Cheer Up! Wages Equalising. Really?

Tony Janio the Leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton & Hove Council has written a cheery piece for his fans in Brighton & Hove Independent saying ‘unemployment is the lowest in living memory’ and continues:

‘the news that the numbers of low paid has just hit a record low is very welcome’.

What does this mean? I understand it to mean that many workers have dropped out of the labour market. According to the Guardian 132,000 EU workers quit the UK last year leaving many firms struggling to find replacements. Many of the EU workers will have been in the low paid category delivering pizzas, serving in restaurants, cleaning Airbnb accommodation. Recently there have been adverts on neighbourhood sites for Airbnb cleaners willing to clean through the night before the next customers arrive. These vacancies may be due to EU workers leaving these shores, to seek better prospects elsewhere.

The cleaning of bnb accommodation is very poorly paid precarious work. It is done mostly by women who advertise their services online or work for small companies. If they are paid by a Airbnb host or private cleaning firm they will not receive the full amount the host/company has charged the customer for cleaning services. The EU has criticised Airbnb’s pricing structure recently recommending their total price should include service and cleaning charges.

Because the earnings from this kind of work may be off the books workers may not be eligible for support such as tax credits or Universal Credit. We still know little about how the market is operating here, but when Tony Janio says the numbers of low paid have ‘hit a record low’, he is clearly not referring to the precarious undeclared employment of workers such as Airbnb cleaners.

In Brighton a cleaning company started to exploit Airbnb hosts and others by charging up front and then failing to provide the service. This kind of scam is encouraged by no contract bnb employment practices.

And it is not just private cleaners whose precarious earnings make a mockery of the idea that wages are equalising.

Women working in science and engineering earn a fifth less than their male colleagues in the UK.’ according to an article in the New Scientist.

‘The average salary for men working in science and engineering in the UK in 2017 was £41,200, while women were paid £33,000, a difference of 20 per cent.’

Most politicians continue to live on a planet in another universe where cleaners are humble and obedient and enjoy scrubbing 24/7. That most bnb cleaners are women whose cleaning services are exploited to enhance the profits for companies such as Airbnb is a scandal and needs to be challenged. Otherwise equal wages will remain a fantasy, like an iceberg on fire in the Arctic.

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