A trade union renaissance?
- Pope Francis says “organising in unions is a right.” In a speech to the International Labour Organization this month, Pope Francis called for “deep reform” of the economic system in response to the pandemic. Drawing attention to increasing levels of inequality in society, and poor working conditions for migrants, women and gig workers, the Pope declared that “the protection of workers and the most vulnerable must be ensured through the respect of their fundamental rights”. This must include the right to organise in trade unions.
- Trade unions and inequality. Since the 1970s, the UK has seen a declining share of national income go into wages and salaries and a rising proportion returned to the owners of capital and assets. A 2018 report for the IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice found that rising inequality was correlated with the fall in trade union membership. Arguing that stronger trade unions can boost productivity, and for the fruits of automation to be more fairly shared, IPPR argued for easier statutory recognition to enable firm-level collective bargaining, accompanied by sectoral collective bargaining in low-paid sectors.
- ~~The role of collective bargaining. The TUC has called for a series of reforms to make it easier for workers to negotiate collectively with their employer, and to broaden the scope of collective bargaining rights to include all pay and conditions, including working time and holidays and equality issues.
- ~~The economic case. The New Economics Foundation and the University of Greenwich have set out the economic case for trade unions, demonstrating the relationship between wage levels and union membership.
- Two economies? In its landmark report Work in 2021: A Tale of Two Economies the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) argues that the pandemic has reminded workers “of the purpose and power of trade unions”. It brings together analysis of ONS data, interviews with trade union representatives and a survey to paint a picture of workers’ differentiated experiences of the pandemic and how they are organising in response.
Inequalities and public services
- Closing the funding gap. Common Wealth published a report by educational geographer Sol Gamsu which proposed closing the private-state school funding gap under which pupils in the former receive on average nearly four times greater funding per pupil than the latter. The report’s recommendations range from minor changes within current arrangements to structural reforms that would see the full integration of private schools into the state system and the ”democratic ownership of their economic and cultural resources”.
Environment and climate change
- CCC criticises gap between government’s rhetoric and reality. An annual progress report by the official watchdog the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) argued that in only 4 of 21 key areas for decarbonisation has the government implemented policies of sufficient ambition to achieve its own statutory carbon budgets.
- ~~Summary. The report recommended the development of a “net zero test” to judge all policy decisions in the future and called on the Treasury to release the necessary funds. The report especially criticised lack of progress in decarbonisation of housing and surface transport, two sectors responsible for the largest volume of carbon emissions, as well as leaving politically difficult issues like meat consumption “largely ignored”.
- ~~GE 2024 vs COP26? Tim Pitt, former adviser to ex-Chancellors Phillip Hammond and Sajid Javid, argued that the government will have to pick between politically difficult decisions to gain international credibility ahead of COP26 but potentially sacrifice their electoral chances in 2024.
- ~~Balancing costs with savings. The CCC’s Chief Executive, Chris Stark, debunked the idea that net zero will be “ruinously expensive”, with the costs totalling less than 1% of GDP each year, but potentially boosting GDP by 1-3% each year through investment and job creation (video summary).
- ~~Public support. The government released results of an online survey exploring public perceptions of net zero and climate change. Leo Hickman, director of Carbon Brief, points out that the data shows “relative support across the board for policies suggested by last year’s Climate Assembly”.
- Greening the Bank of England. NEF and Positive Money issued a report showing how the Bank of England could implement its new mandate from the Chancellor to support the government’s net-zero plans. They argue that the Bank could facilitate the UK’s transition into a world leader on green finance ahead of COP26, while supporting small businesses and creating green jobs across the country. (Twitter thread summary).