Thursday, 31 May 2012


Protecting young workers from exploitation is a cyclical battle as old as mankind. Babies of slaves were the “property” of slave owners – to be screwed in every sense and worked to death. Indentured workers signed contracts to work unpaid for years in return for food, beatings and work-experience. The “dark satanic mills” from 1750 onwards housed workers, paid them a wage then took it back in rent and via the mandatory factory-shop. The casual abuse of apprentices underlies many Dickensian novels when for example “sound Victorian values” shoved children up carcinogenic chimneys as human brushes and child prostitutes roamed the streets. Before the 1950’s, only the rich entered the professions, paying for their articles – then they were unpaid – then at last articled-clerks were paid for their office work. In emerging economies, now, children are often cruelly abused with underpaid twelve hour days of dangerous and dirty work.

The minimum-wage and the living-wage exist to prevent such abuses. They need to go global.

Employers and economists raged against their introduction, prophesying total collapse if their slaves-by-another-name were freed. The bosses have been raging against their workforces for the past five-thousand years, on and off. Rights of peasants, serfs and freemen to wages and free movement were only won after bitter social battles following the great plagues of the middle-ages, which killed up to sixty-percent of the workforce, empowering labourers. Before those revolutions, serfs were classed as cattle, herds of uneducated families in hovels as “chattels” owned by the landlord; as was their daughters’ virginity. Today, politicians thoughtlessly exploit unpaid Interns.

Over the millennia the good guys have freed the slaves and paid wages. The bad guys have cheated and screwed employees. The good guys are marginally ahead in this long war; but the sociopathic bad guys never rest from oppressing their neighbours while gouging out obscene “rewards” for themselves. For a bright future – we must continue to Fight the Good Fight

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