Sunday Thoughts: why the price of washing a backside had to rise

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 - europe, sunday thoughts

Running an employment and recruitment agency can be a stressing job – an even more so when you are dealing with sectors in which the normal wage is the UK minimum wage: which we don’t! Its been my policy since day1 of striking out on my own not to compete with what I call “Hayes like” approaches or have more turnover than is absolutely essential in the minimum wage sector. So at present, that’s nothing – not one penny.

As an expanding group, we look to grow partly via inorganic purchase of other companies – and having some specific focus sectors, I have specific alerts set which land in my eMail box every morning. A few weeks ago one came in for a medical organisation (OK, we want to do doctors and nurses – that one could be of interest), so I rang the agent and got some details – yes, all Doctors and Nurses, none of those domiciliary workers who look after the home-bound: great! Anyway, Mr Seller gets a bit stroppy (there’s more in that statement – buy me a beer for the full version), and eventually we have a phone call where it becomes quickly apparent that: the company doesn’t do many doctors and nurses; that 95% of group turnover is in the minimum wage market; and the conversation confirms that its a sector I don’t want to deal with! At one point he comments: “You ought to buy this business – I’ve bought a one million pounds worth of property from this business in three years, and have no mortgage on it. Once you get these thicko’s pushing mops and washing backsides for you, you’ve got them slaving for you for life.” (that one went back to the agent)

Yesterday, the UK Home Secretary Jackie Smith announced during a lecture to the London School of Economics the broad plan for a new system for assessing immigration and issuing of work visa’s to the UK. In summary, its based on the existing Australian system (which was based on the excellent Canadian model), where points mean entry to the UK or work visa’s. Now, this is great for us as a country, but also key to me – we are about to start bringing in Indian Chefs to the UK, and had targeted a minimum of 3 and 4star chefs (and latterly hotel managers), for what is a sector short of skills in the UK. In agreement with my business partner in this sector, we agreed to exclude the bottle washers and waiters, and have as standard a test for English capability.

So what did the Jackie Smith announce yesterday? Points for skills based on sector shortage, previous employment, family and cultural ties to the UK (you get more points for being a citizen of a Commonwealth country), and points for English speaking capability – plus, a minimum wage of UKS7.02/hr: great, all systems go, just need to see the details….. (Conclusion: 100days to launch, civil service to review – so we should get them around a day before launch: situation normal!)

Hmm – knew there would be a problem. So today, I read an article from BBC Wales which says in summary: “We in the care sector had a problem when the minimum wage came in – now we have an even bigger issue with UKS7.02. We can’t care for the elderly at that level, and it badly effects Filipino’s.”

Here’s my thoughts:

  • Do we really run such a dire economy that only we Brit’s should only benefit from good jobs and working conditions?
  • Are other countries in that dire a situation, that they are happy sending their people to the fourth richest economy to benefit from the opportunity which is looking after the elderly and infirm, including the development opportunity duty of washing backsides?
  • Do we really care that little about our elderly and infirm, that a culture which is based on using low paid foreign workers is the only solution?
  • Send them home – not only for their own good, but for ours and for the need to wake up and care for our own most vulnerable people ourselves. Then we might actually care about them – it is after all called a care sector.

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