Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/829/19511
The myth of 'self-employment'
Mike Cleverley, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
If, like me, you have friends or relatives in the construction industry, you will know exactly what the Tories mean when they boast about the number of workers they have got "off benefits and into work" or the rise in the number of 'new businesses' created under the Coalition.
My relative works as a 'hoddie' - an unskilled labourer who carries bricks, mixes 'muck' or mortar and keeps the site tidy. He will be working alongside up to four 'brickies' keeping them supplied with materials. He is 'self-employed'.
This means he is paid by the day and has no holiday or sick pay. He gets no payment for bank holidays unless he works, and then no premium rates. I look forward to Christmas. The self-employed 'hoddie' doesn't - he will have up to two weeks with no pay at all for the days the sites are closed!
Building workers are required to wear safety boots, gloves, helmets and hi-vis jackets. All of this must be bought by the worker before he can even start the job. Many workers who have been out of work have no choice but to borrow from the likes of Wonga to afford this essential equipment.
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries, not merely accidents but exposure to dangerous chemicals and dusts. Sites are required to keep 'incident books' where accidents and near accidents can be recorded.
Every building worker on these kind of contracts knows that when the job is finished they will be thrown back to seek work elsewhere, unless they get moved to a new site. So it is essential that your name doesn't appear in that 'incident book'. The industry can boast about better safety mainly because the paperwork paints a rosy picture. But the reality is very different. Workers struggle on with back pain, cuts and bruises which should get attention but often don't.
Building workers need strong fighting unions to defend them and representatives at every level who know the hardships of the job. They also need a planned economy which would build the homes we all need so desperately and where building workers' safety and regular incomes could be assured. Only a socialist society can even begin to provide homes and decent working conditions for those whose labour will create them.
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In The Socialist 15 October 2014:
£££ Britain needs a pay rise
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