Monday, 29 September 2008

Global Employment Trends 2008


I am just in the process of preparing for a workshop at Ruskin College with a visiting group of officers and activists from public sector unions in Nigeria.

A key theme will be an exploration of the key findings from the latest global employment trends research from the Inernational Labour Organisation (ILO).

You can see a sumamry of the research at:

One of the most worrying issues is the prediction that the current economic meltdown precipitates a massive increase globally in unemployment.

Here in the UK we can start to see the increases particularly as reported on a quarterly basis by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The national 'at a glance' is always useful:

More specifically we can see the immediate impact within the finance sector not least with job losses at Northern Rock and now Bradford and Bingley.

The issue for trade unions however, and particularly within the context of the UK, is whether this is necessarily bad news within the long-term debate around renewal of the trade union movement.

My particular question is that, despite immediate in terms of job losses, whether significant economic instabilty reaffirms with workers on a long-term basis the need to stabilise their employment position via trade union membership?

Naturally you have various equations that impact on this not least the relatively higher growth of jobs within the public sector and greater propensity in that sector for un/non-unionisation.

My question aside from this however is still, can economic slowdown be good in the long-term for union growth?

There is much academic literature on this point - send me a note if you are interested and I'll e-mail back some useful reading.

As usual, any comments, questions or just gripes are welcome.




Jenni said...


Not sure if I get this one.

My personal view is that if we have members, like the AMICUS members at Northern Rock, who lose their jobs under a 'Labour' government and with their union being a big financial basker of that party - will they continue seeking union membership?

What do you think?

One of the reasons we haven't been able to stop the union movement shrinking is that all of those people over the 80/90s who lost their jobs and were in a union thought that the unions were useless in not stopping redundancies etc., and then decided not to bother joining one again.

This seems very simple to me.

I really cant see your logic.


Ian Manborde said...

Hi Jenni,

Many thanks for the reply.

I could feel the blast of your comment as I logged on to my laptop!

I do understand your point and that it is borne out of your experience.

Taking your point head on I suppose you could still argue that new generations of workers and those without a history of trade union membership may be the ones potentially encouraged to consider membership.

It isn't too pessimistic though is it to suggest that just because someone has lost their job in a unionised workplace they will forever and a day be anti-union?

Surely the average British worker/trade union member has more about them than that?

I look forward to your reply.



John said...

Another tangent to your topic here from Will Hutton:

Ian Manborde said...

Hi John,

Many thanks for the link to the Hutton video. I hadn't spotted this.

The idea of formal recogniton rights on the basis of state assistance is an excellent idea. Although I can see the Tories (and even Brown potentially) being resistant, but why not?

Earlier this year both GS's of UNITE were suggesting something similar in situations where large proportions of investor money in pension funds comprised similarly large numbers of trade union members.

It's an example of the kind of muscle flexing the movement has not sufficiently explored regardless of the vast asserts held by unions and their members.

Thanks again John.


Emiliano said...

You all write as if the trade unions still matter.

I see that in England your membership slides down all the time and you have nearly no-one in the private sector, just in the public sector wher you csn take things easy.

unions in England need to look at what is taking place in Mexico, Brazilia and India - real workers, real issus, real fights.

you only care about more members more money - think - what is really important to workers - are your unions really relevent?


Ian Manborde said...


Many thanks for your input here. Let me take your points as you raise them:

1. Public sector workers are, on average, the worse paid in their sector. I am not sure what you mean by these workers taking 'things easy.
2. Our work at Ruskin and Northern College has an implicit international dimension. Just yesterday and today I have spent time with activists/officers from Nigeria, Phillipines, Kenya and Swaziland.
3. 'More members more money'. Fair enough. Unions are bureaucratic resource-intensive bodies in the UK.

Do you have ideas for delivering services better?


red said...

Let me support what has been said about the delivery of public sector services - keep them public.

I cant see what alternative EZ-9 can make - interesting that he has made no reply.

What will he reply PFI, PPP - unlikely!

Ian Manborde said...

Hi Red,

Yes, indeed, let's fundamentally support the protection of the public sector delivery of services.

The Tories are engaged in a potentially highly damaging exercise of suggesting that charitable entities are the best model available for charitable/voluntary activity.

As has happened in the US what they want is piecemeal service delivery based on religious affiliation. Worse still, if you have no religious affiliation you are left (18th Century charity style to beg for alms and succour) to the whatever is left.

The primary agenda is to deconstruct what Labour built from 1945 onwards and recreate the punitive, miserable, workhouse model that reigned under the Tories and Liberals.

Thanks for your input here.