Why can’t people be allowed to top up their meagre wages?
BY CJ Stone
It’s that time of years again folks.
The clocks have gone back, it’s dark by five in the evening, and there’s a smell of decomposition in the air.
Meanwhile the mushrooms are sprouting, the veil between the worlds has lifted and there are spirits roaming amongst us.
Whether you believe in spirits or not isn’t important. What we are remembering is our own mortality. By honouring the dead we are paying attention to the fact that we are alive, and that life is rare and precious.
One of the news stories this week was about the fact that there is fruit being left on the trees because Eastern Europeans aren’t picking the harvest due to Brexit uncertainty.
According to the Grocer magazine, there are 1,500 unfilled vacancies on British farms.
It’s not that many years ago that most seasonal farm work was done by British labour on a casual basis.
I used to do it. Most of the people I knew did it. It’s good work, cash in hand, with lots of benefits. Up bright and early, in the fresh air, it connects you to the land and to the season in a way no other job can.
Traditionally it was done by women for pin money. Or it was done by students, or people on the dole. You didn’t have to give your National Insurance number. It was piece-work, meaning the faster you worked the more you earned, but you could go at whatever rate you chose.
You were paid on a daily basis. If it rained you didn’t get paid. I was a single parent at the time, on benefits, so the money came in useful.
They started busing Eastern Europeans in sometime in the early 2000s at around the same time the government started demanding that employers took a record of National Insurance numbers.
I wrote an article in the Big Issue about it at the time. I interviewed a local farmer. He said, “the Eastern Europeans are better pickers. They pick more fruit, they work longer hours and – I have to admit – sometimes we pay them a little less.”
This was in 2003. There still were English workers doing it back then. Since then the Eastern Europeans have taken over and almost no one doing seasonal work is British any more.
This is because it’s no longer casual. You have to declare your income. If you are on benefits you will lose them and it may take months to reinstate them once the work is over.
This seems absurd to me. Why can’t people earn a little extra to top up their meagre income?
Corporations like Amazon and Google get away with billions in unpaid taxes.
As always it’s one law for the rich, and another for the rest of us.
From The Whitstable Gazette 31/10/19
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ
Phone: 01227 475985
fax: 01227 762415
Whitstable Views: How You Can Help
- Make sure you share and like our articles on Facebook and Twitter, and whatever other social-media platforms you use.
- Follow the site to get regular updates about new articles when they appear. Press the “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and that will take you to the option to sign up. (It disappears as you move the text down, then reappears as you move it back up again!)
- Leave comments on the site rather than on Facebook. Let’s get a debate going. All of our contributors are willing to engage with you if you leave a comment.
- To all writers out there, we would LOVE you to make a contribution. Read our submissions page for details on how to go about that: https://whitstableviews.com/submissions/
- Finally you can donate. As little as £1 would help. Details on the donations page here: https://whitstableviews.com/donate/