A Workers Manifesto

UP THE WORKERS

Who are the ‘Workers’, basically anyone who works for someone else, to earn a living.  Usually those of us who do not own the business we work for.  Today even those lines are blurred, in most of the G7 countries. Companies that have a listing on the local Bourse, often have employee share schemes, to encourage the workforce to buy into the company we work for.  However below Director level, 99.9% of these people can still be regarded as workers, because we still derive the bulk of our paypacket from our day to day work for the company.  We deserve a modern Workers Manifesto.

Workers’ rights, the term rights is largely misused.  It has been devalued, and usually it is workers earned privileges. However these should not be demeaned, merely because we use the word privilege.  A right is something that is intrinsically part of nature.  Neither the birds of the air, nor the flowers of the fields, are intrinsically entitled to a holiday.  So there will not be a workers manifesto, for the animals, but there should be an updated one for us. There is nothing in nature which says Ravens should take X number of days a year off from foraging for food. Or that Roses should stop flowering for Y number of days, because it is their right to take a respite, but humans actually work a number of fixed hours, we need a fair deal. 

 

those individuals are not self-employed

Those working for themselves need to be defined. It is no use a company saying its workforce is mainly self-employed, and so working just for themselves, when each person only works for the one concern. Yes they might be self-employed, in that they are registered with the Tax authorities as such. But they are not self-employed in the true sense, of working for whatever project comes along, from any source, company or persons.  The self-employed need, to be redefined for the modern day, and be part of a workers manifesto. Where one company supplies over 90% of the work, to each individual, those individuals are quite clearly, not truly self-employed.

To all intents and purposes, they are employees, who do some occasional work on the side. They should be treated as employees and have the entitlements that go with company employment.  In fact anyone working for over 80% of the time for one employer, is not really self-employed. Having said all that, it is number of hours worked per week, that really should dictate whether someone is defined as being truly, self-employed. 

 

because they are a lynchpin?

These concepts aside, efficiency allows us to produce higher output and productivity.  The owner of a business, is reliant upon our work to increase their profits, it is teamwork, and consequently should be acknowledged by entitlements given in a fairly even handed way. 

This in itself conjures up more questions, what is even handed?  The person who has worked at a company longest should be rewarded more? Or the person who works harder, should be more highly rewarded?  Those of us with more responsibility should get a larger percentage? Or people whose job carries most importance, because we are a lynchpin? 

Zero hours contracts, helps industry and commerce to be efficient, and efficiency pays wages. Zero hours contracts can suit some of us very well. They can become burdensome, to the employee the longer they are maintained. At some point, they cease to be fair. A time of not less than say three years, but not more than five, is probably the length for Zero hours contracts. Unless insisted upon by the employee.

 

a shortage of Royal Naval ships

The easiest way around this Gordian knot of a problem, between self-employed and zero hours contracts and employers, relies on the fact that to be seen to be fair, sometimes relies on nothing being quite totally equitable. 

One of the problems the newly formed Britain had, at the beginning of the 18th century was that, the Government never had enough money.  The upshot meant a shortage of Royal Naval ships. One way to cover some of this shortage, was to encourage the Royal Navy Captains, to capture enemy ships.  If they were merchantmen they could then be sold. If they were warships, our Naval Dockyards could refit them, to be re-used by the Royal Navy. This recycling, turned out to be a relatively inexpensive way to expand the British naval force. 

But why should a Captain, risk his ship being blown out of the water, in close combat fighting, when he could simply fire at a distance and sink his enemy and be relatively safe.  The answer was Prize money, this was a reward, paid by Her/His Majesty’s Government, to the ships involved in capturing the enemy.

 

Marine Captains and Chaplains split an 1/8

It was highly successful, and Prize money and the way it was distributed, was seen by the British Tar as fair and equitable. Which in many ways it was, even though the money paid out, was much higher to the Captain and Officers, than to the ratings. 

The Captain received at least ¼ of the ‘Prize money’ and it could easily be 3/8.  The reason being the prize was split into eighths.   Two 1/8ths (1/4) went to the Captain and another 1/8 to the Admiral under whose command the Captain was. However a Captain could be under the command of the Admiralty, in which case no one Admiral received their cut, and this went to the Captain.  The Lieutenants and some other higher ranking officers had another 1/8. The Ships surgeons, Marine Captains and Chaplains split an 1/8. While the lower ranking officers, Ships joiners another 1/8th. Junior officers and able seamen, and then other rankings the final two 1/8ths  (1/4), was divided among the crew. Additionally the lowest rankings received higher payments,to those with skills. 

 

next week’s whoring and boozing

This being Britain, Prize Money was overseen by a Court. This ensured no one person was favoured above another, by way of favouritism or nepotism.  The Prize money could often be more than a year’s pay, for an ordinary seaman.  Most of this would be frittered away on booze and prostitutes.  The counter side of this was, those with some ambition further than next week’s whoring and boozing, could save the money, and use it to set themselves up in business. Or alternatively invest the money in a bank, or buy land and subsidise their lifestyle, after they left the Navy.  Many did, the point being it gave freedom, it gave security, if that is what a person wanted. 

 

without being in the least bit equal

It engendered fairness, without being in the least bit equal, and here we get to the nub, what is fair.  Well clearly not everyone receiving an equal amount, but at the same time, everyone receiving a fair share to their responsibilities or skills . The Captain received the most due to responsibility, likewise the senior Officers. But also the lower rankings had additional payments if they had skills, all very equitable  

When we are working for a large profitable company what is fair.  This is where a workers manifesto aims to help, without shackling commerce and industry, with costs, that cannot be endured indefinitely. If a person has agreed a wage, and that the job is to the liking of that person at that wage, there is already a large degree of fairness.  If a person has agreed to work at the company and they had other choices, then surely the price is fair. If on the other hand, this particular job was the only one available, then it might well not be fair.  Here there might be a local monopoly in play. 

 

a great danger with minimum wage

One of the reasons why Cities are efficient, is they allow us to be located where there are more job opportunities.  If we have skills that are in short supply, then a higher wage can be demanded, and as a result, we are usually happier with the situation.  Rural areas often have infrastructure difficulties due to access, and distance. In areas with easy access to low skilled workers, wages are as a consequence lower.  Here is where the idea of the minimum wage really benefits us.

There is though a great danger with minimum wage, it is certainly not a right, and it is doubtful it is even a privilege.  The danger comes when there is the inevitable downturn in an Economy, trade slows, so many businesses need to lower their costs to survive.  Not all businesses sell the necessities for life, in fact the vast majority sell unneeded fripperies, however their workforce relies on them for a job. 

 

Much better to be paid ½ a wage

A minimum wage needs to be backed up by Laws, but the amount should not be writ in stone, especially when the economy slows down.  Much better to be paid ½  a wage for a couple of years, than no wage at all.  This brings us to the matter of savings, but see another essay for that. 

The objective of both workers and owners should be to aim at a fair distribution of the wealth created. To ensure that there are no barriers to promotion, due to whatever personal prejudices. Workers always crave more, owners always crave to keep that little bit extra. After all it is their, company, their idea, their capital, and their initiative. A workers manifesto aims to square the circle of this dilemma. Working to give increased wages and living standards, to those who apply themselves diligently to the work ethic.

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