The more important your job, the less you're appreciated | Jack Marshall's column

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In 1968, garbage collectors in New York went on strike demanding better pay. Mayor John Lindsay rejected their request. As the New York Times said, “winds whirl the filth through the streets.”

After nine days and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste clogging the city’s criss-crossing blocks, politicians caved. An entire city was cleansed. The public were furious.

In 2016, French footballer Paul Pogba moved from Juventus to Manchester United for £89.3m. The deal was expertly brokered by recently-deceased agent Mino Raiola, who personally made £41m from the transfer.

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After months of speculation, Pogba swapped Turin for Trafford, where he’d previously spent three years in United’s academy prior to his leaving for Serie A on a free transfer. For the vast majority, nothing changed. United fans were ecstatic.

Vital: Bin men in actionVital: Bin men in action
Vital: Bin men in action

There’s a point to all this, I swear. There’s a tongue-in-cheek but enticing notion that, the more important your role in society, the less appreciated you are. Refuse collectors = vital. Football agents = pretty non-essential.

Obviously this premise doesn’t exactly stack up completely, but it’s interesting to explore. Imagine if, like those 1968 garbage collectors, all our care workers went on strike. Or teachers. Or police officers. There’d likely be immediate anarchy.

And yet none of these professions are necessarily highly-paid in the grand scheme of things. They require years of expensive training, razor-keen personal skills, decision-making under pressure, a bottomless pit of compassion and empathy, and demand long hours.

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Alternatively, what would happen if private surgeons, who earn up to 60% more than NHS counterparts, went on strike? A few rich people would have to join the queue for their hip replacements like the rest of us.

What would we do without hedge fund managers making billions by investing pensions in fossil fuels? Probably live happier, healthier lives or something. How ever would we cope without CEOs who slink away with million-pound payoffs after price slides and swingeing redundancies?

Sadly, there’s little to be gained from such thinking beyond frustration at the concept of unjustness. Still, if you’re a nurse who can’t afford to turn the heating on, maybe call British Gas and remind them how society would fail without you.