‘In what industry do you give bonuses for failure?’ This is the question Jon Snow posed to the CEO of the British Bankers Association during a debate with Louise Rouse of ShareAction and the British Bankers Association. My question would be ‘Why are job cuts done at the low to middle level in banks and bonuses are still paid at the top?’ For me it is obscene.
Why does one person need a pay packet of millions and another person does not have a living wage? It is abhorrent that these people live side by side and they are sometimes employing the people on the minimum wage as cleaners, care workers and supermarket staff. These people are on the margins of employment where employers use zero-hours contracts. The rights of these employees is weak.
An example of a broken system was shown on TV programme called ‘protecting our parents.’ It was sad and challenging viewing, as the majority of us will become old. The main premise was the care of an elderly couple in their 80s. At least nine people were trying to provide appropriate care and listen to the needs of the couple, as they wanted to live together in the home that had been theirs for decades. The challenge for the health and social care workers was well demonstrated and you could see they agonised over how best to provide a decent and safe life for this couple towards the end of their days. It was summed up well by a GP, as he said ‘he was afraid that the care decision would come down to cost’. I could see this effected the GP negatively. We live in a society where money rules…..A banker gets paid millions in bonuses, while social workers and health staff worry about how to give our ageing parents a dignified end to their life. As the wife said again and again, ‘I’ve paid in to the system. I can’t pay for private…. It’s not my fault I’m ill.’ She was asking for respect and 24 hour care in her home. What is your answer banker? The taxpayer bailed you out and NOW we cannot care for our vulnerable parents.
Where have the morals gone in this debate? There is a spectrum of remuneration and employee rights but the extremes are not allowing people to take part in their local society. The care workers in the ‘protecting our parents’ were paid by the quarter of an hour, and no money for travel time or cancelled work. Our values seem to be topsy turvy. We have forgotten what is important and notes and coins seem to have taken over. Do we really believe the human construct of money is more important than human life?
From my perspective this approach seems to be going backwards in history to times of slavery. This was illustrated by the film ’12 years a slave’. There are industries such as cheap fashion where human life is being lost (100s of Bangladeshis in a garment factory in a factory fire) and care of our elderly, where people who are vulnerable are scared or unable to get the care they need. When will we say…..
STOP, this is enough!
Human life and our planet seems to have lost value and I feel ashamed to be a human being in 21st Century. We have great knowledge and understanding BUT we do not use it wisely. How can we tip the balance? There are some that are looking at life product analysis. The concept is that you do not just create something you think about each step along the supply chain of creating a product and disassembling the product. This process reviews the resources used such as the raw materials needed to build a house, the impacts of this process and the embodied energy within it and also thinking about how the raw materials can be extracted from the building when it is no longer needed. This approach is moving from a linear line of production to a circular line. I support this approach by asking these kind of questions when I buy things and through my pension fund as an investor. ShareAction has supported me in doing this important work. It continues to call industries such as the banks to account. A moral voice is needed. Bankers need to recognise the consequences of their actions. When will the industry behave like responsible adults rather than spoilt children demanding more sweets?