Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The New Breed of Navvies

Once upon a time, the Irish had no work. Right, they have no work now, but this was another time before the current era. No work, and no social welfare. The boss was rich and the workers were slaves, before Big Jim Larkin came to town.
Amazon appears great because we are on our knees! Let us rise!
Faced with starvation, the Irish emigrated in droves and went across the Irish Sea to England, to do the work that the English did not want to do because those jobs were back-breaking and grueling. It is said that the Irish built the British Empire. They did the manual labor that laid the train tracks and dug the ditches and laid the pipes and paved the streets and on and on.

The money was not great but it was better than the nothing at home, so the Irish put their backs into it and supported those they left behind.

No one did any documentaries or explorations into their working conditions. No one much cared that they were treated like animals and routinely abused because they were Irish.

How things have changed. Times are hard in Ireland, but not so bad that the young are flying off in droves to take whatever miserable jobs they can find in England. The poor British have to do the heavy lifting themselves, at the Amazon warehouse, and the public is shocked to learn that life as a factory hand is not an easy one.

The BBC sent an investigative reporter into the Amazon fulfillment center and filmed his arduous night shift. Adam Littler, an educated man, played at being a working class drone and discovered that he did not like it at all, at all. Unlike sitting at a desk typing up reports, his Amazon stint required physical effort of a sort that would make a navvy laugh off as a day at the park. But there are no more navvies working the hard jobs and the hard jobs are now worthy of a BBC probing.

The shift lasted ten and one-half hours in which Mr. Littler had to walk from place to place, picking an order with an electronic monitor to guide him along. Poor man walked his feet off. This was not anything like the treadmill at the health club, clocking five miles. No indeed. This job required him to walk up to eleven miles, and the damn monitor kept beeping at him if he didn't go fast enough because time is money and Amazon is all about money.

Why, those conditions are stressful, according to an expert selected by the BBC. Workers will suffer from stress and mental illness. It was all right when those workers were poor Irish migrants, but these days, we cannot allow it.

Amazon defended their practices, saying they have consulted their own experts and the warehouse pickers are not put under excessive stress. The time schedule is all perfectly legal, and the pressure to perform tasks in a given amount of time is no different than any other factory position that uses people like machines.

Perhaps Mr. Littler would next like to work an assembly line at an automobile manufacturing plant. He would realize why his parents urged him to get a good education so he could get a good job and never have to skivvy like a navvy, like the Irishmen who built the British Empire with their sweat and blood and toil.

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