“We are all in this together – are we, really?”

How often have we been told to “make sure you read the small print?” It’s something we often hear but how often do we actually do it? There is no doubt that the current Pandemic has focussed a lot of attention on our wonderful National Health Service, and of course the plaudits for those working in the NHS, and its associated support services cannot be understated. Well, reading the “small print” to me, means looking under the surface to understand what is going on elsewhere, and actually trying to decide whether we are actually are “all in this together”

What has been fascinating is watching the response to the emergency by many other businesses and individuals within this “great society” that we have all created. I was intrigued last week to see that a well know utility company decided to post a message on social media  “paying tribute to the many field workers that were out there working on their behalf – “keeping things going”, and maintaining “social distancing”, as per the Governments requirements. Of course the person who posted this message was probably doing it from a lap top in the comfort of their own home! One has to ask surely why is it so many of this country’s small businesses have taken the difficult decision to close, knowing how difficult it will be to recover, whilst some large companies appear to continue to operate as normal? “Essential work”, that’s what the PM said didn’t he!  He also said “If you can work from home you should”, and I have heard this particular message many times over my working career, especially when it came to “snow days” or Christmas and the New Year Holidays. An example of this was just a few weeks from my retirement when we were hit locally by a snow storm. I wasn’t in the “operational arena” at that time, so dutifully logged on to work from my home and sent an email saying “”working from home, available to come in but somebody will have to pick me up”. The car was snowed in and I wasn’t going to walk the four miles to the office. Less than 30minutes later they are sending me 4×4 to pick me up. When I got to the office it was virtually empty! The reality is that events of this kind can bring out the best and worst of people. “I have a cough, so I am self-isolating”. If you have a cough your action should be applauded. If you don’t have a cough and are just exploiting the situation to sit at home on full pay for a week then you should be bloody ashamed of yourself.

Sadly these events do present an opportunity for some. I have always been dubious of the output of some of those who are supposed to be “working from home”. Of course there is a large number of people working in roles where it is impossible to work from home, especially in the utility industry. The reality for them is often being told to “take holiday” or “unpaid leave”. The other reality is that many of the people who are responsible for the Health & Safety of these staff will be sat with a laptop in the comfort of their own homes, whilst the staff they are responsible are left to fend for themselves. Does anyone really think that the executives responsible for these companies will actually be visible during this crisis, checking that ALL their staff are safe?  It’s called “leading from the front”. It’s saying “we all stand together”. Are people in the workplace throughout this Country actually all being treated equally?

What makes some people automatically use every situation to their own benefit, whilst others wouldn’t consider that path under any set of circumstances? Why do some people find it so easy to leave others to pick up the additional work load created by their absence? Of course those that don’t benefit from being paid when they are genuinely sick don’t have such options. Can you blame somebody for trying to hide that “small cough” they have if they are going to lose a weeks’ pay or more?

What world have we created when elements of society are prepared to selfishly ignore the need of the many to satisfy their own personal need, or greed! A society that allows the mindless exploitation of the vulnerable, or where teenagers burn food delivery vehicles, or thieve from local shops knowing being confronted is less likely to happen during this particular crisis. Being “in it together” only works if we live in an equal society, and it would appear that we have never been “less equal” than now. There will be those that will jump on this last statement and immediately try to politicise it. But can we really blame one political party of the way we have ended up? Have we all become to materialistic? How can you explain a society where some children are safer in school than they are at home? Or a society where children are wearing the latest trainers but are undernourished, due to a lack of proper food.

 It would seem that we live in a very unequal society, and whilst we have made some progress since the Generals in WW1 stood at the rear ordering the masses   “over the top men, for King and Country”, we still have so much to do.

“We are all in this together”. Whether the words are being uttered from our Politicians, Businesses, or even our favourite football team that are on the brink of relegation – the “response” will be as much around the way we have been previously treated, or indeed the way that we have been raised, as it will be about the particular crisis facing us all.

As Richard Branson probably sits in one of holiday homes somewhere asking the people of this Country to bail him out, many employees up and down the country will be receiving similar messages from employers. Many will look around and ask themselves the question “what have you done for us?”

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