Rest days are for rest Mr Shapps

A Minister who does not understand that rest day working cannot be compulsory or they wouldn’t be rest days, is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. A letter published in today’s Swindon Advertiser.

Although he has a very high opinion of himself Grant Shapps has never been the sharpest tack. Yet even by his own low standards he has recently surpassed himself. According to him one of the problems on the railways is the existence of outmoded practices from 1919. Apparently, one of these is that for railworkers rest-day working is voluntary. Yes, it’s shocking isn’t it.

Let me explain for the benefit of Mr Shapps. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible. Rest days are, strangely enough, for resting; that is not going to work. If rest day working is not voluntary then it is compulsory. I don’t know whether Grant has thought this one through but his idea of ‘modernisation’ appears to be compulsory rest day working.

Imagine if employers could get their workers to increase their working week by an extra day. They would probably be able to get by with less employees. What a wheeze. Think of all the money they would save.

Trades unionists have a name for compulsory rest-day working. It’s called intensification of labour. Employers drive up the amount of work their employees do. They get less staff doing more. In the old days when employers had the proverbial boot on the neck of their workers they used to make them work 12 or 14 hour days. Shapps forebears opposed the outlandish idea of an eight hour day. They used to argue that cutting child labour (though not even ending it) was an infringement of trade; an infringement of the right of the (small) worker to work for as long as they wanted. Of course, the worker had the ‘right’ to turn down the work and starve.

Anybody who has direct experience of the modern workplace, or knows people who work in them, knows that without the countervailing power of trades unions, profit seeking employers will generally do whatever they chose to maximise their profits. In many places it is an industrial dictatorship in which fear rules the roost.

Without rest days workers get exhausted. Without trades unions enforcing health and safety people get hurt, and sometimes die at work because of negligence by the employers.

The only danger Grant Shapps faces in work is falling asleep in Cabinet meetings, though he may be looking with some nervousness at whether the next Prime Minister will keep him in his job for which he is grossly under-qualified. How will he possibly survive without a Minister’s top-up on his bog-standard MP’s salary?

Martin Wicks

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