Friday, 24 June 2011

On General Strikes and Minimum wages,

Well the inevitable has happened and the AMT, NUT and PCS will more than likely be out on strike on June 30th over increased pension contributions and a raise of the retirement age to 66 years old for men and women.  As a member of the civil service and an ex member of the PCS I can completely understand the grievances of the membership.

When the media use the term "Civil Servant" it conjures up images in the public's consciousness of Sir Humphrey-esq mandarins who secretly control government with their reams of red tape and earn ridiculous salaries.
What they don't think of is the guy at the Job centre help desk, the gallery attendant in the museums, Librarians, office workers who sift through the mountains of official paper work and enquiries from the public all low paid unglamourous jobs, many of whom are hit by a £21k pay freeze for two years whilst the cost of living and inflation rise steadily. The expendable income for these people does not leave much, enough to survive but not enough to live outside of work.

Should they strike though? I am inclined to say yes, if all other courses are proving fruitless it is the only way.


They must beware that they must not be tarred with the same brush as the RMT. The RMT under Bob Crow's leadership does seem to strike at the drop of a hat and the last threats of strikes because of the suspension and dismissal of two Union men for health and safety issues was ridiculous.
Commuters have to pay the price of the more than comfortable drivers wages and they feel no sympathy for the union when they call their week long strikes which grinds London to a halt.

Retirement is a bit of a sticky subject. As an aging society and people living upwards of thirty years after their retirement on pension and benefits it becomes very costly to support this so I can understand why the government are moving the goal posts and such a move was ultimately inevitable, and any move at anytime would make things difficult for someone but what other options are there?
Let them retire at 65. People should be allowed to live their lives and enjoy it not be tied into work for longer just because they cannot afford to exist without state pension. Also, and selfishly, if people work longer and older then there won't necessarily be jobs for younger school/university leavers adding to the large youth unemployment and benefit seekers.
Bringing women in line with men at 65 is a good move and encourages equality but I think the government has got it wrong on pushing the age up further under the current climate.

Minimum wage:

It was suggested last week by Mr Davis MP that disabled people should take jobs at below minimum wage in an attempt to vie for jobs.
His logic being that employers will always employee able bodied people over the disabled and so to give them more of a fighting chance they could offer to do the job for less.

I see his logic BUT the suggestion is quite clearly absurd. You cannot expect anyone to work for less than minimum wage, that is why it is the minimum! Also you cannot actively discriminate like that.
Everyone is equal and they should be treated as such.

Debating this later in the day with others the question of whether or not a minimum wage should exist. In my view it should as if it was removed companies would go back to paying workers, such as cleaners and fast food industry workers a pittance that they would barely be able to survive on but due to the economic conditions would gladly take.

At the moment a minimum wage worker, earning around £5.93 an hour and working 45 hours a week for a 4 week month would earn: £1067.40 losing some 20% to tax and NI payments it would decrease to £800's which minus rent (which in central Winchester can be upward of £400's a month), utilities, transport and food does not leave much to live on, thus there is a thin line between Surviving and Living.

This prospect is obviously not an attractive option for the UK's unemployed and many would rather stay on the dole than work menial jobs for menial pay.
How can I prove this? Well lets take a look at your local fast food eatery, the majority of those in London are staffed by eastern Europeans, when I worked in catering we found a lot of the agency staff was made up again by Polish and Eastern Europeans.
On Sunday, BBC Politics show South east segment, they ran an article about Strawberry pickers in Sittingbourne. The majority were migrant workers from Eastern Europe, one employee from Romania said he was earning up to £6k for six months work and then returning to Romania for the winter. The farmer himself estimated a good worker could earn up to £11's an hour!
So is this a case, that Daily Mail readers would argue, of "Bloody Foreigners" stealing our jobs!?


The reporters went to a local job centre and asked members of the public whether they would work as Strawberry pickers. Most said that they felt the job was beneath them or they wouldn't get up that early to go to work. Only one said that he would do the job. If anything the migrant workers are filling a niche that would probably remain unfilled then who would carry out the work in the service industry or fruit picking? No one. Also many are working here for good wages they cannot get at home and then returning with decent savings and buying a house. Who can blame them?

A year ago in response to George Osbourne's June budget, C4 news held a forum in Sheffield where a lady revealed that she was desperate for work but had been unemployed for a considerable amount of time yet hadn't taken a menial job to pay the way.

So on the subject of minimum wage the Government should definitely not remove it but instead encourage British unemployed to take jobs, even basic ones, as preferable to sitting indefinitely on the dole, even if it was to take a crap job now and apply for better ones later. As my careers advisor told us at School:

"We can't all be astronauts."

I don't say "You must all work crap jobs for crap pay or be cut off by the state." but I think the government shouldn't make it quite so easy to stay at home.

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