19 March 2015

Fair and proper jobs and adverts.

It seems that there is unrest across the sector, there have been several instances lately of people not happy with job adverts, for several reasons (low response, strange locations, job not actually available yet, odd requirements) but the most worrying are those claiming that the jobs are unfair, exploitative, illegal, too lowly paid.  CJS can only publish what we're sent. I know that sounds like a weak excuse but it's true, we don't set the wages, the work to be done, the skills required, or the hours any more than we can choose where the jobs are based.  We'd love the jobs to be where you want them and for them all to be paid top dollar but we can't (sorry).  What we do do is check that they're not breaking any laws and where guidance exists try to persuade advertisers that they should follow it.  Over the years we have refused a few adverts that don't seem 'right', or are from employers readvertising jobs when we've received complaints about the job / employer.  After over twenty years I'm pleased that those few instances can be counted on one hand.

I understand the concerns about pay scales.
When does 'low pay' become exploitation?
It's a difficult one, young graduates (and older careers changers) need to learn the practical skills of what's entailed and is it fair to pay them the same as someone coming in already skilled? But they're doing the same job. But maybe not as fast (or I hesitate to say it maybe not as well) and possibly requiring greater guidance from other staff who perhaps should be doing things elsewhere. But why should one organisation be able to offer lower wages whilst another offers double for what appear to be the same job? Maybe the one with the lower pay rate has significant additional benefits or includes a large amount of certified training whilst the higher paid one has no support. Or maybe there is no difference between the two roles at all except the salary rates or location. You can go round in circles all day. 

Like many of you I've been on both sides.
When I graduated I struggled to find work as an Ecologist, eventually getting a training scheme placement with a government executive agency, I got dole money plus £10 a week and (here's the big thing) expenses. Because I was travelling big distances between sites and offices some weeks my 'expenses' were more than the proper wages of the field staff! For insurance purposes I was a 'volunteer', I worked hard, I learnt on the job (no training courses for me just hundred of books and a helping hand from the rest of the staff when they could), days were long and 'days off' spent learning and reading up on areas where I needed to expand my knowledge.  Some of the projects I helped are still going and sometimes I read things and remember that I started that (or occasionally I wrote that!).  However, as one placement ran into another with no chance of a proper job I became disillusioned and quit the whole sorry affair striking out on my own and here we are.
Now I'm on the other side, running CJS as a commercial business.  We try to be as fair and responsible as possible (please see our statement about being a social enterprise) but we still have bills to pay (including wages) to make sure that CJS is still here publishing job ads and information. The commercial climate is difficult and I can see why wages are often low and jobs ever more demanding.

Ultimately it's between employee and employer (and yes, I am aware that's an uneven relationship) to set the terms and occasionally the employee has to be brave enough to say "I'm not doing that for that" despite the line behind them ready to step into their shoes (I did once and it turned out to be the best job I ever had). And sometimes the employer needs to stop and think about what their employees deserve now, not how they did it back in the day.

And after all that I have no idea what the answer is.
Until then CJS will continue to publish the adverts we're sent, and be an ethical small business publishing free & low cost information to promote countryside careers in the UK & environmental conservation worldwide.