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Staff Without Rights, Staff Without a Voice

Video download link | md5sum f537fd943d49eeaf0de1f801a60f08bf
Erosion of Worker Rights in IT
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: Workers’ rights are under attack; in the case of IT, more so with people who work from home, rights are under unprecedented attacks which laws have not caught up with

IN the latest meme and latest article we talked about abuse against workers or twisting of the law to basically employ people overnight for salaries far below industry standards (and basically the same as daytime salaries). There’s also the issue of ‘double shifts’ and overtime, but how about privacy?

For instance, is an employer permitted to intrude communications of staff outside work? Where is work? Home? What about spyware? Is that allowed? There are also moral aspects, especially when a company names itself “Open Source” and fails to deliver this promise.

It seems likely that the Techrights of 2023 may shift somewhat to issues of rights in the workspace, based on my personal experiences that I can finally speak openly about (even name the employer, just not clients or colleagues as it would be unfair to them).

Tomorrow we’ll cover more of the free speech aspects and “privacy” aspects.

Anyway, happy new year from Techrights!

Techrights 2023

When Pathological Liars Run a Company

Recognise the signs, leave before things escalate

Sirius self-destructive

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ is trying to shut things down ‘on the cheap’; or so it would seem not just to an outsider but also to an insider, seeing the self-destructive behaviour

THE latest post was entitled “Symptoms of an Impending Bankruptcy?” because the company where I had worked for nearly 12 years was coming to an end. It’s partly the fault of one or two bitter managers. Their off-putting behaviour moreover destroyed staff morale. This is a common problem and it happens in other companies too.

Ultimately, staff leaves, clients leave, and there’s nothing left to salvage. They then refuse to pay departure fees (obligations to staff) and various bills too. They believe they can get away with this by hiding while humiliating people. We’ll say a lot more about this next month.

A lot of what we’re dealing with here isn’t entirely unique. Other companies in the sector follow similar models and it’s therefore important to recognise patterns.

The title of this post says “Successful Bankruptcy” because some business schools teach that as if the goal is bankruptcy, not saving or salvaging things, and “success” means screwing as many people/entities as possible in the process, passing costs, liabilities and deficits to them (those can be clients, suppliers, staff, lenders/banks, even relatives who were conned into becoming so-called ‘investors’ based on false promises or elusive prospects).

In the case of Sirius, the writings were on the wall for quite some time; the company meetings in recent years were dire and managers would never mention something like “Open Source”; yes, it was about money and nothing else!

Forget about software freedom, autonomy, and so on; the management doesn’t care! And this apathy is short-sighted as companies that forget what used to distinguish them simply won’t attract good workers. They cannot. I kept saying this in the meetings this year. How many people were hired this year? Zero. There wasn’t even an attempt to recruit anybody (as far as we’re aware).

We’ve meanwhile learned that other people have been having similar experiences in other companies. We heard one story last night in IRC, we received some E-mails in recent weeks, and we expect people to perhaps be inspired.

And behold, how timely, just three days ago in a FOSS blog on “the Gaslighting Weasel”: “My boss lied all of the time. Despite the fact that it was relatively easy to know they were lying, they didn’t care. If you called them out on it, they’d either ignore that, change the subject or somehow try to turn it back around on you. They didn’t just do this to me. They did it to everybody who works with them.”

This happened in Sirius too and colleagues were visibly resisting the lying. It irritated several colleagues.

How is a company supposed to be led by liars? We’re not talking about some habitual liar but a pathological one; it’s as if he has a book at the shelf behind him, with a title like “How to Lie Like a Boss!” (along with a rather smug reading list)

It’s hard to point out to pathological liars that they are liars. They’d simply not accept it. Instead, they resort to attacking the messenger/s. That’s why it is called “pathological”.

As a matter of fact, being a clever weasel, manipulating people and getting away with lies, ultimately dooms a sense of integrity in any organisation. Consider this article cited by the above post. It says: “People who engage in gaslighting are often habitual and pathological liars and frequently exhibit narcissistic tendencies. It is typical for them to blatantly lie and never back down or change their stories, even when you call them out or provide proof of their deception. [...] When you ask a someone who gaslights a question or call them out for something they did or said, they may change the subject by asking a question instead of responding to the issue at hand. This not only throws off your train of thought but causes you to question the need to press a matter when they don’t feel the need to respond. [...] A person who gaslights tends to retell stories in ways that are in their favor. For instance, if your partner shoved you against the wall and you are discussing it later, they may twist the story and say you stumbled and they tried to steady you, which is what caused you to fall into the wall.”

To be very clear, it wasn’t yours truly causing trouble. My actions were reactionary and the boss wasn’t happy. He got into this whole mess by repeatedly lying, and lying very badly. That’s why people started to call him “liar”; then he then used that to hunt down critics.

If one goes back to all the lying, it then becomes clear what the root issue is.

Here’s more from the blog above: “Meanwhile the ex-clients generally had very negative memories too. I know because I was still working with some of them on my own and we’d occasionally chat about the past. Of course now I realize that that my boss was painting themselves in a positive light. In every story they tell, they are the hero. There can be no other version of it. At least not in their deeply disturbed worldview.”

Sirius, as I said yesterday, has no chance of surviving. I know that as an insider. Expect it to fold soon. To make matters more difficult, a lot of the remaining company assets/money/resources are passed to Google and Amazon (AWS, gifts, ads) instead of where it can be more efficiently used/allocated. I pointed this out repeatedly, but that fell on deaf ears.

At Sirius what we’re now dealing with is two men who are not thinking straight, maybe due to andropause (not Andrew Boss or “Andrew, pause!”), with one of them showing up to a formal meeting in a rib shirt (not a step far from a shirtless Alex Jones). Geeks are basically being governed by a lying sociopath with a huge ego and overinflated sense of esteem, driving away our remaining clients by demolishing any remnants of trust (eventually they did find out they had been lied to).

Sirius may still seem like it’s doing OK, but it’s posturing at best. Maybe several more colleagues have left since my wife and I did; maybe the managers are not bothering to even update the site, knowing they might take it offline some time soon anyway, but the site still needs to be seen as healthy for existing (remaining) clients. As a reminder, the social control media accounts, notably Twitter, haven’t been active since this past summer (we showed evidence of this before). Maybe that’s the end of Sirius already. They just count the weeks/months.

From the report sent at the start of this month:

The current CEO’s role seems to be something along the lines of those “successful bankruptcy” they teach MBA students about, i.e. shutting a company down on the cheap (like looking for reasons to deny compensation). One might even joke that this CEO is like a “demolition man” for Sirius, spending time stalking staff instead of serving the company (Sirius lost Argo AI and other seemingly ‘fake’ clients whose systems Sirius never had access to; Argo AI is now formally and legally defunct), sawing the boat beneath him as at the end he too would be left without a job and Sirius as a company too become fiscally defunct.

It feels like Sirius is already so desperate for clients that it is willing to sign contracts at a humongous loss to Sirius. For instance, Sirius recently “miscalculated” with one client (charged 1,000 pounds for a project/client, but later realised Sirius already spent 5,000 pounds on the project, which means the losses are 4 times the revenue). In October the company changed the official company address to its accountancy’s address, i.e. the address of another firm. The day after Roy asked the CEO about it; he only got angry and it didn’t look good. We were running out of assets and maybe no postbox, either. Letters are sent to staff with no return address. Who runs the show? A private apartment?

Using Rianne for accusation by proxy seems irrational on many levels. It’s probably done just for spite and revenge against Roy. The letter sent to Rianne (by E-mail and then by post) is missing context and there are no URLs in screenshots. Without full context or at least a URL it’s almost impossible to know what one is looking at. Evidence oughtn’t be presented like this and IRC logs might not even be admissible in most contexts.

A Toxic Company of Bedroom Politics

Sirius ‘Open Source': Three's Company

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ has a severe case of nepotism and obscene case of hiring unqualified people based on ‘bedroom politics’; pointing this out to a friend outside the company is impressible, even if this endemic issue leads to technical issues and low employee morale

THE nepotism at Sirius was almost tolerable until colleagues found out they had been denied access to certain systems that far less qualified and barely-experienced colleagues were able to access. And why? Bedroom politics.

Bedroom politics is a recurring theme at Sirius and it’s further exacerbated by the fact that we’re talking about people without relevant qualifications and experience, having the audacity to suggest that people who work in daytime (like two bedroom partners) should be paid more than technical staff that’s on the beat all night long (with further disturbance to sleeping patterns owing to shift alternations about 6 times per month, akin to jetlag with all the lasting health implications).

The company’s management wasn’t willing to tackle the problem and instead viewed critics as the problem. Even if those critics merely discussed the matter outside of work without even naming the company or the people.

Sirius is going to find out that covering up abuses is a short-term strategy and a terrible technique/method for quelling dissent. It’ll all come out eventually. As noted in the report below, the company already has a history when it comes to that and it already resulted in major staff exodus; the reputation of the company cannot be redeemed by creating more and more “shells” as people inevitably find out who’s who (or where they came from).

As it stands, several employees have a romantic relationship and in spite of inadequate skills one trio of workers (with a very unconventional love affair, akin to a wife swap and love triangle) enjoy privileged access to some systems that more veteran colleagues cannot access. It’s perfectly clear that some people make all the decisions behind closed doors and some are denied any influence whatsoever because they are not part of the “clique” or the literal family. Career progression is not based on merits but a facade thereof. If it’s about who one knows who (or sleeps with who), then this degrades the image of the company, at least internally. One of the trio suggested lowering the salary of the nighttime Support Team, which her two other halfs aren’t part of. That’s rather offensive and can repulse those who really deserve double the salary for working overnight.

To quote or to paraphrase Roy and Rianne’s replies to threatening messages:

Dear all,

I believe I was unfairly treated on several grounds, including relevant protocols pertaining to several aspects. I will spare you the details but can elaborate if needed.

Here is the gist of the issues:

1. No due process
2. Verbal/oral distortion of claims
3. You misrepresented alleged evidence, but conveniently presented it as facts to my wife
4. No hard evidence presented (just a reference to a handbook we lack a copy of)
5. Rather gross accusation inflation against a person whom you did not even speak to

There are more points, but I shall keep this brief.

The company has a history doing this to couples, e.g. one blind colleague based in Germany; it was very serious and it went to court, based on a trusted source (it cost the company and/or its Directors — ???????? and ???????? — a lot of money, as went on for a long time; allegedly got settled at the end but injured the company).

We visited lawyers on Friday and on Monday. We spoke about the facts in length and have a good understanding of our rights.

We agreed that we don’t yet wish to escalate this matter and would rather settle amicably.



[Your longest-serving employee (aside from the founder)]

Actually, as we recently discovered, he’s not even the founder but more of an opportunist. As we shall show later (some time next month), it’s even worse than this.

Sirius will find out the hard way that Sirius should have stayed true to its mission instead of straying to Microsoft’s orgy territories.

Sirius Corporation and Debt-Dodging or Liability Evasion

Video download link | md5sum f385fee779a251d54417ae0c9fb5297b
A Company Valued at One Pound
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The company known as Sirius Corporation (founded 24+ years ago as company number 03633198) is not really operational and it is carrying debt*; we seem to be dealing with a truly dodgy business here, albeit it goes by the name “Open Source” (which is a lie)

THE 27th of December is treated like Boxing Day this year (due to Christmas happening or falling on a weekend), but Christmas Eve was 3 days ago — just 1 day after Sirius Corporation — the ‘parent’ of Sirius ‘Open Source’ — had filed the annual papers about the financial state (as of March of this year). Sirius ‘Open Source’ has been racking up a lot of debt and the same is true for Sirius Corporation, which is discussed in the video above. There is another shell, albeit it is based in the United States and it probably has its own debt crisis.

The way things stand at the moment, Sirius Corporation seems like a collection of shells. As noted above, we were pretty much forced (not literally at gunpoint but blackmailed using threats) to move to a newly-minted shell without any legal advice (before, during, or after the signing). We’ll revisit this subject later this month.
* We’ve made local copies of two PDFs [1, 2].

Sirius loan
Jumping from one loan to the next [1, 2] (and one shell to another)

Big Egos Ruin Small Company

“Under control” or controlled demolition?

Everything is controlled

Summary: Everything at Sirius ‘Open Source’ has been very rapidly coming down this year; not much was left of the company, more was being outsourced (what’s left), then the “office manager” (for an office that does not exist) went on extended leave (causing severe operational problems/lapses), and a ‘controlled demolition’ sequence was initiated to deprive remaining staff of severance payments/separation fees

THE situation at Sirius is not just bad. It is very bad. It is chaotic. There are even confidential documents to that effect, but we’re not sharing confidential and sensitive material here.

The company continues to fake its size and its future prospects. That basically involves deceit or — to put it more bluntly — lying.

The current ‘UK’ CEO (the company likes to pretend that it operates from the US as well, but everyone inside the company can see beyond this façade) showed some promise at first, but over the past year the evasion and pointless finger-pointing became too much. Some believe that he came from a client (not the first such ‘manager’) without even mentioning this anywhere, but actually he came from the University of Oxford. He used to work on a large project that became a lot smaller over time. Some think that maybe he got sacked and used Sirius as a landing point or ‘consolation prize’. In fact, coming from the client (far bigger) to managing a very small team that’s rapidly decreasing in size is a bad sign. It’s not a rational migration; one lucky colleagues moved in exactly the opposite direction (to the public sector with job security). Either way, Cambridge University and the University of Oxford are known for all sorts of things, including patronising behaviour that had both institutions dubbed “Oxbridge” — a ticket to “the club” (Eton et al).

In Sirius, either you’re in the club or you’re being obstructed by the club. If you sleep with a member of the club, you get special access. But that’s a shortcut and an exception.

I’ve no personal grudge with the University of Oxford. I used to work with them and went there regularly when completing my doctoral degree; but that seems to be a place where people are taught never to admit mistakes or listen properly. I had several very lengthy talks with management, but even though I was being heard (or maybe even listened to) this resulted in no changes, not even basic compliance.

Sadly for the dude from the University of Oxford, he is harming the company he was entrusted to manage and soon he might be out of work, with nothing to show for it (not even a company left to write a reference for him).

The text below is the first part of the last major section. It’s about how the charismatic genius from the University of Oxford decided to become judge, jury, executioner, and monarch. That culminated in truly irrational and self-harming behaviour — a vindictive campaign of witch-hunting to defend one’s big ego.

The Self-Destruction

The company — and it seems safe to predict so — has reached a point of no return. A new client, Argo AI, officially became defunct earlier this month. The company’s recent meetings (Sirius and Support Team) suggested that they needed to lay off staff but preferred to encourage any of those attending to take voluntary resignation instead, i.e. no compensation. The Support Team is the majority of the company, so this is a very big deal.

It’s reasonable to assume the company looked for excuses to dismiss without compensation, seeing its financial state (which is in the public domain for all to see). Staff was repeatedly asked whether it was willing to “voluntarily” resign, i.e. leave without compensation. Nobody ever said “yes”, in spite of the question being asked several times. External HR people were apparently (allegedly a company that provides other service to Sirius) advising and steering towards this strategy.

For a number of weeks there was apparently an effort to take this further, looking for reasons to dismiss staff, preferably without compensation. Prior to that, around July, Roy was already cautioned he had been put on a “shortlist” (a bit of a vague term).

Sirius Open Source Probably Insolvent

Video download link | md5sum ab839950e7cf004eeab966e8edca96e4
Sinking in Debt
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: In order to better understand what’s happening at Sirius ‘Open Source’ one must properly examine publicly-available financial disclosures, which are obligatory; annual reports show a company that despite shrinking every year is rapidly falling into debt that it can never repay

THE clientele of Sirius and the ethics of the company have been getting worse. I could no longer keep my mouth shut and at the start of this year I decided that I would leave. In its usual fashion (as of late), the company resorted to bullying and intimidation (including efforts this past Monday to censor this series). If anything, this reinforces the need for transparency.

Sirius ‘Open Source’ still uses the term “Open Source” in its name, but it’s rather misleading. The company rejects Open Source for its very own use, never mind clients’. Sort of like the Linux Foundation, which actively abandons Open Source and moves to proprietary. This foundation will be the subject of our next post.

Sirius Open Source Sinking in Debt

2018 and 2019:

Sirius 2018 and 2019

2019 and 2020:

Sirius 2019 and 2020

2020 and 2021:

Sirius 2020 and 2021

Growing debt, no money left in the bank.

Meme of koala says Sirius-ly; Looks like money has run out (logo added)

Summary: When the founder of Sirius ‘Open Source’ divorced his wife a new company was formed, almost cashless; there was a lot of debt, but workers could not ask about it

TRUTH be told, the state of Sirius has not been good for years, but treatment of staff worsened a lot after management had changed. Then, there was a tendency to blame staff for failures, even if and when the failures were attributed to actions at the very top. Below we present part 2 of the relevant section of the report. As shown above, as the years went by the company was running out of money and out of time (way too much debt). These figures are all in the public domain. The lesson of the story is, desperate companies may resort to bullying, and the bullying would then be directed at anyone but the management.

The company had not shared with us financial information or contract details (amounts of money) in about half a decade. Financial statements are publicly available, however, in the public domain.

Apparently there was something in the wiki when the CEO’s ex-wife was around, but it’s all gone now. Is the company heavily indebted to a bank? According to the latest statement, the company is very, very deep in debt. Notice witness in the financial documents of the bank: the office manager. Even at that point the company understated the severity of the situation as debt grew every year despite a significant cut in the number of salaried staff. Some names/signatures are rubbed off, but maybe those aren’t relevant. The CEO’s ex-wife is not listed in some of the recent documents. One is left guessing aimlessly. Transparency would be much appreciated.

The office manager refused to tell Roy why the CEO had relocated or was based in the US and was repeatedly evasive when Roy asked. Workers were not told why the company changed registration (like a new company minted; new contracts needed to be signed), so some speculated that post-divorce ownership may have been a motivation. Those were dark times for the company with many questions hanging and an absent CEO, at one point showing up in a rib shirt for a company meeting online. This felt rather inappropriate.

Those observations may not be pleasant to see or hear. But those are very important and they hopefully help explain a certain change in attitude. For instance, the company’s use of Slack probably violates privacy law associated with some of our clients, never mind our own. We are aware of several colleagues who may have left due to management being rude and unpleasant.

The harshest bit was, after key colleagues had left the bullying from management intensified, taking out frustration on the wrong people. For instance, Roy and Rianne were sent to be interrogated. The HR agency that interrogated Roy and Rianne (this lasted for nearly 3 hours!) totally sided with Roy and Rianne and asked important questions about the management; the HR people urged Roy and Rianne to keep record of everything and assumed this thing was likely politically-motivated (or similar). In other words, this backfired spectacularly on the accuser and moreover cost the company a lot of money, never mind the moral damage. No clarify or apology was consequently issued to Roy and Rianne. The accusers were not punished this this misuse of company budget and one remains on the payroll to this day. What are decent people supposed to expect from a company that treats veteran (long-time staff) like that? By that time, Roy had been in the company about 5 times longer than the principal accuser. Roy was encouraged by HR to keep documentation for self-defensive purposes, as per this document.

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