Jan 292009

When the economy is well, we constantly hear from businesses about how government should not interfere with business; that anything the private sector does is sacred, and the public sector is at best pathetic. They complain the most about regulation but government support for problematic businesses frequently comes up to. And of course whinge constantly about taxation on business.

Of course any business that needs support from the government to survive is pathetic and probably should fail.

But wait! Come this recession, we are seeing speaking heads from businesses in droves demanding that the government bail their business out. Somehow because there is a recession on, all the traditional rules can be ignored and businesses need support from government.

Sure perhaps we do need to use public money to help out businesses that would otherwise fail. After all reverting to 19th century economics like the Conservatives seems to have done is likely to be far worse. But that does not mean they should get a free ride – we should remind them that businesses usually ask to be left alone, and that goes two ways.

And of course put up taxes on businesses a tad, to pay back the money over the long term. And every time a business complains about high taxes, remind them of these times when government was spending money to help businesses out.

Dec 212008

So apparently the EU parliament has said that the UK opt-out on the EU working time directive has got to go, meaning no more than a 48 hour working week (averaged out over 17 weeks I believe). Of course this has UK business representatives whinging that this is unacceptable interference with business and it should be the choice of workers whether they work longer or not.

Yeah right. Tough!

Businesses all too often get things their own way, and I suspect (backed by some inside knowledge) that many workers do not in fact have much of a choice in the matter. After all we still have a higher average working week than most other European countries. In fact many British workers are in fact unaware of the EU Working Time directive.

Why is there a demand for long working hours? It is just is not very effective; tired workers are unlikely to be as productive as well rested ones, and in some jobs are more likely to have accidents. Entrepreneurs usually think their workers should work as hard as they do …

But often their workers are in fact working harder even if they are not working as long. And why should the workers work as hard as the entrepreneur ? They certainly will not get as greater reward; it is a rare worker who gets rich when his or her boss does.

And to those who say they cannot afford to live on what they would earn in a 48-hour week, well you need to get another job as you’re being ripped off. And to the apprentice mechanic who was interviewed on the BBC News, the right word for a “girlfriend” who needs money to stay interested is “prostitute”.

Strictly speaking it is not a final decision as the EU Parliament decision needs to go through various stages to be finally decided upon by the European Council. So much for democracy! But here’s hoping that the politicians finally have the courage to stick a finger up at businesses … going without all those expensive meals bought for you by business owners will be good for you and your waistline 🙂

Nov 112008

Of course speaking strictly they should be called “public holidays” or in the case of Easter, “common law holidays”, but whatever they are called, where are they ? The UK as a whole has just 8 days of public holidays which is decidedly stingy when compared to the European average of 10.8. What is especially irritating is that the part of the UK that has been the least well behaved over the last hundred years gets 10 days public holiday (NI).

But why limit ourselves to raising it to the European average ? That is somewhat unambitious, and we should think of actually increasing the average somewhat. Lets go for 12 days.

First of all we should add each country’s national day – St. George’s Day (in England), and St. David’s day (in Wales). Both Scotland and Northern Ireland already celebrate their national days, and Scotland needs the day it “swapped” to celebrate St. Andrew’s day restored. Frankly a country that cannot celebrate its own national day does not deserve to be called a country!

Secondly (and with good timing), we should be commemorating Remembrance Day as a bank holiday. Frankly not having this day as a national holiday is a complete disgrace and an insult to those who died in WWI. It could also serve a dual purpose as a sort of “Britain” day.

That leaves two left to distribute, and I would suggest having both in the summer – perhaps one on midsummer’s day and another in July.

Next all public holidays need to be properly protected. Many do not realise that there is no statutory duty for an employer to recognise “bank holidays”; we simply rely on them behaving properly. Employees need to be protected by being given the day off, or if it is necessary to work to be given double-time pay. And public holidays should not count against the yealy leave entitlement – as implemented in most of Europe.

Undoubtedly businesses will complain about the cost to business of all this extra loafing around. Well tough. You guys get it your own way far too much. Besides you might be surprised. Not only is there the surge of productivity that an employee gets when he or she has had a good break, but many also feel the need to “clear the desk” before a day or two off. It is possible that more work would get done with more public holidays than the current state.

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