THE NOTION of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work was never seriously endorsed by the real world.
Yet we still manage to feel outraged when a banker partly responsible for billions of pounds of losses and the subsequent collapse of his own bank collects a £700,000 a year pension.
We ask questions when we discover that a Kirklees-employed plasterer collects £42,000 in overtime and bonuses on top of his £18,000 salary, as was revealed early this week.
So who’s doing well and who’s doing badly in this recession? And why?
The Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce – with its overview of economic trends in Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield – can be said to have its finger on the pulse of local businesses.
Its officials have a fair understanding of what that means up close and personal in terms of redundancy and unemployment, the removal of overtime and bonuses, the paring to the bone that is an inevitable aspect of economic depression.
Its latest quarterly economic survey acknowledges that we’re in a disastrous recession – but also detects many instances of a dramatic slowing of the rate of economic disintegration.
“In some instances we are actually seeing an improvement,” said Chamber Of Commerce policy adviser Steven Leigh. “I think there’s room for some very cautious optimism.”
The sufferers so far have been the low-skilled or untrained people. Retail has been particularly badly hit.
“Inevitably these people are the lowest-paid in the community and we see many in very serious financial difficulties,” said Mr Leigh.
“Tradespeople – plumbers, plasterers, electricians and so on – have been doing well in this country, helped by the fact that many of the European Community workers who came over here when the pound was strong have gone home.”
The Chamber is ‘surprised’ that Kirklees is second only to Birmingham in size of payouts to staff, parting with a bit more than £5m in bonuses.
“The council justifies this by saying that piecework finished on time saves the council taxpayer huge amounts of money,” said Mr Leigh.
“Even so, it seems like a very generous payment system.”
Private sector overtime and bonuses have taken a thrashing over the last two quarters.
“Employers can be quite compassionate in Kirklees and have shown great flexibility to their workers. But all surveys say that businesses are operating far below their optimal level. The first things to go in these circumstances are bonuses and overtime.”
Mr Leigh was highly critical of central recession policy.
“I think the Government has used Sir Fred Goodwin, formerly of the Royal Bank of Scotland to take attention away from their inadequate management of their £37bn banks bail-out.
“It takes two to tango. We’re all familiar with doing deals and the Government should have demanded controls on the size of bonuses and pay-offs, and the extension of finance to help businesses, which they didn’t do.
“This made the money nothing more than a gift from taxpayers. This was a terrible misjudgement on the part of the Government.”
Are you a tradesperson facing tough times in the recession? How are you coping? Also, if you are still in a job that pays overtime and productivity bonuses then let us know how hard you have to work for them and how they benefit the business. Contact John Avison on 01484 437719 or email firstname.lastname@example.org