Not a snappy/humourous title. Probably not a snappy/humourous picture when I eventually add one. I am feeling fed up today. Being fed up with this government is a usual and unremarkable state, but watching the slow disintegration of a close friend due to the way he is being treated in the search for employment is not so usual - luckily - for us and we are finding it hard. Not so hard as he, obviously, but knowing that too many other millions like him are also suffering and remembering how one hundred years ago this was a too normal state and wondering if this government is using rocketing unemployment as a way of ensuring a cheap labour pool for future employers is terrifying.
If you have been reading earlier blogs you will know about our friend's struggle to find another job after his third redundancy in six months. His employment history is on those earlier blogs so it is not repeated here. But with the loss of his own business a few years ago and his gradual descent through a sucession of jobs which are lessening in both skill and remuneration seems to mirror the manufacturing history of the country since Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister. She appeared to set out to destroy manufacturing in Britain and in that she was very successful - and if we look at the figures in this Guardian article we can see that this probably contributed to what the Guardian is suggesting that 'this recession is now worse than the 1930s'.
Back to my job-seeking friend, who thought he couldn't be treated much worse by the officials at the job centre. [He is not blaming individuals, who are enforcing rules 'from above' - government, I mean] Yesterday he was sent for a job making sandwiches - at the minimum wage [it will become clear why this is in bold and repeated, read on] to the town about 3 miles away. Not at all what he is qualified to do, but hey, it is a bit of money after all. And he could get there by bike. He was told if he didn't go to the interview his allowance would be stopped, but that wasn't his incentive to go, especially as he is still waiting for that allowance to start after 6 weeks of unemployment.
So he arrives at the interview which has been set up with further job centre officials, to be told that he has to attend a further interview at a larger town 20 miles away. The official asked how my friend would get there, when he replied 'by car if you will pay the petrol', he was told that petrol money was not given - only public transport costs. He replied, 'fair enough I'll go by train', only to be told that since he had said he had a car, he had to go by car... Oh, and my friend was told to shave off his beard as it didn't look good at an interview [Other Half definitely not impressed at this. Neither was I, very partial to a man with a beard, me. Remember the Brian Blessed kiss?]
The interview was at 8pm last night [thats OK, unemployed are not entitled to have a social life, are they?] Five other men and six women were at wat amounted to a quasi seminar. Remember this is for a minimum wage position. And then the crowning glory of it all. The position[s] were actually in a large town roughly 80 miles, halfway around the M25 to us. I googled the best way to get there [remember this is for a minimum wage position and these were the alternatives:
71.1 mi, 1 hour 32 mins
In current traffic: 1 hour 52 mins
72.4 mi, 1 hour 33 mins
In current traffic: 1 hour 50 mins
AXX and AXX
79.5 mi, 1 hour 33 mins
In current traffic: 1 hour 35 mins
1 hour 56 mins
Public Transport (3 transfers
I don't know if I mentioned that this is for position which pays the minimum wage and the hours are from 6.00am to 3.00pm. It is actually impossible to get to the town by public transport as our trains - although we are on a mainline - do not run all through the night. I looked up the cost of Public Transport via train however and a daily return when the trains are running would be - and this is the cheapest off peak fare - £26.10p. Go figure
This would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. And it is tragic. Whilst I have been typing this, my friend was actually visiting his GP for his annual asthma check-up. To his shock and horror, the GP asked if there was anything worrying him as he thought he may have had a mini-stroke and sent him to the local hospital for tests. What my friend has been putting down to anxiety due to his unemployment and general lack of money issues the doctor sees as symptoms of a stroke. He is 43 years old, apart from sporadic asthma generally fit and a non-smoker.
If I started this blog feeling fed-up, I cannot describe how I feel now. I am sitting here trying to think what to do, who to lobby, who to annoy. If you can help me to raise awareness of all those in this situation, please do.
The photograph is as grey as this story. Unemployed on the Hunger Marches in S.Wales in the 1930s. Enough said.