I have always liked Manchester. It's now a huge city. When you amble out of the vibrant Piccadilly station the view is awesome, huge shiny buildings reaching up to the sky and believe me it's never quiet or deserted. This huge city has just about everything, two top class football teams, major concert venues, a superb public transport network, thousands of watering holes, by and large the people are friendly and helpful. If you decide to go there for an evening out, make sure to walk around the Northern Quarter, lots to see and experience. For those who suffer from the affliction of football there is also the football museum. It's also home to a lively gay village but it has to be said that it is expensive around the city centre. It definitely is the 2nd city.
Just for the record, I am not a Mancunian, I just like the place.
It also has one or two other less appealing things, main one being far too many homeless people huddled in shop doorways and anywhere else they can find.
Sadly, most cities have this demoralising problem. It is the scourge of 21st century UK society, my thought, cancel one nuclear submarine and cure it ALL.
That's one national scourge, let me introduce another, one that has become prominent in the 21st century and is every bit as demoralising as homelessness. The difference with this particular scourge being that "the usual suspects" are profiting from it.
ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS. A shocking means of shackling the stragglers by means of fear. FEAR of being evicted, or taken to court for falling behind on payments for such things as a washing machine. FEAR of not being able to feed the kids or buy presents when required. FEAR of having to make Lisa walk to school in the rain again. (see link below), FEAR of the man with the van and clipboard, FEAR of not being able to pay for a PC or mobile phone. FEAR of losing a bank account,or debit card. F E A R .
When this subject crops up on the news you are usually treated to a grinning and happy individual who tells you all about how wonderful it is to have such amazing "freedom and flexibility", well, I beg to differ. For every one of those happy ZH people (I won't use the word employee) there are those who see it as a living hell. Two sides to every coin though. So let me look at "freedom and flexibility", nothing to be negative about when looking at somebody who wants to work and have the sacred F&F, I actually wish it would become more widespread across the entire employment market. Also, I firmly believe there is a way for this to be realised. Problem being, my way forward does not involve greedy and heartless "employers" profiting through FEAR.
It would involve humane employers balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the employee. Just how radical is that ?? Imagine it, a boss looking at the huge employee reservoir and concluding that it really should be possible to make something work without cashing in on FEAR. I refuse to believe that there are so many companies out there that cannot possibly function without inflicting ZHs on people. It is an awful thing to behold if there really are. Just how perilous a footing are these so called businesses actually on ? It is a malicious claim aimed at nothing other than riding the "FEAR wave" across that huge reservoir.
That person that cycles through heavy traffic to fetch a damn sandwich or bucket of massively unhealthy fried chicken, would it really crash the company if they were paid a proper wage and knew that this week they might earn enough to pay the damn rent ? Or that they have a set number of hours to work?
Are these "employers" so bad at managing that they could not possibly sit down with the representatives of an organised workforce and come up with something better ?
They are obviously devious enough to exploit every possible loophole that enables them to use people like some sort of "fast action pit pony" ! Not only that these modern day workhouse masters are existing in the perfect environment for their cash addicted ways to flourish. We have had a decade of things being tailored to their every whim. Holiday pay, sick pay, unsocial hours etc all being eroded at a rapid pace. Best I be really honest here, this really is only the embryonic stage of a total destruction of any vestiges of respect from employers towards employees in this section of the workforce in the UK. We already have Inwork poverty, why do we need Inwork FEAR ?
Again, I will allow my honesty to come though, I really do sincerely wish that EVERY single so called "business" that trades on this FEAR would go to the wall today. At about half passed Ten. Simple as that.
So, back to Manchester. Something caught my eye yesterday, a day I spent wandering around that city in the cold January sunshine.
60 odd businesses in that city have signed up to a charter banning ZHs. Not many people seem to have cottoned onto this. Hardly heard anything about it on our needless and biased 24/7 news channels. Wonder why ?
Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor there has put this together. Mr Burnham has always been an impressive politician, obviously he has said some things that have had me pulling my hair out at times. His way is not to some peoples liking, you can say that about any MP . He often claims that as mayor he is ignored by the Labour party, I would suggest that this needs to change rapidly.
We have seen all this sort of thing before, many work places had shiny plaques on the wall in reception declaring that they are a "Fair Employer" and proclaiming their "Mission Statements", it mostly turned out to be nothing but bull. Many of these same employers paid the least they could legally get away with and lived in a hugely one sided environment where the workforce had no proper voice, this was usually disguised as a "Works Council", which actually meant that anyone who showed any aptitude for representing colleagues in a meaningful way was gradually shown the door.
This "Good Employment Charter" is entirely voluntary and it is unclear how it could actually be enforced. The only way I can see is for those who refuse to embrace it being named and shamed in the media,, need I say more on that point ?
There will be many problems with it. It is fitting that this has materialised in "The Northern Poorhouse", neglected for many years when it comes to Government funding and gradually falling behind regarding such things as public investment.
These 60 odd businesses have also agreed to pay above NMW, another ray of light in a long starless night. Let me put my suspicious mind into gear, could this actually be another way to wipe out Unions ? The ZH economy will likely explode given the ways of the current Government. Will "Charters" become the way of things ? If so, who will be the writers of these things ? More urgently, will workers be meaningfully involved ?
Despite all of the above, I thank everyone of those businesses and Mr Burnham for their far sighted views and altruistic outlook. Fingers firmly crossed here.
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