Carers – who will strike for them?

I am sitting here contemplating likely chaos on 30 November and thinking that its a shame that carers have no union. Carers have no pay, no recognition, and most of all no wonderful pension that they can drop all their responsibilities for and come out and strike about on Wednesday next. If carers could, and followed the example of the others who are striking, we could say our strike was for for a greater good, that we see no collective responsibility for the individuals we may damage in the process, and that the longterm advantages outweigh every other consideration.

But we can’t. We are carers because we love those we care for – and thus are sitting ducks.

I’m thinking – as I listen to good, solid, left-wing speeches about ” supporting the workers” – that its about time the left wing drags itself into the 21st century. It needs to recognise that nowadays “the worker” is the lucky one – sympathy and support should be focused on the plight of those who the state has left unsupported and unable to work.

(And yes – New Labour, Old Labour, wet and dry Tories – not one of you has given a monkeys for the plight of this large but clearly unimportant group. For all the care you have had for carers they might as well have been a rural bus route!)

The public sector worker works long hours, unrecognised, for the good of others? Very true, some do. Others earn very large salaries on very specious grounds and do very little in return, explaining, rather like bankers, that they earn a market rate and if you don’t pay it, the best candidates will go elsewhere. (I am thinking here of certain past Council Chief Executives). The public sector worker earns less than the market wage to support society out of a sense of duty? Maybe. Some are health workers and emergency service workers and other ‘frontline staff.’ . Others are about as near the front line as a WW1 general – and earn many times more than the troops in their trenches – but the unions represent both impartially.

Carers work much longer, much less recognised hours than nurse, or teacher or chief executive. Do carers get holiday pay? Hell, they don’t even get pay – and are often stigmatised by the Uncaring Press as shirkers or work-shy, to boot. Carers don’t get sickness pay or pension contributions. They are workers that the state has never bothered to support, or unions to represent or fight for. No one has cared to join forces and strike to give them ANY alleviation or compensation for all those long long hours of ungrudging – but uncosted, unwaged, unpensioned and unrecognised – work they do to save the public purse. Labour and Conservative governments are closer than they recognise.

Ok, I must declare a personal interest. As many know , I an a 24/7 carer of a young person with a disabling and highly dangerous condition which needs constant supervision and specialist care. Until very recently I was also a lone parent (of 3) – and as such I had to fit my earnings, and family life in general, around this care. For seven whole years I had no help from the local authority or government because of a system so sloppy, un-joined, un-focussed  and uncaring that nobody felt a need to respond to my enquiries, tell me of entitlements,  or fight on my behalf.

This is one of the reasons I entered local politics. Nobody should be in the position I was in.

I’m not whining. We all survived and no-one was (much) the worse for it so far, but one of the things that suffered very much indeed was my career and with it my chances of a reasonable pension to support me after all the years of working flat out.  It is impossible to be a full-time carer and full-time worker – and it is equally impossible to pay for the level of care needed unless you earn a banker’s – or a Chief Executive’s – wage. (For those who are interested, I solved the problem by writing. If  you make that deadline online, nobody knows you filed your copy from beside a hospital bed).

But why are we carers not recognised by unions? Why haven’t the unions fought, walked out, picketed on our behalf? Because carers are not ‘workers’? In supporting their well-paid workers in this selfish strike, the unions are victimising both the carer and the cared for with what seems (from the outside) an arrogant lack of care of those who truly need it – and an astonishing insouciance about the consequences of their actions.

My child has waited 6 months for a specialist NHS appointment in London, on November 30th. I am hoping – praying – there will be sufficient goodhearted ‘scabs’ for her to be seen, because otherwise there’s another six month wait. Assuming we can manage to travel to a central London Hospital on that day. No thanks to the unions.

In a debate on twitter today I was told that if the “race to the bottom” on pay and pensions is allowed to go ahead, those who have no choice because they are ill will look back on these days and ask us why we didn’t fight harder

I pointed out that if my child died because the strikers were looking to the future rather than caring for her present, she will never be able to look back at all. And I will look back on each and every striker with such rage, you would find it hard to believe.

Whereupon a – I am sure -personally nice and caring person tweeted the weaselly evasion to end all weaselly evasions:” taking a step back how can an individual withdrawing their labour in say, border agency be held responsible for what may happen to your daughter? “

Come on. A collective intention to strike with the intention of exerting collective pressure to gain collective benefits MUST be accompanied by collective responsibility for the harm you do.

And whether you keep those pensions (which so much more generous than outside the public sector), or whether you too end up in no better position than the legion of unionised workers who accepted major changes to pensions under the last government without a SQUEAK out of you, remember, please the pensionless carers and those they care for.

They have never received any of your benefits -but they will suffer from your industrial action

The BMA and Passive Driving

I see the BMA have put their mighty muscle behind preventing passive smoking in cars.

As a reformed Fag-ash Lil – now 8 years smoke free – I have a lot of sympathy for the plight of the in-car non-smoker. But come on, BMA,  put your money where your mouths are and admit it -it’s not just the cigarettes,  its the people we should be getting out of  cars!

Why not collate all the damage done to people by passive and active driving?

I’ll make a start. Let’s see, there’s: the breathing difficulties  and chemical inhalation we get from exhaust fumes; the damage to life and limb from crashes and collisions  (drivers,  passengers, pedestrians and cyclists); other health risks to car drivers and passengers of hours of inactivity:  things like  obesity, heartdisease, back problems ,  family arguments;  the environmental impact of air pollution, CO2 emission, oil spills and  and diminishing public transport;  and above all,  the complete perversion of our infrastructure because people need to be near roads rather than services, have hard standing rather than gardens, and car-accessible supermarkets and shopping malls rather than local shops.

Like passive smoking, all these have an  undue impact on the ‘innocent’ :  the children,  the non-driver, the passenger,  the cyclist, all those nationally or internationally  who don’t partake but who suffer from the effects of those who do. And it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assert that there are many many in the middle east who are currently passive victims of our horrible driving habit.

If you cost up the impact of all of these ills  it will be many many many times  higher in both human and financial terms than the damage done specifically by in-car passive smoking.

Legislation against the car itself would be a infringement of the right to choose  -but one that would  bring far greater benefits than the infringement caused by legislating against in-car cigarettes.

So why has the BMA not gone down this route? Cynically I imagine that the number of car-reliant  BMA members far outweighs the number who smoke. It is always easier to object to other peoples‘ vices, isn’t it? That’s why so many people are ambivalent about speeding.

So come on BMA. Come on everyone. Lets stop being so partial  and protectionist in our health messages, and tackle head-on the health damaging behaviours of  the majority –  that is,  ourselves  – the damaging behaviours that we contribute to and enjoy as well as those done by  ‘other people’.

You know it makes sense!