Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Small taste of injustice.

January 26, 2010

I recently finished a stint of temporary employment with a fairly prominent environmental organisation that enjoys charitable status. Along with around 25 other people, I was helping on a project for the organisation that required working outside nearly all of the day. We signed contracts promising us “continuous employment” during the project dates. All seemed well and good.

However, the snow and ice that descended upon Britain earlier this month meant that we weren’t allowed out to work because of the ‘ealth’n’safety. My colleagues and I only had this confirmed to us by text message on the snowy mornings – usually less than an hour before we were supposed to start the day’s work.

This was frustrating enough. What was even more annoying was then being told that we weren’t going to be paid for those days. Through no fault of our own, we were losing pay. The workers were expected to take the brunt of the costs incurred by the snow days in order to save the bosses in their offices some money.

I was in a fortunate situation because I had another job to go to. Many of my colleagues, however, suffered agonising stress as they realised they would have difficulty paying their bills after losing around five days’ worth of pay. Some of these people had been loyal employees of the organisation for years but were being treated very poorly.

The nature of the work means that noone had joined an appropriate union for protection. A letter of protest was written and signed by just about everyone on the team. Even though it seems as if the organisation has broken its obligations under the contract to provide “continuous work” to the project staff, we are in a weak position and can only hope for a sudden sense of generosity on the part of those managing the project.

Most of the project team were middle-class and in little danger of imminent starvation. But it was depressing to witness a charity treating its workers so abysmally. Readers will be kept updated of any developments in this heroic wage struggle!

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Oxfam: solutions, but not (quite) the right ones

April 8, 2009

I’ve just been reading about Oxfam’s latest campaign, which seems to hit the nail on the head in terms of where the new frontier of domestic poverty relief is.

They’ve come up with “FREDs” to describe the people being hit by the credit crunch – people who are Forgotten, Ripped off, Excluded and Debt-ridden (see?)

What’s also great to see is that, after defining their problem very well, they’re advancing some very practical, nuts-and-bolts ideas about the tax and welfare systems to alleviate poverty amongst FREDs.

Still, I wouldn’t be an aspirant blogger unless I had it in me to nit-pick a set of well thought out, excellently researched proposals from an exceedingly worthy cause.

I’ve got to sound a word of warning about one of their proposals – that of raising the threshold on income tax.

This sounds like a great idea – taking poor people out of tax, or at least, giving them more breathing space before their incomes are eaten into by the revenue. However, it’s actually highly regressive: because raising the threshold on the lowest band of income tax affects everyone paying tax, the vast bulk of the benefit accrues to the wealthy majority.

A large chunk of government revenue would be surrendered, with only a small portion going to saving a section of the genuinely needy a few quid per week; the rest goes to the middle classes.

This is an extremely inefficient distribution of the benefits of a tax cut, even leaving aside what would actually happen to that revenue were the government to spend it instead (i.e. on services benefiting working class communities, or schemes to aid the unemployed in reskilling or getting back into work).

I’m not against giving the worse off a break on taxation – I wouldn’t be in the Labour Party if I was, would I? – but there’s better ways to do it. Oxfam have also called for more tax credits: leaving the lower threshold on income tax where it is, but raising higher levels as they call for, will produce extra revenue which can be pumped directly into the hands of FREDs without any of the middle classes getting their hands on the lucre.