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Posts Tagged ‘workers’

Wage Slaves and Wage Thieves

 

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There has been sporadic articles and documentation regarding the inflated salaries of corporate execs and how they dwarf the salaries of our most senior public servants. More outrage ensues. More condemnation from the liberal press pours forth as they use the previously mentioned comparison to offer some perspective on the gross inequality in pay that exists.

Seemingly, the implication here is the difference in pay within the higher, more senior brackets between public and private sectors is large, and it shouldn’t be. However, I do not want a comparison drawn between the bosses of each sector. A much more worthy comparison would be to analyse the pay and rights of an average worker against a boss.

In our post-industrial, service driven economy, we are even outsourcing jobs citizens here are training to secure. This is freezing the price (wage) of labour here, and in some cases, driving it down (considering inflation). This is not only making society unequal by killing off any social mobility, it raises the top bracket of earners higher and higher above everybody else.

The attitude which manifests is one of spite towards the fellow/future worker who demands more via protest too. This is not so much a natural reaction, but one born of helplessness towards the rubbish we have to put up with. When we hear vacuous sound bites like “we are all in this together”, we tend to think, “we’re putting up with it, why aren’t they?” The answer is simple: none of us should, because the disconnect we are all feeling about the labour we offer and the fruits of it we receive is a very real problem that deserves our utmost attention.

This is not to mention the heavy cuts being implemented by the government, which will result in 500,000 public sector job losses, 50,000 of which will be in NHS, and the abolition of the UK Film Council which has produced Oscar winning films, among other wild swings of the axe. These are not just figures. They represent lives, mortgages, families, and a quality of life being squashed from above. Employment is the lifeblood of an economy. One can argue there are many superfluous jobs that should be shed – really?

The large size of the public sector here and other Western economies has become necessary to offset the deficiencies of the private sector, which has failed to provide not just sustainable growth, but sustainable employment. Until our casino finance sector stops operating in boom and bust cycles, the public sector will remain a dependable crutch for those who do not wish to gamble with lives. This brings me to the meat of this article: the attitude which the management class have tried to foster in their workforce and its economic consequences.

This can be first illustrated quite profoundly with a personal anecdote: I know someone who has earned well over £1,000,000 in product sales in the last business year, yet was only paid £22,000 for their troubles. This represents a 2.2% return of the value to the worker who was made solely responsible to shift the goods. Of course, there are other costs to account for, such as production costs and transport, but it would be reasonable to surmise that a large chunk of the profits made its way to the pockets of the directors and shareholders.

This is not only unjust, but symptomatic of the economic phenomenon in our age of globalisation: the value of a product is not simply determined by the seller in a simple transaction with simple market forces, but monopolised by those with the financial clout to keep workers dependent and hungry, effectively prostituting their labour as they see fit, while manipulating market conditions for their own benefit. This means that a worker in a Western country, who is no longer the producer of one given good, cannot readily identify the worth of a product outside their own contrived salary.

Detachment with the labour ensues, and apathy blooms.

This apathy is responsible for the incredible tolerance of the workforce to brave the gluttony and greed of the management classes. We simply do not care about what we do anymore because the reward is miniscule and our labour is undervalued. Corporations understand this problem, and the solution to protect their interests is not to improve worker conditions, but to drive them down further, so that workers become desperate, and finally grateful for their lot in life. After all, a starving man will think a dry biscuit is the best meal he’s ever had if there was nothing else.

Of course, this policy has two outcomes – March 26th is a testament to that.

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Globalisation has fermented the economic shit-storm here and made it co-dependent on the labour situation in developing countries. Take the example of a £20 pair of jeans manufactured in South East Asia and sold on a UK high-street. The worker there is on slave pay and slave hours and just about gets by (if they’re not killing themselves en masse). The product is then priced according to the target market – in this case, the poor here. The poor producers create for the poor and the rich, it is worthy to note.

Keeping the example of the cheap pair of jeans: how about improving the pay and working rights for the outsourced labour? The price of the product increases, resulting in fewer sales and probably redundancies. All the while, the rich are unaffected and preserve their profit margins. The excuse is that the poor here cannot afford to purchase the now more expensive jeans, and have been priced out by concessions to labour movements elsewhere – which then effectively demonises development on these issues among local populations.

The sadly unorthodox reaction to such events is to support each other in a rather Marxist “workers of the world unite” fashion. It is starting to happen with messages of solidarity issued by those struggling for better conditions around the world. What needs to be remembered is that the consumers here are also producers, and the producers there are also consumers. We are not one or the other. We must not be only one or the other. The conditions one worker has to endure can be normalisedfor good or for worse. That is key.

If conditions improve for workers in the North China labour market, we should support them and demand similar. If the quality of life for the workers there improves, we should demand the same concessions and readjustments. In our globalised economy, isolated progression, i.e. one that is naive to the interconnectedness of the labour markets, will damage understanding of the true economic issues of our time. Moving together is fundamental to narrowing the chasm which exists between the classes.

A revaluation of labour is necessary for a successful redistribution of income. The general discord we have for many of our jobs finds solace in our apathetic approach to the opportunities and rewards we have available. If the poor worker/consumer here cannot afford those jeans anymore, they in fact should be paid more and given better working conditions. In effect, this unilateral progression of working rights will raise the bar for workers everywhere, while simultaneously lowering the astronomically high bar of the rich profiteers.

In a blog on Brazen Careerist, a hip career-based website, Whitney May Parker advises a worker to:

3. Never tell your boss “No, I can’t do that.” Obviously if your boss is asking you to do something illegal, immoral or otherwise, that’s a different case. But when it comes to professional tasks and responsibilities, bosses like to see a can-do attitude. Instead of reacting to a challenging assignment with a sigh and immediate reasons why it can’t be done, consider what resources you’d need to actually get the job done. Maybe you need an assistant, a bigger budget, more time, access to a special resources. Think of it as an opportunity to expand your responsibilities in a way that can lead to a raise or promotion at the end of the day.

The writer clearly has immeasurable awe for her superiors and its nauseating. It is almost as if a boss is to be viewed as a benevolent being, never wrong, omniscient and noble in their judgement. This kind of material is everywhere, and it all contributes to that feeling of gratitude the management class want to instil within the workforce. Workers must remember – they do not owe them anything. Labour is not free, and 100 workers have just as much value as 100 bosses. In reality, the ratio is 1 boss to 1000 workers, looking at salaries.

Of course, that cock-tease of a line always shows up: “It can be you! You can be the tyrannical boss one day!”.

But exploring even cheaper and grateful labour might very well be “the wave of the future of human resources” one CEO has mentioned recently:

People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative

Kelly Fallis, CEO of Remote Stylist

They will definitely be hungrier. The scandal here is that they now want us to feel grateful for working for free, and many of us do – look at interns. Entitlement is the mentality of the management classes, and gratitude is the attitude they wish to foster in their underlings. It is reducible to slavery and it should inspire our deepest contempt. But universally, it doesn’t.

Divide and sell remains the mantra…

As Marx once commented on 19th C decadence in France:

"Since the finance aristocracy made the laws, was at the head of the administration of the State, had command of all the organised public authorities, dominated public opinion through the actual state of affairs and through the press, the same prostitution, the same shameless cheating, the same mania to get rich was repeated in every sphere, from the court to the Café Borgne, to get rich not by production, but by pocketing the already available wealth of others, clashing every moment with the bourgeois laws themselves, an unbridled assertion of unhealthy and dissolute appetites manifested itself, particularly at the top of bourgeois society – lusts wherein wealth derived from gambling naturally seeks its satisfaction, where pleasure becomes debauched, where money, filth, and blood commingle."

Such is the state of affairs now, but magnified one hundred fold. To an almost fever pitch degree of greed and debauchery by the rich, the workers are deprived of a fair wage, reside in filth, and give their blood, all for a pittance. The saga of the wage slaves and wage thieves which has blighted modern civilisation to a now exhausted extent simply must end.

And it will only if we fight in solidarity.