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What’s the Point?

November 28, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

What’s the point in having a competitive, efficient economy if most of the people working in that economy are unhappy? Should workers have to put up with having no power, getting paid less in real terms than in the past, and having far less favourable work conditions just to create an economy more able to compete in the global marketplace?

And even if that objective of greater competitiveness is achieved isn’t the first response of the competing countries or companies going to be to do exactly the same thing and to degrade their worker’s lives even more? Isn’t this a classic “race to the bottom” situation?

In recent times there have been a lot of examples of this exact failing even here in New Zealand. For example, there have been stories of petrol station and supermarket employees having money deducted from their pay to cover losses due to theft that they couldn’t reasonably be blamed for. One was offered the option of having her pay docked or resigning. She resigned but the employer docked her pay anyway. She was being paid $13.75 per hour. What kind of inhuman monster acts that way to another human being?

And that callous and indifferent attitude is also demonstrated by big US corporations, such as the recent example of Walmart. They pay their workers wages inadequate for a reasonable life but don’t worry, they ask for donations to help those people – from other low paid workers! Meanwhile the piece of scum who inherited this evil empire (Alice Walton) lives in a $25 million Manhattan condo and is “worth” 35 billion dollars.

Unfortunately this is becoming a more common phenomenon. Before the power of unions was broken the employee had some level of protection but now there is nothing. Note that I’m not advocating a return to the “bad old days” where some unions had too much power and exercised it in irresponsible ways, but I think there is a need for the power balance to become a bit more equal.

I think the problem gets back to a sense of entitlement and a general arrogant attitude held by many managers and other employers who believe they can do almost anything because people are desperate for work and just have to put up with whatever suits the employers whim at any particular time. And the legality of many of these actions doesn’t seem to be much of an issue to many.

This arrogant attitude comes from several sources: first, the general zeitgeist that private enterprise is the answer to every problem; second, specific ideas instilled in managers through management training and reinforcement from people further up the hierarchy; and third, the mind-numbing adherence to rules and best practice principles which many people use instead of actually thinking.

Of course I am mainly referring to the situation in larger organisations here because most of these deficiencies are hardly likely to exist in the people running your local corner shop or other small business.

And that leads to an interesting observation people working in large organisations often make. The management, especially those involved with staff, are like a different species. It’s like they have a rule book instead of a brain. They refuse to think and apply reasonable common sense to a situation, instead they quote rules and regulations that no reasonable person would even know exist, and certainly wouldn’t care about.

I think it’s becoming apparent that we do need a change of direction, otherwise we will end up with the most efficient economy where the top 1% get all the benefits and the rest of us are little better than slaves.

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