To fire or not to fire?

To fire or not to fire.Ethical questions on your work

I have fallen a long way down and am battling to come to terms with this. Lately I lost my job and consequently am left pondering on many things amongst these that employers have an inalienable right to hire and fire.No question in my mind that in the past ( twenty to thirty years ago )I believed in this implicitly. Year after year however I have been gradually changing my mind and I speak this way as an former employer myself. Personally I seldom fired anybody apart from certain acts which I could not distance myself from, such as theft, wilful acts of destruction, drunkeness or habitual idleness. My reasoning behind this was because I soon learnt that you are never sure that the replacement will be any better and often aren’t. Therefore rather sort whatever you have.The following is just a brief review of things I was taught and my experiences of having been on both sides of the coin as an employer and as an worker.More importantly my current circumstances are due to events outside my control precipitated by political ideologies. I have no regrets and am thankful that I had along with my wife and children the opportunity to have led such a life and to have got out of it all intact, unlike some of my friends. I’m not the first person in the world to go through this and no doubt I won’t be the last.You would think that we all should know better, so let us be thankful for our blessings.


Things I learnt

Believe it or not, in the past on my farms in Africa, depending on the time of year, I employed around 200 people.In most cases these were just simple, uneducated peasants. In the beginning most of these people had no recourse to rights, both as humans and workers.Today, I wake up in a bad mood. Travelling around the farm, nothing is going well and I’m trying to pick holes in all their work. Eventually, I come across something being done really badly and I explode. The long and short of it is, I end up saying,
I’m a big man hey?
I think not.



My Uncle whom I never met as he died before my time and was the first owner of the farm in Rhodesia now known as Zimbabwe.He bought this with his own money and at the end of the second World War, he asked my dad, recently de-mobbed from the Royal Navy and still living in England, to come and help him, which he did.My uncle at this time was fluent in the African language Shona, spoken by all the tribes in Mashonaland. Moreover, he was also a considered expert on their customs and on friendly terms with all their chiefs. Consequently, labour was never short.More importantly, he left our family a heritage which has been passed down through the generations. Namely, get to know the people who work for you, their desires, their customs and what motivates them. It will always stand you in good stead and never forget, no matter how simple someone might be, that they are people first and everything else secondly.For example in those times, most farmers worked what was known as “chonalanga”,broadly speaking meaning, sunrise to sunset. We never did, they were set a task and when they were finished, they were off. They loved it and each according to their own ability. In todays world, this is now illegal.

We then instituted “ganyu” (overtime), for those workers who were stronger and could do with some exta money. Any Sunday work was double time and this was 1948.



By and large, treating your work force fairly, keeps them happy and motivated, in my opinon.However, it works both ways. The thing that annoyed me most as an owner was; absenteeism .This is especially true when you are busy and in a farming enviroment, can mean the difference between, saving a crop or losing it. Normally in my experience, this is just after you have paid them and every excuse comes into play, but generally;”-I’M SICK.” Nine times out of ten it means that they still have a hangover, which is their problem, not mine.Secondly, you give a better worker a raise and then everybody else wants one, irrespective of their contribution.The constant tribulations; can be anything, headaches, funerals, whatever.

Eventually, what happens is the owner gets tired of it and decides to mechanise, no more constant tribulations and the machine doesn’t talk back.

Always assuming you can afford this.

So there are two sides to every story.


A tragedy

My Uncle died and then my Aunt sold the farm, but a few years later, my dad bought it back.Unfortunately, two months later, the Rhodesian government declared U.D.I.(Unilateral Declaration of Independance), and the British, and the rest of the world went mad imposing International sanctions amongst other things.So it was a bad time to be an owner, especially a Tobacco grower, which was export generated. More importantly, Mugabe and his terrorists gained momentum during the ensuing years and their main target was farmers and their labour. He knew that if he could scare the farmers and their labour, his task was almost done. Consequently, innocent people were brutally murdered and I personally lost many friends in this era.Needless to say he never succeeded and in all that time, our farm never had the slightest bit of trouble. What I mean is from a labour point of view. At the end despite sanctions, war etc. when Rhodesia was finally betrayed, we had one of the strongest economies in the world for our size. You can find more about that at Ian Douglas SmithOff course once Mugabe ascended into power with his communist ideologies and his subsequent commitment to workers rights at all costs. It was very difficult, the slightest transgression on your side and you had the Unions all over you.

In the ensuing years, for the first time in over 60 years, the labour started to give us trouble, but even so we never had a strike.I lie, just prior to Mugabe’s infamous land grab, he bused his war vets into our farm, harrassing the workers until the early hours of the morning.We had a strike riled on by this lot. When you have to face 200 drunken people chanting for blood and it’s just you, believe me, it gets frightening..I’m thankful to say, I managed to talk some sense into them, and it only lasted a day, and never again, they stuck by us through and through.I like to believe that for 70 years they knew that they had been treated well by us and were grateful.

Eventually, the end came and we were forced off our farm by a bunch of thugs with no recourse to law and order, or the courts, and justice, and no recompense for our land, and what we had done for it.

John Steinbeck

‘ The Grapes of Wrath’

“There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation,
there is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolise.”



I am not going to go into too much detail here, except to say that I am now living in Ireland and my experiences here as a worker, mainly on farms.Essentially I worked at one place for 4 years averaging about 80 hours a week. In all that time I never had one days leave. I worked all the public holiday’s and every Sunday and never made one cent in overtime.They have very strict labour laws in this country, but the farmer turns a blind eye to it. I spoke to them as a former owner until I was blue in the face, to no avail. Once the influx of Eastern Europeans came into the country, I promptly lost my job. The funny thing is I was replaced by two of them. So one of me and two of them hey? It was the most humiliating experience of my life.The next place was better, at least I got time off and got leave. However after two years of averaging 60 hours a week, was given a months notice and replaced. Guess what? You got it, by two of them, not withstanding the fact that they let me go on the grounds of being too slow.These people have no agricultural experience at all, and I’m qualified with my diploma in Agriculture. In all honesty, physically, its impossible for me to compete with younger people.

In America, for example, I would be in demand as they would employ a Mexican as a worker, and me as a manager. Here in general, they have no need of that, and are not really interested in improving yields or man management etc.Are they bad people, most certainly not, it’s just that they know no better in my opinion?Subsequently I have found no employment.This has driven me nuts. No more farming for me, after this.Have no experience anywhere else according to the 500 places I have applied to. Was turned down on one job for sweeping litter on the grounds of not having enough job experience, if you can believe it?For the first time in my life, I’m now bitter.



In almost every instant that I can think of, as workers, apart from the public sector, you are better off here, and I include Forestry. They seem to have a set of rules whether voluntary or imposed on them by the state.Perhaps it is because they have large workforces and if they don’t treat them accordingly, they stand to lose large amounts of money in case of labour disputes.I guess thats what it is all about, money.I have a large moral dilemma with this at the moment, and can’t seem to make up my mind.



If you have an idea, and it’s yours, and you work hard, and start to make money from it. Who is anyone else to tell you what you can, and cannot do with it?However, does the same apply if you now start to hire people, after all, it’s still your money, and idea. Therefore you can do whatever you like?Basically, does it boil down to greed? Look around you, look at the current mess; banks going down with peoples hard earned money in it. Surely everything has to be balanced by a moral obligation to society as a whole?Over 2000 years ago, didn’t Jesus say?
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.
Have we all lost sight of ourselves, or is that nonsense too?As far as I’m concerned, we all have to take a good hard look at ourselves again.


About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
This entry was posted in Business & Work, Culture & Society, Farming and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to To fire or not to fire?

  1. Brian Ford says:

    Interesting read indeed. My dad was also in the Royal Navy in WW2. Submarines. Was in Wankie afterwards.

  2. I think you have the same moral standards as most good people, Spook. The world is changing, and is now in a sad state of affairs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s