Wednesday, 16 February 2011

How Low Can We Go?

Just bumped into another Dad from my street, who no longer comes out to get his kids on the other school bus in the morning. He told me a sad story.

Our local school bus companies were bought up by an American company who promptly fired everyone and rehired them at minimum wage. That didn't bump up the investor returns enough so they also cut staff and combined bus routes. Their 8:30 pickup was becoming more like an 8:55 or 9:10 pickup. This happened for weeks on end. He finally went to the company and they reorganized their buses (again) to try and stabilize pickups. This is the 3rd time this has happened this year. This is why I don't see them in the morning any more.

I wonder if the school board gets back money on this with cheaper rates. I wonder if all of those people who now can't afford their mortgages, car payments or household costs (forget luxuries like having their kids play sports) are happy that the board gets such good rates. I wonder if the publicly funded school boards did anything whatsoever to try and resolve this without people who do a vital job being treated like refugees.

This reminds me of Michael Moore's bit on airline pilots in the States in his last film.

What we appear to have here are publicly funded and operated school systems that seem intent on lowering the standard of living of thousands of people to improve bottom lines Am I the only one this seems absurd to?

I then told him about where our school custodians are. That same school board is intent on cutting back their responsibilities until it can replace them with minimum wage paid contracted cleaning services. Everything I've heard from board politics around who has been hired to perform this, to the ground level response of our own custodians, has supported this explanation. Once again, a publicly funded school board seems intent on lowering the standard of living of hundreds of people in its area in order to lower its bottom line. The fact that minimum wage paid people with no particular on-going interest in their work will be responsible for numerous health and safety issues in schools doesn't seem to be at issue.

As a younger man I was never a fan of unions, until I saw the epic mess that "business" makes of even simple situations. Whereas a union might protect the odd jerk while protecting many honest employees from abuse and exploitation, private business seems to screw virtually everyone in order to pay off a select few of the richest, usually while dismantling a working system in the process. Given a choice, I'd rather see as few honest people get screwed as possible, so union it is.

Private ownership of what should be publicly owned utilities never works out. The businesses squeeze it for as much as they can with no eye for sustainability. They reduce the effectiveness of a service to just below the bare minimum accepted by the public, then try and hold it there for as long as they can, hiring off shore call centres to field the calls at minimum cost. It's been a long time since big business has done even it's own R&D work, let alone truly add anything of value to human civilization.

So here I am, listening to yet another story of Globalization in a world that has proven again and again that it simply doesn't work. Simplifying ownership into multinationals injures regional interests and only benefits a few of the very rich, making everyone else poorer in the process. The big lie is that we're all told that we could be that rich minority if we: try hard enough - are smart enough - know the right people - whatever, but that simply isn't the case.

In the meantime, I'm paying taxes (and working) for a public organization that promotes the povertization of entire sectors of employees that depend on it. Thousands poorer to so a select few can move into a higher income bracket.