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There have been some admirably egalitarian sentiments coming from the mouth of our Work And Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith of late. Today he spoke to Andrew Marr about he case of Cait Reilly, the then-unemployed graduate who recently won her high court case against forced labour in poundland .
“There are” said Iain, “a group of people out there who think they’re too good for this kind of stuff”. Next time they go into a supermarket and can’t find what they are looking for, he said, they should ask themselves “who is more important – them, the geologist, or the person who stacked the shelves?”
Well hallelujah and Jesus be praised. Despite being a Tory minister, Mr Duncan Smith appears to have finally grasped what socialists have long understood: that somebody’s income may not be a reflection of their value to society, and that very many people in low-paid, “low status” jobs do work which is of great social importance. It is particularly remarkable to see these sentiments coming from the mouth of a minister who voted against the very existence of the National Minimum Wage – presumably because he considered £2 per hour to be a fair wage for those who stacked the shelves.
If only Mr Duncan Smith’s sentiments could somehow be transformed into cash. If only Britain’s shelf stackers could somehow tap in to the boundless admiration that the Work and Pension’s Secretary clearly feels for their work, and use it to pay for their groceries, and to top up their electricity. Sadly, here in the real world, Iain Duncan Smith presides over a system in which shelf stacking, and a great deal of socially important work, is rewarded with grinding poverty, and chronic economic insecurity. Indeed, n the real world, the Secretary for Work and Pensions operates a policy that allows Morrisons to employ 30% of their workforce as “apprentices” – who, by virtue of their status, are not protected by minimum wage legislation.
Still we cannot expect too much too soon. Let us give the man some time. Now that IDS has grasped that shelf stackers are indeed important members of the social and economic community, we can surely assume that he will be moved to reconsider the desirability of the prevailing economic order. Surely Mr Duncan Smith’s much-lauded Christian conscience will be troubled by the fact that such important work is repaid with such hardship for those who carry it out.
Now that our work and pensions secretary has grasped that low paid, service sector, workers are indeed no less important than geologists, we can surely look forward, in due course, to his plans for constructing a society and economy that reflects this truth.
I thought not.
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