Those Ethics Girls: Wages Of Thin (Issue 3)

Mavis: Hello, Lil. Come on in. Ooh, what’ve you brought us this time?
Lil: Hi, Mavis. Hi, girls. I thought I’d treat you to a double chocolate fudge gateau with fresh double cream!
Gladys: Wow! That’s impressive. You can certainly bake, Lil. Perhaps afterwards, we can all go down to the hospital’s cardy…, cardiovask…, er,  heart unit and listen to our arteries hardening!
Lil: Very funny! I’ve included a healthy option.
Gladys: Healthy!!?
Lil: Yeah. There’s a strawberry on that bit.
Mavis: If we can get back to business, ladies. Lil, we were just discussing this year’s WI Christmas outing.
Lil: Well, how about Julian in the Council’s Accounts Department. I know he plays rugby, but I happen to know he’s also into musicals and needlepoint.  He’s definitely hiding something!
Sheila: Not quite the outing we had in mind! I was thinking more of a weekend in Blackpool, do a bit of Christmas shopping, see the lights… Gladys: Edinburgh might be nice. Or we could really push the boat out and book a couple of days in London.
Lil: Blackpool? Edinburgh? London might be okay, but why not think a little bigger? My husband’s just booked a week in New York for the two of us, the week before Christmas, in fact.
Mavis: I don’t think we’ll quite have the budget for New York, Lil!
Gladys: Old York might be a push! There are fifteen of us, you know!
Lil: I wasn’t suggesting you all go to New York. It was just an example!
Sheila: A boast you mean! I don’t know how you can afford the time or the money. That cleaning business of yours can’t pay that well – and who’s going to run it?
Lil: My brother-in-law will keep an eye on things. He’s in the police force, you know.
The staff won’t try anything while he’s in charge.
Sheila: I was thinking more of who’s going to look after the staff if they have any problems.
Lil: Oh, they’ll be all right! They’re a hardy bunch. Most are in their sixties, but they can still scrub those office blocks at six in the morning.  Coincidentally, they’ve just arranged a little staff trip themselves. Only a day in Skegness, but it’ll be nice for them to get away.
Mavis: Bit of a difference, Lil! New York and Skegness.
Gladys: That’s the beauty of the minimum wage, Mave! Don’t have to pay a penny more if you don’t want to.
Lil: Minimum wage! Don’t mention that to me! Caused Clive no end of problems. Had to let five of our best workers go just so he could afford to keep the other ten on. It broke Clive’s heart, it did.
Gladys: Why? Did he want to get rid of those ten as well?
Lil: What? I mean he regards them all as his little extended family. Do you want some of this cake, anyone?
All: No thanks!
Sheila: So why don’t you take your ‘extended family’ to New York with you?
Lil: We’d love to, but, er…it’s more of a second honeymoon, really. Since retiring from the stockbroking business at 38, Clive’s managed a real holiday only every other year.
Mavis: A ‘real holiday’.
Lil: Yes. You know, a fortnight away somewhere hot, or perhaps, skiing in the Rockies.
Gladys: You poor things.
Lil: Oh, don’t worry about us. We could still manage a week away every now and then. Even more so since Clive started the cleaning business with some of his Golden Handshake. Besides, if things get a little tight, Clive just sells a few shares and we’re fine again.
Sheila: And what about your employees? What do they do if things ‘get a little tight?’
Lil: They can’t be doing too badly! They can afford a trip to Skegness!
Gladys: Watch it, Lil! They’ll be getting above themselves!
Lil: Look, ladies. We’d love to give our girls a little more each week, but as Clive says, they’re lucky to have a job. The Government want us to work ‘til we’re in our seventies, but there are not many employers willing to take people on at that age. We’re giving them a golden opportunity to earn a few pounds for the little luxuries in life.
Gladys: Like a trip to Skegness? Or food?
Lil: Exactly! Er…pardon?
Gladys: Never mind. What would your client’s think if they knew how you exploited your workforce?
Lil: Exploited is a bit harsh, isn’t it? Anyway, they have nothing but praise for the level of service we provide.
Sheila: That’s down to the professionalism and integrity of your cleaners. They still have the dignity to take some pride in their work despite being paid peanuts.
Lil: Our clients aren’t interested in how much we pay our staff. Were the cheapest cleaning firm in the area and they’re happy to use us for that reason.
Sheila: If that were the only reason, they’d be equally as guilty of exploitation. Perhaps more so, since they are helping to perpetuate the problem. Surely, there’s room for morals in business?
Mavis: Choosing a more expensive service provider because you think they look after their workforce may be ethically sound, but does it make financial sense – from a company’s or individual’s point of view?
Lil: A very good point, Mavis!
Mavis: I mean, how would you know anyway, if they were paying better wages or providing better working conditions? They may just be making larger profits.
Gladys: And taking TWO weeks in New York.
Mavis: And many choose the cheaper option out of necessity. They may sympathise strongly with the poorly paid, but simply don’t have the money to go anywhere else.
Lil: Exactly! Whether you’re a business or an individual, as Clive says, it’s all about minimising your costs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the Post Office and apply for two new passports. Our old ones are full. See you, ladies.
Mavis: ‘Bye, Lil. Another cuppa, girls?
Sheila: Please, Mave. And here, take this cake away. It’s making me feel quite sick!
Mavis: I understand. I’ll go and grab my Garibaldis.

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