Will Clapping be the New Currency When This Is All Over?
Did I miss a memo?
When I was a kid I was taught that the stories I wrote wouldn’t get me anywhere if I wanted to make something of myself
In fairness to my parents, and the other adults telling me to live in the real world, it is incredibly difficult to make a living from writing, or any art, so I should probably have concentrated on doing something that would earn me some money, because I didn’t want to end up poor.
There is no one moment where it became clear to me that I should concentrate on a profitable career, I still think it’s not totally sunk in, I still dream of making a career from writing, it’s a dream that for me I think will never die.
That I guess is what we call life. Do you have a passion that you would love to make a career from? Have you totally given up on your dream? Do you spend your spare time on your passion or have you given up and instead focused on how best to corner the health insurance market?
You have to make money, that is obviously fact. You need to be earning enough to pay for your rent, enough food, you’re probably going to want a holiday every year, you may want to run a car, perhaps you want kids and if you’re ambitious enough to want to buy a house then you need to save for a deposit for a mortgage.
If you live in the UK this is probably about £26,000 - £30,000. That’s the lowest estimate and it’s also just below the national average. Depending on where you live it’s also probably impossible on such a low wage.
If you earn below that then something in the list above has to go, depending on how much less then maybe two things, or depending on where you live then maybe all of it except rent and food.
A group of people whose value is being highly regarded right now is nurses. A quick Goggle search tells me that nurses median pay in the UK is £23,000.
Obviously, as stated, this is just median, there will be many above this number, but also sadly many below it.
I can imagine you go into this job because it’s something of a passion. If you’re lucky your passion can be highly rewarding, like writing would be for me.
Being a nurse is not really a job you go into unless you really want to. I mean, you may get there through unorthodox means, via another route but the satisfaction of helping people must’ve been high on your list, if you end up doing the job
And that’s just it, helping people. Being a writer doesn’t directly help people. I mean, the pen is mightier than the sword, words can influence change, but if you were dying on the roadside after a car accident would you rather have someone who was medically trained or someone who knew the meaning of the word superfluous?
It means unnecessary, by the way.
So if you’re a nurse and you’re earning just below the national average you may happily forgo one or two things from my list.
Despite that there are still times when earning “just about enough” still doesn’t equate to efficient.
Conservative governments and striking civil servants go hand in hand, it’s like clockwork. The Tories get into power and then by early afternoon that same day the unions are planning their strikes before the new government has even had a chance to even announce any new policies.
I became a civil servant for the first time shortly after the Tories got back into power in 2010 and even I was cynical of the unions. I agreed with some of the strikes, not others and by then I was a fully paid up socialist.
Since the Second World War, an event which commemorates its end this week, the Tories have been in power a total of forty five years. Five of those were in coalition with the Lib Dems
In that time nurses have voted to strike only once, in 2017. They were asking for their pay to at least keep up with inflation as they were afraid that such a low wage was driving people away from the profession, this making the job harder for those that stayed.
They’d been given a 1% pay rise but as inflation was at 2.3% their pay actually went down in real time. The cost of living increased more than their pay did.
Other health workers have voted to strike, too. Junior doctors, for example. There was a callous attempt by the UK’s right-wing media to undermine them and manipulate the situation to make the health workers to look like the bad guys, it half worked but the internet is written in ink and we remember, no matter how much those same journalists try to sweep the past under the carpet.
I’m focusing on the nurses because it’s more concise and less detailed, but the junior doctors were right, too.
In the aftermath of the aforementioned Second World War the UK elected a Labour government within two months of it finishing.
Under Clement Atlee, that government introduced one of the finest institutions the British Isles has ever seen, the NHS.
When I talk about being proud to be British it’s because of things like this.
The fact that anyone can go and get top class medical care that’s free at the point of use makes me think that it’s not such a bad world after all.
One of the things that makes me so proud of it is that it’s one of the most ethnically diverse employers in the world.
The fact that it’s a) free for anyone to use and b) so welcoming in employing and adding value to anyone despite ethnicity or country of origin means it flies in the face of what currently stands to represent conservatism these days makes me love it even more.
It must really irritate the right that we’re championing such an institution these days. They know that with every day that passes, with every cheer of a survivor of Covid-19 and with every clap of an NHS health professional that more time will have to pass before the rhetoric of calling for the NHS to pass into private hands will be allowed to return.
Every Thursday at 8pm the people of the UK take time out of their day to applaud the NHS. But obviously it’s not just them. It’s all key workers. The NHS workers are frontline but all the other emergency services, the delivery drivers, supermarket staff and anyone else that has kept the country functioning during this time is no less worthy of their well-earned clap.
Some of the praise for the rest of those I’ve mentioned will be irritating to the conservatives, too.
Just a few short months ago many of these very people were merely labelled, by this very government, ‘unskilled workers’.
Unskilled because it’s considered that anyone can do their job with little, if any, training and if we have anything of an unemployment rate then rather than have those people sitting at home, they can do the jobs of the unskilled workers.
Better them doing it than welcoming in foreigners to an already densely populated country, right?
It allowed the government to win favour with the rabid right that have an issue with “too many foreigners”, even f they can’t admit it.
Among those jobs will be fruit pickers and we’re just coming into season. Fruit picking is not a full time job. Out of season a lot of the workers will return to their home countries and return to the UK in season.
Obviously there are difficulties with this happening anyway, regardless of Cov-19, because of Brexit (remember that!?), but now with this there’s even more added pressure on the system.
50,000 jobs for these fruit picking roles were advertised and only 112 Brits applied. The problem is the money is crap and it’s hard work. The firms that employ these people have properties on site for the workers to live in so the money they earn goes a lot further as they’re effectively living rent free.
But if I live in my house in Kent, where I used to live when I lived in the UK and within easy access to the farms to pick fruit then on-site accommodation is useless to me.
I don’t blame anyone for not applying to do that backbreaking work for only £8.00 (if you’re lucky) an hour but also I’ve always recognised these jobs are necessary so if they can only be done by people from overseas, then so be it.
Low-skilled? Yes. Key? Also yes.
No-one’s using the term ‘low skilled’ anymore. You can scour the pages of these hack newspapers all you like, you won’t find the term.
Now they’ve been rebranded as ‘key workers’. And the stories about them are no longer negative, the previously maligned NHS workers are now being held up as heroes, there’s even one campaign for them to be given a medal.
I don’t know about anyone else but if it were me I’d ask for them to hold their platitudes and praise.
The least the NHS workers deserve is that pay rise to bring them back in line with the national average and at least a year on year increase to keep up with inflation. Unless you’re going to do what the title of this article says and make clapping the new currency.
I’d love it, personally. When it becomes to paying my tax I could go to my local tax office and clap for an hour.
They’re key workers and valued members of our society and the best way you can reward them is to recognise these two facts, and reflect that in their pay.
Otherwise, anything else is... well... superfluous.