden jobs. Some of the holiday elves want to change the work they have to do every year, and they need your help to make banners and protest signs.

Stop by and help the elves decide what their work should be like, and help them make elf-sized banners and signs to let everyone else know.

This workshop offers a chance to:

  •     Talk about what sort of work festive elves do
  •     Help the elves to imagine what their future work should be like
  •     Plan and decorate an elf-sized banner or sign
  •     Take away a cardboard elf to show off your elf protest sign, or leave it in the workshop with the other protesting elves

Ben Dalton is a researcher and artist from the RCA helping to run the Co-working space at FACT. He’s interested in the future of work, micro-unions, and how to create voices for hidden work and connections between workers who are far away.

fuck you email, I love you

I wrote something about my relationship to work and the eight hour day for artist Sam Meech, who is currently logging and transcribing to knitting people’s working patterns. The project Punchcard Economy, is part of the upcoming Time & Motion exhibition at FACT in Liverpool.


I’m mostly an academic. It tends to be a role where you don’t have set hours other than the teaching and meetings you have to be at. If you want to do your research or tell people about it, you have to find the time to do that yourself. If you want to apply for funding or make a connection with someone to do something new, you have to find time to write about your intentions too. If you need to plan teaching – what it would be useful or important or exciting to know about a topic – or assess how well people have understood or applied ideas you were exploring with them, you need to work out when to do that too. Most academics I know do parts of this in their own time. They may enjoy the days of marking exam scripts on the sofa more than at the desk, or they may find they can ‘only write away from the distractions of work’.

I’m currently on research leave, which means I don’t have any regular teaching. This takes away the weekly schedule of needing to be in a lecture theatre or seminar room for a particular time. I do occasional guest lectures and workshops at the moment, but those don’t carry the bulk tasks of administering, planning and marking whole cohorts of people studying a large subject. I’m also trying to get back in to doing more art and design work. People sometimes call the making of things as a way of thinking about them ‘practice’ – arts practice, design practice, research-by-practice. This seems a good term to me – because making things is also a good way at getting better at the tools you use, and learning about the subjects you are tackling.

I’m used to this way of ‘flexible’ working. Of taking work home to do. Or doing ‘real thinking’ at the kitchen table or on the sofa at a weekend. I think school homework made me approach work this way. I used to think this was entirely a good thing. I had flexibility to do tasks when I wanted to, to mix my personal and research interests. However, there is something uniquely stressful about homework. It requires you to fold a sense of continuous low-level guilt about tasks still un-done in to your ‘free time’. Homework requires you to consider the evenings, weekends, holidays as potential time slots for work, and to worry about how you, personally, will allocate those tasks. If the work doesn’t get done, the implication is that you, personally, failed to plan correctly. Perhaps your timetable wasn’t good enough, or your todo list too vague, or you put things off for too long.

In the workplace, email is much the same as homework in this respect. It allows us and our managers to hide the complexity of allocating and planning tasks in the personal space of each worker. Email has near infinite capacity to hold un-done tasks. And if they remain un-done, then it is assumed to be a failure of you, personally, to have correctly planned how to deal with those emails. I am interested in the implications of digital connectedness. Email allows me to be more efficient in my work. I can quickly find information, get help, make notes, and so on in a way paper and post encumbered, but our tools for well-being have not kept pace with our tools for task-setting, yet. I think digital technology has had the same effect we see in email, in other aspects of work and life that we haven’t noticed fully yet. We will keep making discoveries about things we do differently, often more quickly, in smaller parts, and the unintended repercussions for other parts of what we do.


‘flexible’ working and the guilt of undone tasks