Some time ago I worked for an institution on a fixed-term basis and was paid a generous hourly-rate for this. Not long after I started there, management called a meeting at which financial difficulties were highlighted. They were, they told us, fearful for the future and so were looking into cost-cutting measures. Following the meeting, the union and permanent staff got together and presented management with a proposition. The hourly-rate for temporary staff was identified as being generous for the sector, so why not cut that rate to save money? In so doing they were failing to acknowledge that temporary workers’ higher hourly rate of pay has traditionally compensated for a lack of other benefits and for the many difficulties inherent in their temporary status, but that is another story.
Management responded positively to this plan; instituted the cuts as soon as possible; and for the permanent contract holders, all looked well in the world again. Happy days. However, several months later, management announced that the 40 or so permanent contracts were to be reduced to 5. All existing members of staff on permanent contracts would be eligible to apply for those positions, with any unsuccessful applicants being offered a short-term temporary contract on an hourly-rate.
The permanent staff in their rush to protect their own interests had in effect negotiated their own pay cut. Oh, the irony. Presumably they had forgotten that nothing in this world is permanent and it is perfectly plausible for any one of us to find ourselves in a less advantageous position at some point.
With that in mind and with a bit of a housing slant, I can’t help but wonder why so many of those currently in better, more stable and permanent positions seemingly allow the already more precarious situation of others to be attacked still further. Why, when research suggests that an alarmingly high percentage of us are only one pay cheque away from not being able to cover our rent or mortgage payments, are we not campaigning to ensure that we have enough social or council housing available to provide a safety net? Why are we not pushing for longer periods of tenure in the private rented sector so that if we need that kind of accommodation, we will not be required to move our families again and again? When we know of the security and sanctuary that our own homes can offer, how can some expect people to walk away from theirs because of the Bedroom Tax or because a new maximum payable in housing benefit has been introduced?
Perhaps I am being hopelessly naïve but to me it seems logical that in ensuring adequate support is in place for those who need it, we are ultimately protecting ourselves too. I struggle to comprehend why anybody wouldn’t want to do that.