I think it was Goebbels who said that if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one. As the coalition tears itself apart and the Lib-Dem’s try to distance themselves from the destruction they have helped heap on the UK economy, their partners in crime try to spin a myth - that the economy is recovering and that this is built on solid foundations, pretty soon they will be telling us we never had it so good! When was the last time Cameron told us we are all in it together?
As we all sit back and count the credit card and loan debts racked up over Xmas, over 1.25 billion pounds, it’s worth looking at one story which casts a question mark over the Coalition’s claims.
The closure of City Link seemed to sum up many of the things that are wrong with this country. Hard working men and women, many forced into self employment, a few who may have “bought the dream” of being their own boss, were cruelly and cynically exploited and dumped by a wealthy venture capitalist, which bought the company for £1 a few years earlier.
Over two thousand City Link workers lost their livelihoods and were left with enormous personal and business debts, while the company continued to allocate work to individual drivers, callously knowing that the drivers would not get paid.
One driver and his family were owed nearly fifty thousand pounds, when the company went into administration just before Xmas. At the stroke of a pen, probably somewhere in The Virgin Islands or some other exotic tax haven, lives have been wrecked.
Self employment has been the main cause for the drop in unemployment, over four and a half million people are now classed as self employed; quite what they are all working at is a mystery. But one thing is true; the vast majority, whether on building sites, driving vans, or mini-cabs, should in most cases be directly employed. In City Link’s case, the relationship between the drivers and company seemed clear. The drivers only worked for City Link. They were told where and when to work. They were even fined if they took a day off. That clearly is not self employment.
Self employment may work in certain conditions, but should be the exception not the norm in most sectors, but there is very little regulation of working conditions in most, but not all, self employed sectors. The rule of thumb is self-exploitation; low pay, long hours, no sick or holiday payments and cutting corners on Health and Safety legislation, alongside no defence against victimisation or exploitation.
This model super exploits workers and leaves us atomised, with no rights or legal protection. It attempts to undermine, though not always successfully, collective trade union organisation. It is not a sustainable model for long term economic growth and together with Zero Hours contracts, fuels the race to the bottom in wages and conditions.
Other economic factors are also showing a far different picture from the one painted by Cameron. The enormous rise in personal debt; working people forced to rely on state subsidies to eat; young people being ripped off in the housing market and a shrinking manufacturing sector.
Another five years of austerity and this so called cure will end up killing the patient. No doubt Cameron will still be blaming the ensuing chaos on the EU, Labour, immigrants, or his useful idiot Nick Clegg, in fact anyone but the small group of Bullingham Club members, who call the shots and have behaved like they have the entitlement to lord it over us.
We now have a 5 month window of opportunity to vote on 5 years of attacks on working people, especially the most vulnerable, which make Thatcher look like a bleeding heart Liberal. There’s only one clear choice, if we want to end these crude forms of exploitation, we have to defeat the Tories. The only party capable of achieving this is Labour - warts and all.