If you plan to exploit vulnerable people through a shameful confidence trick, it is generally best not to shout about it in the national press. Sadly this ProTip was not passed on to a Mr Carl Cooper of CarSmart in Kent. Mr Cooper’s little scam was to predate on those desperately seeking work, and to pay them at the miserly rate of £50 per week. In case you missed that, that’s for a whole weeks work, it’s not even a daily rate. Its £2.50 an hour, below the legal minimum wage and well below a living wage. Thankfully all his victims had the common sense to tell him where to get off – not one of them turned up.
Mr Cooper is a cruel and selfish individual. He has attempted to take advantage of a high unemployment rate to undermine basic working conditions and to exploit desperate people. You might think it unfair to single him out for criticism; he is just one greedy self-serving individual among many. Maybe I would have dismissed him if it had been just the confidence trick. One obscure tinpot little company out in the sticks barely registers on the global scale of corporate injustice. But because Mr Cooper was outwitted by seven unemployed people he’d so clearly thought beneath him, he decided to launch a smear campaign.
This is why you may have read about Mr Cooper in the gutter press, in the corrupt Murdoch tabloids, in the hate-soaked columns of the Mail, and on the front page of Friday’s Metro (which presumably no unemployed person is expected to read). Bitter at being outwitted by dole scum, he has decided to add to the drip-drip of hateful propaganda against them. I’m going to look specifically at the Sun, that bastion of working class divide-and-rule. Mr Cooper looks bemused around his soulless office, making awkward half eye contact and sporting one of those ‘70s style striped shirts with plain collars that David Steel used to wear. Apparently the hired staff failed to turn up because of rain, not that any evidence or testimony is given to prove this. In all likelihood Mr Cooper plucked it gracefully from his arse. Then the real slurs begin.
The general assumption made by Mr Cooper is that the potential employees were “work-shy”. In fact, throw in all the tired clichés you can think of. Draw an elegant but oh so two-dimensional caricature if you please. It’s so much easier than genuine analysis – you don’t even need evidence. To quote “Stunned Carl”: “I cannot believe that these layabouts can have such a pathetic attitude to a day’s labour”. The measured tones of a decent chap, I’m sure you’ll agree. For the real reason why not one of the seven did not turn up, Mr Cooper need only look at the pay he was offering. Did it ever occur to him that it isn’t work, or even the specific type of work that people object to, it’s the insulting poverty pay?
£50 a week is well below the poverty line for a single person. Subtract travel costs and its questionable as to whether anyone could afford to remain alive on such a sum. “Even the basic pay for fulfilling the minimum requirements of the work would be double what they could get on Jobseekers Allowance” is Mr Cooper’s justification. With such an evidently poor grasp of basic maths, I could fear for the financial future of his business, if I cared. For comparison the JSA rate for under 25’s is £56 a week. From experience I can say that it’s certainly a struggle keeping the Koi carp pond stocked on 56 quid. Alternatively it’s “too generous” if you agree with Mr Cooper, which I don’t. People are indeed better off on the dole, but in the way that the ‘flu is better than the Black Death.
Would I rather pay people to stay on the dole? Well yes actually, yes I would. As a taxpayer, I would much rather pay to support someone in looking for work on their own terms; work that will be suited to their talents, complement their general well-being, and ideally be of a credit to wider society. I would favour this even more so if the alternative is to force the desperate into an exploitative working relationship with the Carl Coopers of this world, encouraging a race to the bottom for wages in a sweatshop economy. I would see the end of parasitical businesses like CarSmart. What a beautiful irony it would be if Mr Cooper found himself unemployed; would his Just World philosophy survive? Would he continue to think of himself as superior to “those people” when he’s stacking shelves for free in the Darwinian future he encourages?
“The benefit system rewards people for doing nothing” says Carl. No mate, it protects them from abusive scumbags like yourself.