The "cell unit" of capitalism
Karl Marx observed in Das Kapital that "wage-labour is the basic 'cell-form' (trade unit) of a capitalist society” (Wikipedia). A business will be cold-hearted about the feelings of the trade unit whether it is machine or human. The more productive a cell-unit is per hour the more the business owner can turn a profit. Businesses game the system and the labour laws to maximise profit. A good example is the split shift in the food service industry.
An eight hour day
Roster worker from 11am-3pm
Lay worker off 3-6pm
Roster worker from 6pm – 11pm
So the business has a worker (a cell unit) it only has to pay for eight hours but forces them to be available for 12 hours. The worker has no dignity trapped in a low paid job with lousy conditions. What do they do during those three unpaid hours while they wait for the next shift to start? Find other work? Hang around in the park? Go to the library? Go to a café and spend money they can’t afford? Go home if they’re lucky enough it is nearby? In addition to this our laws changed some years ago so that workers are no longer paid anything extra on weekends or bank holidays. The industry especially needs its workers working hard those days (while all the rich people spend their surplus on eating out). But the worker has zero social life, working Friday, Saturday, Sunday and getting home late every night, exhausted. Not much to live for except the miserable wage.
The right to dignity
This is unconscionable and an exploitation of humans — a form of trafficking going on under our noses. All politicians should stand up for workers who are looking for better conditions. Their role as public representatives must be to help their constituents negotiate (their offerings of human capital) with employers, whether in the public or private sector. When the social agency of workers is being crushed by the system, there is no 'society' and we cannot call ourselves civilised.
Ireland should change the law, go on record as no longer willing to support this sort of unfettered capitalism that has gripped the western world. Everyone has the right to dignity in the workplace.
Politicians, it is time to step up no matter what your political hue happens to be: red, green or blue.
© Alison Hackett, posted 8 Aug 2022
Alison Hackett — Director and founder of 21st Century Renaissance; author of The Visual Time Traveller 500 Years of History, Art and Science in 100 Unique Designs