Saturday, 21 November 2015

Working for the economy: The economic case for trade unions


Apologies for the absence of a recent post, but workload has kept me away from writing, and I have also had so many thoughts on what I'd like to write next, that it has stopped me from getting down to the business of writing itself

In any case, this is just a short post to promote the reading/dissemination of a great, new piece of research which has been commissioned by a number of unions and researched/produced jointly by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and staff from the Political Economy Research Centre at the University of Greenwich.

Workers, wages and unions: what the economy needs
The report Working for the Economy: The Economic Case for Trade Unions probably won't make for revelatory reading for this who follow this blog, but the arguments deployed and the original research approach makes the case overwhelmingly for trade unions as part of a functioning, healthy economy.

Read the summary NEF  overview and download the summary and/or full version of the research here:

I don't want to detract from reading the report but the argument is not dissimilar form that of the International Monetary Fund (no usual friend of organised labour) in their recent report, Power from the People (I wrote a summary article wrapped around the IMF research back in April for the Future of Work Hub: which is that wage-led economies (like those in all OECD countries) reply on the power of collective bargaining to filter wage growth into the economy to aid overall economic stimulation and development. It is the diminishment of trade union power combined with decreasing levels of collective bargaining coverage internationally which is the principal cause of long-term, structural economic inequality.

It is a simple concept but I tend to think that the neo-liberal assault on trade unions has meant that a prevailing narrative of trade unions as antithetical to the economy has taken hold in orthodox economic circles. This has I believe convinced many on the right of the Labour Party, for example, to fear a championing of trade union rights lest they be seen to be attacking the economy and the free market.

Of course, many of us do indeed have profound problems with the nature of the capitalist free market, but what we ended up with I believe a binary view on the value of trade unions to economic growth, and the latest NEF/Greenwich research helps advocate in the right direction.

Last point before I dash off. In fighting the trade union bill the TUC has, in my view, done a great job in reflecting part of my argument, in that in has portrayed the trade union position as one of average workers wanting to get on in life, but needing unions to help get the balance right in the workplace. If you haven't seen the video that accompanies the TUC campaign, here it is.

Any thoughts/comments on the research mentioned here, or the TUC campaign, are welcome.

In Solidarity