An Open Letter to Chris Grayling …

Firstly, I’m not nor have I ever been a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party* and, while I’ve heard of Mumsnet, I’d not realised in visiting its site I was colluding with hardened radicals.

I am, though, a job snob who wants to be paid for a day’s work. I have the gall to want to earn a living in a way I might enjoy. I’m also under-employed – along with millions more in the UK – due to a global financial crisis that is not of our making.

While you say young people should be grateful for unpaid work to show them the ropes, to give them experience, to get them a foot in the door, I say they should be paid for the work they do, encouraged to achieve and celebrated for what they can offer.

Our ambition is dismissed as snobbery while yours is celebrated on your website, telling us of your rise from school pupil to Employment Minister via the BBC.

At school I was told I’d never be a journalist, constantly reminded that people who grew up where I did had no chance of “bettering themselves”. I doubt you heard this as you worked your way to the BBC. I doubt you thought for a second that you might end up stacking shelves or see your dream job as just that.

“The industry is too competitive”, I heard at school. “You won’t know anyone who can get you a job through friends,” they would warn. “Those in public schools will be picked, leaving you at the back of the line for jobs,” they’d tell me, urging me to find a job, any job and stop day-dreaming.

I thought aspiration was a good thing, even for a working class child living on a council estate. I worked hard. I got O Levels, then A Levels, then further deferred the gratification of nights out with friends by attending university. I worked most nights and every weekend while at university certain I would never have to do so again, not once I was a journalist.

I did do a week of work experience while studying for my degree but not under the assumption that I didn’t understand what work was: I had the chance to see if I really wanted to work in journalism, not the chance to earn the lower rate of JSA while lining the pockets of big business.

After leaving Royal Grammar School and Cambridge, you went to the BBC. After leaving my inner city school and a northern former polytechnic, I got a job on a local newspaper earning £8,000 a year. I lived in a shared house, struggled to fund the car that was essential to the job, went without meals to do so: fed instead by ambition and a determination not to be at the back of the line for future jobs.

I then worked at press agencies, regional newspapers, national newspapers and magazines. I was good at what I did because I came from a working class background, not despite it.

Then – as the journalism industry was brought to its knees my those seeking bigger and bigger profits – I worked in university outreach, encouraging under-represented young people from working class communities to consider university, to know they were capable.

I tell them it is because life has not been easy for them that they’re sharp as tacks, interesting, articulate, funny and wise to old fools telling them they should work unpaid.

You seem to have concluded that young working class people are illiterate, undeserving of paid training and apprenticeships, and unaware that they’re being forced to work unpaid because of a crisis of capitalism. They’re not.

I worked much harder than you I suspect. I did so because I believed this would secure my future. Now you’re a wealthy politician selling the working class into slave labour and I’m working part-time, as a result of the decimated journalism industry and the savage Tory cuts in education.

I think I’ll be unemployed again soon enough, surviving on £67.50 a week, despite working hard for qualifications and competing with the likes of you for a job in the media. It is all too easy for it to be taken away from us – for us to pay the price for a crisis not of our making.

You should resign. You’re out of touch in defending the indefensible. Your contempt for us is tangible as you line up young people to work for free, demanding their gratitude as they make profits for multi-million pound corporations. You dismiss our desire for financial security and mock us for daring to dream of going day after day to a job we might enjoy.

You’ve stolen the aspiration of working class young people and condemned them to an existence of getting by, letting them take the blame for an economic crisis not of their making.

You should go and you should take your nasty Tory sidekicks with you. We’re not fooled by your plans and neither are our young people.

* Now that the SWP is said to be solely responsible for a campaign defending young unemployed people and highlighting the exploitation of the disabled and unemployed I’m more likely to join. I’ll also check Mumsnet daily.


9 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Chris Grayling …

  1. It’s bloody tough out there and I can’t help thinking that our ‘leaders’ do not realise this at all. All the talk about “sliding back into recession….” sickens me. We are in the thick of a bloody recession and have been since 2008. I’m self-employed and business was brilliant before mid 2008; since then, all I’ve been doing is surviving… Somehow. Of course, I’ve applied for lots of jobs but sadly employers look on someone who’s been self-employed so long as a ‘risk’ particularly in a recession when it is a ‘buyer’s market’. Also, anyone with a degree and post-grad quals and several years of professional experience (as both you and I have), have effectively excluded ourselves from ‘lower ranking’ jobs. It’s not so much ‘job snobbery’ but more the fact that employers simply assume that we’ll last five minutes, moving on to better things asap, which isn’t necessarily the case, esp if, like me, you’ve been searching for any sort of part-time job (within reason!) for a long while now – just to supplement self-employed income. I’ve actually today made the decision not to waste any more of my precious time applying for jobs after receiving two further knock-backs (despite meeting their job descriptions perfectly!). I am going to have to adapt and survive in self-employment or sink. (BTW I have WTC which helps a little but I know I cannot rely on that and need to replace it with more work! Somehow…) PS/ I never ever watch the news nowadays as I cannot stand ANY of the politicians spouting their mouths off about solutions to the economic crisis. They truly have no idea. And they all make me sick to the stomach with their clueless statements.

  2. I think they DO have an idea but don’t care! People like Grayling make me sick. These people take so much from Society, and benifit so much, and then point their finger at the very poorest, claiming that THEY are the burden. From where I am sat, I KNOW who has the greater debt to society, and it ain’t the unemployed, or the sick and disabled! Grayling, I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire. The reason we have poverty is because we have a few very greedy people who hoard the wealth. get a grip! Every time you open your mouth Grayling, a cunning and stupid idiot comes out… need to read up on the Luddite movement, by the way. You clearly like the word, but also clearly don’t know what it means.

  3. Well put, should remind Mr Grayling of Louis 16th…..or better still Maria A. ” No paid work, well let them work for nothing……”

  4. I couldn’t agree more, If companies have vacancies to be filled then advertise them for the NMW. This is a disgrace! I mean, how much training does it take to instruct a young person to fill shelves? It’s absurd that on the Direct.Gov website there are jobs advertised for £2.50 per hour claiming to be for apprentices (I have seen cleaners, street sweepers etc) this is just a way to get around the NMW.

    On the broader issue, not only is the job market really tough at the moment it seems that employers require the candidate to have done the exact same job as the advertised post even though the ‘training’ required would be minimal for an experienced applicant. Notice how the salaries have now dropped considerably whilst required skills have increased.

    As for our politicians – well I can hardly type for laughing – what a bunch of privileged idiots. “Let’s get the unemployed working” they will not rest until the workhouses are reintroduced. Until we get ‘normal’ ordinary mortals into the cabinet this will never change. These career politicians live on a different planet to us mortals – get some of them to live for 6 months on JSA and see how the life of a “scrounger” is so easy.

    I have been a job seeker for 7 months (with a 6 week temp assignment) and I challenge anyone to say I have not been trying as hard as possible to find work. It doesn’t matter how close you have come to securing employment and how many applicants you beat to the shortlist (from 100+ down to the last 2 on two occasions in my case) if you are not successful you are in the same place only slightly poorer.

    • Thanks for checking! I’m fine. No time or energy to write recently. Also, Chaplin had got used to me being in all day so I’ve had to do as I’m told to make up for my absence … or else he’ll move in with a neighbour!

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