‘Right to Work’ Could Come to the UK

This ability to freely abuse workers was always part of the point of Brexit.

Photo by Dave Phillips on Unsplash

Recently, as part of what I assume will be a growing number of harmful initiatives that will be introduced while we’re all obsessing over the failed coup attempt in the United States, I saw an article that a Tory politician is urging for the stripping away of worker and consumer protections.

His argument, which holds about as much water as the Atacama, is that removing regulations designed to stop employers treating their employees like chattel will make the UK more competitive since it decided to shed the one advantage it had in favour of blue passports and bendy bananas.

I have a story to share with my UK friends and followers. It’s about what work looks like when you scrap worker protections and opt for an American style work culture.

I used to work in a call centre. It was one of maybe five places in the local area that paid above minimum wage. You know, one of those small town places where everyone you knew had worked at some point. But that’s beside the point.

One day the fire alarm went off.

It wasn’t a drill. There was actually a fire in the building. Nobody even got up from their seats. We were told it wasn’t a drill. Still nobody moved. People stayed on calls, people kept their phone lines available. Some looked around to see what others were doing.

You see, we could be fired ON THE SPOT if we abandoned our posts. Bathroom breaks were timed and limited. People were scared of losing their jobs because they chose to flee a real fire in the building. Because that’s what ‘right to work’ means.

It means that your employer can fire you for any reason, at any time, and you instantly lose your health insurance (vital for people living without a public option), your income, your right to apply for unemployment benefits, everything. Technically they can’t fire you for protected things like religion, ethnicity, etc, but in reality they still will and the paperwork will have some garbage about nonperformance or a poor fit.

Eventually, one of the senior management team had to come out and explicitly assure us that no one would be fired or otherwise penalised for going outside to escape a fire in the building. Only then did people put their phones on DND and leave.

See, without the protections the Tories want to strip away, you’re left with a culture of fear, back biting, and a zero-sum race to the top where nobody actually ever gets there. You’re conditioned to see everyone as competition, not colleagues.

You’re subjected to 60+ hour work weeks, no requirement for paid time off, no requirement for paid sick leave, exploitative work policies and invasive requirements that you represent the company 24/7 (e.g., firing you for posting something your boss doesn’t like on Facebook).

This is how you get people (like myself) going into work delirious with fever because they can’t afford to miss a day’s pay. Which you may recognise as a horrible concept during a pandemic. Not that it’s ever a solid policy.

This is a work culture designed to keep you so exhausted, so afraid, so stressed out, that you don’t have the capacity to organise, to enrich yourself, to speak out against anything else they choose to do.

Fight this while you can. Also consider joining a union.

Poet and author across several genres, with a love of photography and gardening. Find out more: https://linktr.ee/hearningcurve

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