Saturday, October 20, 2007

John Harris: Casualisation of Our Workplaces

I spent a little time with John Harris after doing the Labour Blog for his So Now Who Do We Vote For? (Dodgy link to the mothership? It's supposed to be archived for posterity somewhere?) project of 2005.

Anyway, I generally read John's columns and features. This one from Friday is about how bosses and "the system" are deliberately casualising what ought to be ongoing permanent jobs. To increase profits, control and flexibility.

Not caring much - until a profit-sapping crisis arrives - about screwing their workers. This is not acceptable. How can a company have a Corporate Social Responsibility stance on the environment and back local charities but abuse their workers? Happy to see them - in house or in supplier companies - miserable, if not mentally and physically ill, through insecurity, inadequate leave, unhealthy conditions, poverty pay, fear and loathing?

We are supposed to work to live not live to work.

Yes, this is a market of course. (As comments ranging from Trot to BNP point out at CIF.) But workers are allowed to, even bound to act collectively and resist these urges from capitalists - public, private and third sector. That is part of the market working too. Organising in a single workplace by banding together, or nationally and internationally though established Trade Unions.

Unions in the UK have been mostly pretty quiet of late. No bad thing. If we can negotiate a fair deal with reasonable employers then industrial action can and should remain in the last resort box.

But there has always been a great problem with Unions not successfully organising in the most difficult and casualised sub markets - retail and distribution, licensed retail, agriculture, construction, catering, even media. The very places where workers are most exploited and strong Trade Unions could have most effect. This Baristas Union for coffee shop workers hasn't exactly taken off.

The arithmetic is now such that some employers - surprising employers - are willing to constructively dismiss or even sack workers for legitimate Union activity, pay the penalties for doing so, and hope that more will not spring up like Hydra's heads. There may be some more on some Manchester cases of this past, present and future before too long.

Meanwhile this post from yesterday - about the National union of Journalists and bloggers - has generated some conversation. Let's hope the casually employed scribbler John Harris has finally filled his form in and joined the NUJ in solidarity with 35,000 colleagues! Stand Up For Journalists!

LIB DEM LEADERSHIP: 63 MPs, nine of them women, all white, two serious candidates for leader, both from the same school, with near identical political histories. Here's John Harris on the "choice" now facing the Lib Dems. Something about Steve Webb's decision not to stand and provide a little political choice at least should be up here tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

The Stand Up for Journalism website is at . I may have misled you with a rogue "co" on a previous occaision.
Thanks for covering the event so regularly.

Chris Paul said...

Will correct this and other occurrences. Thanks for the heads up.