So who is key?


When I looked across at this view this morning whilst I was feeding heifers, it did strike me that I’ve not got a bad place to be ‘self-isolated’ in. Looking east across Morecambe Bay towards the hills of the Pennines.

But on one of my rare forays onto social media today somebody had posted something along the lines of, “Give all key workers a pay increase because applauding them isn’t enough.” So I merely asked in the comment section, “So are people willing to pay the food price increase so the key workers in food retail and production can get a pay rise?”
Well that killed that conversation stone dead.

And of course when I looked at the article the person had shared, the ‘key workers’ were only the public servants anyway. I wonder if we’re starting to see first and second class ‘key workers’ appearing. Those who have good unions who can grab the limelight and those who haven’t?
Who are the ‘unsung’ key workers? Well if you can read this it’s because your broadband works and the various engineers, linesmen and the like are still out there working. If you’ve still got electricity and gas, then likewise.

When you ordered your stuff from Amazon or bought something off ebay, did it arrive? Lucky the postmen and other delivery drivers are working isn’t it. Talking to our postman (we’re rural, we do all sorts of weird things that would never happen amongst the urban elite) he commented that everything is manic. They’re delivering every other day on rural rounds because they’ve got more stuff to shift than at Christmas but with fewer people to do it because they have people off sick.
Then there are all those people in warehouses, sorting your stuff out so the stuff you ordered gets to you.

Then there’s the lass in Tesco, you know, the one everybody ignores as they fiddle with their phone as she works the till. To be honest she strikes me as pretty key as well.

And then there’s us down at the scruffy and disreputable end. I did comment to somebody that for most of my day I don’t notice the whole lockdown situation. It’s spring, we’re busy. But not just us. Pick up a phone and order feed and in in the feed mills people are still going in to work. Milk Tanker drivers are still driving milk tankers. In abattoirs and packing sheds people are starting the process through which what we produce ends up on your table.
Then there are the unsung ones, the care workers going from house to house to look after the elderly and most vulnerable. Our society might not collapse without them, but it would be a far poorer place, and without them and what they do, I think we’d struggle to call ourselves a decent people.
So to be honest, I rather agree with the comment the person made. The key workers should get a pay rise. It ought to be a good one so they can afford the increase in the cost of food which will actually pay for the rise a lot of them deserve.

But when you actually look at the key workers, the ones who are keeping the show on the road and are holding things together, the ones who really matter, two things strike me.

Firstly, even allowing for doctors etc., I bet their average salary is below the national average.

Secondly, I’d put serious money on far fewer of them having degrees.


What do I know? Ask the expert, available in paperback or ebook

As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”

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20 thoughts on “So who is key?

  1. xantilor April 25, 2020 at 1:56 pm Reply

    True. I particularly appreciate all the people who are still going in to ‘non-essential’ work when they don’t have to, because it’s their taxes that will be paying for all the people currently not working. I dislike the idea that somehow sitting safe at home doing nothing and being supported by the taxpayer is virtuous.

    • jwebster2 April 25, 2020 at 1:59 pm Reply

      Yes, we shouldn’t forget the people who’re paying for it all

  2. Stevie Turner April 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm Reply

    As you say, there are many key workers. i don’t have any work at the moment, because not many patients are attending clinics and so the permanent secretaries will type the few letters that are available. I feel somehow guilty as I sit here at home, but have found some online transcription work although it pays peanuts.

    • jwebster2 April 25, 2020 at 4:00 pm Reply

      I can see it must be difficult for you, because you have useful skills which cannot be deployed

  3. Doug Jacquier April 25, 2020 at 5:56 pm Reply

    Here in Aus, the government has thrown a shirtload of money at the problem but, as always, the casualised gig economy workers will see the least of it.

    • jwebster2 April 25, 2020 at 5:58 pm Reply

      That is almost guaranteed, they’ve got nobody to stick up for them

  4. Eddy Winko April 25, 2020 at 7:53 pm Reply

    I commented elsewhere that I hope there is a lot of levelling up, and down, ahead of us. This is the best opportunity that we will get, ever.

    • jwebster2 April 25, 2020 at 8:14 pm Reply

      I think it’s something we ought to be a little vocal about 🙂

  5. M T McGuire April 25, 2020 at 10:34 pm Reply

    Totally. My mum in law opens the window and claps the bin men. I reckon that golden. She says they always wave and whistle. Our bin men arrive very early and even if I am awake their are the wrong side of the house for me to get out there before they are gone. I have also taken to thanking the staff anywhere that’s open every time I go in. I’d assume anyone would do that but from the reaction it seems not.



    • jwebster2 April 26, 2020 at 4:44 am Reply

      I must admit that I have always made a point of ignoring self-service tills or similar (Unless things were silly) and always just waited and chatted to real people
      It’s what builds community and holds the place together

  6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 27, 2020 at 3:59 pm Reply

    The reality of the situation is that we rely on people who don’t have a lot of choice in what they do. Because they are replaceable. Because many people can do the same job. And it will go right back to that, because humanity has a short attention span – or the soldiers coming back from wars wounded wouldn’t have such a hard time getting their complex needs after serving dealt with.

    There needs to be a good education for all who choose to benefit from it, and a lack of entitlement from those who have had so much privilege in their lives they don’t even see it.

    Which means selfless politicians – almost an oxymoron. Because the funding needs to be at government level – and politicians like to get reelected.

    Makes you despair sometimes, doesn’t it?

    • jwebster2 April 27, 2020 at 7:46 pm Reply

      I suspect we will have to move beyond identity politics and go back to being more tied into our community

  7. Jack Eason May 6, 2020 at 6:12 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Wise words from Jim 😉

    • jwebster2 May 6, 2020 at 7:41 am Reply

      Even Jim can occasionally be wise 😉

  8. Marje @ Kyrosmagica May 7, 2020 at 6:40 am Reply

    My daughter is going back to work at Tescos next weekend. She is a University student who only tends to work there in holiday periods. Bright people do work in retail: uni students, Mums with young kids at home, (who may be graduates too!) Writers who want some extra income. I used to work in retail. She is going back to work even though she has asthma and that scares me. Tesco has been good at rewarding their employees from what I’ve heard. Other supermarkets less so. I agree that key workers are everywhere and should all have a better wage, and respect than they do, especially now.

    • jwebster2 May 7, 2020 at 9:01 am Reply

      yes I was probably painting my picture with too broad a brush. Retail, like the pub trade and coffee shops, feature in the careers of many 🙂

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