Why SHOULDN'T I earn £50k? To Julia Hartley-Brewer

Subject: Why SHOULDN'T I earn £50k? To Julia Hartley-Brewer
From: Kate McKeon
Date: 8 Aug 2015

You may have seen this, written by the oh, so charming Julia Hartley-Brewer, expressing her view that Tube Drivers aren't worth the £50k they are paid a year. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11786668/...

I thought, instead of childish 120 character insults on Twitter, I'd write my own 800-word article asking her why I SHOULDN'T earn £50k a year.

Before I started working for TfL, I worked for a major pub chain. I worked shifts – early mornings, nights, and weekends, for about £6.50 an hour. I worked my arse off there. I would work 12+ hour shifts. I was often left (illegally might I add) to manage the bar and kitchen on my own, and was often rostered to work a night shift ending at about 1.30am to be back in for the morning shift at 6am. It was lucky I lived a 5-minute walk away so I could go home to get a few hours' sleep. I wasn't a manager, I wasn't even a shift leader, but I ended up working under such conditions because I had to. Because of course, if you don't like it, leave, right?

Luckily for me, the opportunity arose to work as a temp for TfL. I was employed on a three-month contract initially, which ended up being a rolling contract for three years. I had no guarantee of a job at the end of it, but my wages went up by about £2 an hour and I worked "normal" Monday-Friday, 9-5 shifts. The permanent staff members were entitled to all the benefits such as free travel, sick pay and holiday pay, whilst the temps weren't. So when the Tube driving job came up, I jumped at the chance. I mean, why wouldn't I? £50k, free travel, good benefits, a permanent job, a chance to start saving towards my future.

I take home – after tax, NI, student loan, pension, etc., – about £2,400 per month. That's bloody brilliant. I never thought I'd earn that much. My friends are teachers and nurses and I'm pretty sure they don't get that much. No Tube driver will complain about their wages, we all know how lucky we are.

But, let's break it down, shall we Julia?

I live in Harrow (Greater London, Zone 6). My rent on a one-bedroom flat is £10,000. I'm in a position that I'm able to pay that, otherwise I'd be in a flat share or studio flat for about £7-800pcm.

£2,400 - £1,000 = £1,400.

My car insurance is sky high. I pay about £120 per month. Petrol is £30 per week, so £120 per month. (Yes, I get free travel but I work late shifts meaning the last Tube has gone before I finish. And before you jump down my throat about night Tube, I don't live anywhere near a Tube station so would have to drive home anyway).

£1,400 - £240 = £1,160.

Bills (gas, electricity, water, phone and council tax) cost me about £150-200 per month. Let's go with £150 for the sake of the argument.

£1,160 - £150 = £1,010.

Food costs about £50 a week, so £200 a month.

£1,010 - £200 = £810.

Then, miscellany. Clothes, birthday presents, a night out (on the rare occasion I'm not working), let's say £150 a month.

£810 - £150 = £660.

That leaves me with £660 left over a month, if I budget properly, which I'm putting aside to save. That's not taking into consideration any unexpected costs.

The average cost of a two-bedroom house in Harrow is currently £361,127 (according to Foxtons), meaning a 10% deposit is £36,000.

That means that, if I'm able to put that £660 aside a month, it will take me four and a half years to save a deposit.

I'm in an extremely lucky position that I'm able to put that £660 aside. My friends aren't so lucky. My old colleagues definitely aren't.

So answer this, Julia, why the bloody hell does EVERYONE not earn £50k? Why do you say we don't deserve it? We deserve to struggle? To pay sky high rent for the rest of our lives to people who already own 12 properties? To increase the class divide, so the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer?

I'll tell you why, it's because people like you tell us we don't deserve it. It's because the fat cats are sitting at the top, playing us like puppets, swanning off on their sixth holiday of the year.

Tell me now, Julia, why we should struggle just to own a house and make a future for ourselves.