Peter Bromhead: Is my 'caregiver' a slave?

By Peter Bromhead

Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

A number of readers have noted the disparity in wages for caregivers, thanks to the recent findings of the formidable Dr Judy McGregor.

This is because many are aware that I boast a personal "caregiver", responsible for the quality of my comfortable domesticity. The question being asked is: am I keeping her in slavery?

McGregor is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and recently exposed conditions for workers in the care-giving industry, suggesting their remuneration rates bordered on slave labour.

I first knew McGregor when she was a hard-drinking, hard-nosed newspaper reporter-cum party girl (my sort of woman). Following a long and successful career in journalism, she underwent some sort of metamorphosis and became a lawyer and distinguished educator, with a doctorate in political communication.

Government sycophants and understrappers who control the nation's purse strings would do well to pay attention to her observations, because McGregor still has a newshound's nose for recognising waffle and is unlikely to meekly allow her findings to evanesce away, awaiting some politician's vague promise to deal with the issue once the nation's coffers return to surplus.

In the meantime, readers can rest assured that my personal caregiver does not suffer the penury of her fellows. I decided to reverse our financial arrangements some years ago, by giving her all my zillions to look after, in exchange for weekly pocket money to buy coffee and muffins as my reward for exercising her dog.

I'm only glad my mother is not alive to witness this benign domestic arrangement. She assured me - even as a child - that I was doomed to failure, grimly predicting I would end up penniless and in the gutter.

Naturally, this made a lasting impression - particularly on a 6-year old - given that the gutters of wartime Portsmouth boasted disagreeable levels of effluvia and flotsam, as household chamber pots were regularly emptied in the street when the bomb-damaged sewerage system failed.

Sadly, I'm still toiling and working long hours - not to elude her dire predictions, but to satisfy the small matter of school fees until I'm 96.

The only way my misguided mum's prophecy could suddenly turn around and become reality is if the caregiver loses patience with my advancing senility and turfs me out on the street.

Even that wouldn't quite cut it with my poor old disgruntled mother, who would have regarded Parnell gutters as a bit upmarket for what I deserve.

- NZ Herald

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