Simon, Phil, Dean and Harry all work.
Simon and Harry work together at a debt agency. They have to meet punishing targets, but the incentives are quite good and there's always overtime.
Simon, 24, is married with two small children. He's a grafter, does well, hit's his targets. Provides for his young family
Harry, 21 does his job, but has none of the pressures that Simon has. He plays rugby at weekends and spends every week of annual leave in Ibiza or Faliraki.
Phil works on the production line at a big Pharma company. The H&S laws, targets and ever demanding hunger of the production line make the job stressful, but his hourly rate beats everything his friends get. This massive, multinational company doesn't take people on any more. All of Phil's colleagues are on agency contracts, he doesn't remember anyone ever getting a permanent job.
Dean works for a Supermarket chain. Well, actually he works for 2 because neither take people for more than 16 hours and more. This gives Dean even fewer employment rights than the other 3, but he's 20 and lives with his Mum and Dad, so he never considers it. He rides his bike to both jobs to save a bit of cash.
"Benefits" are things scroungers claim. Lazy people who don't work like they do. Don't have to put up with the insulting boss or the gruelling early shift starts.
But it's not just those out of work who've been cheated. Not nearly. Oh sure, there are really no sickness benefits LEFT in the UK, but that's OK, because Simon, Harry, Dean and Phil are young and healthy and fit. So far, they haven't come across the Great Sickness Swindle.
It goes like this. :
Your Employer now has a set of rules
-Thou Shalt Not Take Time off work Ever.
-Thou Shalt not be away from your desk/line/station Ever.
-Thou Shalt Not Be Late
-Thou Shalt Not Be Ill or Have any Accidents
Now, Simon, Harry, Phil and Dean aren't that unlucky - not even averagely unlucky really. But they ARE all vulnerable workers. And as such, the companies that employ them, pretty much treat them how they like.
Simon simply got the real flu that was going around and a few months later, got salmonella from a curry night.
He missed targets in two months out of 7. The company put him on a stage 3 disciplinary ( the highest) One more day sick that year and he'd be fired. A few weeks later, his wife was sick with the flu too and Simon had to take a day off to arrange childcare and look after them all. He lost his job.
Harry fractured his pelvis playing rugby one weekend. He was laid up for 3 months and his company said they couldn't keep his position open.
Dean walked out of his second job one evening to find his bike mangled to a pile of twisted metal, run over by a hasty shopper. He couldn't afford another so his Dad started dropping him to work. On the fourth time his Dad got him there late (he was never late on his bike in three years) they "let him go," just like that.
Phil's Big Pharma company aren't doing too well through the downturn. They've cut back on the particular products Phil makes on his line. Now he only gets work when the company say, held in a pattern with 35 people for 23 jobs, waiting every night to see if he's one of the guys who gets a call.
But when they needed help, there was nothing left any more. Harry couldn't claim sickness benefits while his pelvis healed, he couldn't even apply for the first three months.
Simon got no help with his new mortgage or his new children or his new wife. He went out every day armed with CVs but couldn't get another job. There were 100 kids fresh out of school who were younger and cheaper than Simon.
Phil couldn't earn enough to pay his rent, but he didn't qualify for any housing benefit or income support because he managed to scrape together the few hours that he did. Because he kept working, kept "doing the right thing"
Dean got depression. He lost all his confidence, feared another company that would "just let him go" however hard he worked, however far he cycled. He couldn't get any treatment from his GP - the wait for counselling was months. He drifted further and further down. But he can't get ESA (Employment Support Allowance or sickness benefits) either. He had an assessment but they concluded he was "too well dressed to be depressed" and said he didn't qualify. He's stuck at home with his Mum and Dad and none of the access to job support and healthcare he needs.
THIS is why #ESAendgame matters to everyone. Your companies will rarely support you if you fall any longer. Especially if you're young. The state will no longer support you if you fall - and the fall can be as simple as a few months of not great luck - you'll find there's no legal aid if you are treated unfairly when you try to claim support, no income while you wait to hear if you can appeal. No income for the first three months. No mortgage relief payments, no "dole".
If things are more serious than for our boys, if you find yourself permanently disabled or caring for someone you love full time, you will be horrified by the skeleton of support left - if you manage to secure any at all.
We have an unpredictable labour market with high unemployment and little demand for workers. It's a buyers market. We have too many part time jobs with few employment rights and wages have been stagnating for years. Sickness procedures have been tightened to an utterly illogical degree and most of the safety nets have been removed - Good Lord, George Osborne even wanted to buy what employment rights you had left!! Something aimed at young men just like our Harry and Phil, Dean and Simon.
Having an efficient, functioning, fair sickness benefit system is a vital building block of a civilised society. Without one we step back 100 years. It matters to EVERYONE that we have one that works for the day your luck might change. Just like Karen