Riverford Wicked Leeks

piecework and heisenburg

Half the staff are lost in the broad beans, picking with deft, nimble and (I hope) well motivated fingers, moving systematically up the rows like marshalled locusts. A bean top rustles now and then and occasionally a head pops up to carry out a completed crate, but otherwise they could all be asleep in there. Most veg is picked and packed on piecework; so much per crate, row or kg, and there is no doubt that this is the cheapest way to get a simple and uniform (and hence easily quantifiable) job done by poorly motivated staff. One could say that this is fairer on the quicker pickers and some of our staff argue for it at meetings.

I have resisted because, when we tried it, my abiding memory of piecework was of the misery it causes; there was once even a punch up between two crusty travellers over who had filled a bag of carrots. When they left I tipped it out to find that it was half full of earth anyway; everyone intent on ripping each other off. Disputes were frequent, comradeship lost and less experienced workers got so obsessed by how much they were making that they often wore themselves out before lunch. You can