Tag Archives: public sector workers

Economic Doom and Gloom: A Starbucks Dystopia

20111203 Massage Chair Face 150x150 Economic Doom and Gloom: A Starbucks Dystopia

This picture of a massage chair was sent in by Tim. If only it had been framed a little lower it would have been perfect.  Are you sitting comfortably?

There was more economic doom and gloom this week and about a week ago I tweeted a story about the OECD predicting a double-dip recession for the UK in 2012.  The mainstream media reported the story two days later.  In George Osborne’s Autumn Statement growth for 2011 was slashed to 0.9% and the pension age raised to 67 –  fifteen years earlier than planned.  Public sector workers went on strike over pension arrangements, mistakenly believing they have the God-given right to be exempt from the Global Financial Catastrophe.  I don’t generally subscribe to Tory slogans and ideology, but did someone say, “We’re all in this together”?  Give that man a biscuit and his dog a cigar!  Most of us would be lucky if we could retire at all.

10 days until Eurogeddon

In another corner of Europe, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn warned that we had “10 days to save the Euro”.  With previous warnings that another Eurozone country bailout would spell disaster for the global economy, this should have had us trembling in our boots.  The thing is, headlines like these are beginning to lose their impact.  It’s a bit like crying wolf, except there really is a wolf and it’s such a gigantic ravenous bastard, there’s nothing you can do; it will eat you and all your friends but no-one cares anymore.

But really, 10 days?  We have known about this crisis for months and we’ve had that long to do something about it.  Why the sudden self-imposed urgency that’s only going to aggravate markets when deadlines are inevitable missed?  Incidentally, those bilateral liquidity swap arrangements: did you see the markets jump on the news?  Utter nonsense in my opinion; I suspect we’ll see a “correction” in the near future (he says, writing as a bewildered cynic).

As I write, there is talk of a Eurozone fiscal union and an new EU treaty, which actually sounds quite exciting, particularly when watching a debate between Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Matt Hancock (Conservatives) on Channel 4 News last night, in which the Conservative Party looked refreshingly progressive, albeit because their hand is being forced.  Stability has to be good for the Eurozone and for Britain.

I’m keeping my eyes on the Italian 10- year bond yield, though.

Starbucks Dystopia

In a previous article I rhetorically posed the question about the end game in global economics.  Jon Snow of Channel 4 News fame recently tweeted that 2011 is the year the “expert” died, referring to the fact that no-one had predicted the Arab Spring.  By extension, there are so many so-called financial “experts” who have disparate outlooks; the gold bugs, the doom mongers, the profiteers like Alessio Rastani (who incidentally predicted a collapse of a large UK-based bank in early 2012 based on unconfirmed rumours in the city).  Max Keiser thinks we are all going to end up playing Zynga games in virtual gulags.

My dystopian vision for the future? Last week it was reported that November saw a decline in manufacturing, it being at its lowest in 2.5 years, whilst Starbucks announced it would create 5,000 jobs in the UK.  I reckon we will all end up working for Starbucks, serving each other coffee, the same coins going round and round in a poverty-inducing vicious circle, as we all become ever more addicted to caffeine.

Are you still sitting comfortably?

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Accountability of the Bullying Class

20111126 McDonalds Cup Lid Smiling Face 150x150 Accountability of the Bullying Class

This picture was sent in by Nick and it shows a McDonald’s cup lid.  In this post- (or inter-) recession era there has been a heightened awareness of corporate greed and lack of accountability, which spawned the Global Occupy Movement.

It has become popular to lay into what is termed the Banking Class or the 1%, but meanwhile there has been an ongoing battle between what I call the Bullying Class.  Unions can have as much bullying clout as corporations and this coming Wednesday could see some two million public sector workers go on strike over an ongoing pension dispute.  The country would grind to a halt at a cost of £500m, according to Danny Alexander.   If my maths is right, that’s over 6 man-years’ worth of Cristiano Ronaldo, which sounds pretty modest.  Don’t be fooled though, it simply means Ronaldo gets paid too much.

Besides the financial impact there is the obvious disruption to the hard-working general public.  With schools out, day care will be required for millions of children whilst passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport could experience delays of up to 12 hours.

It is incomprehensible how the unions are still threatening strikes at this hour when negotiations are ongoing and will likely be jeopardised.  Any deal the public sector gets out of this, will be far better than the private sector and I reckon a large proportion of those complaining are probably the same people who scapegoat Greece for the Eurozone crisis, accusing Greeks of being lazy, evading taxes and – wait for it – retiring early.  Ooh. Pot, kettle, black.

This is not a dig at the public sector; this is about what is fair, right and proper.  It is about accountability towards society, both from the private and public sector.

The proverbial scrotum

As stated in the introduction, large corporations often lack accountability and bully their staff.  In the current economic climate small companies have joined the bullying brigade because they have their employees by the proverbial scrotum, digging their corporate nails into their sacks, squeezing them into submission.  Their unwritten motto appears to be “If you can’t take it, join the dole queue”, resulting in a quiet dissatisfaction amongst private sector employees, which they must simply swallow.

Unemployment in the UK stands at 2.62 million.  Bravo to the government for keeping it so low compared to Spain’s 22.6%…

Of course our unemployment rate is appalling and the reality is much worse.  The figures are skewed and kept artificially low by the fact that many people (particularly in the tertiary sector) are only on 16-hour contracts – the point at which one no longer qualifies for jobseeker’s allowance.  Whilst workers often do overtime, their holiday and pension entitlement is still only calculated based on the contracted 16 hours and workers end up losing out.

So who’s really getting the worse deal, public or private sector?

Youth unemployment

In the meantime youth unemployment stands at 1.02 million and last week the government announced a programme to effectively subsidise short-term work and training places, throwing £1bn at providing “hope” to thousands of young people.  They don’t want “hope” – they want the economy to get going.

Is the problem really one of liquidity and will subsidies really make any difference?  Or is there simply not enough spare capacity and demand in the economy?  It sounds like the government is simply handing out (borrowed) money in what is, essentially a token gesture of “hope”.  These schemes appear to be far too short to have any real benefit to young people, with some placements lasting a mere 6 months or even 8 weeks. 


Public sector employees have their place in society and teachers do work hard and I respect them for what they have to put up with in class.  But it’s swings and roundabouts: teachers are rewarded with long holidays, secure jobs and comparatively good pensions.

When I was doing my A-Levels (many moons ago), my form tutor told us how he had been expelled from a large teachers’ union for refusing to go on strike.  He maintained that the dispute was between him and his employer and it had nothing to do with the children – a very respectable and courageous stance to take.

Both unions and corporations have bullying potential.  The difference between corporations and unions is that corporate disputes tend to remain contained, whereas unions typically cause collateral damage, taking the dispute to the average hard-working person on the street who has nothing to do with it.

Both are equally unacceptable and neither is better than the other.  One word: accountability.

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