• our views on work:

  • Simran, aged 20, Willenhall

    Simran joined the party when she was 16 years old when Ed Miliband was leader. She joined because she'd had enough of Tory austerity. Even though she was young at the time, she thought that there had to be a better way. For her Labour was the way to bring about change. She's currently a student and secretary of her local Labour party branch.

     

    I'm a student at the moment and I work part time at a library. I suppose I do worry about my job a bit as I know some local authorities are closing libraries because of austerity. It’s upsetting because I really think the library has so much to offer people. I really enjoy my job at the moment because I get to help people. I'm very happy to help - it's really nice having someone with an enquiry or problem and then you've been able to help them. I definitely think my job is important and I'm not sure what I’d do without it. I wouldn’t know how I'd fill the time. As well as helping people my job is also helping me build up skills so it's a win-win situation. I think work has definitely changed though, particularly locally. Before there was a lot more manual industry around Willenhall. It’s a town famous for manufacturing locks and keys. Now manual industries have gone elsewhere I think because of globalisation. There are jobs locally, but I guess it’s more service industry. I am worried about the future of work and that there might be a lot of unemployment. I know the government says that unemployment has gone down but people are not in stable work - it’s not the same and I fear for their future. I also worry about automation. A lot of the tech created means there's new thinking which is exciting, but I feel it might mean people are no longer required. There needs to be work opportunities for people. I'm optimistic for my future. My degree I’m studying for is in Biochemistry, so I'd like to get a job in the future in science working for the NHS. I know there is a shortage of people working for the NHS, so fingers crossed I'll be ok. I'm not currently a member myself of a trade union yet, but I do think that they are important, and workers should join one. You never know when you're going to need them for help and support. I know people who join trade unions and it has opened a lot of doors for them, but I do think they need to adapt, to have more of an appeal. I’ve come across people who wouldn't bother joining. Also, a lot of people don't know about their importance, so I think people should be made more aware of the advantages.

  • Fran, aged 63, Vauxhall

    Fran has been involved in Labour for a long time. She left the party around the time of the Iraq War but came back into the party just before Jeremy Corbyn was elected. She has had a long career in nursing and the care sector. She is a WASPI woman and chair of Disability Labour.

     

    What is work? I am technically unemployed and unemployable yet I spend a reasonable amount of my time doing what I consider work, which is running Disability Labour. I approach this job with the same amount of professionalism as I approached any job I held as a nurse and that for me is crucial. When you think that people are not valued because they can't work that for me is a big issue. You should not be disparaging about anybody because unless you've been in their shoes you do not know what it's like. We need to have a whole discussion about what work is and what it should be. We need to recognise that voluntary work is as important as paid work. I'm not sure I could go back and work in the NHS now. With really low staffing levels and a system that seems to be more concerned about staff filling in their iPads and writing down everything they are doing, rather than caring for their patients. That for me is a big big worry and something we need to change. Safe staffing levels are more important than automating things in the NHS. It's more important than organising Skype meetings for patients. The majority of things you can't do by Skype - the relationship is different if it's over a camera than when you're in a room with somebody. It’s that sort of human interaction that we need to be thinking much more about. I think that technology can be really good. What worries me is when they suddenly talk about sending robots into care homes to look after elderly people. But people need human touch we need human contact. We need empathy and I'm sorry but you don't get empathy from a robot. I have been a trade unionist for the majority of my career. I’m a Royal College of Nursing member and I'm also a Unison member. For me trade unions are really really important I love the idea if as we educate our children we educate them about the importance of trade unions. This is essential it's about creating a more equal society where we look out for each other and look after each other. If it wasn't for the trade union movement we wouldn't have the workers rights that we now have and we need workers rights more than ever at the moment with Brexit.

  • Will, aged 27, Croydon

    Will lives in London having grown up in Manchester. He joined the party because of it’s recent shift to the left. By joining Labour he felt that he was finding his feet politically. He didn't want to continue to sit passively by when you can actually change things. He works in international development and is involved in his local party.

     

    I really love my work. I feel like my work has value and that it definitely gives me a purpose. I made an intentional decision to go into International Development as I wanted to influence a more just, and green, global economic model. I wanted my work to mean something and it had to align with my beliefs and values. I’m lucky but I think lots of people don't enjoy their jobs. So many people are stuck in a vicious circle of terrible working conditions, low pay and inadequate safety nets. Technology was supposed to make work easier but I feel like it’s just extended the working day and blurred the distinction between work and life. You’re always connected and we seem as a society to be working more and more for less and in worse conditions. I think you also have to have a connection to your work - it's like the Marxist concept of alienation, it’s important for the human psyche to feel connected to the results of your labour and for you to feel you have power over your working life. For example, I love cooking - it's a hobby and I love food and in some ways I can envisage running my own food business, but I wouldn’t want to work in a food business where I wasn’t connected to the end product or was unable to influence decisions. I think having a say over your work is important and you have to have some connection to the product that you've made. Power and hierarchy are also important - my work has a flat structure and I feel listened to. I know I can speak to the CEO and other senior managers and know that my opinion will be listened to. Lots of people don't have that in their work - there's a lack of autonomy which is a really important thing in jobs. I'm a trade union member. I picked Unite the Union because I googled what the best union for a charity worker was and it came up first. I’m all for Trade Unions but I'm not engaged actively and my workplace doesn’t have a recognised union. However I understand their importance and potential as a model for improving the lot of workers. This is obvious given how much successive Conservative governments have sought to diminish the power and individual freedoms of workers to act collectively through a union.

  • Jane, aged 61, Wigan

    Jane grew up in Caerphilly and has been a member periodically for the last 40 years. Her parents weren't active in the party but they watched all the conferences on television. One of her first memories was getting involved in the miners strikes. She’s been retired for 5 years having worked as a teacher and is involved in her local party.

     

    I noticed over my working life that things have definitely got harder for people. Before I felt like things were much easier going and we were able to make decisions. One of the reasons that I took early retirement was because there is so much pressure on people in the workplace. It is so much harder to work now. I work with some volunteers and the pressure on them around their benefits to take jobs that aren’t even secure and are zero hour contracts. It’s not good employment. I also think the cost of housing these days means that people need and deserve some form of security in employment. Things are a lot more difficult for young people especially if they have no parental backing, even rental accommodation is really expensive. I think that the type of employment also needs to be better. Labour needs to do more on this. Having a job is definitely a good thing but for many people any enjoyment is taken out of doing the job because of the pressures. My daughter trained as a social worker and then at one point she told that the workload has doubled and that it involved taking on a lot more responsibilities. She had to stop and think about whether it was really what she wanted to do. She didn’t want that much responsibility when she was newly qualified and what she needed was a manager who can take on some of that burden. So she's now still working in social services but not as a social worker, which is a shame because she's not had a chance to use the skills and experience to do what she's qualified to do. I think it's really important that the support networks at work exist and you aren't overloaded so you feel like you have the time to do your job properly. The pressures that we put on young people have a much wider impact on society and it makes people feel powerless and that employers don't listen to them. Trade unions in work are really important in my experience. When I started we had a strong union but our College management threatened people who were involved in the unions and recorded the names of the people who went on strike. If there was a risk of redundancy you were told you’d be in the firing line. This is meant that the voice of the unions of shrunk as people are now in fear of losing their jobs. I'm not sure how we can overcome this but we have to. Once that fear is there work becomes much more divisive and it’s harder to overcome individual interests. People don't have the same sense of community and the strength of unions slowly but surely has been eroded over the years. There's no collective feeling anymore, it's still there in some places but definitely not the same extent as it was before. I think work has changed.

    See what Simran, Fran, Will and Jane think about Belonging, Work, Economy and Power.