Letters: Free labour to stack shelves

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Iain Duncan Smith and many right-wing populists miss the point about graduates thinking they are "too good to stack shelves".

When I was at school and university I spent most holidays doing jobs like delivering milk, working on building and road construction sites and labouring in paper mills. I was doing it because I wanted to – mostly outdoor jobs and hard physical exercise, and I was being relatively well paid – not to qualify for job-seekers benefit.

In fact it was several years into working as a highly qualified postdoctoral researcher before I was paid more per week than for my last summer job on a new power station construction site. It is nothing to do with not wanting to do a job you are "too good for" – it is why you are doing it and the rewards that matter.

Just another example to add to the growing mountain of evidence that most Tories do not have an earthly of what life is like for most people. I wonder just how many of the Cabinet's kids are stacking shelves in Poundland at the moment.

Professor Tom Simpson

University of Bristol

In the course of my working life I have stacked shelves for Woolworths, W H Smith, Asda and Tesco. I worked in these jobs in order to finance my studies for a BA Honours degree and then two Master of Arts degrees.

Iain Duncan Smith has made comment on the recent Appeal Court ruling which found that it was unlawful to force geology graduate Cait Reilly to put in unpaid work in Poundland in return for her continued benefit payments. The Appeal Court found this compulsion breached laws on forced labour.

Duncan Smith's take on the case was to attack graduates who in his eyes "think they're too good" to stack supermarket shelves on his so-called back-to-work schemes.

That's not it at all. When I worked stacking shelves I worked in return for a wage, modest though it was. Cait Reilly and others on the government schemes are being compelled into working for nothing for companies.

It is scandalous. The taxpayer is being asked to provide supermarkets – many of whom donate money to the Conservative Party – with free labour at the state's expense. Why should employers pay staff wages when they can get employees for free from the army of the unemployed underwritten by the taxpayer?

Sasha Simic

London N16

I cannot think of anything more depressing than working for a shop where everything is worth a pound with the exception of yourself.

Carl Carlson

North Cornelly, Mid Glamorgan

Shouldn't Iain Duncan Smith come clean about when he deigned to do some shelf-stacking?

Chris Payne

Newcastle upon Tyne

Catholic Church needs more democracy

We now need a Pope who will redress the present imbalance in the exercise of authority in the Catholic Church. We need to restore the real voice of the Synod of Bishops as envisaged by Vatican II. More autonomy should be given to national bishops' conferences and collegiality enabled at all levels in the Church. We need a new, more democratic process of electing key office holders including bishops, cardinals and experts of papal commissions.

Until the key insights and principles of Vatican II are properly pursued, the Catholic Church will continue to be increasingly isolated and irrelevant within the lives of millions of people across the world.

More than 160 leading Catholic scholars worldwide have signed a Declaration on Authority in the Catholic Church to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The number of signatories and supporters of this declaration continues to grow. Our common cause is reformation of the governance of the Catholic Church so that it once again considers and addresses the moral and ethical challenges facing Catholics in the diverse locations and contexts in which they live.

Mario Aguilar

Professor of Religion and Politics, University of St Andrews

Dr Luca Badini Confalonieri

University of Birmingham

Professor Michael Hornsby-Smith

University of Surrey

Professor Ursula King

University of Bristol

Gerard Loughlin

Professor of Theology and Religion, Durham University

Thomas O'Loughlin

Professor of Historical Theology, University of Nottingham

John Sullivan

Professor of Christian Education, Hope University, Liverpool

Dr Michael Walsh

Dr Michael Winter

Dr John Wijngaards

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Ian Quayle (letter, 12 February) wonders why Catholics "continue their membership of this unpleasant organisation" as though we are talking about joining in some leisure-time activity. To us it is about the meaning of our very existence. We see life as our journey towards God.

We have bought our tickets for the journey by being born and, with respect to the clergy, we tend to view their role as the people who are there to look after us on the way - which would include, for instance, instructing us against putting our heads out of a speeding train. So we treat them with respect and take them seriously, but we complain if we don't think the service is good enough, or their working practice lacks common sense.

Now if Ian Quayle wishes to get off the train, and walk along with bare feet and no map, that is up to him. If he wants to deny that the train is there and thundering past him, or to believe that somehow the destination isn't real at all, that, again, is up to him – to us he seems lamentably unobservant.

Deirdre Counihan

Brighton

Back to the new peasantry?

The Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, complains about low wages in the British economy and argues for a revival of manufacturing and food production (letter, 15 February).

Britain is the sixth biggest manufacturing country in the world; we have comparative advantage in producing high-skilled and quality manufactured goods; these workers are paid good wages because they work in capital-intensive industries. The part of the manufacturing industry that left Britain for India and China was low-skilled, low paid and labour-intensive.

Agriculture employed 97 per cent of the labour force before the industrial revolution and was low-paid, low-skilled and labour-intensive. Now 3 per cent of the labour force are employed in the sector, have access to capital-intensive equipment, produce quality goods that are sold on the international markets and are paid good wages.

Low-skilled workers in service sector jobs are paid relatively higher and work in far better conditions than their counterparts in low-skilled manufacturing and agriculture. If Ms Bennett is arguing for the return of the parts of manufacturing and agriculture that are labour intensive, low-skilled and low paid, the Green Party supports the return of the neo-peasantry.

James Paton

Billericay, Essex

Having read Natalie Bennett's espousal of a return to an agrarian economy and base manufacturing I feel that she and her party have been reading perhaps too much of Pol Pot's rhetoric and not enough of his consequences.

Matthew Kilcoyne

York

Original Olympic sport in danger

As the father of a middle-school wrestler, I am very disappointed in the decision by the International Olympic committee to remove wrestling from its 25 core sports.

Wrestling is an ancient sport that was immortalised by the original Olympians thousands of years ago. It is a unique sport that requires only human intellect, strength, and skill, with no machines. It represents the epitome of civilised human one-on-one competition.

It is also a sport that impoverished and under-represented youth can participate in as opposed to newer entries such as golf or snowboarding, which require costly facilities and equipment.I hope that the Olympic committee changes its decision. The Olympics will never be the same otherwise.

Dr Michael Pravica

Henderson, Nevada, USA

Tax hits the wrong mansions

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is absolutely right that we need a palace tax rather than a mansion tax (18 February).

Who would have thought that the "mansion tax"' would be aimed at elderly and disabled people on housing benefit, who happen to live in a two-bedroom bungalow rather than a one-bedroom flat.

Eric Sharp

Newcastle upon Tyne

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asserts that the Queen blocked Parliament debating air strikes on Iraq (in 1999). The Queen does not personally give the royal assent to parliamentary Bills. What Tam Dalyell, the sponsor of the private member's Bill, said was that the Government advised the Queen to withhold royal assent. He did not allege that the Queen herself decided anything. So it was Tony Blair, not the Queen.

Peter Crane

Pytchley, Northamptonshire

On site with the cyber-bullies

Vince Mabuza, founder of qooh.me, says he has sleepless nights trying to come up with solutions to the huge problem of cyber-bullying on sites such as his ("Next generation of social media 'exposing girls to sexual abuse' ", 14 February).

So, why did he set it up? Does he really believe any good can come out of it, or is it just money to be made from lonely people with poor self-image, desperate for friends and at the mercy of their peers?

Joy Watson

Carlisle

Surgical strike

I read with some disbelief the comments of Maria Hutchings, Conservative candidate for Eastleigh, who believes one cannot possibly become a surgeon with a state-school education. Well, one can and one has, Mrs Hutchings, and I shall be backing National Health Action's Iain Maclennan rather than you and your party.

Dr Alexander Ashman

Warminster, Wiltshire

Reich answer

The German employment minister is demanding explanations from Amazon over their employment at their distribution centres of black-clad security guards with alleged neo-Nazi links. I rather imagine the defence will be that, in their quest for world-wide-web domination, they were only following-up orders.

Julian Self

Wolverton, Milton Keynes

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