It’s been a while since I delved into some Bullshit News but the truth is, I actively avoid the news as much as possible these days – taking a proactive approach to not allowing more negativity than necessary into my already-poisoned chalice. Unfortunately, the news is a goldmine for that rich, potent BS that makes for fun writing and scathing analysis pieces.
So it is with a mixture of regret and eagerness that I have returned to the world of clickbait and twisted facts for this latest entry in Bullshit News. This time, it’s because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is banging the £10-per-hour drum again, vowing to end the Minimum Wage boundaries here in the UK and ensure that workers below the age of 18 receive the same wage as their older colleagues. This follows a previous promise to increase the National Living Wage for workers over 25 to £10-per-hour.
If he and his party are elected in next year’s general election of course.
For those outside of the UK who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick lowdown. We have a National Minimum Wage; a legally-binding hourly rate that employers must pay to their employees at a bare minimum. This was originally introduced to prevent unscrupulous employers from paying people peanuts or hiring cheap, foreign labour at the expense of British workers. The Minimum Wage isn’t a one-size-fits-all however. 16-17 year-olds receive £4.35 p/h, 18-20: £6.35, 21-24: £7.70 and 25+ get £8.21.
Obviously there are many flaws to this system. Disgruntled younger workers being paid less for doing the same job for instance thus affecting motivation and sparking much anger over equality. On the flipside, you must factor in lack of experience and effectiveness in a job role which would make a reasonable argument for established employees receiving a higher wage in the first place. You can’t expect the ladder to have only one rung after all. But the counter to the counter comes along when you have new blood in a company eager to impress and working hard while their older counterpart – on a higher rate of pay – does the bare minimum and slacks off, taking home more money for performing the same role…even though their output may be worse.
Another problem is that businesses have gotten around having to pay higher wages by simply employing people for less hours on part-time contracts. In a lot of businesses here in the UK, this gives the employer a bonus secondary benefit because employees don’t necessary receive the same contractual benefits unless they are classed as “full time”. It also gives them greater control over moving employees’ shifts around to benefit the business, meaning that people desperate for work will end up having to take crappy, unsociable shifts with inconsistent hours.
So in short, the National Minimum Wage was a well-meaning idea but like most legalities, businesses will always find loopholes and ways to work the system to their advantage, not the supposed beneficiaries – the workforce. And as is usual, the government are far too slow and ponderous when it comes to closing said loopholes and keeping pace with the wily tactics of large businesses.
So you would think that a £10-per-hour wage would at least be some sort of consolation for being an employee trapped in The System. It really isn’t though and Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to deliver this is equally as ineffective in combatting the problems facing the UK’s working-class people.
Yes, companies will be required to pay their employees £10 p/h and in doing so will be adhering to the law of the land and going about their business with (mostly) clean hands. But you’d better believe that they will subsidise that cost somehow, ultimately leading to worse working conditions for those very same employees reaping the “benefits” of an increased pay packet. To use a first-hand example, the company I work for suspended quarterly bonuses one year in order to cover the cost of raising the workforce’s Minimum Wage mid-financial year – a cost that hadn’t been foreseen in the financial planning for the year.
An increased minimum wage will also result in an increase of part-time contracts (weighted in the employer’s favour) and – more depressingly – greater cost-cutting. The fatcats at the top don’t want their large salaries to be affected by the grunts at the bottom receiving their (comparitively minor) wage top-up. They want to continue driving around in company BMWs, sitting in offices drinking coffee and making decisions based on no hands-on experience of what it’s like for those doing the actual work that keeps their wallets bulging.
The solution is to reduce investment and hack away at employee perks until all that is left is the bare minimum required by law (and they will push the boundaries even then – believe me). It means an end to subsidised staff canteens and vending machines. It means cutting jobs and not replacing those who jump ship thus piling greater pressure on the remaining employees who are expected to deliver the same results with diminishing resources. It means reducing investment into the likes of facility maintenance and equipment purchases. Ultimately it means a harder life for the working man.
But the thing that earns Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge a free admission into the Bullshit News segment of my blog is the fact that his words are a mere bribe. He and his Labour party have a history of telling the younger generation what they want to hear in order to win their votes. They know that the UK’s youth is a politically dormant vein waiting to be tapped. Instead of gold or crude oil, that vein will yield votes – important votes. You see, many young people in this country take no interest in politics and don’t exercise their right to vote and it’s completely understandable. They see old people in positions of power that they can’t relate to. They see politicians making decisions that benefit the rich and established, not them or their aspirations. They see the lies, U-turns and constantly-swelling landfill site that needs ever more space to accomodate all of those false promises and undelivered pledges.
So nobody can blame Corbyn and Labour for trying to win the vote of this age group because they know that they feel ignored or disadvantaged by the current status quo. We can debate these points and the rights/wrongs all day long but what I’m saying is that it’s important to remember that the £10 p/h promise is just a bribe – the same as being offered £50 in exchange for voting Labour in the next election. There’s no guarantee that the wage increase and an end to a scale system will actually happen.
But it makes for a good, attention-grabbing headline that will make young people take notice and that’s what politics is all about. It’s about talking big and shouting loudly on volatile subjects. It’s about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about making voters believe that their interests are actually at heart – not the power games at Westminster and the battle for the
Iron Throne keys to No.10, Downing Street.
If you need any further evidence of undelivered promises, attention-grabbing soundbites and ideas that sound great without looking into the actual implementation(s) and knock-on effects/consequences then look no further than the appalling embarassment to our nation that is Brexit. If you, valued reader, live outside of the UK and laugh at us then I genuinely can’t fault you for doing so. It’s some shitshow alright.
The bottom line is that it’s the businesses and corporations that actually control our lives, not the governments. Corbyn’s promise is great on paper but it is ultimately just another bribe and workplace life will suffer as a result once the big employers start making their cost-cutting measures to fund not only a wage increase but also a wage scale dissolution that would shake up everything.
I’m not saying that it’s all bad or that you – as a younger voter – shouldn’t want to vote for more money and fairness. I’m saying don’t take such promises at face value without digging deeper or being prepared to take the rough with the smooth.