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Shock at low pay for high skill

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Neil Lickfold05/07/2021 20:17:10
836 forum posts
166 photos

Over time, the skilled turners and millers have lost in wages I view cnc and cam as part of the turners and millers tool box. It used to be 3x the minimum wage, now it is close to 1.5x minimum wage. Mainly due to cheaper overseas companies and their fast turn around. My son got some work quoted, and then a place in Asia could do the job of 10 parts, and deliver within 1 week for 1/2 the price of getting a local shop doing the job, based off a large batch. Now with the flight restrictions some of those places can't deliver in time is creating work locally. But wages are not going up. The current attitude is you are lucky just to still have a job.

There are a few places that pay well, they have a low turnover of staff too.

brian jones 1105/07/2021 20:28:58
347 forum posts
62 photos
Posted by duncan webster on 05/07/2021 19:14:48:

£25/hour full time is about £49K/year. This is not bad money, bearing in mind you get paid holidays and pension contributions in with that. Medion salary in UK is £31.5K, so 50% up. Whilst I don't wish to comment on train drivers wages I would point out that they have to work rubbish shifts and need a great deal of route knowledge. You or I couldn't just jump in and drive.

quite right DW I mis spook my observation. I was really referring to the london underground drivers, back then they were on scandalous wages. wasnt till a few accidents that they started introducing compulsory random drug testing much against union wishes of course.

compare that to london bus drivers, what a gruelling unsociable job that is (viz my neighbour). Took a long time before management installed covid screens. They are still not prioritised for vax - scandalous

main line drivers have to go through extensive training and learn a rout with another driver - its highly regulated

Tony Pratt 105/07/2021 20:37:02
1934 forum posts
12 photos

I also believe the railways/underground are highly unionised?


duncan webster05/07/2021 20:57:13
3945 forum posts
63 photos
Posted by Neil Lickfold on 05/07/2021 20:17:10:

..... It used to be 3x the minimum wage, now it is close to 1.5x minimum wage. .......

There are a few places that pay well, they have a low turnover of staff too.

Minimum wage is £8.91/hr. 25/8.91 = 2.8

brian jones 1105/07/2021 21:26:41
347 forum posts
62 photos

Allow me to give you a couple of examples of a dead end career (as I am often asked by old fellas - what should my grandson do when he leaves school) - Its an uncomfortable question

a) Technical author

This sound good - preparing various kinds of technical publications, promotional copy, users manuals and so on.

You need a very sound technical background to write plausible copy, very good command of written English, knowledge of print publishing, artistic flare to know what looks right, conscientious attention to detail and proof reading. Once you gained your skills and credibility you quickly reach a very low salary ceiling - and there is no scope for advancement


teaching english as a foreign language [ sounds exciting travel the world as a young adventurer. Its a popular choice for mediocre grads after hundreds of job appl rejection, but you need to do a 4 week recognised course uk based and its quite tough. You dont need above English O level and its your mother tongue. You dont even have to have a clear spoken voice. some have had heavily regional accents and got away with it.

You can get into some unpleasant local language schools particularly in the far east, where they want your blood for the money. There are web forums that exchange info. They pay is just manageable given local costs. The attraction being living and getting to know a foreign land even learning the language - like China used to be under Deng Xao Ping - dont even think now.

The bottom line once you pass 25 staring at 30 there is nowhere to go and you will be too old at 30 - Schools want young pop stars as they bring in the fee students.

Come back to UK and you have to go to teacher training to get back into the system (assuming you have a relevant degree). You have to pay 15k for a year of grind. to get a PGCE

So bottom line my Warehouse lad has the right idea and there will always be a need for a reliable clean living man always ready to do boring repetitive work - yes no sir, no complaints,never late, no time off, sickies, happy in his job etc. Joke is I heard that he has saved up enough money to buy his own flat, and only covid has stopped his progress

It will be a long long time before they make robots to replace him

Brave New World

James Alford05/07/2021 22:52:51
463 forum posts
79 photos
Posted by duncan webster on 05/07/2021 19:14:48:

Medion salary in UK is £31.5k

According to the ONS, median household income is only £29.9k in 2020.

duncan webster05/07/2021 23:57:14
3945 forum posts
63 photos

My figure came from statista, and isn't far off ONS. According to this STATS median salary is £68100. Just shows there are lies, damn lies and statistics

James Alford06/07/2021 07:24:01
463 forum posts
79 photos
Posted by duncan webster on 05/07/2021 23:57:14:

My figure came from statista, and isn't far off ONS. According to this STATS median salary is £68100. Just shows there are lies, damn lies and statistics

I agree entirely. I used to do stats analysis for a living. It was quite surprising how even the selective choice of mean, median and mode for the "average" could change the narrative of the figures.



Martin Connelly06/07/2021 09:10:21
2125 forum posts
222 photos

Regarding Martin K's comment regarding bargaining power, in the 70s when I was still a schoolboy I had a Saturday job in a department store cafeteria. The women who worked full time and served people or operated the till were members of USDAW. My brother and I (both doing the same thing) cleared tables, put the dishes through the dishwasher, put the clean dishes and cutlery out for the shoppers, kept the orange juice in the cooler topped up, added syrup to the post-mix drinks system, put the 3 gallon milk containers in the milk cooler, fetched supplies from the stores, occasionally stood in for the women on the counter but crucially were classed as porters. This meant we got GMB rates not USDAW rates and so we had a higher hourly rate of pay than the full time women. We worked a full 40 hour week during school holidays as that was also when the cafeteria was most busy and so got a full week's wage each week but didn't pay tax as we never reached the allowance threshold. I also worked behind a bar a couple of nights a week when I reached 18 and got paid £1.50 for a shift that went from 19:00 to 22:45, that was the lowest rate of pay of anything I have ever done but it paid for a few beers when I wasn't behind the bar since a pint cost on average about 22p then.

Martin C

Nigel McBurney 106/07/2021 09:32:06
999 forum posts
3 photos

The recent references I heard in the news was the ridiculous high wages that underground railway drivers got,highly unionised,threatof a strike paralyses London so unions have clout. An estimator that I dealt with at south London engineering company many years ago told me that when he worked in the 1930s a skilled turner would get about £2 a week and as he put it a tram driver with no skill got £3 aweek,times dont change.Mainline driving is no doubt different,lots info/books on lives of steam loco drivers/fireman and others.Good wages and extras for drivers but this could all be lost very quickly due to health problems or if some of the multitude of rules were broken,a driver could easily be demoted to a poorly paid shed job,No chance of driving for another Rail company.

Martin Kyte06/07/2021 09:53:45
2728 forum posts
48 photos

Why do we even think that rail workers are on ridiculously high wages when they are merely selling themselves for the best wages they can get in a market place which is the same as everyone does. The system does not pretend to be fair, but just to work. Governments then have to attempt to redress the balance to a greater or lesser degree.

regards Martin

BOB BLACKSHAW06/07/2021 10:12:23
446 forum posts
110 photos

A few weeks ago I was watching a new surface being laid on the main road at Clapham, Bedfordshire, I was asking a few questions to a chap with a high vis jacket about how far a load of tarmac goes. Not asking anything about how much the workforce was earning, he said that the chap on the tarmac laying machine was on at least £80.000 per year and could be more. That is the rate that these layers on the vehicle are on throughout the country, as I stated I did not bring up the subject of money.


Robert Atkinson 206/07/2021 10:41:30
1198 forum posts
20 photos

On pilots versus engineers and designers it has always struck me as odd that there is a perception that pilots have high(ish) wages becuse they are responsible for others lives. However this only applies on a flight by flight basis. A fligh could be really hairy but as long as there is not an incident that is the end of it. An engineer or designer certifying airworthiness or compliance is responsible for that work for as long as the aircraft is flying. I personally know two engineers who were questioned about work they had certified years previously when following an accident (one after the aircraft had been transferred twice to another countries) issues were found in areas where they were the last to certify. In both cases it was determined that work had subsequently been carried out but not recorded or certified. I was an uncomfortable tim for them though.
Piolts do of course have addtional justification for salary but at a maximum of just over 10h a day (290h in 28 days) their hourly rate looks pretty high.

derek hall 106/07/2021 11:29:05
216 forum posts

Regarding statistics........BAH....maths for politicians !

Only got to look at the farce that is Covid stats, differs country to country, no real definitions of terms and as usual anyone can do what they like with stats to get the results they want.

I studied some maths stats with the OU and found it very interesting how the data can be manipulated.

Anyway sorry to go off topic...

I worked in Sewage Treatment for Anglian Water several years ago - when I tell people this everyone says it sounds awful, helped by experience of dropping a bolt in the raw untreated incoming sewage and putting my hand in and pulling out something that commonly occurs in sewage instead!

Point I am making that the job was reasonably well paid but not many wants to work with waste water so should I have been paid double for working in sewage?

SillyOldDuffer06/07/2021 11:59:38
8513 forum posts
1914 photos
Posted by Martin Kyte on 06/07/2021 09:53:45:

Why do we even think that rail workers are on ridiculously high wages ...

regards Martin

Early in my career I noticed my job was difficult, skilled, and grossly underpaid whilst everyone else was paid enormous money to do trivial work. In fact, everyone apart from me was overpaid, thick, lazy and underperforming! Later, having done a few different jobs, and studied many others, I realised you have to walk a mile in the other guys shoes before jumping to conclusions!

Are train drivers comparatively overpaid due to powerful unions? How about members of the House of Lords, paid £350 per day to attend, no work required, subsidised bars and restaurants, plus free parking in central London? Actually, you always have to look closer. As jobs, Train driving and the even more glamorous equivalent of Airline Pilot had no attraction to me because they disrupt family life. And although the House of Lords sounds as if it's full of idle aristocrats, it's actually made up of retired big-hitters who often improve shoddy legislation emerging from the Commons.

There's no automatic connection between skill and pay-rates. Skills have be relevant and in demand, not just impressive. Not much call in the UK for coal miners, dBase III programmers, ostlers, typist or gladiators. My mum was a comptometer operator, and a codebreaking aunt selected cryptographically promising messages for input to Colossus at Bletchley. In their day, all highly valuable jobs, not now.

A good radio programme a few months back discussed the downfall of British Leyland. The company was formed as a last ditch government attempt to save the British owned Car industry. Government forced failing companies to merge by refusing to subsidise them individually. The idea was to promote economies of scale and enable modernisation. Unfortunately almost all the companies were financial basket cases resulting from low productivity due to out-dated machines and methods, failure to invest, high staff costs, lack of imagination, and decades of poor labour relations. In order to maintain production using old-fashioned hard-work methods dating back to when labour was cheap, BL had to pay top rates for staff because people could get decent pay for easier work elsewhere. And Unions with long memories of previous exploitation were happy to exploit the situation, demanding more money in compensation for poor working conditions as if there were no tomorrow. Eventually unskilled assembly line workers were paid more than toolmakers, designers, and managers, which led to more discontent and throttled the improvement programme. Despite strong attempts to put things right it's no surprise the company collapsed. Skilled staff and government cash aren't enough when history leaves a business haemorrhaging money.

Economic productivity is more important than skills. The whole has to be balanced. Skills are only one of several means to an end, and they may be worthless.



Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 06/07/2021 12:02:58

Phill Spowart06/07/2021 15:54:48
28 forum posts
2 photos

I can assure you that complex CNC programming to a good standard is every bit as skilled as a manual machinist, and with a much higher threat of making an expensive machine go bang...:O

I assume the OP meant salaries of £25k/year, assuming a 40 hour week that's nearly £12/hr. Minimum wage gets you £18.6K/year on same assumption, just gone up to £8.91/hr.

On Underground drivers, given that a fair proportion of their passengers will be executive or legal types who have inflated each others salaries well into 6 figures, I think they've done the right thing. Some of you may remember around 2005/6, The London Underground song was released. Recorded by two medical students, it was a tirade against greedy striking tube drivers (and not suitable for the sensitive, if you choose to google it). Fast forward a decade to the junior doctors strike... One of them, Adam Kay, wrote a brilliant book called This is going to Hurt, in support of the Junior doctors strike. Given what he's no doubt learnt about the importance of a strong union (which the doctors certainly did not have), I wonder if he'd still write that song?

Mike Poole06/07/2021 20:06:13
3308 forum posts
73 photos

The situation in British Leyland where line workers on measured day rate made a few pence more than skilled men was eventually resolved in favour of skilled men. Roy Fraser led the toolmakers out on strike for two weeks which was unsuccessful as the tool room work so far ahead that the company do not feel the pain. A change of tactics brought the other skilled unions to join the cause which had a more immediate effect as the plant maintenance joined in, as an electrician at the time we were on strike for a further two weeks which again was not immediately successful but a regrading exercise a little while later put skilled men in the top grade so in the eyes of skilled men justice was done. In those days there were many unions recognised by the company and the T&G ruled by having the biggest membership and wielded much power as their members were nearly all production workers so striking had an instant effect. The remaining parts of the British Leyland empire are successful businesses although they are of course under new ownership and a fraction of the size of the old company. Next year it will be 50 years since I started my apprenticeship at Cowley, despite the many threats of closure I clocked up 44 years before retiring at 60 and the plant is still making MINI.


Jason Thompson09/07/2021 11:30:34
3 forum posts
5 photos

£25, I wish. £12 to £15 is more accurate for Cumbria.

An electrician now charges £40 to £50 an hour on average. I cant honestly say they are more skilled than a machinist even one on £25/hr.

When we are told that there isnt the money in fast turn around manufacturing and cant afford the wages and yet companies make huge profits on top of leasing modern machinery. When you boss and his wife bot buy new cars you have to ask yourself is the company really that strapped for cash.

The term engineer has been stolen by academics and is no longer permisible for those working in the traade to use the job description to describe what they do. The ficticious organisations like the IIE and and universities have decided that those under degree level deserve no recognition. Its quite clear to me if you work on a farm your a farmer, if you work in engineering you should be allowed to be called an engineer.

With this total lack of respect and almost slave wages how can anyone be suprised at the lack of skilled workers. There actually isnt a skills shortage just a shortage of those unwilling to work for nothing and be treated like second tare citizens, they are either on the job market or chosen other profesions.

The new philantrepists set a fine example, the world is sliding into recession or at least a very lean period due to covid and 3 rocket men are blowing cash on heading for the stars, I like the phrase rocket men as it sound like they are similar to Kim Jong Un.

Thing is we all work hard to earn money and most jobs are no different to any other. The skill needed to drive a train is actually no different to being an engineer (in its full context of the word). If your making one off life critical parts like those for aviation is it really any less stressfull than driving a train where systems are in place and concentration is at a maximum. Do we want parts made by sloppy joes. Just because the disaster is taking longer to come to its fruition does not make it any less vital. We are now in a society thats being offended for people who may get upset ten years from now. So crapping yourself making a part for an aircraft seems fairly sensible to me. ive met a few train drivers and to be honest they are the most laid back people ive met.

Edited By Jason Thompson on 09/07/2021 11:42:10

Circlip09/07/2021 11:53:06
1502 forum posts

Needs and wants, pay and earn. Seems unless the great unwashed think unless you can fly to distant lands for holidays three or four times a year, you're underpaid and need a rise. Reason given by one guy telling me why he deserved a rise was the fact he didn't own a timeshare. That was about thirty years ago.

Regards Ian.

brian jones 1109/07/2021 15:20:15
347 forum posts
62 photos

Well this topic has certainly raised some hackles - and its still fairly friendly yet at the same time many valid points have arisen

The question is - would you advise your kid to go into engineering?

One absent category here I notice is that of the pathetically small business men SMEs

Working for themselves, wouldnt have time for this gossip

btw if we are talking about domestic electricians dont mention them to me I have a generally low opinion of this breed of entitled rapacious cowboy. BUT if we are talking of the industrial type with his full JIB + special courses then thats a real professional. You dont get into a factory without the right pedigree - got my vote

Being self employed sole trader is a whole different game and until you ve been there you wont know how hard it is.

I had a business once, I bought a village pub from receivership, it was cheaper than a 2 bedroom house

The goings on - I could write a book about it - very hard work

My locals used to come in for builders hour (early doors 4pm) to shoot the breeze and take the pss. I would frequently remind them they were in my front room and also these guys were all tradesmen on £10 ph min (30 years ago while I was on £1 ph which was the truth but nobody believed me. 100hrs/wk no hols no sickies, no staff but we all had a laugh it was quite an experience but gruelling physical work

I used every trick in the book to avoid spending money but I still managed to stay in the black and never had to borrow (it was freehold) and because I never had time to spend I always had 100 notes in my back pocket every week

I daresay if you are a journeyman CNC accredited contractor you could make good money if you can be away from the OH and your kids 6 nights a week going the length of the country and you would expect 60hrs/wk

Anyone done that here - been self employed

btw SRN Nurses get £45ph going agency - look up

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