Friday, August 12, 2011

The free market

a worker cleaning up the Nike Store the day after the Manchester riots and looting

12 August 2011

Dear Mr Cameron

If you are listening...I now have a part-time, temporary administrative job which is very nice and it's marvellous to be out of the house, doing something constructive and mixing with colleagues. However, it only pays 6 pounds per hour with unpaid lunch and unpaid early close - as the business did twice this week due to people rioting. When I left university from doing my first degree, I got an admin job for 8 pounds per hour under Mr Tony Blair. I do this current post with other 21 year olds who have just left university or are about to enter their final year. I am old enough to be their mother - if I had gotten pregnant whilst still at school. But I didn't. It makes me wonder why I continued to pursue my aspirations and my education in terms of both academic and vocational qualifications.

I am still getting offered freelance work in writing and teaching but there is no holiday, lunch or sick pay and, actually, some of it is 'free' altogether; it's a good job I'm not claiming jobseekers allowance because they don't approve of voluntary work. Apparently it doesn't contribute towards the economy, despite the fact that it means that companies and organisations are getting free labour. I guess, in a way, it's part of that wonderful Thatcherite/Reaganite invention called the free market. Just look at today’s stocks and shares; investors are allowed to 'sell short' assets and reap the profits whilst I work long hours with no pay - and certainly no protection - and I am not even given the chance to comprehend what a pay cheque is let alone an asset. Last year my sister had intensive treatment for cancer and not only did her organisation not provide sickness pay for the duration of her illness but she wasn't even granted sickness benefit by (your) government until it was time for her to go back to work. Meanwhile, people I know in private organisations are given free private health care inclusive of spa treatments. Yes, the thing with markets is they're unpredictable; full of surprises.

Incidentally, your predecessor, Thatcher, also deregulated the media (as well as the market) to enable profit in the hands of a powerful few to always take precedence over the protection of the public many. You may have noticed some of the consequences of this in the news recently.

Also, I did once involve myself in a capitalist venture. I got a mortgage on a flat. However, I cannot afford to live in it any more, due to the recession, low paid jobs - if any- and the fact that I am not entitled to benefits in relation to it. I now rent it out to tenants and I'm still in monthly deficit. Oh well, living back with my parents in suburbia, at least I get to experience some of the glorious middle aged, Middle England where people who have far less education or expectations than myself have experienced professional careers, followed by company cars and nifty pension packages. But then they boomed in an era which was pre free market economic policy and where cultural and class mobility was possible, or even perceivable.

Ciao for now,

Dr Beccy Kennedy

This post is an update on the previous post ‘Being a Jobseeker,’ – which a few friends told me they enjoyed reading -copied below.

It’s been nearly two years since I handed in my PhD and began applying for jobs out there. I had some hopes to find employment teaching in further or higher education, particularly the former, which I spent six years doing before I began my doctoral scholarship and after I did my teacher training course. Even when I was thinking most pessimistically, at the time of finishing the PhD in summer 2009, I didn’t consider I would still be out of work two years into the future. Then there was the recession. I continued applying for jobs. Then there was the election of the Tory government.

Dear Mr Cameron, it would be wonderful if you would one day came across this blog and read it, as something tells me you are a little out of touch with the way things are in terms of employment ‘opportunities’ in this country – that is out of touch with those people who were not private school, Oxbridge educated and jobsfortheboysed into a comfortable private sector position. Conversely, you are also out of touch with very well but not Oxbridge educated adults who, when willing, are refused employment in unskilled workplaces due to their over-qualified status (please see below). Some of these adults would love to work for minimum wage in blue collar jobs because the begrudgingly given £65 per week job seekers allowance does not cover the bills, let alone living costs.

I am lucky. I mean I am lucky in some ways, those being that I was paid to do my doctorate and I have been given the opportunity to lecture on a freelance or ‘associate,’ sometimes ‘visiting’ lecturer basis at MMU and Chester Uni at certain points over the last three years. However, what this means is that I am given contracts which are three months long maximum to cover each term time, with no guarantee of renewal for the following term. It also means there is no pay over the Christmas period (when you have 150 essays to mark) and that when lectures and seminars finish at the end of March, there is no pay for the foreseeable months. It also means that if you take into account preparation time, designing course materials, attending meetings, marking, second marking, filling in marks and registers and responding to emails from students, lecturers and course leaders, the hourly rate of pay works out about £2 per hour. It’s fairly unsatisfying/unsatisfactory also when you consider that permanently employed lecturers are on an annual salary at least four times higher. So – whilst I’ve been lecturing and enjoying lecturing, I’ve also been applying for jobs which offer a more permanent contract.

I’ve applied for a range of high skilled, mid-skilled and unskilled job types. The first category is typically jobs for which I can put my experience and qualifications to good use. The second category I see as administrative – again, I have experience and qualifications which can be used in admin positions but they don’t really require a PhD. The last category is the one which is supposed to always demand workers and for which little skill is needed – which is why teenagers often do them. My thinking was that I need any job whilst I’m looking for the job, so I applied for all. The following is a list of the jobs for which I’ve applied via formal application (not just handing in a CV to places regardless or asking people I know – which I’ve also done). I got one interview and 90% of the workplaces didn't respond in any way.

I feel the need to make a list of these applications because I believe that the role of the job seeker is a job in itself. I also find it wearing when people ask me whether I have applied here or there, tried this or that, etc, as if I never do any of it (it would be easier to say – my job is this, this is what I do). I did a course on how to fill in an application form and a CV when I was on jobseeker’s allowance last summer. I know how to fill in an application form. I know how to write a CV to fit a variety of positions. I know what goes in a covering letter. I know that employers are supposed to interview you ‘by law’ if you fulfil all the essential criteria on the personal specification. I know that in order to prove you can satisfy these criteria you need to apply the STAR system: give the Situation, the Task, the Achievement and the Result of the example. I know you can’t say, ‘I can keep to tight deadlines and organise my workload effectively,’ following it with just a full stop. I know that you shouldn’t write too much or too little and that it helps if you refer to each criterion clearly. I also know that if 300 people apply for a job and 200 of those people fulfil all the essential criteria, 200 people will not be interviewed.

It feels cathartic, refreshing to get my list of job applications onto paper/screen. Perhaps it’s some kind of naming and shaming. Or, more positively, it’s my acknowledgement to myself of all those hours I have given to job seeking, alongside my freelancing and volunteering. In a way, I have worked in all these places for a few days at a time – at least in my head.

Some job applications with various additional comments
• A level Sociology Lecturer at a college in Essex – it wasn’t the only way
• A Level Sociology Lecturer at MANCAT
• Administrator at MMU X 2
• Cafe Nero barista X 3 – as a coffee addict this could come in useful
• Clarks Shop assistant – I would save money on my Originals
• Co-operative bank researcher – I had an informal interview where I was told that it is a little late on in life to be changing careers from the public to the business sector when I had no experience of the latter.
• Co-operative shop assistant X 2 – at least it’s ethical, as businesses go
• Edinburgh School of Art Contextual Studies lecturer
• Marks and Spencer shop assistant –fits my granny chic
• McDonalds crew – what could be more fun than working in a brightly coloured environment serving happy meals? I didn't make the next stage of the application process for serving burgers. I did lie and pretend I had no MA or PhD. Maybe the BA put them off?
• Mobile phone seller in Tescos - I have a mobile phone. I've had one for years.
• Monsoon shop assistant – discount off my jinglyjanglies
• Nottingham University Art History Lecturer
• Oddbins trainee shop assistant – it would double up as a wine tasting evening course
• Open University Associate lecturer
• Paperchase shop assistant one afternoon a week – they said received a very high level of applications.
• Part time administrator at Shisha arts agency
• Permanent Lecturer posts at MMU X 2
• Quality Assurance administrator – I had done this before in another workplace
• Recruitment Consultant at a Manchester job agency X 2
• Research assistant at LGF
• Researcher position at an NGO
• Ryman’s shop assistant – I could use my experience of communicating with students
• Skills for Life Manager at a college in Sunderland – I had training in Skills for Life teaching
• Starbucks barista – they said they receive 100 CVs a day
• Subway server X 2 – I may not have worked in a subway before but I know how to make a sandwich – I’ve done it quite often.
• Ulster University Lecturer in Academic Methods – because no one wants to work in Northern Ireland, right?
• Waterstones shop assistant – the classic student’s/academic’s pocket money job

Current plan of action: To pretend to be Polish so that I can get a cleaning job or other blue collar position. Or to emigrate to Korea.

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