Is anyone listening?

What can be more demoralising or debilitating than to have to sit at home with all your skills locked away because you have no work?

Fortunately I am not among these people. I was prompted however to think more deeply about this recently when a sometimes unemployed man said to me “I was talking to … the other day and he told me he’d build bricks for £40 a day just to get out of the house.” At the height of the boom bricklayers could take home three or four times this a day.
This man is currently among thousands of people on this island wakening up to another aimless unproductive day.

Is there an answer?

The man who said he would build bricks for £40 a day should be treated seriously.

There is scarcely a village through which I pass which hasn’t one or a dozen eyesores in terms of boarded up shops, tumble down houses, overgrown pathways or streets strewn with litter.

Why will the Executive not ask each county manager to mobilise all eligible workforces at a fixed daily rate to afford workers an opportunity to get back to work, the by-product being a sprucing up of all our small towns and villages?

If we had millions to give to retiring councillors who would factually produce nothing and if we could afford to squander millions on business plans for phantom multi-purpose stadia or for the creation of 11 councils instead of 26, why then not do something
positively which will directly impact on the well-being and sanity of the backbone of our community?

Eamonn Mallie

  • Just imagine, Eamonn, if this idea was replicated in every village, town, and city in Ireland, both sides of the Border, for let’s say a period of two or three year until we get on our feet again, what a transformation it could make to our island. Nobody is suggesting the concept should continue indefinitely. Just until the economy picks up again.

    Would trade unions, I wonder, have a negative view on such a proposal on the basis that it would devalue the worth of work ?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Arent the working class wonderful?
    I often pass the time of day with them myself…..and I always feel better for so doing.

  • old school

    I’m an unemployed Brickie. Not entitled to benefits either.
    I’d lay bricks for 39 quid a day.

  • wee buns

    Tis the flavour of the month…..a sudden emphasis on community helping itself. The Tory’s are having a field day on the whole issue….almost as if… as if they invented the concept of help thy neighbour…

    What is impressive in the republic of donegal, is the already remarkably high levels of community action, esp. fund raising. People are used to recieving the minimum, if any, subsidy from the state. They just get on with it. Mostly they have little themselves. I am in constant admiration of how brave & generous the community spirit is. In comparison to the often limp wristedness of gravy train redievers over the boundary. Nobody was lectured into improving their lot. It was a natural response to state neglect.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Eamon;
    The “unemployed bricklayer” wasn`t Freddy Scapaticci by any chance?
    Do you not think it would be a better idea to have all the convicted criminals out sprucing up “our towns and villages” for nothing £0.00?
    All the “unemployed bricklayers” could be given £40 per day to do a crash course in “investigative journalism.” I am sure N.Ireland would be transformed within a very short space of time.

    Just imagine Peter trying to get nasty with a former bricklayer turned journalist?
    Does not bear thinking about does it?

  • I remember brickies from days in London, and a right bunch of prima donnas they are too.

    Just because the arse is hanging out of his trousers as he bends over the bricks, do not make the mistake of thinking his brains have dropped out of his ears. I hope this awful recession ends soon, for everybody.

  • wee buns

    If you can build dry stone wall, there is work.

  • old school

    I think the recession is healthy. Almost Darwinian.
    A National purge of the toxic slurge of decadence and materialism.
    Our children will be better for it.

  • old school

    A purge? well I suppose a possible mass exodus of people could be so described.

    Why should our children learn from it? we didnt.

  • The impact of unemployment on people, communities and lives is so much more than what is felt in a purse or a wallet. The community and voluntary sector has a key role to play in helping people to retain their skills and confidence and also their self esteem – there was a lot wrong with the old ACE (Action for Community Employment) programme but there was also an opportunity for unemployed people to undertake meaningful, paid work which did make a difference in the community. Or perhaps some of those brickies could learn to teach their trade.

  • old school

    Pippakin, if things continued as they did pre recession, our children (well mine’s certainly) would never have been able to own a home.
    And those who could would condemn themselves to be slaves to the banks for decades.
    The gluttony was unsustainable. And now we’re throwing it all up.
    Enough of the 4x4s, the Jimmy Choo handbags, the 200 quid shoes, the obnoxious kids, the sneering at cars over 10 years old, the Americanised bullshit.
    I’m already seeing positive signs of the recession. And as someone who opted out of “the boom” long may it last.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed…..brickies, plasterers, plumblers, road sweepers, DHSS clerks, nurses are real and interesting people.
    I wish many more journalists would follow Mr Mallies excellent example and get out there and talk to REAL people who know the value of £40 or indeed much less.

    Too many journos are all too happy to spend their lives in the Great Hall at Stormont asking pointless questions and getting pointless answers.
    Not for the first time Mr mallie has shown the way.

  • Reader

    Eamon Mallie: Why will the Executive not ask each county manager to mobilise all eligible workforces at a fixed daily rate to afford workers an opportunity to get back to work, the by-product being a sprucing up of all our small towns and villages?
    Is that progression to ‘Workfare’ or regression to ‘Outdoor Relief’?
    Still, if the councils can get a few people to work at less than the minimum wage, then they can get rid of 8 existing employees, take on 10 cheaper ones, and improve services while reducing the rates bill. Nice plan.

  • old school

    I completely agree, especially about the cost of housing, ludicrous and unsustainable. But, you have to put it into context. This country had never been independently wealthy and successful. All that happened was it went to our heads a but, like a kid getting drunk first drink!

    I think everyone has already learned a bitter lesson, skilled people on the dole, youngsters unable to get work, and yours truly trying, unsuccessfully, to economise, and I never even saw a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes! Couldnt afford to look in the shop window! and remember not everyone benefited from the boom, some were left behind and are still behind. There has to be a way to ensure sustainability.

  • bizarre

    He has lost it hasn’t he ?

    Who are the “county manager”‘s Eamon ?

    Whats a fair fixed daily rate Eamon ?

    Who are the eligible Eamon ?

    Whats the work plan Eamon ?

    Time to pack it in I think……

  • old school

    Pippa, my father was able to sustain a comfortable life with 8 children and a mortgage.
    My Mother didn’t work so there was only one income. Neither claimed benefits or played the compensation game.
    Yet we lived well, holidayed, and never fretted over bills.
    It would be impossible to do so today because of the gross overcharging of housing, the “keep up with the Jones’s mentality” and inflation.
    Can you even imagine a modern man trying to keep 8 children, a wife,and a mortgage, based solely on one income??
    The “boom” was the worst thing ever happened.

  • John East Belfast

    Eamon

    The problem is the Govt authorities dont have the £13k per annum required to pay these guys £40 per week – although I take your point on the list of squanderings – to which you could add the £200m Bloody Sunday enquiry and a host of meaningless Quangos this society has created.

    However it isnt just £13k either I am afraid. Each employee would have to be given the necessary Health and Safety and Induction training and would have to be supervised by the appropriate level of management. There would be Insurance issues as well and not to mention Plant and Materials. It is simply cheaper to keep them on the dole at £90 per week I am afraid.

    Our current system is too inflexible – we have to be on our knees for these type of schemes to take hold and with the Govt safety net that is not on the cards.

    I am no fan of US business or welfare but one thing that always impresses me there is their ability to re-train their workforce – people can much more easily switch careers – and the 6 month benefits rule where after, for all intents and purposes you are effectively on your own, is probably a major incentive for that.

  • Creative Republic and Created in Birmingham have a pop-up shop “which take an empty unit for free for a short amount of time and fill it with cool stuff.”

    The CiB shop blog is here. Sure, I’d be up for being involved in setting up something similar. Though, will alcoholic “conscientous objectors” unlearn 3am noise havoc so I can get up, or at least get involved in voluntary work? No, they’re not even dicks.

  • old school

    No, it couldnt happen now, for many reasons, not just the obvious. I have, for years, marveled at how young people can afford to buy a house, the debt must be enormous. How can the vast majority pay the debt and have children!

    Ireland is a centre left country, people are taken care of, but it is hard to sustain that care when income is slashed to the bone. Yes there were mistakes but the greed was far worse at the top than it was at the bottom as anyone who reads a paper can see now.

    Im not really in favour of paying people less than minimum wage for anything, but perhaps there could be some sort of voluntary teaching of old skills, the ones young people dont seem to learn anymore. If that were to happen the young would learn how it should be done, rather than all the IT lessons constantly paraded as the only way forward.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh he means well. He just didnt think it thru.
    I think they have County Managers in the South.
    In times of economic hardship (not of course the fault of the lower orders) the upper class think it would be a spiffing idea to reduce wages….and cut the red tape……so that employers can more easily abuse workers.
    For example the building industry (where brickies work) has the highest number of industrial accidents.

    Exploiting workers must of course be dressed up as “economic freedom” so that the “liberal types” can have a good conscience.
    Rather like RAISING the pension age can be spun as an “opportunity for older people” Oddly the rich like to retire as soon as possible.

  • VI Lurgan

    Eamon

    Wud the £13k be better spent employing HMRC staff to investigate fraud and tax evasion by big business or as rates collectors for Land and Property Services? At least we might get some of our own money back. As I understand it about £120 billion floating about there.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘Why will the Executive not ask each county manager to mobilise all eligible workforces’

    Haven’t we heard phrases like ‘mobilise workforces’ somewhere else before?

    Personally I’d have all these brickies laying tarmac rather than bricks, and put in place the infrastructure for the inevitable annexation of Rockall.

  • AlanMaskey

    Why doesn’t this work shy brickie join the British Army and go stop a bullet in Helmand? I would like to see the dole cut if not abolished. Bring back character forming soup kitchens and hunger pans. Far better than having me pay taxes to support cider slugging Oprah watchers. Schemes like this – employing dossers – were all the rage in the Thatcher/Haughey years. Fat lot of good they did.

    As regards the community spirit: tax changes almost making stay at home mothers work changed that. Dual incomes, dual cars and child minding fees put paid to that.

  • William Markfelt

    Ah! Thatcher.

    ‘There is no such thing as ‘socoety'”, she said.

    And then created the conditions to achieve just that.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘I was prompted however to think more deeply about this’

    This is ‘deep thought’?

  • Pigeon Toes

    I’m going to pretend that I haven’t just read Eamonn’s deep thoughts…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Yes……its as deep as The Road To Wigan Pier. Or Down and Out in Paris and London.
    Its…..profound.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ugh. I hate that “if the medicine tastes bad it must be good for you” thing. There were serious excesses, but we need to come up with better ways to avoid those rather than doing ritual economic bloodletting every ten years.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Of course fitz, you always have that other part of the middle/upper class that you didn’t mention. The guys who come out at weekends, don a cloth cap, and exhort the workers to stand form, oppose such shameful exploitation and hold out for the better deal that can never happen. Then they get back into the Beemer and go back to work at the office on Monday morning.

    I’m quite saddened by the negative attitude on Slugger to a bit of open minded thinking from Eamonn, given the time most of these contributions were posted at I wonder if it’s just morose drunk people.

    I’m not up for screwing people out of wages, which is what an idea like this might seem like, but I don’t see anything wrong at all with schemes that would get people out of the house in the absence of any business coming in. I know this is what I’d be doing if I found myself temporarily unemployed (I work in IT, so there’s plenty of volunteer work to put in upgrading/refurbishing PCs). I’d relish the chance to be able to put a reference to it on my CV, knowing that showing community spirit and putting in time with little or no compensation to help the community is the sort of thing employers love to hear – so there is a kind of a selfish interest in it as well, alongside the good feeling you get.

    This is one of those things that the Americans are usually better at. Volunteering or charity work is usually a compulsory part of any resume, and politicians over there fall over themselves to be seen setting up or supporting voluntary/community groups.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin,
    I am all for “genuine” volunteers.
    A few years back I was involved in something myself. Its a normal response for decent people of all religious and political persuasions and of course classes.
    No segment of our Society can claim a monopoly on decency or point the finger claiming that themmuns are less decent.
    There is of course a tendency for middle class to “network” in charidees better and pick up the MBE.

    But its clear that this “blue sky thinking” of the Big Society is a cynical attempt to exploit the basic decency of people into giving their time free to make Society better.
    Americans DO indeed do this thing better……
    In a low tax nation, Millionaires seem happy enough to endow universities, do charity work etc.
    I a dont have your confidence that many of our Yoorpeen millionaires have the same degree of social conscience.
    Of course the £40 a day brickie (or plumber or plasterer) might have wondered if a decent wage has been undercut by Yoorpeen workers from Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia.

    Its unfortunate that the entire agenda of getting people to do something for nothing….is accompanied by calls for even more tax breaks for the rich,limitation of trade union rights, attacks on ‘elf and safety and more restricted freedoms.
    The Lib-Con coalition is no more than social liberalism and Thatcherism Mark II with the seductive call for people to be more “involved” in Society.

    Coincidently I have an american visitor arriving tomorrow for two weeks.
    A full paid up member of the American “republican” tradition, she works two non-union jobs to make a living and regards state “health care” as Communism.
    We are going down the same road.

  • Greenflag

    ‘We are going down the same road.’

    With the emphasis on down with even more down to follow . The road to societal destruction and a totalitarian state of either right or left . Your American ‘visitor’ is obviously a shirker of the worst order -Why can’t she work four jobs and stop sleeping as it’s an unproductive use of time ? I trust she is paying sufficient taxes to keep the USA well armed (already half the world’s expenditure on armaments ) and able to kill several tens of thousands of Iraqis , Afghanis etc etc and others who would dare to eh ‘invade’ the homeland of brave and the free and the bankrupt ;(?

  • Greenflag

    The world league table for billionaire countries naturally lists the USA as top of the league with other large population countries like Russia , China etc behind . When we look at the number of billionaires per million of the population the result is a little surprising .

    Topping the list is

    Switzerland 4 per million
    USA 1.2
    Ireland 1.2
    Israel 1.0
    Sweden 0.75
    UK 0.6
    Australia 0.5
    Germany 0.3
    France 0.2
    Saud Arabia 0.3
    Turkey 0.3
    Japan 0.2
    China 0.05

  • William Markfelt

    ‘ The road to societal destruction and a totalitarian state of either right or left . ‘

    Welcome to Northern Ireland.

    If you follow the shenanigans elsewhere on this forum (numerous Northern Ireland Water threads), and the actions and reactions of various ‘government’ departments, totalitarianism -show trials, kangaroo courts- demonstrates that Stormont is little more than totalitarian-lite.

  • joeCanuck

    The fact is that most people, especially self employed people, get a lot of self esteem through working even though they may not particularly like the job they are in at times. It can be soul destroying to have to depend on State Welfare and go to food banks to make ends meet.
    We have a situation here in Canada whereby some people, like abandoned single mothers, can get more money on welfare than they would earn from working for minimum wage, especially as they may have to pay for childcare. Some attempts have been made to get some of these people back to work, through training but also, they don’t automatically lose their welfare payments if they take a job. Depending on their net income etc, the welfare payments are only reduced initially so that they end up with more money. I think the program has had success in that, prior to the recession, welfare recipient numbers were dropping since the program was introduced..

  • “boarded up shops, tumble down houses, overgrown pathways”

    This is a state of affairs created in some places by developers who bought up properties, priced small shopkeepers out of business, boarded up windows and left the properties to go to wreck and ruin.

    Things are possibly worse than Eamonn realises.

    DSD has a remit to rejuvenate towns but has just returned £110 million to the coffers and got £10 million back.

    If DRD can shift money around to other projects rather than return it in full – £1.2 million budgeted for a project; £0.7 million returned when project was dropped – why can’t DSD play the same card?

    Perhaps PAC needs to grill some more ministers and their officials about peculiar procurement practices.

  • “boarded up shops, tumble down houses, overgrown pathways”

    This is a state of affairs created in some places by developers who bought up properties, priced small shopkeepers out of business, boarded up windows and left the properties to go to wreck and ruin.

    Things are possibly worse than Eamonn realises.

    DSD has a remit to rejuvenate towns but has just returned £110 million to the coffers and got £10 million back. [source Alex Attwood on SDLP site]

    If DRD can shift money around to other projects rather than return it in full – £1.2 million budgeted for a project; £0.7 million returned when project was dropped – why can’t DSD play the same card?

    Perhaps PAC needs to grill some more ministers and their officials about peculiar procurement practices!

  • I didn’t expect such speedy moderation. This one URL limit is a bit of a nuisance. Perhaps someone can pull the repeat post. Thanks!!

  • Damian O’Loan

    “What can be more demoralising or debilitating than to have to sit at home with all your skills locked away because you have no work?”

    Adding to that the knowledge that political journalists offer such “deep” thoughts as, ‘liberalism’s not going so well, why not try a little communism for the poor folks, salt of the Earth’? “County manager” – is this serious?

    Or professional writers who write like this:

    “I always feel a certain empathy with the hitch hiker from those days.

    It was this payback sentiment which prompted me to stop to give a lift to a gaunt figure wearing a hat at the bus stop who was thumbing a lift.”

    There is no ball to play here, just an absolutely superficial, ill-considered and patronising sketch of a draft of a misconceived idea.

  • William Markfelt

    Then there’s the story about someone contracted by a government agency, who was ‘invited’ to submit invoices for work not yet undertaken, in order to clear that agency’s year-end coffers. Convenient for the agency, not so convenient for the company, as it skewed accounts year after year, but the options were a) accept the invitation or b) be removed from the contract.

    So imagine that company’s surprise to be investigated for fraud while other companies in the same position were not investigated. Something to do with brown envelopes and bubbling sectarianism, the story goes.

    Despite PAC being made aware of all of this, they never acted on elements of it, such as ‘why selective investigation’? Subsequent digging revealed that the selectivity was due, in the main, to close relationships between board members of that agency, managers of that agency and companies retained by the agency (brown envelopes and sectarianism, again).

    PAC have a lot to answer for.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘an absolutely superficial, ill-considered and patronising sketch of a draft of a misconceived idea.’

    Unless you’ve copyrighted this, I’m using it again and again in a variety of everyday situations as an argument-ending put down of whoever needs putting down.

    Thanks for that, Damian. It’s a phrase of sheer, unbridled genius just waiting to be applied to, well, lots of people.

    Keep an eye out for it in active service elsewhere.