The following exchange from Under The Bridge happens early in the book, the conversation is in The Dealers Arms in Garston, between Michael who is in his 60s and a younger Vinny.
Michael changed the subject. ‘And what do you do? Vincent, is it?’
‘I work in a shop in town, nothing very exciting.’
‘Are you working tomorrow?’ Anne asked.
‘I was supposed to be, but Robbie cancelled it. So I’ll try and get some Uni work done.’
‘Why has he cancelled?’
‘You know Robbie. Maybe he’s got some student hottie he prefers to the oldest shoe shop worker in town.’
‘He’s not that bad, is he?’ Anne asked.
‘No, it’s not just him. They can cancel your hours and call you in any time they like. It’s crazy.’
‘You don’t know when you’re working, no regular hours, like?’ Michael asked.
‘There’s supposed to be, but they are always changing them.’ Vinny took a drink of his lager.
‘Casual, day labourers. On the lump, we used to call it. No contract, cash-in-hand. It was all over on the buildings ’til the unions got in and sorted them out.’
‘We’ve got contracts, zero hours.’
‘How can you have a contract that is no hours? That doesn’t make sense. Sounds like the bad old days coming back round.’
On ‘the lump’ was the term for casual labour, no contract cash in hand, no training, no safety, no holiday or sick pay, no national insrance. Ricky Tomlinson and Dessie Warren went to jail for campaigning against these practices and for regular contracts and employment for building workers. These workers did nothing illegal, and yet the the state conspired to send them to jail.
Micheal is right above when he says it sounds like the ‘bad old days coming back round’, except they aren’t coming, they are here.
‘The lump’ is now official government policy, zero hour contracts, agency working, no overtime pay, temporary contracts, no time or pay for breaks. This is what Ricky and Dessie and thousands of other Trade unionists fought against.
This was the point of Thatcher, to turn around the gains won by workers in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, including the Garston dockers in Under The Bridge, that was why she needed to defeat the miners, to get back to a situation where bosses could do what they liked, and workers have to piss in bottles.
And how do they do this? How do they get normal people to look the other way and do nothing?
They wrap themselves in the flag. They are not stupid- they are using your respect for your father and grandfather to rob you- when they have the flag behind them – they want you to think of the first and second world wars. Whatever we think of those wars there is universal respect for the men who fought in them, our fathers and grandfathers. Government ministers wrap themselves in the flag to pretend that the values of soldiers, comrades in arms, of looking out each other, being willing to risk all for your mates – are their values.
But we know the reality, their values as Boris explained this week are ‘greed and capitalism’, the problem with individual solutions is that they only work for individuals.
If they want to fly the flag everywhere let us fly it over the thousands of food banks that help millions of people eat, so when we see government ministers we know exactly who is responsible.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson has broken international law by unilaterally extending the grace period for the introduction of controls agreed with the EU, Matt Hancock broke the law in failing to report contracts during the pandemic- Will they face consequences? Will they go to prison like the innocent Ricky and Dessie- In the words of Jim Royle – Will they shite.
Leave a Reply