1 May is probably not a date many Spear’s readers will know well. Traditionally celebrated by the labouring classes, International Workers Day is just another day for us to overlook the over-worked, over-bonused City worker.
IWD commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Affair, where labourers were killed by police in Chicago after striking for an eight-hour working day. Taken up worldwide by socialists as a day of solidarity, it has become a celebration, reflection and commemoration of workers. Some workers.
Speaking to City workers toiling in the artificially lit, laborious, draining environment of finance, for many it feels like a career in the Durham mines rather than Canary Wharf. An eight-hour day is something a banking analyst could only dream of. Therefore one has to ask: is it time to include City workers in this annual celebration?
I canvassed those I knew in banking, law and insurance and asked what they would change about their working conditions and what they would like to see change in the City.
I got the following responses:
‘I’d like to see double-breasted suits make a comeback, and on the firm – it might hide my growing late-work-night take-out paunch.’
‘There should be a limit to the number of screens one man can deal with. It becomes a dick-measuring instrument, and it’s not easy being the Tyson of the trading floor.’
‘If I’m working till 2am on a deal for a client, Zuma instead of Nando’s would be nice once in a while.’
‘A special carriage at the front of the Tube with a guaranteed seat. Tea and biscuits wouldn’t go amiss.’
And on a more serious note:
‘If other workers get to clock in, clock out, we should too, so people are aware of how long you have been there – maybe then the inhumane hours might be recognised.’
A bricklayer would no doubt find it hard to stand side by side with a banker chanting for better working conditions. Just the image is enough to make you laugh, and the suggestion would probably spark another round of Occupy movements in financial districts. Heart attacks at the Socialist Workers Party would increase hundredfold.
No doubt in finance the working conditions are aggressive and cutthroat, however bankers operate in another stratosphere of employment and to make any form of comparison with anyone other than a new analyst is laughable.
As a former analyst at a notorious top-tier American bank scoffed, the suggestion City workers should have any affinity with International Workers Day is absurd. He remarked, with a somewhat arrogant caveat, ‘Apart from the hours, you get an amazing salary and bonus, you get what you put in… Then again,’ he chuckles, ‘you’re probably screwed if you work for a mid-tier bank.’ There isn’t even solidarity in the City.