After thirteen years of New Labour we are now in the most awful of employment situations. Blair and Brown continued to promote the Tory dogma of a ‘flexible workforce’ which may have had some merit if it worked in tandem with a flexible corporate objective. The latter did not happen. Instead we are left with an inflexible corporate regime that returns nothing in compensation for the rights its employees have lost.
Agency workers are of epidemic proportions, especially within civil society. Schools, hospitals, councils and HM Revenue and Customs are awash with ‘temporary’ labour. I highlight the ‘temorary’ because many of these posts have had agency labour in place for five years and more; the same person in the same position. How this makes economic sense I am at a loss to discover. I understand the reasoning, that’s too clear and too cynical not to see from the moon. No permanent post equals: No pensions, no employment rights and minimum wage holiday pay. As for sick leave, that’s a sick joke, with most agency staff having to go back to the benefit system. Meaning that the tax payer pay all over again.
On average, agency staff are on lower incomes than their directly employed colleagues, but that doesn’t mean the employer, (you the tax payer) are getting a bargain. The opposite is the truth. Agencies are pariahs, robbing the employee and the employer. Usually doubling up their fee in relation to the wage paid to the employee. (If the agency worker gets £6 the Agency charges £12) How that makes economic sense to the employer is beyond me. In truth, I know it doesn’t and the reasons for it are self evident. Keep the workers scrabbling around in the mud.
I don’t know how many of you have visited the cheap eateries that have popped up all over the country, but I bet you’re unaware of the working conditions and working practices of such places. These companies take the term ‘flexible’ to another level all together. The majority of the staff will be on minimum wage and supposedly full time hours. The reality is stark by comparison. An individual may be told they are on a ten hour shift, not an uncommon one at that, only to find that the ‘custom isn’t coming through the door’ and are sent home within four hours, without any pay. That may seem a reasonable response to some of you. The argument being that there is no work so the employer can’t afford to pay for people to sit around. Quid Pro Quo. When the place is heaving and the worker doesn’t even have time for a break, the employer, who is raking in the loot, doesn’t turn around and say: “business was good today and I know you didn’t stop, but don’t worry, even though we contravened all employment legislation by working you straight through for 12 hours, (again not uncommon), There will be a nice bonus in your wage slip.
There lies the problem. In the above example, one I know from experience, there is no flexibility in the employer, that onus falls on the underpaid employee. Remember I’m not talking about the local curry house here; institutions with dubious employment records, but large and supper large corporations. New Labour was a party to this practice. The irony is, in the long term society as a whole suffers because of this type of ‘flexible’ working practices. If people can’t earn a consistent wage, a regular wage and can’t invest into a pension, we the tax payer foot the bill. If someone is contracted to work 40 hours then they should work them. It is not their responsibility to compensate for the marketing failings of the company they work for. In the long-term, if companies can punish its workers for its own failings then the company, over time will lose out. Being competitive in a ‘competitive market’ is about targeting your customers and increasing revenue accordingly, not by reducing the wages of your potential customers, because if you’re doing it the company down the road is also doing it, and contrary to popular belief, it’s the workers that shop at your eateries, factories, shops and not the super rich.
Still not convinced? Simple acid test. Since 1979 we have had laissez faire economics, with a flexible approach to employment and employment law. Don’t believe our Ken’s rants about red tape and Health and Safety stifling business. The majority of red tape and Health and Safety were implemented by companies to protect themselves against lawsuits by placing responsibility, ( the onus) on the employee. The majority of Health and Safety practices within organisations have no basis in legislation and more to do with companies falling over each other to protect their own backs by deferring culpability onto the donkey at the bottom who risks his life for a daily wage. So if this flexible working shite worked why have we dropped down the league of economic activity?
Germany, which has a more restrictive working practice ideology than ourselves has strengthened its position, whilst we have dropped down the places to 6th on GDP and 12th on economic activity. Where’s the logic in flexiblity? Which in real terms means slavery. If economically it’s detrimental. Greed causes need. And New Labour were and are one of the most greedy group of individuals to have ever entered power; and that takes some going. There has to be a Next-Left, but this can’t be through ‘Think Tanks like the Fabian Society, who nurtured and educated the New Labour pilgrims. We were sold a lemon and until left thinkers remove any hope of converting New Labour to Old Labour, the Right will win again and again.