UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Which Workers are Key Workers?

A strangely fascinating example on the BBC website of how society distorts and twists the value of workers. The question is asked 'which workers are really key?' A variety of answers relate to a variety of values.

If you believe some then the key workers are Entrepreneurs, Hedge Fund Investors and those who allegedly 'create wealth'. Presumably this would also include Bankers and those financial geniuses in the financial sector. But wait, if you think that the key workers are the NHS staff, teachers, care workers and others who care and look after us then this society disagrees. Pay determines who society values and it is clear in the neo-conservative world then the already rich and wealthy are the most important.

Interesting to note that it is highly unlikely that voters would agree with the market forces in this. Most people would put NHS staff at the top and maybe add in school staff. But they are amongst the lowest paid in the UK. This disconnection between pay and the value we put on people's work is a result of decades of economic practice that supports the view that so called wealth creators are the most important. Interesting to note today that the Guardian carries an important article explaining that the great scientific developments of our age are virtually funded by public research:

In not so many words, the early risks in invention, research and innovation are taken by state sponsored bodies and not the private sector.

The BBC website moves on to discuss industrial power as being another factor by which to judge who is key. A usual tactic in this argument is to regret the extent to which key groups can 'hold the country to ransom'. The latest suspects - Tube drivers and Fuel Tanker drivers - are rolled out to demonstrate the injustice as they see it of key workers having power.

No group of workers are currently as powerful as bankers and millionaires because they are disorganised. But the power of organised workers is used recently to do these things - defend the NHS, defend pensions, promote health and safety in a dangerous service, oppose privatisation of schools and of rail services. Contrast that with the power exercised by bankers - to protect wealth and privilege for the rich.

Organised workers are the key to a better future.