“Holding the country to ransom” is a trope that is trotted out by elements of the media – and often Cabinet Ministers – nearly every time there is an industrial dispute.
When transport workers, ambulance crews, nurses or fire fighters consider taking industrial action over pay, terms and conditions or safety matters, the mantra “They are holding the country to ransom” is repeated as a means to undermine their message. Never mind that these are the people who save our lives or get us places safely and that they were proclaimed as heroes during the pandemic, the insinuation is that daring to ask for a pay rise “at the wrong time” is akin to the actions of a kidnapper or hijacker.
Often the industrial dispute isn’t even about money but is about safe working practices. Funnily enough it never seems to be the right time for people in working class occupations.
The issue of a reported plan by the Prime Minister to lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses took off on Tuesday night (20 September) on various media. Pundits, political commentators, friends of The City or apologists for the Prime Minister repeated the argument that incentives are needed for bankers to perform well. If we pay them more, so they claim, the whole economy benefits.
The current cap is already 100% of a banker’s salary, but can be doubled to 200%, subject to shareholder approval. This is based on an average of over £50,000 to start with. Many are on a basic salary of six figures.
The implication is that bankers aren’t actually working to their full capability, or aren’t working to their full capacity. Either way, if this is the case, in the words of Liz Truss and Jacob Rees-Mogg in describing ordinary British workers, bankers need “more graft” not more pay.
It’s quite simple really. The line taken by our government, and much of the media, is that working class people should put up with a drop in real terms wages while the super rich should be given greater rewards to justify them doing what they are already paid for. So, who is really holding the country to ransom?
Nathan Brown is a community business advisor and a member of the International Workers of the World rank and file union. These views are his own and do not represent any organisation.
- In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit: https://www.patreon.com/incommonsoton