The recent furore about benefit levels has brought a lot of comments along the lines of “I don’t get it why should they?” out of the woodwork along with a lot of hardluck stories from low wage earners such as this one from Phoenix on Colin Espiner’s blog:
I am 6 months pregnant with my first child. 6 weeks into my pregnancy, my prick of a boss decided to make me redundant, forcing me into a position paying $5 an hour less than my normal rate of pay, I had to move to Chch from Auckland to keep my job, and whats more, he replaced me with someone else about 2 weeks after I had moved! (changed the name of the position of course, but it is the same blinkin job)
I have a partner, he got a job paying $38k a year (before tax), I now earn a pathetic $30k a year, and because of our two incomes, we are not eledgible for any government help.
I felt like I had to stay employed with this company as it would be very difficult to find a job when you are pregnant, especially at the moment with the recession and the lack of jobs out there.
What annoys me here, is I am battling to stay afloat, will be taking the least amount of maternity leave owing so we dont lose any income, and will have to put my child into child care to go back to work while these ladies earn a heck of a lot more than I do for sitting on the benefit.
Perhaps I should have a couple more kids and pretend I am single, to get more money?? Oh yeah, and I did 3 polytech courses, and have already paid back my student loan. No freebies there either….
Apart from the fact Phoenix would clearly have a strong case for a personal grievance which should include reinstatement and maternity leave (join your union!), this comment and the hundreds like it are a constant reminder of how low wages are in New Zealand.
The dark irony is that by calling for beneficiaries to have their entitlements cut, these low paid workers are effectively asking to have more pressure put on them to work harder for less because if they don’t there will be more people lined up to do their job for less. In fact in the 1990’s a constant refrain from bosses during negotiations was “if you don’t like the wages there’s hundreds of people who will.”
What astounds me is that so many people with these hard luck stories are willing to attack other people at the bottom of the pile rather than the people and policies that are oppressing them both.
I guess it shows how effective the New Right’s individualist agenda has been in that rather than see themselves as part of society these people see themselves only as individuals in competition with other individuals.
And while I’m at it there’s a second strain of comment that has come through during this debacle – the one where the commenter talks about how proud they are they are toughing it out and working for SFA. There’s a name for that kind of person and apparently there’s one born every minute.