Discontented winter


So, it looks like the Fire Brigade are almost certain to go on strike in the next few weeks. I can't say that I'm surprised, or, for that matter, unsympathetic. They get paid pretty poorly for a dangerous and difficult job, and they've lost patience. I'd be amazed if they do get a 40% rise, but it pays to aim high, I suppose. House prices being what they are in the South, public sector workers have no hope at all of buying a family home (nor have I, for that matter). I saw one news piece some time ago, where a firefighter was sleeping in his car because his family home was a 300 mile round trip away - an insane situation for anyone, let alone someone with such a critical job.

Work discontent seems to be all around. I had lunch with my brother the other day, while he was having one of his occasional days off in Oxford. He works for a large-ish company, and the pressure of work is such that if he took his annual leave in the usual way, a week or so at a time, the accumulation of work when he returned will be so great that he would never catch up with it. So, he takes a day here and a day there, trying to stave off exhaustion. I've rarely seen my little brother looking so tired. He's always worked long hours, but he used to get overtime payments as some sort of compensation. Now the company has decided it can't afford overtime, but of course, the work still has to be done and so they do it without payment.

The "more work, less payment/staff" seems to be a common theme. The obsession in business (and even inside the towers formerly known as ivory), with increasing profit or productivity is such that workers get increasingly squeezed in the ratchet-like jaws of commerce for diminishing rewards. If you are already working to the maximum of your ability, and some brass hat tells you that you have to produce twice as much profit, "Oh, and by the way, we won't give you any extra money or staff to cope with the workload", where do you go from there? The answer is that you end up in a Red Queen situation, or you go insane and burst into tears by the water cooler. It's just not sustainable.