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Ain’t no recovery like an Osborne recovery

Large stores are cutting back on overtimeThe economic plan is working, according to George Osborne, and the recovery is taking hold. He seems to be one of the very few who’s noticed. To the rest of us, the recession still feels like a withered, tunnel-eyed guest. Not just unwelcome, but sat uncomfortably and unyieldingly, right in our living rooms. Reports of “thawing credit conditions” and a economy that is “growing robustly” means little to people whose employers and government have gloried in the opportunity to follow an ideological, right wing campaign in the name of necessity. Besides, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that the damage has already been done. Talk of an upturn offers little comfort. The effects of Tory attacks on public services are snowballing to a point where it’s hard to imagine a way back.

Those of us, like me, relying on low-hour contracts for work (which I have written about before) are still struggling. As we approach Christmas, the store I work for has done the counter-intuitive thing – and has drastically cut back overtime. Overtime was limited enough already, and now all they’re offering is “time in lieu”: we can work over Christmas in exchange for paid leave during our contracted shifts in January.

Sensible if a large proportion of those being offered this deal didn’t already have, contractually, 5 or 6 days a week off. They would need to work overtime in order to make ends meet during that month anyway. A few hours a week “holiday” in January in exchange for missing out on money at the most expensive time of year seems, at best, unhelpful.

As overtime got cancelled, I started talking to people. I heard from a man in his mid-twenties, who’s already been chucked out of one flat because his income was so unreliable. Another colleague’s husband has been made redundant, and she’s trying to keep up with mortgage payments on a four-hour contract. This would be hard enough with a consistent work pattern. But when you rely on wildly-fluctuating overtime, you take risks when turning it down. Apart from finding yourself out of the loop, unable for weeks to get shift on the day that overtime is being offered, the vast majority of sick leave and chosen holidays are unpaid. For example, I am entitled to just over 24 hours paid holiday over the entire year. That’s significantly less than a full working week (not that it’s easy to get that many hours at my workplace).

The store hasn’t even taken on Christmas temps this year, in order to save money and maximise on the profits of the seasonal spending rush. As other sectors suffer and retail monoliths become our main employers, they aren’t providing the work they promise to. Only in August a window company went into administration in my home town, with the loss of 100 hundred jobs.

The successful parts of the private sector aren’t swooping in to save these people as the government assures us they would. They are being cautious, saving money, and ensuring the profits that benefit the very few rather than their staff.

Even the widely-lauded apprenticeships are problematic. Apparently a sensible and helpful solution to youth unemployment, they often seem, on the contrary, to be a way to pay someone £80-£100 a week for a full time job. There are apprenticeships in bar work, customer service, and admin. These are basic, entry level skills people would learn, at more than £3 an hour, if they could just get a job in the first place. The Tories may say that unemployment is falling under their watch, that they are getting people back into work, but this is the type of employment that they are talking about; stressful, barely useful, stunted jobs.

Something feels broken when so many people have to rely on this kind of work, and you don’t have to poke your nose too far behind the rhetoric to realise that this apparent recovery is about as substantial as egg shells. This government only strengthened the kind of practices that make this kind of downturn so damaging in the first place. They’ve simply given large businesses even more opportunity to take advantage of ordinary people. Employers are not going to change unless they are shamed into it or face government legislation, because right now they are holding all the cards, and cutting the wage bill in any way they can. And for the government, it smooths over the awful unemployment figures. It’s not only cynics wondering if they’ll take any action at all.

3 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Your right of course, sadly the cure is what, labour has no cures at all they state they do much of what the Tories would do, and even more.

    Sadly today the recovery will start slow and work it way up over the next ten years, but do not worry MP’s will get the wages they need, the people who allowed this to happen will now get £75,000 heading for the beloved £100,000.

    If people think I’m going to vote for these career politicians who do not even have the guts to say no, then balls to them all.

  2. swatantra says:

    I’m going to be saving up for the next ‘bust’, and if you lot out there had any sense, you’d be doing the same. But its an independent body thats recommending the increase, and forcing a £7000 increase on these poor MPs. It would be impolite to refuse.

  3. Robert says:

    Well of course Swat I do not mind them getting it, I just will not bother voting for them since UKIP has no MP’s think it time I changed my tack.

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