Britain has been gripped by tough economic measures for some time. However, instead of being damaged by such tough economic times, capitalism in Britain has heeded the words of Milton Friedman and Stuart Hall, and not wasted this crisis.
The most evident example of this, is the outbreak of zero-hour contracts in British employment. Contracts that do not provide a steady work flow and have ignited ambiguity about the rights of employees bound by them.
As economists in Britain have marked a turning point in the economy this past week, public and political support is very much behind current economic policy. The signs of a reinvigorated capitalist economy are beginning to shine through. But at what cost? Britain now holds a workforce oppressed for the greater good, as the vital 'Middle-England' electorate see a light at the end of economic turmoil, and opposition parties dare not criticise economic policy for fears of losing their support.
Stories across all the news networks of Britain show the shocking numbers of zero-hour contract workers in the UK, employed by some of the biggest firms both home and abroad. Details of Orwellian surveillance in the warehouses of Amazon, and tales of retailers once applauded for the philanthropy shown to some employees, now reviled for the zero-hour contracts they attached to others.
I questioned the damaging impact of zero-hour contracts in the midst of the financial crisis; a time when very few paid any attention to it. Having asked the Conservative MP, Matthew Hancock whether he recognised the damaging effects of these contracts, he stated that it was "better to have a job than not." A choice between a faltering economy and the suspension of workers' rights appeared, and it is evident that the government sided with the corporations.
The voice that would normally take a cemented stance against such policy, has been silenced in an attempt to maintain popularity. The Labour Party has already been forced to accept the tough economic measures implemented by the coalition government such as deep cuts to the welfare system, and reduced involvement of the state in education. But now that working rights appear in peril, the main socialist voice in Britain has been gagged by the implicit political need to revive capital.
Despite the attempts by senior Labour figures to criticise this culture, it appears that they once again have no room to budge in terms of coalition economic policy. The Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna held a 'zero-hours summit' to discuss alternatives to these contracts. However, as the BBC report shows, the Labour Party has no intention of banning the contracts because any plans to reverse economic policy by Labour will prove deeply unpopular.
British capitalism, and the political actors that support this policy are set to benefit greatly from the economic crisis. By 2015, the zero-hour contract culture will be so deeply entrenched, that its reversal will prove near impossible. The Labour Party cannot promise its removal, and this leaves behind utilitarian ambiguity around workers' rights. This leaves a coalition government confident with economic revival, but also corporations with a flexible tool; a workforce that requires no security or promises.
Capitalism never wastes a crisis.
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