A trade union agenda for Labour

1280px-Durham_Miners_Gala_2008_Old_Elvet_BridgeIt’s no mystery why all the economic indicators point to the economy emerging from the recession and yet wages are continuing to fall behind inflation. The post-recession economy that is being created is based upon reinforcing the distribution of power between capital and labour that has been imposed upon our society since the 1980s.

Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws were intended to ensure that the income generated within our economy poured into the hands of shareholders and company executives while workers’ wages stagnated. The undermining of the ability of trade unions to negotiate effectively on behalf of their members has meant that for three decades the proportion of wealth generated within our economy has grown dramatically for capital but declined for labour.
The return of a Labour Government provides the opportunity to redress this latest history of exploitation. If the next Labour Government is to stand any chance of tackling the grotesque inequalities of present day Britain, it needs a trade union agenda.

This is a simple trade union plan for Labour. Continue reading

Demonising part-time workers

The worker's backs will hoist the meat and cheese revolution to the heavensThey call it a recovery. The OECD has raised its forecast of UK economic growth from 0.8% to 1.5%. This follows on from the British Chambers of Commerce who’ve floated a similar figure. While economics wonks are muttering “caveats, caveats” the Daily Express have had no hesitation proclaiming “Britain’s economic recovery is now in overdrive“.

Resting arguments on evidence might be out of sorts when it comes to punditry, but as someone who thinks commentary should fit the facts and not the other way round it would be dumb to deny the numbers are, handily, falling like pennies from heaven for our clueless, beleaguered chancellor. Befitting their stupid epithet, the Conservative Party will hail this from now until election day as proof their economic policy works. The small matter of three wasted, stagnant years falls down the memory hole every time positive economic news is broadcast. Continue reading

Zero hour contracts: some policy proposals

ZeroThere has been much hand-wringing about the growing scandal of zero-hours contracts. Apparently the Office for National Statistics has greatly under-estimated the phenomenon, with revised estimates suggesting that at least a million workers are engaged on such contracts.

Yet zero-hours contracts are defended on the ground that they provide flexibility for workers as well as employers. The benefit to workers is, however, hugely exaggerated. While there may well be some who suit this kind of arrangement, they are likely to be a small minority. Continue reading

The reality of low-hour contracts – zero is just the surface

Empty supermarket checkoutsThis week, it seems that everyone is talking about zero-hour contracts. Yet the problem is far wider – with many workers facing similar insecurities through agreements of slightly different shapes. At the supermarket where I work, many of us are on contracts of ten hours or less a week – in my case, four hours. Others are on “flexible” contracts, which basically translates as “you get hours if we need you, and good luck if we don’t”.

This may sound quite familiar to many. While the affects of the economic downturn trundle on like an army of weary orcs, so many of us must  jobs that previously only existed in the wet dreams of Victorian free marketeers. And the best thing about it is, we are meant to be grateful to our wealth creating betters for providing us with them.
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When will Labour stand up against these assaults on workers’ rights?

Workers Rights are Human Rights, image by riotgear, tee shirt at redbubble.comThe finding that more than a million British workers (not 200,000 as earlier claimed) are employed on zero-hour contracts tells you half of what you need to know about market fundamentalism in Britain today. The other half is that there are now 2,436 bankers in the City of London taking home more than €1 million a year, that is £15,723 a week, and their bonuses are now rising again.

The first group have no guarantee of work or pay. They often get no holiday or sick pay and, to cap it all, they have to ask permission before trying to get additional work elsewhere – even though if they don’t get additional pay they could be sanctioned by DWP. The second group nearly crashed the world economy, have not been held to account, and now think they have a right to return to business-as-usual as though nothing’s happened.   Welcome to Osborne’s equal opportunities Britain.

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