Letter to Labour Affairs about Jobs in London.
To think of the huge choice of work that existed in London at one time during a more social-democratic period when I could have a job as a carpenter almost anywhere and with a wide choice of venues at well over the trade union rate. Also the ability to change jobs like I did. In the 1950s a snowed-up winter with most building sites closed, the temperature being too cold to concrete, I was able to get a job as a shop assistant in a tailoring outfit. Deciding I needed a change to something more glamorous I got a job as an assistant electrician in the film industry. The Electrical Trade Union at that time controlled the intake of electrical workers in that industry. Having my woodworking tools stolen later it was easy enough just to do labouring work on building sites until I got the money together for a new kit. Other jobs I tried was as a telephonist for the Post Office, a trainee bus driver, which I decided against taking as a job in the end. There was a scheme going in the 1960s in which manual workers could re-train for clerical work if they gave a good enough excuse why they didn’t want to continue at manual work. Accepted, I did a six-month course at Princeton college learning bookkeeping, English grammar, mathematics and general office routine. Out of that training I got a job as a liaison officer with the British Railways Board which entailed ordering locomotive and carriage parts for British Rail workshops. I then did a training course for London Transport which involved maintaining tube train brakes and taking them out for testing on a measured track. In the end I finished my day-job career as a planner/estimator, after another course, with the NHS.
It is unbelievable now to think of people doing zero-hour jobs. How things have deteriorated! In the 1950s Afro-Caribbean immigrants, and other immigrants, got full union rates in all building site jobs, all transport jobs and all other jobs that had trade union organisation. Even outside the union no one dared offer the wage that is being offered today for some jobs, never mind daring to take someone on the basis of zero-hours. Yet almost a million people in Britain are said to be doing this as well as so thousands conned into being self-employed which produces a very low income for most and lets the government take you off their unemployed list.
Last night on BBC Newsnight the so-called well-off retired were pitted against the young who have very few opportunities in the workplace now. But it wasn’t mentioned by the presenter or the so-called experts that it was British industry that sustained my generation and that it has now been destroyed in favour of Finance Capital.
Wilson John Haire. 27th February, 2015.