Friday, 6 July 2012

Are you offended by any of these questions?

Are you offended by any the questions below?

In the UK and in America, the vast majority of private sector employers would crush any employee asking these sorts of questions

1)    What is your job title?

2)    Do you have any children/other dependents)? If so, how many?

3)    Do you have a partner and if so, are they earning? Do they contribute to the household financially?

4)    Do you claim benefits? If so, which ones?

5)    Do you struggle to pay the bills?  

6)    At the end of the month, do you have any disposable income?

7)    How does low pay affect your life?

8)    When did you last take a holiday?

9)    Do you have a second job to subsidise your pay?

10) Do you use credit cards or pay day loans? If so, are you in debt?

11) Over the last five years, have you had to change the way you live your life as a result of low pay?

12)  Is there anything else you want to tell us that you think is relevant?

The freedom to be able to ask these questions - to survey a workforce, to recruit and to unionise, is an essential part of living in a free society.

Because these and other questions are "not allowed" in our private sector, it is impossible to bargain on behalf of workers. Politicians and media often say that "private sector workers have rejected unions".  But this is simply wrong - the truth is that unions have been largely frozen out, and getting in requires enormous effort, usually as part of a concerted campaign , paid for by a national Trade Union such as Unite.   Of course, Unions simply don't have the resources to sort this crises out by themselves.

And it is a crises. I don't just mean the human rights abuse of it being ridiculously difficult to form a union. I mean the wider consequences for our economy.

Perhaps the biggest problem for "the taxpayer" is that the poverty pay of our richest companies is topped up via the benefits system.  The likes of Amazon and Marks & Spencer should not employ full time workers on poverty pay rates. But they do. The rest of us then pick up the price.

The low wages of millions of workers in rich firms causes a stagnating, depressed economy.  A unionised private sector would halt the ever growing differentials of bosses pay compared to workers pay. It would reduce reliance upon the state, and would give people more money to spends on goods and services. It would reduce stress on families, and would almost certainly reduce the number of marriage breakdowns.

And for those of us in the UK who are unionised, what we are allowed to do falls way beneath the minimum of worker rights as spelt out in global human rights international law, see this

We are not free. And it's time we started saying so.

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