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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Tory contempt for the value of labour

The Tory establishment elite would gleefully abolish the
May Day bank holiday because it was created in
order to coincide with International Workers' Day
The May Day bank holiday which is celebrated in more than 80 countries across the World is a time for people to celebrate the great achievements of international workers movement. It is a day to recognise the sacrifices made by workers of the past in order to fight for the fair wages and decent working conditions we benefit from today.  In 2011 the Tory led coalition government in the UK proposed the outright abolition of the May Day bank holiday in order to replace it with a so called "United Kingdom" bank holiday in October. The idea that a day to celebrate the hard work and sacrifices of ordinary working people should be abolished is a distinctly Tory idea, in that it expresses the absolute contempt the English establishment elite have for the value of labour.

In England the May Day bank holiday is not just a day of celebration for British workers, it is also an opportunity for the English to show off their cultural eccentricities in the form of Morris Dancing, 'obby 'oss parades, maypole dancing and cheese rolling. That the Tory establishment would do away with all of this wonderful and absurd eccentricity in order to attack the workers reminds us just how spiteful their attitude is towards ordinary working people.

The Tory establishment would gleefully do away with all of this
wonderful and absurd eccentricity in order to attack the workers.
The Tory plans to abolish Labour Day are far from the only example of Tory malice towards ordinary working people, throughout the decades the Tory establishment elite have battled against workers rights. The Tories have always hated the trade union movement and instead of adopting a sensible co-operative approach between employers and unions (as can be seen in Germany and across Scandinavia) the Tory establishment elite spent decades trying to cripple the trade unions, a battle they eventually won in the 1980s. In the 1990s they opposed the introduction of a National Minimum Wage and in the 2000s they supported the Labour party in their policy of pouring hundreds of billions of pounds into the debt riddled financial sector, instead of using this vast cash pile to offer direct support to industry, research and development, infrastructure projects, services, education and manufacturing, preferring to see hundreds of billions in taxpayers' cash used to prop up a dysfunctional financial sector than have it used to protect jobs and industry.

When the Tories returned to power at the head of the coalition government in 2010 they set about their usual tactics of attacking the pay and welfare entitlements of ordinary working people whilst simultaneously giving large tax breaks to corporations and the super-rich. Under the guise of "austerity" the Tory led coalition set about the destruction of hundreds of thousands of state sector jobs, attacks on pensions, huge health service and benefits cuts, the deliberate suppression of state sector wages and derisory increases in the National Minimum Wage (especially for young workers). Whilst the majority of ordinary working people have been made to pay for the reckless gambling of the financial sector through prolonged below inflation pay rises, large pension losses and reductions in welfare standards, the Tories have enabled the super-rich economic elite to become richer. In 2011 the bosses of the FTSE 100 group of corporations awarded themselves an eye watering average salary increase of 49%, the richest 1,000 people in the UK increased their combined wealth by 4.7% to £414 billion and in 2012 George Osborne announced an income tax cut for the very highest earners in the UK, meaning that someone with a salary of £5 million would receive a tax cut of over £240,000 whilst someone working 60 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at national minimum wage would have to get by on around 7% of that tax giveaway.

That the Tories have made the majority of ordinary people pay the cost of "austerity" whilst allowing the richest to continue getting richer comes as no surprise at all, given their unofficial party motto of "steal from the poor to give to the rich". What is surprising is their sheer contempt for the value of peoples labour. This utter contempt can be seen in two key policy areas, their plans to introduce "regional pay" in the state sector and their trenchant defence of the Department for Work and Pensions absurdly unfair workfare schemes.

On the face of it the Tory "regional pay" plan to award higher salaries to those working in richer (Tory) areas and lower salaries to those working in poorer (Labour) areas looks like a case of vindictive political tribalism. A policy aimed at ensuring Labour voting areas are punished by incentivising the most talented state sector workers to leave poorer areas to work in richer, Tory voting areas. That the Tory establishment would use the pay of state sector workers as a political tool to punish areas that vote for their political opponents is bad enough, but their support for the DWP's grotesquely unfair (and economically illiterate) mandatory unpaid labour Workfare schemes really shows their contempt for the value of labour.

Tory employment minister Chris Grayling has repeatedly
shown his contempt for the value of labour with his
trenchant defence of mandatory unpaid Workfare schemes.
Much has been written about the unfairness of forcing unemployed people to work 30 hours a week in order to receive their pitifully low unemployment benefits. The idea that anyone should be compelled to work for giant profit making corporations (Tesco, Sainsbury's, TK Maxx, Burger King, Maplin, HMV, Boots, Poundland, BHS) for no pay at all, already demonstrates the Tories absolute contempt for the labour of unemployed people, but a closer examination of the economic implications reveals that it is not just the labour value of the unemployed that they casually dismiss, it is yours too. Nearly all of these mandatory unpaid labour Workfare schemes involve nothing more than several weeks or months of menial tasks like shelf stacking or warehouse work. For every person that is compelled to work unpaid for these corporations, there is another person denied a job, another person claiming benefits, another person not making tax contributions. If the work needs doing, the corporation should pay someone at least the minimum wage to do it. That the Tories have repeatedly and vehemently defended these schemes demonstrates both their economic illiteracy and their absolute contempt for the value of labour.
 
The Tories are the party of the establishment, they have always worked to protect the interests of the rich establishment elite, the landlords and the capitalists, which by definition means working against the interests of the working poor, the tenants and the trade unionists. The Tories have always valued inherited wealth above earned wealth, and valued wealth accumulated through capitalist exploitation above wealth made through hard labour. So as you are enjoying your May Day bank holiday, try to remember that the day is a celebration of the fact that the workers united to demand fair wages, decent working conditions and the occasional bank holiday, and that the Tories consider these great achievements to be defeats for the establishment class and would gleefully abolish May Day out of sheer spite.

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