I’m at the till in Tesco and remember back to over twenty years ago, when I worked in Quinnsworth as a young dogsbody. Mopping floors, stocking shelves and washing down the butcher’s fridge, all for IR£1.60 per hour. The good old days, really.
I’m talking to one of the lads in the shop and he’s telling me that it looks like they’ll be going on strike. Saying “They want me and the old school gang gone” with a sigh that can’t conceal the hurt of the loss to come. He’s a local institution and his loss will be felt in the area.
You see, Tesco are “streamlining” their work practises and “modernising” their employee work patterns. In layman’s terms that means, without concern for loyal staff, tearing up contracts and implementing watered down new ones. This, you would imagine, is illegal. It is not. Nor is it a new development. Nor, sadly, do the general public give a Shit. Why would we care about a problem for 6% of the Tesco employees? “Every little helps…?”
The Luas workers have announced they are to postpone their scheduled strike this weekend to engage in further talks. They are quickly becoming the punchline of 2016. As in, any display of gluttony is met with “You’re as greedy as a Luas driver” and a derisive snort.
Just don’t mention that the 25% pay rise, widely reported, is a myth. Forget the fact that the Luas drivers, in a rare act of solidarity, refused better terms as they were to be paid for on the backs of future workers. They don’t want the two tier work place currently endured by our Teachers, Nurses and Gardai. But that isn’t as convenient a tale as cheap quips and slagging. “There but for the grace of God, go I…”
ActionAid have today said that “Ireland’s tax treaties are hurting developing countries”. This is a polite way of saying Tax Haven Ireland Inc. is helping Multinationals avoid paying taxes in the countries where they run their production sites, as long as they have a Brass Plate Tax Inversion site in here. “Beggar thy Neighbour…”
This “news” is not news at all. We all know it’s going on. We all accept that when Michael Noonan said he “didn’t know where the extra Billion Euro in Corporation Taxes” had come from he was spoofing. We understand, he just didn’t want to vocalise that Ireland was benefiting from record Multinational Tax Evasion in 2015. But failing to acknowledge it is happening doesn’t stop it happening. In reality, pretending you don’t know IS tacit approval.
Just like failing to support the Tesco workers is tacitly approving that employers can unilaterally rip up contracts. Just like the media reporting the Transdev lie of a 25% pay rise and reading out “witty” texts on how “a monkey could drive a tram” is allowed pass as reportage. Just how ActionAid’s report is listed 17th on RTE’s website, 8 places below Johnny Depp’s dogs!
It’s infuriating that so many people cannot see the linkage between a loyal Tesco Employee and a Developing Country. They are both taken advantage of, then marginalised and then dismissed. What ever happened to the Clery’s workers…?
It’s an inconvenient truth that if we don’t stand up for what’s right, the injustice moves on to the next target. Sooner or later it will get to you or someone you do care about. And when it does you will be met with “That’s awful, someone (not me) should do something” or the emphatically impotent “There but for the grace of God, go I” or the most common reaction of “As long as I am alright”.
If we don’t see that our failure to act, be that through greed or disinterest, only brings the next injustice one step closer to our door, then we tacitly approve of inequality. If we feel “I’m alright Jackism” justifies looking the other way, then we invite the wolf to our own door. Every time we behave as “I’m Alright Jacks” we let the system remove another barrier to social equality. Whether it’s watering down employment terms and conditions or asset stripping another country, by looking the other away we risk our future.
When the wolf knocks on your neighbours’ door and they come running to you for help, what will you do? Will you let them in and stand by them as they seek justice. Or will you, like so many do, turn the lights off and pretend you’re not home. Will you stand by and watch them eaten, as opposed to standing by them?
Or will you look up from your iPad and realise that if the wolf is next door, he could be here any minute? By then, it’ll probably be too late.
Sure, as long as I’m alright, Jack…
Tony Groves April 2016