Tag Archives: pay

Who will do the work?

Who will do the work if we just give people enough money to live on? It’s a question I see all too often around any kind of suggestion that welfare support should not leave people in abject misery.

No one imagines that people who would otherwise have been priests, musicians, doctors, politicians, teachers, actors, CEOs and so forth would just stay at home doing nothing if decent benefits were available. We recognise that some jobs have intrinsic value. Also no one imagines people would be motivated not to go after high paying jobs if offered adequate out-of-work support.

Who will do the awful work if they aren’t frightened into it by the greater horrors of abject poverty? Who will tolerate the ten and twelve hour shifts at minimum wage if the alternative isn’t worse? How do we make people accept tedious, dead end work where they will be treated with contempt? How do we make it attractive to be in physical pain because of the demands of the job? That’s what’s really going on when we suggest that adequate benefits might discourage people from seeking jobs. 

The alternative of course would be to make sure all jobs provide a living wage. We could reconsider shift lengths, and night work and other health-destroying job issues. We could try and reduce commutes and let more people work from home. If work was interesting, nicer, better paid, more rewarding, then being on benefits would be less attractive. But, how are we to extract value for the shareholders if we don’t exploit the workers? How can we maintain the hugely inflated salaries of the management if we don’t keep the cleaners in poverty? 

If we make being out of work as unpleasant and hazardous as possible, there’s every incentive for people to take any job they can get, no matter how awful. If, on the other hand, we assume that people have a right to decent standards of living, and that working yourself to death for a pittance isn’t acceptable, we create a situation in which companies have to make jobs more attractive – better pay, better hours, decent breaks, actual perks. 

A weak welfare state enables exploitation and puts the profits of the few ahead of the needs of the many. Decent welfare support pushes up standards, which in turn will reduce the number of people made ill by work, which is cheaper for the state. What if we stop using our tax money to facilitate exploitation, and use it more compassionately and efficiently to keep people healthier and improve quality of life for everyone? 

Earning it

We hear a lot from the government about workers and shirkers, the hard working who deserve their money and the scroungers who deserve nothing. By this we are to understand that wealth itself is evidence of effort while poverty indicates laziness. That would be a very convenient explanation, skipping over how much wealth is earned and how much inherited. Wealth buys opportunity, education and connections, but if you acknowledge that, you have to recognise that massive earning differences have nothing to do with worth.

Now, if someone is out there saving lives, then it would be hard to over value their worth. Firemen would be a fine case in point. Would any of us argue with massive pay rises and bonuses for firemen, who risk their lives on a regular basis to save the lives and property of others? Firemen are heroes. We will never be able to thank them enough for what they do. But, compare that to bankers who take other people’s money and effectively gamble with it, and seem to get paid whether they make money for their bank, are mediocre or actually bankrupt a country. I’d love to know how that works. The guy at Barkleys Bank wisely declined his obscene bonus this week, perhaps recognising it might not be politic to take what he clearly hadn’t earned.

We have a system based on ideas of growth, market development, investment and whatnot. Now, skipping over the issue of infinite growth with finite resources…. I learn from the Guardian that the economic boom of the noughties was an illusion. Businesses were not investing or growing, and most of the money came from borrowing against inflated house prices. FTSE top 100 companies grew by 2.6 % on average per year while executive bonuses went up by 26 % a year, on average. My ten year old can do the maths. It’s insane. If a person gets paid way beyond what they earn, or generate for their company, they have not earned it. A bonus based on actual profits, actual development would make some kind of sense, but this doesn’t. It’s all about those in high places having the power to set their own pay scales and enough friends also in power to back them up. If you can’t show your company is thriving, you haven’t earned a bonus, and the only bonus you could earn would be in line with company profit. Anything else is TAKEN, not earned.

Let’s backtrack to those thought forms about hard work and earning your money. No company could survive without the people who do the work. The makers and builders, the ones on the shop floor, the ones talking to customers. These are the people at the bottom end of the pay scale, least valued by the company and they aren’t paid bonuses, in the normal scheme of things. Why assume if a company thrives that it is only due to the efforts of the management?

What I’d like is legislation that requires bonuses and pay rises to be linked directly to profitability in a meaningful way. (Not think of a multiplier and use that). I think there should also be a requirement that bonuses be paid out to every employee, not to managers alone, in situations of profit and success, and that people who are discernibly doing a mediocre job, or failing, should not get pay rises. Workers don’t get pay rises if their annual review doesn’t see them as being valuable. Why should bosses be different?

The irony here, is that this would be a system to drive genuine growth and investment. Full on capitalism. The people who claim to be capitalists evidently aren’t – rewarding failure and not investing to grow do not a capitalist system make. It’s not about the market, it’s simply a leech culture. And here’s me, anarchic and anti-capitalist with a vision that, although it alarms me to say it, is really speaking more innately capitalist in principle than what the capitalists are doing.

Yes Mr Cameron, we do have a culture where there are hard working people, and scroungers. Generally speaking, the scroungers are doing really well at bleeding the economy dry for their own benefit, while the hard workers are not anything like as well paid as they deserve to be. This is because we have a system that rewards power, not effort, or achievement. Just power. But that’s probably not worrying you, given that you are quite definitively In Power. However, as every leech knows, if you bleed a thing dry, you starve. A little enlightened self interest might not go amiss