Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier recently accused postal workers of clinging to ‘Spanish practices’ – an old term for inefficient and unnecessarily costly working methods.
In the Royal Mail’s case, there are apparently 92 ‘Spanish practices’, which are said to include workers claiming overtime if mail volumes reach a certain level, or clocking in and out at the same time so no-one knows what actual hours are worked, and additional payments being claimed for Easter and Christmas, even if no overtime is actually worked.
My first thought was: “Blimey, I thought the death of Fleet Street and the miners strike had put paid to all of those.” But then I thought, how are our fellow European Union citizens likely to respond to the naming of their country in this pejorative context?
A quick check on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia proved the concept is old enough to predate that font of what passes for contemporary wisdom.
Crozier admitted in that interview that most industries had abandoned such arcane practices in the 1970s, when he was but a lad, so where, I wonder, did he learn to use the phrase? An old head on young shoulders, or just trying to tar his workers with the bad old brush of the 1970s?
A thorough exposition of its possible origins or the term exists in a Guardian piece from 2002. Whatever its origins, it’s time we stopped using it. The English language is lively and evolving, but let’s take the language of HR forward, not backwards.