Labour Of Love

I’m having a bit of a rant this week I’m afraid, so those of a cheery disposition look away now.

An alien landing here on Wednesday will assume Britain is celebrating a public holiday.

Almost nothing, apart from politicians’ mouths and Eamonn Holmes’ fridge, will be open; no public buildings will be open, no operations will be carried out in hospitals, children will be walking the streets as no schools will be open for business, and if you want to illegally enter the UK to help the kids celebrate, there will be no border guards to stop you either. It will be a bit like this year’s Royal Wedding day but cost us a lot more. Britain will be on strike.

Why? Well that’s the problem, because I must admit I find it difficult to understand. I catch myself thinking that I’m missing something. The people who will be withdrawing their labour and taking the day off are all public sector workers who are hacked off about their future pensions being downgraded. Well, welcome to the club. I’m hacked off too, but I can’t strike.

I understand that a lot of these people don’t earn much money, and if they wanted to shout about getting better pay I’d give them wholehearted support. Everyone has the right to expect a decent salary for a day’s hard work. But these people are striking because they’ve been told their promised  pensions will be lower and they will have to contribute more, something the self employed, like myself, have had to get used to over the past two years as we watch our carefully invested savings drop.

It’s easier to strike for a day when you have a degree of job security like those who are withdrawing labour on Wednesday, but others, the self employed, have none of this security at all. If we go on strike our clients simply find someone else and we never work for them again. But we accept that those are the rules of the game. The self employed work hard, deliver their best, and cross their fingers that they work again, all the while knowing that responsibility for their well being lies totally with themselves. No one else helps.

So, again, please tell me what I’m missing.

Public sector workers get paid when they are off work sick, the self employed don’t.  These workers still have salaries paid in to their bank accounts when they’re on holiday, but that’s only a dream for self employed people who earn nothing while lying on the beach. As the Speedos go on, the earnings get turned off.

Public and private sector workers enjoy having an employer who pays extra contributions in to their pensions over and above what they themselves are saving, but those of us looking after ourselves don’t have that luxury. Every penny in our pensions has been paid in over the years by each individual alone, so the pain of watching the current financial situation decimate our potential retirement pots is more than worrying but, grudgingly, understandable against the current global backdrop.

So, these people who have safety nets beyond my wildest dreams are going on strike because they don’t feel they should have to suffer like the rest of us in a once in a lifetime global financial plummet.  Doesn’t this just make them sound like the greedy bankers who feel they’re above the “we’re all in this together” mantra? Am I alone in agreeing that we all have to limit our horizons now? I don’t like it any more than anyone else, in fact I hate it, but I understand it.

Let me say again, anyone who is not being paid a fair wage for a day’s hard work has my full support and sympathy. But we all have to pause just now and take stock. The future may not be as bright as we had hoped and saved for, but we’re all suffering. Wednesday’s cancelled operations and closed schools simply mean we will all be suffering even more.