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Because You Aren't Worth It

I don’t recognise our society anymore. I don’t recognise a society that is accepting of the idea of bribing employers (yet again) to hire disabled people. I don’t recognise the attitudes that criticise opposition to this; as if the opponents were in favour of denying vital opportunities to those people.

Who decides the worth of people? What gives an unelected banker, who has been handed a glut of unearned privilege, the right to decide whether someone is worth even a sum of money as risible as the NMW?

Who has decided that money is the sum of a person’s worth?

If a disabled person can do the job then a) hire them and b) pay them at least the NMW. Anything else is exploitation. To then patronise a disabled employee by trying to argue he or she is only worth £2 beggars all belief.

Oh, but these are people that are by virtue of their disabilities, aren’t as productive!

Is that the measure of a man these days? Who decides a person’s rate of productivity? How is this measured? We are human beings with thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, we aren’t fucking robots! By arguing that a person should somehow be paid less than the legal minimum you are reducing the entire worth of a person to a risible pittance. £2 an hour anywhere else would get you laughed out of town, even the Jobcentre couldn’t compel you (though I’m sure they’d try) to work for that amount precisely because it’s below the legal minimum; it’s an employer openly and obviously trying it on.

But if you’re different; if you have a psychology or a physiology that’s different, then it’s acceptable not only to offer such a demeaning sum but to criticise you if you don’t jump at the chance. Look, here’s a pair of shiny round coins for you, don’t you want to have them? Wouldn’t your life, all that encompasses you as a living breathing being, be entirely the richer for it? All you have to do is sweep the floor, lick some envelopes or press some buttons (because fuck me if I’m going to stoop to doing the dirty work my business requires to function when I can pay someone as little as possible to do it for me). Why would you refuse?

How utterly and completely degrading is that? But the propaganda is in full flow: it’s better to have these people doing skivvy work (because that’s all they are good for isn’t it!) than sitting at home ‘festering’. Again it’s the assumption that the only activity of any worth in society, of any worth to the life experience of a human, is in paid servitude to another. But even that isn’t taken seriously by those that propagate the notion otherwise the work available would be worthwhile and properly compensated. When the boss wants you to work for even the NMW, never mind £2 an hour, you know they don’t care about your well being!

But these poor folk can’t match the productivity of their ‘normal’ peers!

Who decides? Who says? If someone can do the job, why are you looking to pay them less for it than at least their colleagues? No one’s productivity will be exactly the same as another’s. If you think a disabled person can do the job then, by definition, you are agreeing they are worth at least the NMW for it. If you don’t think they can do the job (assuming you are being honest and not disablist) then don’t hire them – but don’t moan about people that can’t find work receiving benefits.

The only barrier to work for disabled people in 2014 is the attitude of employers. At the very least are there not grants and funds available to help deal with equipping the workplace to make it accessible, etc? Aren’t such schemes the mark of an evolved civilised society? Or is it too much hassle (even though making those adaptations is giving work to someone) for lazy employers – the kind that can’t be bothered to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and want to pay someone (as little as possible) to do that for them while wiping their arses.

As ever this attitude isn’t challenged: the Tories pander to big business and the boss class in society while condemning anyone else when they perceive similar demands are being made. It’s ok to subsidise the wage bill of employers, but not to pay people enough to live on when they can’t find work (keeping them desperate enough to accept the shrinking standard of pay and conditions on offer, of course).

So the attitude seems to be that disabled people will find it hard to get work – unless we offer it to them, but we aren’t prepared to do that unless we are allowed to pay them £2/hour and everyone else, including our rivals in business, make up the rest. If this isn’t the sort of attitude that the Tories abhor, when they perceive it (i.e. create straw men) in the unemployed, then I don’t know what is.

Work is not the be all and end all of human existence. If you want people to make a positive contribution in their lives then give them the means to do so. People that can’t work or can’t find work should be given a decent standard of living, no question asked. They should not be punished by a system frightened that, if they give ‘free money’ they will turn into fat skivers addicted to beer and TV; they should not be victimised by the prejudice of those that have the power to change things. Who knows, with the right support such people might be able to make their own way forward and become self sufficient.

But that’s not what capitalism wants: it wants a compliant, fearful, labour force, willing to believe they are the authors of their own misfortune. This pool is then ready and willing to fight each other for the scraps the masters throw from their banquet table of plenty, like starving dogs. They don’t want people with knowledge and power because then who would choose to work for £2/hour in the gulags of tax dodgers.

Finally, there are obviously limits on what some people can do. However that is true of anyone; people are different whether they are traditionally disabled or not. It has been suggested that Freud’s odious comments were aimed more at those with limited mental capacity: severe learning difficulties or high levels of autism, etc. Not, for example, blind people, or someone whose legs no longer function. I don’t think that makes it any less patronising because the bottom line is the same: if someone is doing a job pay them a decent wage for it. That is surely the best way to creating equality. Ok they might be sweeping the floor or collecting trolleys – and they may even enjoy it (which is entirely their right to do so) – but at least pay them properly, show them they are worth their weight as a human being, not a means of production.

What is our society worth if employers can avoid their responsibilities? Employers should be proud to pay someone a good wage, not look at that as an inconvenience. They should be proud their staff can then contribute economically and not be dependent on foodbanks. They should be proud to pay taxes so their staff can be educated to do the job and cared for if they fall ill.

Why are disabled people exempt from this? Even if their opportunities are in some way limited, that should not mean they aren’t at the very least paid properly. You cannot have it both ways: to both hire someone you don’t think is up to the job and then pay them a risible pittance. If they can do the job, able bodied or not, then pay them properly. That we are having to have this discussion is an utter disgrace. The Tories have long hated the NMW, they argue it inhibits profit. Sometimes that's a price worth paying.


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