Yet another pay week has passed where I have been underpaid and have had to spend the next 2 weeks trying to convince a faceless human resources department that I have in fact worked that day. Our line manager tells me to email HR; HR instructs me to contact my manager; so he can contact them about my hours – the game of tennis continues. Clocking in on an app is an interesting idea that usually falls flat; glitches and bugs often plague such applications and are a recipe for disaster when you are paid weekly.
Maybe it is the software developers’ fault but ironically, that is the point of this piece – shifting responsibility to the detriment of somebody who could very well be in a more desperate situation than you.
Now, I am grateful to even be in some form of employment amidst the global pandemic, but recent events have taken the shine off my own work, and I do not believe I am the only one with complaints at the lower end of the payscale.
Complaints that have been emboldened by my recent reading of David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit jobs’, which I found rather useful in my response to my company’s human resource department.
Graeber underpins problems that have grown inherent in our economies since the 1980s, alongside mass privatization and the fetishization of office culture. The fact of the matter is, that many jobs have become redundant or at the least completely pointless in an age where technology can cure all ills, but the cruel irony is that my pay issue began on an app, so where we go from here is a mystery.
It must be the lesser of the evils, right? Surely technology can decide who has the responsibility to decide what happens with my pay rather than those playing first world office pong. It is quite humiliating to have to quarrel over £80 and for those in the office on far more substantial wages. Must be a proper power trip for those in a position where everybody recently got new phones and company MacBooks; much to the dismay of us on the ground.
Insistence on maintaining bloated offices and middle management departments is in large part due to the need to maintain stability up top and on the government’s end, to prevent mass unemployment. The modern corporation has become full of paper pushers and box tickers of which more than 50%, according to Graeber’s research, admit they dislike or find their job pointless. This is not such a surprise.
There is no wonder why I am being treated this way by those in higher positions when their only salvation is lording over laborers in an otherwise meaningless job. I feel sorry for them in that respect.
The level of distrust over a small pay packet also points to a major flaw in our lack of connection to each other as functioning human beings. Quite often when one feels threatened, they try to avoid or even shift responsibility to lighten their load but this mentality towards work is extremely worrying and the business world must take note.
Poor company culture ultimately bleeds into our culture outside the 9 to 5 and how we can operate in this economy.
Had I been a single mum of 4 on child support, trying to put food on the table, the consequences would have had a bigger impact on the company’s reputation had she not been able to buy her child’s critical medication that same day. Lucky I wasn’t that single mum.
So why have my meager wages become a HR nightmare?
This reputational justification for middle management tedium still does not get to the point regarding our treatment of anybody employed or even unemployed receiving benefits late or incorrectly. Adopting new technology en-masse to streamline decision blunders like my own would certainly ease these problems but you have the added conundrum of mass unemployment.
Graeber points to universal basic income (UBI) as a solution to the drivel; this will simplify decision-making and pave the way for more technologically efficient companies, whilst allowing everyone to live without the fear of destitution.
Countless studies have proven that giving everybody a set income per month does not encourage unemployment and that people becoming lazy or dependent is overwhelmingly false. This mentality in which we cannot trust each other is largely why it took me 14 days after my actual pay date to receive my missed wages, there was simply no faith that I was telling the truth. Sure, I could have been lying but have we become so cold and suspect that we assume everyone could do the same.
When you remove that threat of eviction with UBI or falling behind on bill repayments, crime falls, trust rises and those otherwise in tedious jobs will leave and fill gaps in our economy that are in much more need such as healthcare and education; not forgetting a mass upskilling of the workforce that would occur.
It is an economic cheat code for rich-world economies and would even allow us to look more outwardly, to help developing nations if you want to go that far. The possibilities are endless with universal basic income.
As for that £80 and the other millions, like myself who have gone through similar moments of humiliation at work, our situation could have been mitigated.
This is not an advertisement for UBI because it doesn’t need one – we have proven it half-possible during the pandemic with our furlough scheme, backed by Britain’s most ardently conservative government since Thatcher.
Admittedly, furlough payments racked up enormous debt putting many of those in power, off the idea of a future UBI payment but a global pandemic with strictly limited activity is a poor example of UBI’s benefits. Much to the misfortune of those it would help, mainstream politics is completely turned off to the idea as they continue to fixate on macroeconomic indicators and not on your average food bank visitor.
Furthermore, if UBI or programs like it have taught us anything, it is that our current system, the freewheeling, free market, is building up far too much friction and leaving us in a place where we are forgetting what trust, kindness, and respect in the workplace feels like.
People should not have to wonder where their next meal is coming from, not in any country for that matter but certainly not in modern Britain, anyone who says otherwise needs their hard drive checked. It will take a mammoth intellectual effort to work out the intricacies of UBI but if this can light a fire in your mind, then my job here is done – in the meantime, I better get back to my real one! 😉