COLM O'REGAN: There are several categories of what I like to call wage conflation

There wasn’t much of it for a while, but you hear more about it now: Complaining about wages. Not just bemoaning your own, but someone else’s, and how you’d be glad to get the money they’re asking for, for the job they’re doing.

There are several categories of what I like to call wage conflation.

- Where you have to pay the wage yourself:

Say you get a tradesman or someone similarly useful and handy to do a job you haven’t needed in a while and you find yourself uttering the phrase:

“How MUCH? But it doesn’t take him that long to [insert task that you should be able to do if you were remotely handy]...”

- That shower

By and large it appears to be ok to complain about the wages of politicians, a subset of the legal profession known as fat-cats and of course banks. It is automatically assumed that bankers are overpaid. And by bankers of course I’m talking about fat white men in pin-stripe suits, monocoles and little trilbies, carry a cane and often sitting in a pile of cash – maybe in the bath, who went to school with others of that ilk. Not the poor person at the sole remaining “human interaction point” apologising for the machines being out of order.

- Where you’re personally affected by them looking or more money, ie, strikes.

Of course it depends on the profession. Some are in the “good luck to them” category. Nurses, firemen or paramedics should get everything they ask for. Junior doctors should be allowed to go on strike just to get a bit of sleep. Teachers are nearly in that category. BUT NOT THE BAD ONES. As if the bad ones are fierce obvious to spot asleep in a field or selling drugs to the pupils. Attitudes to teachers are further complicated by the long holidays which are also intrinsically linked to the kids being home and driving their parents up the walls. Guards should be better paid – well, the ones fighting crime but not the one who caught you speeding “and no way is that place 50 kilometres. A pure RACKET.”

Transport worker’s wages provoke a mixed reaction. We obviously think that it’s hard to drive a bus, we thank the bus driver, we have anecdotes about how yer man stopped for us even though it was miles from the bus stop and technically they weren’t insured to do so but it was raining so fair play.

But when they’re on strike we tend to imagine our least favourite bus driver, the grumpy one who sneers at us as if thinking “I thought you’d have a car by now.” I tend to button my lip when it comes to moaning about others’ wages. Comedy is one of those jobs which doesn’t really stand up to hourly-wage analysis. And by the time you’re explaining that there’s a lot work goes into writing a joke – work that looks suspiciously like sitting on your hole staring into space – you’ve lost the argument. Comedy is, like a lot of jobs non-unionised. There’s equity for actors. I’m not sure what we’d have. Irony maybe. I don’t know how a comedian’s strike would work. Would we pass a picket? I’m sure some of us would but claim it was in a jokey way, that by passing it in a lighthearted manner, we were actually drawing attention it. That’s why some comedians have agents. We do so much self-deprecation in our material that we need someone else to calculate our self-worth.

Anyway I’d better spell-check this – to collect my wages of syntax.


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