Written By: - Date published: 1:45 pm, December 12th, 2015 - 195 comments
Categories: capitalism, class, class war, employment, jobs, poverty, Social issues, welfare, workers' rights - Tags: Korero Pono
It is that time of year when poor people realise just how poor they really are – the season for giving, the season to be jolly. Well that may be so for some of us, but some people will be working on Christmas day instead of spending time with loved ones. These will probably be the workers on minimum wage such as rest home workers, caregivers, McDonalds and other fast food workers. That is okay though, because there will always be a faction who will maintain that these workers are in the position they are in because of choice. Some will even accuse them of being in that position because of their “poor choices”. Others will hold these workers up as an example of how hard work and dedication is the way to get ahead. At least that is what some would like us to believe, but that ideology is no longer sufficient to blind those who are the victims of such propaganda.
Linda Tirado provides an explanation of poverty from the ‘poor’ person’s perspective and has captured the attention of thousands of people who can relate to her experiences. Essentially she explains why ‘poor’ people make seemingly ‘poor’ decisions, an explanation that anyone living the reality can relate to. She has also written a book on her experience of poverty, explaining how companies take advantage of those least able to be choosy, less able to turn down crap work and crap working conditions. Poor people simply don’t have choices about these things. Meanwhile, those who do have choices vilify and blame the ‘poor’ for being poor. Those better off justify this situation by accusing the poor of making ‘poor decisions’ (John Key’s tirade against those needing food banks is a classic example). Linda Tirado takes such ideology and blows it apart in her article. In a step further, her book explores how those with choices take advantage of those who don’t have choices. While she writes from the American context, it mirrors our own diminishing working conditions and explains how employers exploit their most vulnerable workers.
Recent rules and sanctions placed on beneficiaries is a classic example of how Government policy is used to prop up greedy employers who are now favouring Zero Hour contracts, or as is the case of multinational corporations like McDondalds who dip into the taxpayer’s pocket to subsidise beneficiaries into the work force, only to reduce their hours and get rid of them when the subsidies run out.
Meanwhile welfare to work policies are making it harder and harder for those on the lowest incomes to have any real ‘choice’ about the types of employers/contracts/hours they take. Beneficiaries are being treated like second class citizens and are subject to systemic abuse at the hands of Work and Income. As highlighted by the McDonalds situation above, beneficiaries are being forced into working conditions that do not guarantee them or their families a stable income.
It is one thing to have employers taking advantage of vulnerable workers, but an entirely different matter when Government introduces policy that makes it easier for them to do so. And that is exactly what has happened in New Zealand. With unemployment now heading for 7 percent, onerous welfare to work policies and diminishing employment conditions, the scene has been set to ensure that the reserve work force of beneficiaries creates the necessary competition for employers to have even more control and power over employees; enabling said employers to keep wages low and treat their employees like crap.
Merry Christmas everyone.