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As rents, property and travel fares rise, so does the pressure to earn more money. But what are the costs to your integrity when you do?
How much are you worth?
One of my temping agencies woke me up the other week asking me to work on reception that day. Within seconds, I was pulling out my (one and only) suit jacket from my ‘office’ (it’s actually a cupboard under the stairs, akin to Harry Potter’s bedroom, but still…) and preparing to forgo breakfast and run to the tube, as I asked the compulsory question:
‘What’s the hourly rate, please?’
‘Seven pounds an hour.’
‘Seven or seventeen?!’
‘For a corporate company in Mayfair?! That is not even minimum wage!* No, thank you.’
I kept my integrity of not endorsing exploitation (and did not get any other work that day).
How much can your moral values come into it when there are mouths to feed?
An acting friend of mine – let’s call him Robert – is a strict vegan and has two children. He was offered an advert for a fast food chain and did not mention any dietary requirements as the money was in the thousands for one day’s filming. He landed the job and was given chicken to eat on set. He did it (and spat the chicken out between takes!).
Another friend – let’s call her Matilda – who recently had a baby, was called on a last minute casting job for another commercial. As her fiancé was working, there was no one to look after their daughter, so she left her asleep in the waiting room. She was in the audition room, in the middle of being filmed, when her daughter started to cry. Without a second thought, she ran out of the room and so could not be considered for the job. So, in both cases, children came first – whether that meant getting the job/sticking to previous values or not.
How much do you need to enjoy your job?
My friend Elliott has this to say:
‘Twice I realised I was selling my soul. Once selling cigarettes (an industry that I am against) but I wasn’t aloud to “sell” them. I had to stand in the corner of gay pubs and make eyes at men until they talked to me. Then make them buy cigarettes from me. The other time was for Jack Daniels where we went into a Uni on freshers week and gave free a stupid amount of JD to the freshers. “You can have the first one for free” sorta thing. I now try and lead with my conscience or how can I expect a politician to do the same?’
How much is your health worth?
Up until this weekend, I hadn’t had a day, evening or weekend off for about a month. I was lucky enough to be offered enough work to not be worrying about the rent and I accepted it all, but those jobs meant my chances of sleep, cooking meals and seeing friends were few and far between. I’d temp all day, rush home and have a Skype meeting about budgets for my theatre company and then be writing tenders for potential contracts until midnight before getting up six hours later to do it all again. I made mistakes – signed in to the wrong school to do a workshop, forgot to send important emails and invoices that were overdue, and worst of all went back to copious intakes of sugar just to stay awake! Four weeks of this resulted in acute headaches, stomach cramps, exhaustion, looking ten years older and feeling fifty years older. I ended up cancelling three jobs last week and losing half a week’s wages because I wasn’t even well enough to get on the tube. I guess the lesson I’ve learnt from that is that my health is worth more than being out of my overdraft, although ideally I would like both!
My friend Nicola sums it up nicely:
‘Integrity is very personal. I found mine in being unafraid to say no; to jobs that I quite wanted as well as jobs I didn’t. Even the best work is still work, and as long as I can pay for the things I need then I’m never going to regret working too little when I’m old and tired. That may mean realising that there are less things that I “need” every now and then, but there’s nothing more important to me than time to myself and with people I love.’
*Minimum wage is £7.20/hour for over 25 year olds in the UK
Nadia works as an actress. She also teaches acting and storytelling to adults at City Academy and is an associate for National Youth Theatre, directing young people and leading inclusivity training.