The Hat

The Hat is our diary column with a guest writer

Regulars > The Hat

17 May 2020

Erik Cramb is a retired industrial chaplain and a current activist with Dundee Pensioners’ Forum.

The diary column is entitled

The Hat in memory of its first contributor, the inimitable Edinburgher Martin Currie.

Old Hat!?

Frank’s challenge

A question posed by a fellow member of Dundee Pensioners’ Forum got Erik Cramb thinking about the relative value of people’s jobs

IN RESPONSE to my recent letter, “Do they have to have it all”, Frank Feechan posed this question, “How can we as the Dundee Pensioners’ Forum contribute to ensuring we do not return to ‘normal’?”

Frank was referring to the brief list of workers who I had said had kept the country going in recent weeks but had been hitherto vastly undervalued.

Here’s what I said:

“Maybe things will change. Maybe the announcement on Easter Sunday of a 3.3% pay rise for care workers by the Scottish Government is an indication of a move towards recognising that which is really important. Perhaps the Prime Minister will follow his thankful words to the NHS staff who saved his life with new investment in the NHS. Maybe the posh and powerful will find new sight and recognise their dependence on lorry drivers, bin men, shop assistants, bus drivers, taxi drivers; the folk who have kept the nation functioning.
“But, will they quickly revert to type and continue to want to have it all? The news that some private firms have increased their price for facemasks by 700%. MPs accepting £10,000 to ‘help’ them work from home; these are not encouraging signs. They clearly still want to have it all! Can we find ways of making sure things do not return to what they like to call ‘normal’?”

It provoked me to flick through my daily newspaper and list all the jobs that people do. In just a single newspaper, these were mentioned:

Journalists; footballers; undertakers; medical workers – doctors, nurses, dentists; cleaners; cooks; porters; scientists; drivers; traffic wardens; politicians – local and national; farmers; prison staff; emergency workers – police, ambulance and fire; bankers; economists; actors; celebrities; academics; social workers; weather forecasters; telephone engineers; shop assistants; school teachers; classroom assistants; janitors; cleaners, barbers; clergy; council officers; leisure staff in gyms and pools; fishermen; fish processors; lawyers; probation officers; social workers; painters and decorators; railway workers; bus drivers; distributers – Amazon depot workers; packers; drivers; oil workers; SEPA staff: butchers; whisky producers; bar staff; supermarket staff; auctioneers; airport staff; pilots and cabin crew.

No doubt with another couple of newspapers I could triple the number of jobs people do.

I then started to think about what are the essentials of life in a modern society. I came up with these:

  • Food and water – farmers and all the people involved in food reaching the table.
  • Clothing – all the people from third world sweatshops to our shops
  • Shelter – all those involved in building – and those who do mortgages and rents
  • Education – school teachers, college and university lecturers, porters, technicians
  • Healthcare – NHS and social care partnerships and chemists etc
  • Safety – emergency services, defence forces
  • Leisure – TV, sports people, etc.

Then weaving all these things together – or exploiting them – bankers, politicians, internet suppliers, transport services, communication services.

Like Frank I don’t know how we change things, but I wonder if we can somehow promote a process of ranking the importance of workers – e.g. putting the likes of farmers, drivers, teachers, carers and so on into category 1, bulk of jobs into category 2 and then category 3 would be the chancers that rip us off or do next to nothing like hedge-fund managers, members of the House of Lords etc.

What do others think?