Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Future is in Our Pockets

Photo from the Guardian

So, today a lot of public sector workers went on strike, and quite a few didn't. Public sector workers are doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, teachers, library assistants, dustmen, civil servants, dinner ladies, school caretakers, social workers etc.  They are the people that provide so many services that we rely on. If we want reliable public servants they need to be paid a reasonable wage. After all, you get what you pay for.

Some of those public sector workers don't earn enough to be able to buy a house, some are quite comfortably off and others, the bosses, earn very high sums indeed. This is a reflection of the private sector. Some private sector workers are not paid enough to live on, some are OK and others earn more than I would know how to spend.

This is a wider reflection of our society in general, which is not a fair society, in fact the inequalities are growing more than in most developed countries.  Some people are paid much more than they are worth and some people's work is not given it's proper value.  I'm not suggesting that we should all be paid the same, but we need to start to realise as a society that it is not good for anyone when some people get paid obscene amounts while others aren't even given a living wage.

Photo from the Telegraph
The unfairness continues when we retire, and the main reason for the strike was that the government is asking public sector workers to pay more towards their pension, which for many earning around the national average means about £100 a month extra.  At the same time as paying more towards their pension it seems the pensions will be smaller and people will have to work longer before they are entitled to them.

It does not seem that the extra money these people will pay for their pensions will go into a pension fund to secure the future of their pensions, but directly into government coffers, which could make it seem like a tax on people who work as public servants, historically at least, at a lower wage than they could expect in the private sector because helping others was more important to them than earning high sums.

Once, it seemed like a good idea for government to be an example of best practice when it came to valuing their workers, ensuring them a decent pension and treating them fairly.  Instead of leading the way, this government seems to be trying to make it easier for businesses to treat their employees unfairly and without respect.

We are in a recession, it is true, but the language used about public sector workers has at times made them sound like they are sponging off 'hard-working tax-payers' rather than being 'hard-working tax-payers' themselves in most cases, many of who are willing to go the extra mile because they care about their patients, pupils or the others they serve in the course of a day's work.

Yes, I do work in the public sector myself, but only part-time, and I didn't work while my children were young, so I can't expect much of a work pension.  I work because I enjoy helping people and because it's nice to have some money I can call my own.


The other side of all this is how we spend our money.  Do we try to buy as much as possible with our hard-earned cash, or do we try to balance our needs with the amount of good we can do with that cash?  Do we try to support the local economy, organic farmers or buy Fairtrade?  Do we think about the impact our purchases have on the environment and on those who helped to produce what we buy?  Do we think carefully about the impact our purchases have on us and our loved ones?

Are we more concerned with our entitlement than with others' needs?  If we have enough, can we give something to help those less well off than ourselves?

Photo from BBC
 I heard Sir Alan Sugar tried to return his Winter fuel allowance because he does not need it.  It seems this was not possible, but he and anyone else wealthy enough not to worry about paying their heating bills could give the money to Age UK or Shelter or similar charities.

We may have a government which doesn't seem to care about struggling individuals, fairness or the environment, but we can use each pound in our pocket to vote for a better world.  Money has a voice of its own, which seems to be the only one the Tories understand, indeed it is the voice governments of all persuasions seem to listen to most.  It is no use saying we want a fairer society and a more sustainable way of doing things if we don't act and spend our money in a way that bears that out.  Governments are led by what we do, not what we say, as are businesses: if we buy it, they will continue to make it.  Let us use the money we have, wisely, it is more powerful than we may realise.


  1. Well said Karin. This is exactly how I feel. I've always believed that if you want to change the way things work you've got to start with yourself. Be the change you want to see. Only then have you the authority to persuade others to do likewise.

  2. I paid into a local government scheme pension for a couple of years, but when I took on a new job I opted out... We've heard such nightmare tales from retired colleagues over pensions & that's without the changes!

    I agree about the money side, we are very particular about the way we spend, but most people are not interested. How do we persuade others to think about it too?

    Kay :)

  3. Yes, Gai, being the change, leading the way, that way we might have a chance of getting others to join us.

    Kay, I think of it like the ripples on a pond. We can only influence the people around us by what we do and the conversations we have, but they can influence the people around them and so forth.

    I don't agree with preaching, but we shouldn't be too quiet either. Somewhere there is the right balance.

    I'm sure the way you've brought your children up means they are already influencing some people.

    I think there was progress, but the recession has knocked things back a bit. We need to keep at it if we can, as much as we can.


All relevant comments to this post are welcome, so feel free to have your say.