Updated: May 17, 2021
When she took over as Prime Minister at the start of her ill-fated reign at the top of the Tory party, Teresa May set out to continue her legislative agenda in relation to curbing what she called ‘Modern Slavery’.
I had been unaware of what she had been working on before David Cameron screwed-up his political career with the Brexit referendum and when I heard that her first speech was going to be highlighting ‘modern slavery’ as an evil needing tackled I felt moved to listen in.
To be honest, after a few minutes I thought – what is she talking about – this isn’t ‘modern’, this is the same old tyrannical abusive behavior I read about in my history books at school.
What she was going to be dealing with was the very sorry state of affairs facing massive numbers of human beings in the 21st Century. Those who were the victims of people-trafficking and sex-trafficking, for example, and forced to work for free in illegal labour situations or brothels.
It immediately struck me as bizarre that such a repugnant practice was not already at the top of her government’s agenda, and indeed that of every other world government.
When Abraham Lincoln ‘freed the slaves’, he also drew a line for the entire world to realise that the subjugation of any of our fellow inhabitants of this earth was abhorrent and inconceivable as something that should ever or could ever be tolerated again.
So to draw my own line in agreement – yes efforts to eradicate it need to continue unabated until- like smallpox in the 1970s- the virus of servitude is wiped from the face of the planet.
What I had hoped Mrs. May was ‘actually’ going to be focusing on was what I think of as modern slavery, but which maybe is better titled as -Post-modern – or Contemporary slavery – the sort that has trapped far more people in its thrall to include those minorities that were the victims of the original sin form of the practice.
I am talking about various employment practices that had evolved in the previous decades which are in such areas as ‘minimum wage’, ‘zero hours contracts’ and the so-called ‘gig economy’.
In this blog I will only deal with the first of these to explain briefly why I find it so debilitating for those caught in its web. You will no doubt know of other similar practices that also need to be eliminated and I may deal with them in subsequent writing.
The minimum wage sounds good in theory, but it is too broad brush to be of real use.
As an employee you are selling your time.
It doesn’t matter if you are stocking shelves in a supermarket, playing premier league football or running a FTSE 500 company – you are selling exactly the same product- you.
The idea that the value of a person’s time for doing regular jobs is so low by comparison to those making music, movies or TV shows, is what makes the minimum wage a shackle on those who do these jobs.
Once you accept the idea that there is a whole class of people who only deserve to eke out a living, rather than be rewarded commensurate with the value they add to their employer, the employer’s customers and wider society, you doom these people to a life on a treadmill they can never get off.
They cannot buy a house, take a holiday or treat their family to a meal out without inordinate sacrifice.
Worst of all, in some cases they cannot afford to change jobs because to do so places them at too great a financial challenge as they risk a delay in the final salary payment from one employer and a delay in getting the new wage arrangements set up. Additionally, having to wait between 12 and 24 months for employment rights to accrue increases the risk in moving between companies – again tying them to a situation they cannot escape from.
We hear the phrase ‘poverty-trap’ and ‘breadline’ talked about and it doesn’t move us the way it should. It’s a post-modern-slavery trap and it’s time to think of a better way to tackle!