There's been a lot of fisking on this blog lately. More than I am happy about - I try to get back to something more positive and discursive, but then, someone comes along and pisses in my pool. Usually a government minister. This trend keeps up.
Paul Farrelly MP, Labour member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, recently brought in a private member's bill to extend employment rights to people working for employment/recruitment agencies. Now, this is where I have my say.
These organisations have a strong case to be the worst legal employers in Britain today. I worked agency jobs for years, and as a rule, they were atrociously poorly paid, manipulative, unsafe, and humiliating. Agency staff are always desperate to demonstrate power. The second best advice you can have about agencies is always take the first job, because otherwise they won't call you again. They will always assign you the worst first, to see if you'll do it. The best advice, by the way, is to have no business with them whatsoever.
I recall the furniture factory in a half-abandoned mill in Airedale, where the agency staff were easily identifiable. We were the ones without the dust masks. I remember the Royal Mail distribution centre in Guildford where, somehow, the agency staff's breaks never coincided with the canteen opening times, so no food for you! Perhaps the fact most of us were black had something to do with it. The people who were actual Royal Mail employees, all good CWU men, no doubt, were paid much more, worked shorter hours and less anti-social hours, and had subsidised hot meals. Us, well, not so much. The minibus that took us there was driven by a man who, on Friday nights, regularly talked to himself zooming up the M25. I'm pretty sure a lot of my colleagues were illegal immigrants, and I know for a fact that the agency regularly "got their wages wrong" - always in their own favour, of course - because the few of us who were native English speakers had to do their arguing for them.
Working for that particular firm can't have been any more fun, though better paid - several of its own executives used to buy drugs from the Somalis, to keep up with their commission targets. I remember being sacked from a call-centre job for hanging my jacket on the back of my chair, at instant notice. ("We're intitled to an hour's notice!") What sticks in my mind isn't so much the pay as the total absence of dignity.
So, I think Employment Relations Minister Jim Fitzpatrick ought to be...severely criticised, and voted out or deselected by his CLP as soon as possible. I'm occasionally tempted to advocate violence, but this kind of thing rarely does you any good. And compared to Yahya Jammeh, he's a pussycat.
But let's be clear. What the fuck is a Labour minister doing talking out a bill intended to offer greater job security to the poorest workers in the country? Did they vote on it, and lose? Did they refuse to schedule it? No. Fitzpatrick stood up and drivelled away until the available time for debate ran out. He wasn't even willing to debate it.
Damn, I remember David Ames reading out the Basildon telephone directory in order to kill the Disability Rights bill. Jim Fitzpatrick is an anti-democratic, anti-socialist thug. In fact, he makes old Yellow Pages Ames (after all, he was yellow, going on the chicken run after his tenure of Basildon looked iffy) look like a granite slab of integrity.