back to article London Underground cleaners to refuse fingerprint clock-on

Cleaners working on the London Underground will resort to industrial action this week in protest against the introduction of a controversial biometric clocking-in system. Starting at just after midnight on Thursday morning, "up to 300 cleaners" will join in the action by refusing to scan their fingerprints every time they …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think of the children

    They too have to be scanned to get library books in most schools

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Think of the children

      Only if the parents agree to it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Think of the children

        Probably the majority of them are worried that if the time clocking system finger print is ever linked to the immigration finger print system, they will be out of a job (and back out of the country!)....

        1. Potemkine Silver badge

          Re: Think of the children

          Do you mean that only illegal immigrants can accept to make such a dirty job for so few money?

          Without immigration, we would have to do all the dirty jobs ourselves.... phew, we"re lucky, we still find people desperate enough to do them and be paid peanuts.

          1. dlr

            Re: Think of the children

            '...Without immigration, we would have to do all the dirty jobs ourselves.... "

            Wrong. Without immigration the company would have to offer high enough wages to attract native born workers.

            Companies that say 'you can't get people to do that job anymore' really mean 'we can't get people to do that job anymore at the salary we are offering'.

          2. Blurm

            Re: Think of the children

            We SHOULD be doing these lesser paid jobs - doing these jobs gives people the determination to work hard and better themselves - it drives them to ensure their children listen at school, get good results and have a better quality of life - whilst we continue to open the door to migration allowing our workforce to get fatter and lazier - what do we expect??? Close the door - get our workforce off its arse and lets get back on track!

            1. JohnMurray

              Re: Think of the children

              Quite right. And think of the training/education costs saved. Import trained workers: Sack the trainers. Problem alleviated for a while.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Think of the children

            I doubt it's illegal immigrants. They can't get these kinds of jobs given the level of checking going on.

            Having someone else sign on for you is the main issue ISS are trying to combat (it's rife in a lot of industries and it's possible that someone legit may then hand over their ID to a 3rd party for "nefarious" or other purposes (sub-sub-contracting?)). Using something they can't handoff to someone else is a logical step (Although palm scanners work better - fingerprints can be cloned off onto a latex glove.)

            Added to fear of being caught fiddling their hours, the other fear for some cleaners is being caught fiddling on benefits - but then again most such fiddling is under-the-table anyway.

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Think of the children

      Or in my lads case, to use the canteen. Personally I had no problem with it ... it was hardly space-age kit, and it saved the kids having to carry money and incidentally, meant kids who didn't pay for school dinners weren't singled out in anyway.

      1. frank 3

        Re: Think of the children

        Aye, let's get 'em used to being treated like crims from an early age.

        1. edge_e
          Big Brother

          Re: Think of the children

          Normalising having to provide your finger prints for services is pretty scary if you ask me

          1. Peshman

            Re: Think of the children

            @edge_e

            Why?

            Are you wanted for some misdemeanor that you think you've gotten away with up until now? If you answer "No" then you still sound suspicious. If you think it's because you'll be framed by someone else for something you didn't do then I suggest you throw your debit/credit cards away and go live in a cave in the woods wearing a tin hat! life is too short to worry about the world conspiring against you. Or are you just a scaremonger?

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Think of the children

              @Peshman

              The whole 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' argument is so much tired old horseshit. It has been debunked time and time again by people who are, no doubt, much smarter than you. If you doubt it (which is, after all, a sensible position to adopt), do a bit of research for yourself, rather than just parroting the first thing you heard someone on the bus read from their copy of the Daily Mail this morning.

              Just for starters, the right to privacy is guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights; having your fingerprints taken in order to do your job is arguably an intrusion into this privacy. If you give up your personall biometric information to your employer, it is the first step towards giving it up as a matter of course. It is open to abuse by employers, governments, and criminals. You cannot guarantee the security of that information once it is given up, and unlike the PIN on your bank card, you cannot change it if it is compromised.

              1. JohnMurray

                Re: Think of the children

                Yawn.

                DVLA will sell your information to practically anyone for less than a fiver. ACPO also sell info from the PNC. Credit card companies sell it to reference agencies, they "sell" it to DWP/HMRC.

          2. Atonnis

            Re: Think of the children

            So what would be the better method? Just out of curiosity...

            I mean, I'm not in favour of fingerprinting or centralised databases of biometrics, but my reasoning is for different purposes (not giving you a way out!).

          3. Ramazan

            Re: having to provide your finger prints for services is pretty scary

            Wake up, people, overthrow your governments

      2. MrXavia
        Facepalm

        Re: Think of the children

        @JimmyPage

        The problem with that is certain people would end up faking prints to get free stuff, it is not hard to do..

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

    Of course the fact that the system doesn't store an image of the finger in question is neither here nor there...

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

      Does it compute some kind of 'hash' and compare it against a stored value, which was generated when the fingerprintee was first registered on the system?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

        Yes, but if you got your hands on that hash what neferious nonsense could yo do with it? The way the union is framing the argument it's as if their whole hand is being scanned to police spec levels

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

      Of course it's neither here nor there. The real issue is one of trust. When you fingerprint employees you're saying right up front that you don't trust them and expect them to be trying to scam you.

      Given the imbalance of power between a foreign employer and what are obviously vulnerable workers with few options, I find this sort of behavior contemptible.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

        Yes, it si only a hash that is stored by fingerprint 'readers'. However, as mentioend by other posters, it puts the employeer in a position of non-trust with their employer.

        I have left a job before because my employer treated their staff like they were under constant suspicion, going as far as to have hidden cameras in fake smoke detectors and PIR detectors. If an employer treats their employees with no respect, they have no respect for the employer back. Anyone with any other option leaves to work somewhere else, those who are left are there because they have no other option - either because they are (mostly legal) immigrants who have a language barrier, or for any one of a number of other reasons. This is tantamount to exploitation by the employer.

        At the end of the day, there is no need for employers to make their staff sign in with a fingerprint when issuing them with a swipe-card does just as well, and reduces the time they take to clock in.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: OH NOES! FINGERPRINTING!!!!!!11111ONE

        Companies don't usually attempt to implement these kinds of systems without good reason and I'd really like to see ISS' side of the story.

  3. kring
    Devil

    Sounds more like an issue with being identified, which I personally feel is a good idea bearing in mind all the weirdos that want to bomb stuff.

    Then again, its going to be a bit difficult to bunk off when you need to clock in/out with a fingerprint.

    Bless must be a tough life to moan about something so trivial.

    1. BillG Silver badge
      Alert

      Sounds more like an issue that you can't clock in and out your friends.

    2. edge_e

      First they came for the cleaners but I did not speak because I wasn't a cleaner

      ....

      1. Shannon Jacobs

        Just what I was thinking

        I'm okay with it as long as they let ME store MY personal data at MY specified location under MY specified disclosure policies. If someone wants to check ANY of MY personal information, first they should tell me why, and then MY preferences would control whether or not the access is granted.

        As it would apply in this case, the hash code for my fingerprint would be stored on my system. When I clocked into their system, it would have to contact the system where MY data was stored and ask for permission to look at it. Their system would have to prove its identity and explain why they wanted to check it, and then I would (under normal circumstances) have granted the permission. Retention of MY personal information for ANY other purposes than those to which I agreed should be a crime.

        Possession is nine points of the law. Wage slavery still a form of slavery.

        1. Clive Mitchell

          Re: Just what I was thinking

          I understand what you're saying, however, as you're clearly a dodgy individual who can't be trusted to sign on without biometric confirmation that it is in fact you, how can you be trusted to confirm your fingerprint identity?

  4. OvAl

    '...staff felt "brutalised" by the system, which made them feel like "slabs of meat"'

    and...

    'infringed the cleaners' "dignity"'

    ...give me a break.

    My concern, if this system was implemented at my place of work, would simply be for the security of the bio-metric data. I wouldn't feel 'brutalised' in the slightest...and my dignity went out of the window a long time ago.

    1. Psyx

      Irony.

      ...And yet people will be queueing up to pay £400+ for a #phone that does the same thing...

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Irony.

        '...staff felt "brutalised" by the system, which made them feel like "iPhone users"'

      2. rvt

        Re: Irony.

        1) there is a difference between beeing forced to do something and doing it voluntary.

        2) we have an idea how the iphone's fingerprint system works ( it doesnt store a picture of your fingerprint) and we have no idea how the tube system works, it could store a picture of your fingerprint?

        1. Psyx

          Re: Irony.

          "1) there is a difference between beeing forced to do something and doing it voluntary."

          Is there. That had escaped me.

          #alsoirony

          "2) we have an idea how the iphone's fingerprint system works ( it doesnt store a picture of your fingerprint) and we have no idea how the tube system works, it could store a picture of your fingerprint?"

          Assuming you totally trust what Apple say, because they have never lied about (in)security features and functionality before.

    2. poopypants

      If your life is so shitty that all you have left is a tenuous grasp on a few remaining shreds of dignity, then conceivably that dignity becomes your most precious possession.

    3. Hollerith 1

      lowest of the low

      I've been a cleaner and believe me, you know where you stand in the hierarchy. Anything I could grab to give me a bit of dignity, I would. If cleaners for London Underground need to do biometrics, make everyone who works there use it, including managers. After all, if it's 'just a swipe', nobody could object.

    4. frank 3

      Ah, so if you can't have dignity, then no-one must.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah, so if you can't have dignity, then no-one must.

        Or... "if you're not taking their dignity away, I'll be fucked if I'll have you take mine away".

        Glass half full me.

      2. Atonnis

        Ummm....

        Can't....or aren't being respected enough to be treated with it.....?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > and my dignity went out of the window a long time ago.

      Fair enough, but some of us still keep ours, and try to make sure other people keep theirs.

      It does not matter how poor or desperate someone is, and how powerful you are relative to them: you should never take away their dignity. You break this rule at your own risk and peril.

      1. OvAl

        Haha, okay. I actually had in mind - when refering to my lack of dignity - the fact that I have kids and walked around for most of the day last week with a fire-engine sticker on my backside. But read it how you wish, I'd hate for you not to have an opportunity to get on your high-horse.

        But it stands, in my eyes. I can't see how this reduces anyones dignity one bit. It's a method of logging the beginning and end of a working day. Nobody is brutalised either, and union's using high-handed language for such a thing turns me off any sympathy I could possibly generate for this.

      2. Ramazan

        Re: It does not matter how poor or desperate someone is

        Yes, and let me extend this notion for ya - no matter how stupid their religion or beleives or their leaders are or how primitive or savage their culture is and no matter how powerful you are relative to them, you must never take away their dignity.

  5. Lost In Clouds of Data

    They're just pissed off because Bob can't sign on Carol while she nurses her second hangover off the week.

    Good lord, ISS is actually requiring people to work the hours they're paid for instead of bunking off? Oh, the inhumanity of it all...

    1. Velv Silver badge

      Ever simpler. Carol who has the hangover can phone the automated telephone line to clock on from anywhere. Doesn't need Bob's help.

      But let's turn this on its head. If there was a fire during cleaning, how would they know who was where? How do you take a headcount at the marshalling point if you don't know who started work, or worse, how many fireman do you commit to a search when Carol hasn't been accounted for?

      Miners and plenty other hazardous environments use "clocking" to keep people safe. "I counted them all out and I counted them all back."

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      What happens when the readers don't work? Let not forget how easy it is to fool most of the fingerprint scanners.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frankly I don't see the problem

    It would help for any time I forgot my ID card at work and had to sheepishly approach reception, and receive an utterly useless temp card that denied me access to server rooms, storage rooms etc.

    Another chance for Bob Crow to spout hot air and cause inconvenience to Londoners.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Frankly I don't see the problem

      Suppose you got the job (or several of the jobs) and instead of turning up yourself "sub-contracted" the work out to a cheaper illegal immigrant - keeping the difference.

      Especially if you are the same minority group yourself and are relying on "all looking the same" to the managers.

      Before the tightening up of security it was pretty much standard for most of the low paid workers at Heathrow.

    2. Roger Stenning

      Re: Frankly I don't see the problem

      You read it wrong. Bob Crow isn't about to inconvenience London again with this one, as they're not striking. They're still working, they're just not going to use the fingerprint logging system.

      And before you say it, while I am a Union Member (and proud of it), it's not with the RMT. I'm with Unite.

      1. Jon Bright

        Re: Frankly I don't see the problem

        He must not be well.

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Frankly I don't see the problem

      Forgetting your ID card doesn't seem to me to be anybody else's problem.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Kaemaril
      Linux

      "GET BACK TO WORK!!"

      They're not actually striking, so they ARE at work. They're just not using the fingerprint system. It's in the article.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

      or are you a government paid shill?

      1. Oli 1

        Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

        no im an IT contractor, and i am at work. doing all that is required of me under my contract.

        i have to suffer the ISS cleaning crews where i work and they are generally lazy, rude and a security risk.

        If you dont like your conditions or contract, get a new job.

        This country needs a can do attitude, which is non-existent with most tube workers it would seem, especially ISS workers.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

          "no im an IT contractor..."

          But you've got some "friends who are cleaners".....

          Right?

          Or not.

          Everyone should have a stint at doing low-paid jobs before they start shitting/pissing on everyone further down the ladder. Maybe then they'd be less inclined to do it.

          1. Blurm

            Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

            It's having done those low paid jobs at the beginning of our careers that drove us to better ourselves instead of just crying about it!

            If you want a better life do the following

            Go to school - and do well despite the challenges

            Go and get a job - and stick at it - work hard and respect your bosses and peers

            Show love and respect to your common man and woman

            Teach your children the lesson of hard work and integrity.

            Wake Up England! Get back to work! Shake off this work-shy ethic as your grandfathers turn in their graves - did they build it so you could so easily give it away.

            WAKE UP ENGLAND!!!!!

            1. JohnMurray

              Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

              Actually it was built on the bodies of slaves and uneducated britons.....like 8-year-olds sold to a life as ships boys, or shoved up chimneys. Since we can't do those anymore, we're f####d ?

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

            "Everyone should have a stint at doing low-paid jobs before they start shitting/pissing on everyone further down the ladder. "

            I have. Many of the comments about cleaners ring true, if only for a minority (about 1/4 of them)

            As for sacking 'em, I know of one cleaner who was stealing stuff from desks whilst doing her job. She was only able to be sacked after being convicted in court for the offences. It's surprisingly hard to fire someone who's putting up determined resistance to it.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

          "i have to suffer the ISS cleaning crews where i work and they are generally lazy, rude and a security risk.

          This country needs a can do attitude, which is non-existent with most tube workers it would seem, especially ISS workers."

          Funny how the attitude of the staff is never the fault of the management is it not?

          AFAIK the UK has one of the easiest firing regimes int the whole EU, provided management has the knowledge and the balls to do it.

          Let's keep in mind a fish rots from the head

          No I'm not a union member and yes I do know what a low paid job feels like. I know what a difference decent management can make.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Try getting back to work yourself Oli 1

          > i have to suffer the ISS cleaning crews where i work

          [...]

          > If you dont like your conditions or contract, get a new job.

          Well?

  8. James 51 Silver badge

    Cleaners jobs are tough on their hands. This probably doesn't work nearly as well as it should and it might stop working at any point.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Out of curiosity, why the thumbs down?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reliability

      Quite possible for it not to work well.

      I helped implement a similar sounding system some years ago, using off the shelf biometric scanners, and we found that it ended up in an angry crew at the start / end of a shift trying to get the scanner to actually recognise their prints.

      I was not overly impressed with the quality / reliability of the scanenrs, and we ended up having to have a backup pin number method for staff to identify themselves.

    3. PatientOne

      'Cleaners jobs are tough on their hands.'

      That's a good point, really:Even if they wear gloves when working, won't their finger prints be damaged and so become unreadable? Won't that then make the scanners useless as the work force couldn't use the scanners even if they wanted to? I know the last time I looked at finger print scanning, this issue came up, and it was all to do with wear and tear on the hands...

      Be interesting to see what happened if the cleaners did agree to use the scanners - would the system simply stop working, or have they got a solution to this issue now?

    4. JohnMurray

      you mean like clocking-in with a pair of gloves on ?

  9. Derichleau

    I bet they don't complain when they're signing the electronic box to accept delivery of a parcel.

    1. JohnMurray

      you just turn your finger around and it gets messed

  10. sabroni Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Just back from the Daily Mail

    Having read this article I now know all I need to know. These "cleaners" are obviously work shy scum and ISS are fantastic employers with a space age, can do attitude!

    Thinking is hard!!!

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Just back from the Daily Mail

      The DM and UKIP would be overjoyed if ISS compared their records with the Immigration people and even one cleaner came up as not being supposed to working.

  11. Greg D

    lolwut?

    Why are they getting their knickers in a twist about this? it's not like their fingerprints are going into a PNC database and they all get branded criminals. If they're worried about being tagged or spied on, then they should first get rid of their mobile phones.

    Uneducated idiots. Probably why they are in a cleaning job in the first place.

    1. Chris 3

      Re: lolwut?

      The thing about biometric data is 'once it's out there, it's out there'. Password database hacked? Change your password. Finger print out there in the wild? what are you going to do?

      Biometrics shouldn't be used for trivial matters.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lolwut?

        Yeah Greg D, I agree!

        Them couple of hundred of humans are just uneducated idiots, all of them!

        1. Greg D

          Re: lolwut?

          There are way more stupid people that work/contract for TFL, I guarantee you that. Thousands of em.

          Bob Crow for starters.

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: lolwut?

            There are way more stupid people that work/contract for TFL, I guarantee you that. Thousands of em.

            Bob Crow for starters.

            Bob Crow works for Bob Crow, not TFL. He made it so that tube drivers (prime skill: ability to hold a deadman's switch) earn more than school teachers, and so he lives (quite well) off a little of each of their salaries.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: lolwut?

              Bob Crow lives in a tax payer funded council house and earns more money than the Prime Minister. He has increased his member salaries to way more than teachers, nurses, soldiers or firemen by causing inconvenience for millions of voters to create political pressure.

              Let's not pretend his is a fighter for the moral good though. According to a former tube union rep he just loves causing trouble.

      2. Greg D

        Re: lolwut?

        There are much easier ways to get a copy of someones fingerprint, which don't involve hacking a system of unknown complexity (or not in this case).... Like anything they have touched for starters.

        Besides, who would want the biometric data of these people?? It would be worthless to anyone. It's just an access control database, no sensitive information is going to be attached to it, unless you class access to a tube station cleaning cupboard as sensitive.

        Its just another thing for the bloody tube staffers to moan about, cos moaning is more valuable to them than working and earning money.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: lolwut?

          "It would be worthless to anyone. It's just an access control database, no sensitive information is going to be attached to it, unless you class access to a tube station cleaning cupboard as sensitive."

          It is if you want to put a bomb or incendiary device in it - or manufacture one, given the content of most cleaning cupboards make a good starting point for most recipes.

    2. Dr_N Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: lolwut?

      "Uneducated idiots. Probably why they are in a cleaning job in the first place."

      Most dickish statement of the month award?

  12. andy gibson

    300 to strike but only 103 voted

    Up to 300 cleaners to strike. Yet the link showed that only 103 voted.

    So what about the other 200?

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: 300 to strike but only 103 voted

      By the standards of strike votes, 34% would be a high turn out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 300 to strike but only 103 voted

      Going by Unions (every one is opted in by default)

      if you don't vote, it doesn't mean you can't be arsed / don't care, it means you agree with the union.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 300 to strike but only 103 voted

      By the standards of a UK government that's a landslide.

    4. Irongut

      Re: 300 to strike but only 103 voted

      Except no one is striking.

      LEARN TO READ YOU MUPPET!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yuck

    "I don't want to touch that scanner, you never know who's been touching it before you, and where their digits have been" :)

    I wonder if they work with marrigolds?

  14. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Gummi bears anyone ?

    a few hilarious ****-ups with the "infallible" system, and they'll be quietly pensioned off.

    As a matter of interest, does anyone know of anywhere that uses SOLELY fingerprint ID for NON-TRIVIAL applications ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gummi bears anyone ?

      At my school - access to the buildings was fingerprint controlled, as the school was in a busy city centre with many rights of way through the grounds, and they got bored of homeless people, drunks etc wandering in.

      Didn't bother me, and worked really well, in all weathers and even if you have grubby hands from chucking a ball around during lunch break or whatever.

      1. Abot13

        Re: Gummi bears anyone ?

        no one put some kind of superglue on it? or chewing gum? or.... specially in schools the should be inventive in destroying the system

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gummi bears anyone ?

          Nope - we all quite liked not have drunks etc wandering in, plus, as a kid in 2001, being able to open doors with your finger was pretty cool.

          Interesting all the downvotes on my initial post, you're disagreeing with the fact I didn't mind? Or you thought that actually kids should expect to cohabit with drunks and homeless people who were aimlessly wandering around their school corridors?

          Pfft, its El Reg, why should it be rational... :)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wouldn't use it either

    What next: bar codes and RFIDs under the skin?

    AC, obviously.

    1. Eradicate all BB entrants

      Re: I wouldn't use it either

      Don't be ridiculous, that's what ASH want for licensing smokers, not ISS for clocking on workers.

  16. Jim 59

    Dignity

    I would not like to be bio-metrically scanned every time I show up for work. Agree with the protest.

    1. Haff

      Re: Dignity

      so you object to being Bio-metricaly scanned

      Do you never where an ID badge with your bio-metric data (photo) on it?

      1. Irongut

        Re: Dignity

        Idk about Jim there but no I don't wear an ID badge, with or without photo, and I have never worked anywhere where I was required to wear an ID badge.

        I am not an ID badge, I am a free man!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dignity

        Wear do you where your badge so that it does not get warne out two much?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am in full favour of this system, as long as the HR department and management have to sign in and access the company buildings and sites in exactly the same way.

    1. frymaster

      Salaried staff

      HR and management are unlikely to be hourly paid.

      I used to be a burger flipper at McDonalds; electronic clocking systems are a GODSEND. Given the choice between having to tell the management any time my actual hours worked deviated from my schedule (and hoping they remembered to action the changes) or being paid by the minute by an automated system, I'd choose the second.

      And, in fact, it looks like they already have a (crap) clocking system. This is just a more convenient version.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Salaried staff

        "I used to be a burger flipper at McDonalds; electronic clocking systems are a GODSEND."

        I've seen these, with a bar code reader.

        Fingerprints not required.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: punch card?

      "I wonder how much it cost to put in this entirely pointlessly hi-tech clock in system, "

      Not much I'd guess, given that the hardware is so common. If they do any audit or payroll of the time recording system, then chances are that the system will save money.

      "the money saved on using something other than a bio-metric reader could have been spent on better work conditions for the staff, "

      Why? Wages aren't defined by the employer's other costs nor on what's left over (that's what profit or loss are), it is defined by how much you have to pay in that locale given the other options available to the workforce. As an unskilled, grotty job, the underground cleaners wage will be as low as ISS can pay and sometimes have the workforce actually turn up.

      Based on the observations of a family member who has worked on TFL contracts, I'd be unsurprised if many of the staff were not doing this as a second job on (in their eyes) essentially casual labour terms. And that's why the idea of some biometric proof would be most unwelcome, because of fears that this proof of identity will mean data being passed back to HMRC, affecting tax credits (or possibly even benefits being claimed). I think that assumes far more organisation on the part of the public sector than actually exists, but if I'm right, in the second job cleaner's shoes, I'd not want this. But tough - if they don't like it, there's plenty of other jobs in London they are at liberty to go and do.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: punch card?

      The thing about a punch card system it the worker has the data immediately available at their fingertips for checking. I've been questioned about my presence in a server room when I was on holiday with my access card - I would have been fired otherwise.

    3. Alan 6

      Re: punch card?

      A standard punch card clock machine runs to about £500 these days, but that's only the start of the costs.

      You need to add on the cost of clock cards, the cost to collect them from the hundreds of LU sites, then the time to check and cross check them for staff that work multiple sites and I think you can see that a £300 fingerprint scanner at each site, networked to a central T&A database starts to make sense, escpecially when you consider what others have already said regarding the ease of abuse of older style systems.

      btw the good quality fingerprint scanners actually read below the surface of the skin, so are not suceptable to misreads caused by cuts and muck on the scanner, and many now even have a little spray attached to squirt the reader with antibacterial foam

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: punch card?

        …networked to a central T&A database…

        Who came up with that acronym for (I assume) Ticketing and Auditing? T&A has another, quite distinct meaning… I'd STFW, but there's no way I'm sticking "t&a acronym" into Google at work.

        1. Alan 6

          Re: punch card?

          T & A stands for Time & Attendance, usually an add-on package to the access control system that automatically clocks people in & out as they enter and leave the building.

          They're very useful for roll calls during fire drills as they have a record of all the people in the building without having to decipher the clock cards that may have been entered upside down, back to front, clocked in twice and not clocked out etc....

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: punch card? @Alan 6

        I think you're a bit behind the times regarding T&A systems. A client has this last year installed a card based system, however it is fully online back to a central T&A DB (so no need for cards to be collected and collated). They kept the 'cards' as they were a simple and well understood T&A practise (the cards are simply tokens that sit in the rack and provide "at a glance" attendance information).

        Fingerprint scanning does away with the physical cards and their abuse.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: punch card?

      The biometric system (agree with it or disagree with it) will at least definitely save money.

      Every place I've ever seen with a manual clocking in system has an "old Maureen" who clocks all her mates in at 0805 when she arrives every_single_day without fail. It also saves on the (in a large organisation who don't micromanage everything) many, many per month instances of "clock me out please I've got to leave early to get to our such-and-suches school play/the pub/back in time for the game etc, etc.

      You've looked at one of the best possible cases for a system such as this, and ignored the actual issues of how such sensitive data is used/transmitted/stored etc.

      It's not an issue NOW but as more and more things move over to this sort of thing the concern becomes more an more valid. I'm happy for my finerprints ot be used/stored in certain situations ( I guess) but if it becomes the norm then,as always, it only takes one group to do a poor job and your fingerprint details are out there.

  19. Michael Shaw

    Its kind of pointless really

    The typical false negative rate is around 5% for these devices, where you are comparing a scan against a single specific finger print (the best case scenario), so on a typical day, they will have 15 people unable to sign in anyway. There is no way that such an unreliable system can be considered essential (or even a security enhancement), as best, just an incompetent manager detector <-- identifying the bozo who signed off on such a system believing it to be a good idea.

    1. Demosthenese

      Re: Its kind of pointless really

      You cite a 5% failure rate - and yet may schools operate these scanners for canteen payments without a problem.

      1. Irongut

        Re: Its kind of pointless really

        You assume those schools have no problems. A headmaster / headmistress is hardly likely to admit to spending large amounts of money on a controversial system that doesn't work are they?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its kind of pointless really

        Is that a 5% false negative in that it doesn't work for 1 in 20 scans of a given finger print or that 1 in 20 of fingerprints scanned into the system never work?

        In the first case, the obvious thing is to scan the finger again, and if necessary again by which point the chances of not having been recognised should be 1 in 8000 (0.0125%).

    2. Marcelo Rodrigues

      Re: Its kind of pointless really

      "The typical false negative rate is around 5% for these devices, where you are comparing a scan against a single specific finger print (the best case scenario), so on a typical day, they will have 15 people unable to sign in anyway..."

      We use fingerprint based clock where I work. Yes, sometimes it doesn't recognize my print. Then, I put my finger AGAIN against the sensor. Costs me about 5 seconds more. boo hoo, the shame...

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Its kind of pointless really

        The doors in the office where I work are controlled by fingerprint readers (Samsung IIRC). The false negative rate, at least on my fingers, seems to be about 75%. Some days I've obviously put on the wrong hands when I got dressed, because it won't recognise me at all. Fortunately there's a card backup.

        Some colleagues never seem to have problems. I suspect that the care with which the original data is captured and verified is critical.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compromise

    Have RFID tag enabled passes with their photo on it (like most big organisations in the world). Use this to log into work, so in order to bunk off, they have to hand their pass over to someone else.

    Oh and remind them to log in on behalf of someone else is a criminal offence and actually get a few busted for the act.

    1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      Re: Compromise

      Criminal Offence?

      No. Get a grip! It's not against the law to break your employers rules and regulations. You won't go to prison for that.

      Lose your job for misconduct? Yep, thats more like it.

      1. JeffUK

        Re: Compromise

        IANAL but I can think of : Obtaining money by deception. conspiracy to commit fraud. Fraud. Breaches of the health and safety at work act. just of the top of my head.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Compromise

          > IANAL

          We can see that.

      2. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Compromise

        So clocking some in that is not there is not fraud or theft of time ? Getting money under false pretense is not a crime ? Time theft is a crime in the US.

  21. arrbee

    One problem with these things is that they don't implement the unspoken assumption that finger print matching provides reliable identification. This is because they're designed for convenience, not accuracy, and will be biased to accept 'iffy' matches in order to minimise complaints about incorrect rejections.

  22. RainForestGuppy

    Flipside

    Some of this technology does give the employee some benefits.

    If a manager wrongly accuses you of turning up late, or missing work and getting people to cover for you, you have clear records that will prove otherwise.

    I've seen similar happen when somebody used CCTV footage to prove that they were at their desk, when they line manager accused them of taking unauthorised time of.

    As long as the fingerprint info is not shared with another agency (and anti-bac wipes are supplied), I'm not sure how this infringes any workers rights.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privatisation...

    As a former employee of part of the TFL empire, this rampant unionism is just the reason I left. Why take pride in doing a good job when there is more money to be made dragging things out for months and getting all huffy and offended when they introduce a new way to clock in?

    Its like the 1970s all over again. Look what happened to British Industry at the hand of the unions.

    Before I worked in TFL I was quite pro-union for the ideals they have of looking after their members. The reality I;ve seen is the members are used as political pawns for the leaders such and Crow, McCluskey etc...

    1. Roger Stenning

      Re: Privatisation...

      Isn't it interesting to notice that most of the anti-union people are using AC...?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Privatisation...

        Isn't it interesting to notice that most of the anti-union people are using AC...?

        Maybe they're old enough to remember how unions used to keep records of scabs and those who disagreed with them, so they could have a couple of lads....

      2. Peshman

        Re: Privatisation...

        @ Roger Stenning.

        "Isn't it interesting to notice that most of the anti-union people are using AC...?"

        Possibly because they've been press-ganged into joining a union when they got offered their jobs? Now that they've seen the light they don't like it but don't need to p1ss anyone off that might make life difficult in the real world where they have to make a living and feed their families?

        Yep, it's interesting isn't it?

        1. Roger Stenning

          Re: Privatisation...

          No one was pre4ss-ganged. I suggest you look up what the history of that phrase is, by the way. Closed shops mean that you had to join the union, to work in a particular job. If you didn't want to join the union, then you didn't get the job. It's not all thuggery, by the way. I was in USDAW, where there was a closed shop job. They did good work for the membership, and it actually helped management to work woith the union - it improved working conditions and safety no end. I've worked in both open and closed shops, and while there are pros and cons for both, Maggie handbagged us practically toothless with the first of her anti-union laws; Blair didn't help us as he said he would, and it's been even worse now the tories are back in. Open shop means you have the option not to join the union, and that's what we're left with post Maggie. Don;t get me wrong, she did a lot of good for the country, but she let Scargill get to her, and for a professional politician to let it get that personal was wrong, a that mistake has led to a lot of problems in the workplace with certain employers taking the piss something horrid. And by the way, I work in an industry where people come anfd go in and out of the Union, and not once in over eleven years in this job have I seen ANYONE victimised for not being in the union, or leaving the union. Care to give specific examples?

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Privatisation...

        I'm not using AC.

        I'm pro union as a rule, but union leaders doing the kind of publicity-seeking, political football shit that Bob Crow and others pull undermines the integrity of all the decent ones. There are a shedload of unions who've never been on strike_ever_ and do very well at protecting their members' interests by quiet negotiation, instead of squawking like seagulls and being media whores.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Privatisation...

      it is like a 1970's throw back. But anyway I wouldn't have thought it would be too difficult to get some other cleaners in to do the job when the current lot are busy striking themselves out of a job

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Privatisation...

        Another 70's throw back you missed was that the heavily unionised TFL staff still have decent pensions because they are in a position to defend their terms and conditions.

        Still, as you completely missed the bit about the staff not striking, simply boycotting the finger swipe tech, it probably didn't cross your mind.

        Why do folk trying to improve their lot, or at least not see a decline, by collective action get dissed by so many of their fellow wage slaves. Is it envy that someone else has the nous to stand up for themselves? Or some bizarre fear that an improvement in the living standards of someone that they have never met will somehow detract from their own standard of living?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Privatisation...

          they get dissed because its this kind of petty action that helped to destroy many a British industry in the 60's and 70's

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Privatisation...

            Striking in regards to pensions/safety/pay: probably acceptable if not taking the mick with regards to wage settlements

            Striking because a company wants to introduce a widely used system to monitor staff: taking the mick

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Privatisation...

              > Striking in regards to

              Spot another one who did not read the fucking article, yet feels compelled to regale us with his "opinion".

          2. Ramazan

            Re: to destroy many a British industry in the 60's and 70's

            FFS, British industries destroyed themselves without any help from unions (they started to decline, so did salaries/conditions, then people started to protest, not the other way round).

        2. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Privatisation...

          Why do folk trying to improve their lot, or at least not see a decline, by collective action get dissed by so many of their fellow wage slaves.

          Because their demands are nonsense, completely alien to similar jobs in the same location. They have everything that they can think of (45 days holiday, £45k starting salary, 35 hr working week), and all they've had to do to get it is to repeatedly strike at the most opportune moments in order to force TFL to back down.

          When the union has all the power, and the company has none, the end result is that the company goes bust in the wake of never ending strikes and wage demands. When the union has all the power, and it's a government body that has no power, the end result is that the public service is provided at an extraordinarily disproportionate cost, paid for by the end user.

          Tube tickets have gone up almost 50% in less than 10 years, partly due to Ken running it into the ground during boom years (he signed off on ridiculous PFI, he didn't raise prices - even by inflation - and did raise wages, and so TFL ran out of funds to upgrade the network), and partly due to yearly strikes and threatened strikes over pay. In 2010, when everyone in the public sector got pay freezes, and those in the private sector got pay freezes and pay cuts, RMT were offered a 2% pay raise, and went on strike, saying they were "offended" - they wanted 5%.

          tl;dr: if your job that involves holding a lever and not falling asleep for 35 hours a week makes you a higher rate tax payer, stop whining.

          1. gloucester

            Re: Privatisation...

            Since these workers are on London Living wage of 8-quid-odd an hour, at 35 hours a week how do you reach a £45K salary pray?

            And as the article states, they aren't striking, just not using the new scanners. Whatever the other merits of the case that action doesn't seem inappropriate.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Privatisation...

            @Tom 38 - not pro union but I have family that are tube drivers etc. Their job includes knowing 100% the ins and outs of the functioning of the train and how to deal with breakdowns and emergencies. When stuck in a tunnel the train driver is the *only* person who has the responsibility and skills to deal with it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Privatisation...

      I've worked at a place where the first in clocked on the other 7 family members many times, the management knew about it but said the unions would take strike action if they disciplined her.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: Privatisation...

        " the management knew about it but said the unions would take strike action if they disciplined her."

        Funny you should say that.

        A friend had a situation. A staff member taking the p**s.

        Friend collected evidence. Started disciplinary process.

        Luser showed up with union rep.

        Union rep looks at evidence. Staff member fired. Case closed.

        All it took was working through the process and having a)The evidence and b) The spine to do it.

        I guess you have gutless management.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Privatisation...

          > I guess you have gutless management.

          Not necessarily. It might just be just a cost (the extra time paid to those who had been clocked in yet not actually arrived) that you are willing to assume for strategic reasons. E.g., perhaps the additional cost is insignificant in the overall scale of your business, keeps your employees happy-ish, and you have some leverage should you need to force their arm on some other matter at a future date.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Meh

            Re: Privatisation...

            "Not necessarily. It might just be just a cost (the extra time paid to those who had been clocked in yet not actually arrived) that you are willing to assume for strategic reasons. E.g., perhaps the additional cost is insignificant in the overall scale of your business, keeps your employees happy-ish, and you have some leverage should you need to force their arm on some other matter at a future date."

            All fair points.

            So why is the original AC whining about it?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Privatisation...

          @ John Smith 19

          As a trade union workplace rep, most of the rep's work in disciplinary proceedings consists of telling either management or the member, "No, you can't actually do that", as they tend to have unreasonable expectations of what they can either do as an employer or get away with with as an employee. This seems to divide on a 50/50 distribution.

          Sadly, stupidity is a very common commodity in management/staff relations.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Privatisation...

      Maybe it is just me, but railway management have ensured that the trains round here have been replaced with much shorter ones with horrific high backed straight seating and cut back all the front line staff and drafted thosr idiots G4S in instead, whilst jacking the fares up to pay for these 'improvements'. Far worse wreckers than Crow.

  24. teapot9999

    get rid of the unions

    Unions are only interested in pushing their own biased political views, they don't give a damn about majority voting or what is best for employees AND employers

    1. Maharg

      Re: get rid of the unions

      … they don't give a damn about majority voting … As it was explained before because 200 people didn’t vote that doesn’t mean they disagreed, it means they didn’t vote, that’s their issue, voter apathy is something I personally think is a huge problem in our society, when more people turn up to vote in general elections in countries where they might be killed for doing so then in the UK it just smacks of laziness, and no, saying none of the possibilities represent you is not an excuse, either chose the one you most agree with, the one you least agree with, or stand yourself, it does make a difference.

      or in other words

      They had a choice, Yes or No, if most of the people that vote say yes, that means it’s a yes, if most of them voted no then it wouldn’t happen, if most of them stay away it doesn’t matter. It’s the people who vote that count.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: get rid of the unions

      Sure.

      Why not?

      As long as you are OK with surrendering your entitlements, often hard won by unionists before you.

      - annual leave

      - sick leave

      - safety equipment

      - clean toilets

      - tea rooms

      - workers compensation

      - long service leave (in Aus)

      - maternity leave

      The list is very long.

      None of these things were automatically provided by industry/management.

      By heck, in the bad old days you bought your own pick before you did your 15 hour mining shift.

  25. Stretch

    if the cleaners go on strike how will we tell? I mean its totally filthy with them allegedly working

    1. Alan 6

      I can't say I travel on the underground much, but whenever I have I would never accuse it of being "totally filthy"

      1. envmod

        BOGIES!

        try blowing your nose immediately after you get off - it's quite alarming.

        I think travelling into central london and back again every day on the tube (as I do) must be the equivalent of smoking 20 B&H a day.

        who can I sue about this?

  26. DrXym Silver badge

    Any old excuse

    I suspect this has very little to do with "civil liberties" and plenty to do with cracking down on the potential abuses in the current time keeping system. It wouldn't surprise me if people were clocking in for their buddies and the use of a fingerprint scanner would all but put a stop to that kind of thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any old excuse

      Exactly correct I suspect @DrXym

      While I am against the use of such biometrics for anything any everything their objections are almost certainly total bull-poop.

      They're unspecified because it's stop all the small (or large) liberties they've been taking which will be stopped by this.

      A tough one for me because I agree with them in principle, but I also know the reasons they object so strongly is because they know loads of them take the mickey, like they do at every place that relies on employee honesty for things like "how much should we pay you this week/month" and "you are doing all the things your contact says right? Like turning up on time and not leaving early?"

  27. Demosthenese

    Faces

    The negative association of fingerprint id with crime detection is at the root of the opposition to this scheme. A facial recognition system would avoid this and do the same job.

    1. Alan 6

      Re: Faces

      Facial recognition is not perfect by any means, and is incredibly susceptible to changes of expression, false mustaches etc, whereas fingerprint readers are getting more and more accurate

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Faces

      I think it's more to do with the fact that a fingerprint system would be harder to fiddle. But the unions and workers can't say that so they concoct some sob story about how it degrades them.

  28. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Cost you mate

    The unique artistic patterns on my fingers are copyright © me. Anybody wants to scan them I am willing to talk about license fees.

  29. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    FAIL

    I am not sure what is more amazing...

    That something like the tube is using advanced technology - or the fact the tube *has* cleaners!

  30. patrick_bateman

    Bad comments by people who dont understand and or/ they are just pissed of that their mate 'Dave' cant clock them in when they are running late.

    the only issue here which has been risen above is, the way the data is stored once taken, in this day and age, thats the only thing you can argue over.

    Good point, link it to immigration, do that for eeeevvery system :)

    Get rid of unions full stop, there all waste of time and create hassle and end up with someone trying tpo make a point and then a load of sheep following, this is the job now, like it or lump it.

  31. Potemkine Silver badge

    Bad ideas.

    Having biometric data owned by a private company is a bad idea.

    Considering workers as cheaters by default is a bad idea.

    Asking for their fingerprints as they were criminals is a bad idea.

    Implementing an RFID chip in their arse either.

  32. kit

    how about the alternative- facial recognition.

    they may go on strike anyway

  33. billse10

    Tube cleaners to strike

    How will we tell?

    "What you smell is what you get,

    Burger King and piss and sweat.

    You roast to death in the boiling heat,

    With tourists treading on your feet,

    And chewing gum on every seat "

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_eQBeVlROo

    (warning, the language is possibly a little strong for most workplaces)

  34. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Considering that no detail has been given as to why...

    Considering that no accurate detail has been given as to why they are pushing back, and that these sorts of roles are staffed by the more "transient" of personalities - I would consider Ledswingers post above to be the most likely to be correct.

  35. Smiles

    I've used these before and....

    They worked absolutely fine. It was a cheap system in a hotel chain for the hourly paid staff, all hourly paid staff used it and for obvious reasons salaried staff did not, and I would guess that over the course of approx 3 years my print failed to scan first twice, three times at most. Each time it beeped and I scanned my finger again, which worked. Lost me around 2 seconds.

    The simple fact is that when you actually look at what data is stored and how it can be abused, there is very little reason to object to it.

  36. eJ2095

    ISS

    Ahh yes i remember these guys used to work at my old place.

    The staff used to call them selves the "International Sh1T Shovelers"

    Did make me smile

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just take the cleaning in house and recruit people who actually want to work, rather than using these two bit contracting companies who have an even worse case of industrial relations due to employing cheap incompetents from bottom to top? If this farcical outfit needs to treat its workers like children then either this company are knowingly employing rubbish, which is a security risk it itself, or the management are that power mad that they have fostered a culture if distrust and therefore disinterested staff with zero morale. And regardless of the behaviour of some union leaders, if unions were banned, working conditions would be even worse. Remember IT is easy to offshore and outsource on the cheap, its not just low skilled jobs at risk now..

  38. The Grump
    Mushroom

    Union idiots !

    Anyone stupid enough to belong to a union voluntarily - deserves the fate of the Hostess bakery union members. They followed their Union - straight into bankruptcy and unemployment. Let's see how far your "dignity" gets you when you receive your final paycheck, with no employment prospects in sight. Then the union officials, having made their money from dues, slink away and find another employer to wreck.

    Simple solution - no fingerprint scan, no paycheck. After X amount of days, immediate employment termination. There's a thousand unemployed people out there that would accept your job tomorrow for what you are paid right now. Before you listen to your Union, look in the mirror and tell yourself "I can be easily replaced", and repeat until you believe it. Then tell your Union to shove it.

    1. Maharg

      Re: Union idiots !

      Thankfully I have never had an issue with any job that needed union help, and I have had some shitty jobs, but because you disagree with how some can be seen as abusing their powers, it doesn’t mean that they are unnecessary. If you look at the decline of the British Car industry in the 70s and 80s a lot of people will blame the unions, but in Germany, the country that rapidly took over from us and are now miles ahead, also had unions, and the union representative was on the board of directors, the idea is the union was the voice of the workers, and the workers and the bosses work with each other to ensure both decent working conditions and productivity. It worked. While in the UK we had and still have this ‘us and them’ mentality, which just doesn’t work.

      Unions are not the problem, neither are the employers, it’s the exclusion of the unions in some industries from the running of the business, and the siege mentality that the unions have that is the problem.

      The company I work for has encouraged union membership since they had one in the 1940s, you know how many strikes or threats of strikes they have had? Big fat 0, while competitors have had a number in living memory.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Union idiots !

        The BL unions were masters at taking the mickey when it came to negotiations.

        For example at the then new TR7 factory at Speke on Merseyside the Union called a strike for the removal of the (small amount) of rat poo in the massive new factory. BL management did that, and the workers went back....

        ...Only to go back out on strike again because the floors were wet from where the floor had been cleaned due to the above.

        The unions had no wish to help the company survive, as far as they were concerned the factories were there to simply provide employment, not actually build cars.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Union idiots !

      Yes! Let's pay everyone a bag of rice a day and insist they live in company dormitories of 20 a room and take their board from the cost of their wages. Gidiot Osborne and his mates must love the likes of you! Hooray forcorpratism and victorian values. Now excuse me whilst I grow a forelock...

  39. clean_state

    the UK: one happy place

    Lots of brits on this comment threads have never heard of the Stasi, or realised that 1984 was not a completely fictional novel (Big Brother = Stalin in case you wonder).

    In countries that have been burned by the horrors of the last century, making a computer file on anyone is controlled, even more so if it is a biometric file. You have to declare the purpose of the file and then stick to it. Finally, cross-referencing files between various organisations is allowed under strict and exceptional authorisation only. And it's a good thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the UK: one happy place

      > In countries that have been burned by the horrors of the last century, making a computer file on anyone is controlled

      And I can confirm what the poster above says. In some countries those lessons have been learned, others still have to.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: the UK: one happy place

      ...Finally, cross-referencing files between various organisations is allowed under strict and exceptional authorisation only....

      Ha, ha!

      That is all...

  40. Maharg

    No Unions...

    That’s a nice view to have when talking about people who could in your view be replaced, but let’s take a hypothetical example of Firemen, let’s say Fireman’s wages are going to be cut and they only get paid for the time they spend putting out fires, and we end up with hardly any firemen, and those that are left taking as long as possible to put out fires.

    Well that’s not very good is it?

    So what’s going to happen? And who’s going to do anything about it?

    The Government? No they are the ones who decided to make the change, and getting a new party in power will take a couple of years with no guarantee of a change.

    The People? If you care so much you be a fireman, well, no, because I don’t want to do that and I’m not trained.

    The Firemen? No, anyone who refuses will just get fired.

    Hmmmmm, if only there was some kind of organisation who had enough members to act as one, and therefore have more power than its individual member, if only they were able to elect representatives to hold talks on behalf of the members.

    Same with Teachers, same with Police, same with any profession, if you are in a situation where you are being treated unfairly you can just leave, but what’s to stop you being treated unfairly in the next job?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Unions...

      @Maharg - the problem with that argument is simply this. If that is the case, how do all the jobs and professions that *DON'T* have unions manage to survive and succeed. I work in a profession where, on paper at least, I can be fairly easily replaced. I have no union to protect me. If I need to represent myself, I have to do it myself. If I and some colleagues want to represent ourselves as a group, we have to agree and do it ourselves. Yet I am still in work and not being shafted by "the evil bosses".

      1. Maharg

        Re: No Unions...@AC

        The problem with that argument is simply this, you don’t need a union.

        As I pointed out, I have never needed to use the union, or airbags, I have never used an airbag, or gas mask, I have never used a gas mask, all smoke alarms have done for me is make a noise when I burn food, I also don’t need anti-malaria tablets where I am, I have never be arrested and put on trial, so I guess we can get rid of any rights to a fair trial that may exist.

        Just because I have never needed to use any of the above, that doesn’t mean they are unnecessary.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the dockers in the 70s to me

    Anyone remember the dockers refusing to handle containers for similar reasons back in the 70s? Of course it was all wrapped in fancy words about solidarity, tradition, not giving in to big business etc. - when all they were really on about was losing the ability to steal from the loads!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds like the dockers in the 70s to me

      Or when the Glasgow shipyards wanted to move to modern presses and rollers so their cost of production could stay competitive. Thing was, the modern equipment only needed one man to operate it, not three, so the Union went on strike....

  42. Rol Silver badge

    Bah, bah!

    Why don't they just bah-code their foreheads at the local tattooist?

    Or put one of those huge yellow tags through their ear, you know, the ones they use on cattle.

    My personal choice is an asbo bracelet on their ankles, then you can track them when they are not on track to complete the stuff on the track.

    Here's a clever one, train a sniffer dog to recognise them all by smell and report their comings and goings by barking at a computer terminal that is equipped to recognise the dogs linguistic style.

    No wait, I've got it.

    The firm give out free doughnuts, but hidden inside are coded RF tags and enough Immodium to keep them in place until the next shift, brilliant, I'll be picking up a nice little earner from ISS if only Virgin did a service into orbit. Does seem a bit silly to run the underground from outa space, well that's modern management for you.

    1. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Bah, bah!

      "So, Bob, who's clocked in already"

      "Well, err, Mr Sausages has clocked in five times, Mr I C Arat twice, Mr Marijuana twenty seven times and Mr Khat seven"

      "This dog thing isn't working Bob"

      "No sir"

      "OK, let's make with the doughnuts"

      ...............

      "Well Bob how's it going, everyone clocked in?"

      "Err, I think there's a problem"

      "What? I see everyone as clocked in"

      "No, that's just fat Fred who went past"

      1. Rol Silver badge

        Re: Bah, bah!

        A down vote, are you having a laugh.....oh I see, obviously not.

        Got a miserable crowd in tonight, who was the warm up act?

        Eadon?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I run a finger-scanning system where I work. First it doesn't store your fingerprints, so there's no biometric data to be leeched off. It does a comparison to stored values which are pretty particular to the system. Second the reliability is quite good, there's always a few people for whom it doesn't work or works poorly, and if extra "training" of the system doesn't work, we just revert to a system where the sensitivity is so low it accepts that person. (FYI, users punch in their number then scan). This represents about 1-2% of those using the system; it works fine for the rest, and this is now relatively old tech.

    Third, the major impact is a significant drop (almost a total absence of) faked clock-ins where someone is clocked in "in-absentia" by someone else. And if you think that doesn't normally occur then you're either stupid or deluded. We gained about 5% on our payroll costs within a month, and suddenly a group of workers who were regularly absent (mainly Mondays and Fridays) started showing up because they were no longer being incorrectly registered as actually attending.

    The Union did not like it at first, but generally the workers accepted it. There was one group who strongly objected, and used very similar "dignity and security" arguments to the cleaners union hgere. Funnily enough all of the members of the "regularly absent" group were part of this group who objected. The real reason for the objection was. of course, the imminent loss of their little "perk" of 2-3 free but paid days per month. The main part of the staff who didn't exploit this loophole in the old system were generally actually quite approving of the elimination of the perk which affected them by having them work harder to cover the absentees.

    Properly managed, scanning is a perfectly fair and reasonable system, and I'd suggest based on my experience that the major objection is because a rort exists and is being exploited, probably with union collusion. Why not save the fight for a real issue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > The real reason for the objection was. of course, the imminent loss of their little "perk" of 2-3 free but paid days per month

      The problem with what you expose is not being able to see the forest for the trees.

      What if, for example, those who enjoyed this "little perk" suddenly decided to leave for greener pastures and you had to hire and train new employees, who may not be of the same calibre overall, or may simply demand more money to start with? Assume they do not actually leave, but their productivity now drops because they're pissed out at the way they've been treated? Where would your 5% savings go then?

      This is just an example and it may not apply to your particular case. The point being that sometimes you have to give a little and do the smart thing rather than being a short-sighted control freak.

      I have been both an employee and an employer so seen it from both sides.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Imagine the scene, your a checkout operator at $supermarket. You decide, as is your "little perk", to not turn up to your shift. You don't call in, or worse get someone to clock you in. Supervisor is now down one member of staff.

        Options are:

        1: Run with one staff member short, meaning your other staff may not be able to take breaks as usual, due to no relief being available, or more delays for customers at peak times. Other staff may take justifiable umberance to this state of affairs.

        Cost: 1x staff member shift costs, staff/customer goodwill

        2: Call someone in at short notice to cover the absence. If your lucky you might actually find someone.

        Cost: 2x staff member shift costs (1x for the original absentee, 1x for the call-out)

        3: Introduce a clocking-in system that can't be fudged, so that the staff members who don't turn up aren't paid

        Cost: New system, paid for by reduced outgoings on options 1 and 2

        I do understand that some workplaces are more laid-back than this, but when your looking at a "bums on seats" job like checkouts or cleaning there is an expectation to actually turn up or give a good reason as to why not. You can't clean a tube train from home.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "What if, for example, those who enjoyed this "little perk" suddenly decided to leave for greener pastures and you had to hire and train new employees, who may not be of the same calibre overall,"

        Employees who regularly do this tend not to be of the calibre which fits into most cannons.

        Essential staff usually have a pretty responsible attitude to showing up.

  44. Herby Silver badge

    Sand Pebbles

    Just saw this movie on the TV Saturday. I draw some conclusions in regards to "cleaners".

    YMMV.

    Yes, I don't like unions, outlived their usefulness (especially in the public sector here in the USA).

  45. tempemeaty

    As human beings they are due certain human dignities

    What's next? Tagging people like cattle.

  46. gh1978

    I don't really see the problem. We've been using biometrics since the 1994 at our place, and using them to 'clock in' since 2000.

    The systems aren't linked to anything and the system doesn't actually store anything that can show an image of your fingerprint.

    ID cards, clocking cards etc are easy to forget/lose, fingers are generally always with you !

    The employees contract will no doubt state that they have to record their attendance using whatever method is decreed by the employer. If they don't clock in/out then they have no proof of hours worked, so no pay.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know who else used biometric identification? Nazis.

    1. Joe Harrison Silver badge

      That's it then

      AC mentioned the Nazis. Thread officially Godwinned no more comments please

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's it then

        Wrong. Godwin does not apply if the subject is actually related to the topic discussed [1]. Which it is [2].

        [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law#Corollaries_and_usage

        [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropometry#History

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just love the snarky quotes around 'dignity' - something el reg hacks have no need for?

  49. This Side Up
    FAIL

    If the fingerprint readers are anything like those on the HP laptops I use they're more trouble than they're worth. Having spent the last few weeks removing the paint from my car with 180 wet-and-dry my fingerprints are virtually unreadable anyway!

  50. hi_robb

    So...

    The cleaners are going to be sticking two fingers up at the scanners!

    Someone needs to tell them that one's enough for the machine to work...

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    98%

    "According to the RMT union, 98 per cent of the 103 staffers who responded to the ballot voted in favour of the plans, which stopped short of calling for a full-on strike."

    That doesn't equal a whole number of people.

    The other 2% of people don't actually exist.

  52. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Join the club...

    "...The union is vague on exactly why biometric fingerprinting is a bad idea. When The Register contacted the RMT, a spokesperson told us staff felt "brutalised" by the system, which made them feel like "slabs of meat"....

    Yup.

    Modern life, with CCTV surveillance, speed cameras spewing out automatic fines, menu help-lines and other examples of the ROTM brutalises us all. A union member can strike. All the average citizen can do is refuse to vote.

    Which, increasingly, is what we're doing. In droves...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Join the club...

      "A union member can strike. All the average citizen can do is refuse to vote."

      The point is that "they" don't _want_ you to vote. Things get rammed through by relying on the average citizen not caring.

  53. chris lively

    Interesting

    The union reps said they represent between 200 and 300 workers. Percentage wise, that's a HUGE gap.

    Point is, they have no idea how many individuals are actually employed. Meaning they really aren't tracking who even shows up to work. I'm sure the morning starts off with "today you are Bob and you are Mary". Are they paid daily?

    Management most likely doesn't want to deal with the constant payroll changes. Just as long as enough people show up each day it's fine. Reminds me of day labor workers in the US. You pull up, ask for 5 guys, then take them to the work site. At the end of the day you pay them cash. No paperwork needed.

    Quite frankly this would make it even harder for those with criminal records to find gainful employment.

    All that said, I think anyone making less than say $20k/year ought to simply not even be on the radar. We need cheap labor of which there is certainly a supply. As long as the job is being done then who cares? Maybe we just vette the managers and make them criminally responsible if one of their team does something "terroristic" in nature. That would ensure the workers are being checked on, which is all that real matters

  54. kain preacher Silver badge

    Woundering

    If this compromise would work. You swipe a card that has the thumb print stored on the card. That way the info is kept with they employee. Swipe the card and then out your thumb on the reader. When the employee is no longer with the company you revoke the card.

  55. Minutia

    "We believe this technology infringes on staff civil liberties"

    What liberties? To buddy punch?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's not forget the Ick factor here - I don't want to press my thumb onto a greasy panel touched by dozens of other people - especially when signing out from this particular job - everyone's personal hygiene becomes as good as the most slovenly person on the shift - warts for all!

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