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Work offer

The girls are working as I started to write this. There are a lot of orders (which is a good thing, of course!) so there's an exceptional Saturday being worked. Earlier in the year we did eight hour days to minimise the number of Saturdays worked. They were aiming for none, but the thing about plans is that reality often interrupts them.

My boss asked me if I wanted to do it, and knowing that would mean a 5am start, I declined. Though, yesterday, I left a note with her with my phone number to say that if somebody was ill or whatever, call me at 7am (when I get up) and I can be there for 8am.

The phone never bleeped. Well, I offered, wasn't needed.

 

Pay rise!

As you know, I was being paid €11,53-something. Like petrol prices, there was a lot of digits after the decimal point. To put this into context, €11,52 is minimum wage. Which means that us washer-upper people, being categorised as "OE3" (which means we look after ourselves and don't need to have a line manager telling us what to do) would be making €2,12 a month more than the production line girls, who do have line managers, we do have other people to tell them what to do and when to do it, and who don't work with chemical products, don't need to know how to use the machinery or the various settings/programmes, don't work in a humid (and rather noisy) environment, with much less manual effort required.
Four of us wrote a letter to HR asking why, if we had all these extra competences, we were basically being paid the same as them.
Sadly, since then two of the people have left (one directly citing the lousy pay as a factor), while the third (who was an agency worker) accepted a full time contract after realising that unimpressive pay was better than no pay if the agency couldn't find her a placement elsewhere.
Well, we recently had something called the NAO - the obligatory annual negotiation with the union rep, where she makes a list of demands and the company agrees to a few of them. The demands range from the entirely reasonable to the laughably ludicrous, but given it only happens once a year I guess it makes sense to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.

One of the things that stuck was a pay rise for us. I'm now being paid €11,7423 per hour (note, that's brut). Which means I now make €33.72 extra at the end of the month. It's not particularly impressive, but it's something. And as I said in the past, probably more than once, it's not about the money, it's about the principle. By giving us what amounts to minimum wage when we're OE3 rather than OE1, the company is expecting this extra stuff essentially for free.

Oh, and I've checked some job listings elsewhere. As far as I can determine, France has four kinds of employee.

At the top, the "upper management" track. These people make a good amount of money, as upper management types do. This also counts for stuff like lawyers, company owners, and so on. These are the sort that get the bonuses and perks. Especially if they do stuff like bringing costs down (even if the way of doing that is paying the employees less and cutting back on various types of necessary expenditure). People who get here are either extremely talented, extremely lucky, or have family connections pulling strings. It's often the latter.

The "encadrement" track. This is lower management. Like at the place I work, the ones who sit in the front office staring at computer screens all day. These are the ones that went to uni and/or college, probably have bits of paper attesting that they have all these skills in theory (if not always in reality) and it's often quite stressful as unless they are great at blame deflection, it's their heads that will roll if they fail to meet the (sometimes unreasonable) expectations of the higher management; unless they work in public service in which case there are tens of thousands of faceless beaurocrats (this is France, if it's not in triplicate it might as well not exist). I think this group is paid about three times what we make (but, again, it depends upon category which depends upon job specifics, experience, and so on). Most of the younger people I have spoken to want a job at this sort of level because they don't want to be "a worker" and they're not delusional enough to think they can make it to the top.

And, at the bottom, are the majority. The workers. Ranging from OE1 (expected to be clueless) to something like OE5 (I think the girls that operate the dosing machines are this), it's basically minimum wage plus a few crumbs on top. This category greatly outnumbers the rest.

The fourth category are those who don't easily fit into any of these groupings. From bin men to bookshop owners...

It's no wonder that, following Covid when we had a bunch of temp workers that were student types, they all wanted to do things like "be a masseuse", "be a person helping to educate special needs kids", "be a speech therapist". I think the perception is that these are jobs that are not that difficult that pay well (which is, I presume, why nobody wanted to be a teacher). Certainly nobody said "I want to start at 5am for seven hours of standing there putting the proverbial cherries on top of the proverbial cake".

All of which leads to job adverts like "lab assistant wanted - must have this sort of higher education - experience not necessary, you'll get training - starting salary is €1747,20/month brut. That's minimum wage.
Sure, if you have the paperwork and experience and abilities, you might get offered a better wage. But, then again, you might not. It seems to me that wages in France aren't particularly impressive until you're like halfway up the ladder. And the majority only get to sit on the ground beside the ladder...

Anyway, I now make "about a euro and a half a day" extra. Not a lot, but since it's the principle, me bastaría.

 

Free money!

As my wage is not impressive, there are certain things that I have access to. One of these things is called the LEP - Livret d'Épargne Populaire. This is a special sort of savings account where the interests are tax free. It has the limitation that the maximum you can put into it is €10,000, but on the other hand it is pretty much the only account with a decent level of interest right now. It is currently at 6%.
So I opened that, and transferred the money from my savings account to fill it. If the interest rate remains at 6%, that'll be €600/year for essentially doing nothing. Well, it'll pay the electricity...

French savings accounts typically offer deplorable rates of interest. I knew about the LEP but wasn't interested before as in 2020-2021 the rate was 1%. It's only recently with the skyrocketing inflation that the government has taken the initiative to bump up the interest rate on this account.

My other savings account, the Livret A. This is another tax free account, this time limited to €22,950. It currently offers 3% interest. At the beginning of each month, just prior to pay day, I transfer any leftover money in my regular account (which does not gain interest) to the savings.

Another savings option with a useful level of interest is the LDDS which pays 3%, but you have to pay an amount of the interest (25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of your choice) to an association such as the Red Cross, Catholic Assistance, Doctors without borders, food banks, the lifeboats, etc etc.
Otherwise you're looking at "Le Grand Livret" (unregulated, no risk, taxable, limited to €1.5M) which offers a miserable 0.50% interest. The "Livret Librissime" (unregulated, no risk, taxable, no limit) offers 1%.

It's quite appalling, and entirely expected, that the available interest rates bear no relationship to the rates set by the ECB, which would be applied to loans and mortgages quickly enough...
...but, as with pay, the little guys get screwed. If I put twenty five thousand into the Grant Livret, over the course of a year that would make me a miserly €125. Ask yourself how much it would make the bank.

 

Say hello to Lucie

So, I met this lovely girl at work. She speaks quirky English and understands my awful Franglais. She's delightfully snarky, and appreciates somebody (me) that gets the offbeat humour. We went for a walk in the woods after work yesterday, given that it was one of the few days it wasn't lousy weather (we've had four storms blow through in two and a half weeks) and it was really quite pleasant.
She allowed me to take a photo.

A walk in the forest
A walk in the forest.

Unfortunately... she's not real, as the caption at the bottom ought to indicate.

Let's try her with a different skirt and just a touch older. That was supposed to be a teenager (but didn't look like it), so let's skip over young adult and try adult.

A walk in the forest, adult
A walk in the forest, adult.

The face kind of looks the same to me...

An "AI Human Generator" has blended together parts of loads of pictures of people to create an imaginary person, to which you can tweak various parameters such as pose, clothing, and so on.

So, let's give Lucie a dress and make her middle aged <cough>like me</cough>.

A walk in the forest, middle aged
A walk in the forest, middle aged.

Okay, her face is looking a little older now but I don't think "middle aged" (I just tried three online age detection systems and one said 27 and another said 31, and plugger.ai said between 32 and 40).
I've given her a dress as older people don't tend to dress quite like teenagers. She's still quite cute, though, don't you think?

Photos by generated.photos.
Here's a link to the first picture, the second picture, and the third picture

The Human Generator is an interesting thing to play with. However, I'll give you a couple of notes:

  • I've not looked at the network traffic, but I rather suspect the generation delays are largely artificial and aimed at getting you to subscribe. Your first human will appear pretty quickly. But after a couple, expect to wait 3-4 minutes per human.
  • If it blocks you saying something about nudity, this is probably because you've chosen one of the younger models and not specified clothing. If you don't specify clothing it'll pick something at random and, well, sometimes that is underwear. The poses differ for children as one or two of the adult poses may also be inappropriate.
    So always explicitly select what clothing you require.
  • If it throws a "Page not found" when a generation is complete, just hit refresh. That worked for me.
  • If you use the photos on a website for personal use, attribution is required. That's why I've left the watermarks and provided links. There's a help page that describes these requirements. After all, if a company is going to provide a toy to play with, it's only fair to respect their rules.
  • These humans were created from Generated Photo's own dataset of models, with their own AI programming. Consequently while it can make mistakes (like wonky glasses, peculiar hair if you ask for a headband, too many fingers, and some seriously weird clothing at times - the second photo's skirt is odd), I've noticed that it tends to do a much better job of faces than Dall-E2. Sure, sometimes it can have entirely mismatched eyes and/or a creepy dead stare, but as you can see from the pictures above, it gets the faces mostly right. Certainly at a quick glance you probably thought I'd actually managed to find a girlfriend (yeah, as if). You'd never think that of the nightmare fuel often created by Dall-E2.
  • You'll notice this is all variations of the same girl. In the desktop version (but not the mobile one that I can see) there's a "seed" value. The same seed value will give similar looking results.

Case in point, I just gave Dall-E2 the following description: A photo of a thirty year old woman standing in an autumn forest. She has chest length black hair and glasses, and is wearing a black maxi dress, tights, and black shoes. She looks happy.

Ummm...

Oh my god!
Just be glad these monstrosities are scaled down.

That's not to say that you can't get some nightmare fuel from the Human Generator. I changed the "middle aged" Lucie to the legs-spread porn pose and the result was... way too much like Sarah Palin for my liking.

To fix the Palin nightmare fuel, a photo of when she was little, learning her love of books. And if you're wondering about her odd expression, it's because she knows she's going to wet the bed tonight, if she actually manages to get to sleep at all. Because she's just finished Watership Down, a book about bunnies. Bunnies! What could possibly go wrong with a book where the protagonists are bunnies? Well, a childhood dose of post traumatic stress disorder for one...

Cuuuuute!
Awwwww, somebody give her a hug and tell
her the bunnies are as real as she is.

Linky McLinklink. ;)

 

 

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jgh, 18th November 2023, 20:38
Those photos: all have that not-quite-right-ness about them, firmly uncanny valley stuff. But if it's uncanny valley now, compared with what was around a decade ago suggests that it will climb out of the other side into realism quite soon in human concepts of "soon". 
 
But the last one - yikes! My first thought was: Call Child Services!
jgh, 18th November 2023, 20:45
I keep a collection of crap job ads that come through my agency mailings. The most recent one was this: 
Software Engineer 
Requirements: 
MSc/PhD/Doctorate in Computer Science or a related field from a Russell Group University 
Strong academic background with a minimum of First-class, Distinction, or Distinction* 
.... 
Salary: GBP 25,000  
 
UK minimum wage is just under £21,000. 
Rick, 18th November 2023, 20:46
Yeah, a little girl probably shouldn't have visible mammary. So, AI needs a few more tweaks.
David Pilling, 18th November 2023, 23:13
Jgh's comment is a shock, I was shredding some old cheque books this week, I was on 5K a year as a post doc, now a quarter minimum wage. I can't imagine anyone paying me 21K a year to do anything. This is more about how things change and you don't notice - frog boiling. 
 
Interest rates - probly not that different to the UK - they are about 5% for unlimited amount accounts that tie your money up for a year. 8% for one that is very restricted in how much you can put in. You would have to consider how much inflation is - more in the UK than in the Euro zone. It's about how much you're losing a year - inflation has been way above interest rates. 
 
Central banks in the USA, UK and EU have all been playing the same game for many years - low interest rates, quantitative easing. And the resulting high inflation. Holding cash has been a mugs game for a very long time - and the smart guys running the banks didn't mention that. 
jgh, 18th November 2023, 23:53
My first (real) job after university was 6 grand back in 1991. The Bank of England tells me that's about £13,000 today, which coincidently is what six months' work got me last year. 
 
Saying your job pays £26,000pa sounds fairly ok until it's pointed out they only pay you for the six months they want to employ you. :(
Anon, 21st November 2023, 20:27
Rick - those images will give me nightmares for the next week. 
 
Meanwhile, you really need to find yourself a girlfriend whose name doesn't end in .jpg :)
jgh, 26th November 2023, 08:09
UK minimum wage has just gone up in the budget, which means my last job is now below NMW!

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