Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson firstname.lastname@example.org. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.
Monday, 22 September 2014
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
When you think of human rights, access to information may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but being able to find out what public bodies are doing in our name is in fact absolutely essential.
Freedom of Information (FoI) campaigners in Scotland will focus on the connection, and how to make use of it, at a free event to mark International Right to Know Day (IR2KD) later this month.
The day, on 28 September, has been celebrated around the world for 11 years.
The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland says IR2KD is “rooted in the belief that the right to know is a human right - but is also a vehicle for accessing other rights, such as forming an opinion, participating in free and fair elections and in public affairs generally.”
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Thursday, 4 September 2014
The impact of the shift from wages to profits, and what to do about it, is covered in a new booklet by Professor Özlem Onaran, 'State intervention for wage-led development', published by Class.
She explains that the reversal of the trend towards relatively egalitarian income distribution achieved during the post-war period, is associated with a weaker and more volatile growth performance. In order to maintain consumption levels in the absence of decent wage increases households turned to debt and that contributed to the Great Recession. The recovery in Britain is built once again on the shaky ground of household debt instead of wage growth.
What really caught my eye was her concise explanation of the link between wages and the economy. It's worth repeating in full:
"Empirical evidence shows that when the share of wages in national income decreases four things happen. First, consumption decreases, since workers consume more as a proportion of their income compared to the owners of capital; hence when there is a redistribution from wages to profits, domestic consumption in the national economy unambiguously decreases. Second, although private investment may increase due to higher profits, this increase is insufficient to offset the negative effects on domestic consumption. Third, net exports (exports minus imports) increase due to a fall in unit labour costs, but in the majority of countries this increase is not enough to offset the negative effect on domestic demand. Finally, in an environment of the global race to the bottom in the wage share, most of the positive effects on net exports are wiped out as labour costs fall simultaneously in all countries, and their international competitiveness relative to each other does not change significantly. Thus, in the vast majority of countries a fall in the wage share leads to lower growth; this is what we call a wage-led growth economy. The UK is a typical example of a wage-led economy."
Bite sized economics at its best!
She then sets out a strategy of wage-led development with a policy mix that includes labour market policies aiming at pre-distribution, as well as redistributive policies through progressive taxation. Specific recommendations include; Strengthening collective bargaining, increasing the minimum wage, enforcing pay ratios, ending public sector pay freezes and restoring progressivity into the tax system.
Well worth a read.
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Monday, 1 September 2014
That’s the theme of a major conference organised by civil society organisations, including UNISON and the STUC, across Scotland in Glasgow next week. The conference brings together some of the leading experts from across the UK on alternative economic approaches. The aim is explore these alternatives and chart a way forward that offers a radical, sustainable, alternative economic pathway.
There is a widespread view, not just in Scotland, which argues that our current economic system isn’t working. We have growing inequality, high levels of in work poverty and stubbornly high unemployment. Even the new jobs being created are likely to be part-time and insecure with the growth of bogus self-employment and zero-hours contracts. The conventional economic development solutions simply aren’t working and are also driving climate change and resource depletion. The bankers and financiers have learned nothing from the crash they caused and are leading us into future financial chaos.
The conference will pose key questions such as how do we generate investment into rewarding jobs while at the same time, cutting polluting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing poverty? How can we extend public democratic controls over our economy and the financial sector so that it serves our ends?
If all of this sounds like leftie ranting on the fringe, take a look at who is now talking about inequality - and I don’t just mean the Pope!
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England noted in a recent speech that all the research suggests that "relative equality is good for growth”. He also said: “All ideologies are prone to extremes. Capitalism loses its sense of moderation when the belief in the power of the market enters the realm of faith. In the decades prior to the crisis, such radicalism came to dominate economic ideas and became a pattern of social behaviour.”
Carney also lauded an inclusive social contract and recognised that tackling climate change actually offers great scope for technological progress and economic growth: "Environmental degradation remains unaddressed, a tragic embarrassment now seldom mentioned in either polite society or at the G20."
The authors of a new booklet ‘Trade Unions and Economic Inequality’ point out that the decade in which the equality gap in Britain was at its narrowest was the decade in which trade union penetration was at its greatest, with more than 80 per cent of British workers covered by a collective agreement. They provide an excoriating critique of inequality and its consequences. But unlike others, the authors provide a blueprint for how to tackle it.
Solutions are also what we hope next week’s conference will offer. So why not come along to the debate and the conference. Both events are free, thanks to generous support from the Carnegie Trust and others. There is an impressive range of speakers and opportunities to contribute your own ideas. There is a better way!
There is a public debate on the evening before the conference on Wednesday 10 September at the University of Glasgow Union starting at 7:30pm. The conference is in the Kelvin Gallery at the university on the 11 September. Registration details at the conference website.