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I have always been of the mind-set that I work to live. Despite that, we work for most of our existence, and we hope that a lifetime of toil will be rewarded with the prize of a short period of leisure. However, what if current working conditions, stoked by ‘calculated’ austerity measures, simply become too much to bear? What then for the modern worker?
Since the financial crisis, public and private sector roles have been slashed. Beforehand, when a person left a position, another similar position was created or the existing one filled by a keen graduate or determined job-seeker. However, since austerity took hold, institutions have been readily absorbing workloads by handing what used to be included in a now-extinct position to existing staff.
Teachers now cover more classes. Hospitals are on the brink, unable to cope with demand. Instead of the millions of unemployed people filling potential roles, existing staff are asked to cover more and more holes often in excess of their professional and physical capacity. New positions seem only to be added if they incorporate five past ones. In short, people are asked to do more, for no more.
People fear losing their jobs if they stand and say, ‘this is too much’. Why? Because they feel others would easily replace them. There are certainly enough people willing to attempt a multitude of burdens for employers to be unconcerned about getting rid of a ‘difficult’ employee.
The result of too much work spread over too few workers is simple: those who are employed are having their mental and physical health detrimentally affected. The sickness of conceptual austerity therefore translates quickly to the very real physicality of the human condition. In fact the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are around 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.
The physics of spreading a heavy load over too thin a surface is that the structure comes under strain. When workers are treated like machines rather than human beings, the effect is very much the same. The top reason for causes of work-related stress, according to a 2013 Health and Safety Executive report, was workload. This included tight deadlines, too much work, pressure or responsibility with an estimated prevalence of 186,000 recorded cases.
People are not machines. They are far more creative, powerful and valuable – and it is these qualities which diminish slowly as more pressure is loaded upon each individual for the sake of financial and economic targets.
We once questioned our reliance upon machines, fearing that one day they would threaten our very existence. Sad as it is, we are fast being turned into machines ourselves – our passion, minds and indeed our very humanity are beginning to get lost under stacks of A4, paperclips and deadlines.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Dr Laura Basu explains that the media allowed politicians to re-write history, erasing the true causes of the economic crisis.
Outsourced cleaners are on the front lines of the battle for workers' rights. By Emiliano Mellino
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes