Good Work in the UK
Last week Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Work Practices, set up to inquire about the future of work in the UK was published. To add toothless insult to un-inquiring injury, the report offers us no genuine insight or protection from the low wages and job insecurity that have become established over the last three decades in the UK.
The report makes continual reference to “The British Way” of managing this decline, which for the comparative employment relations scholars amongst you will leave nothing but a deep sinking feeling. Inevitably as Brexit unfolds, we will slip away from the welfare capitalism of Europe, to the AngloSaxon liberal market economics that have been a car crash for decent jobs, let alone good ones.
The inquiry received wide research-based evidence – and drew on the extensive precarious work scholarship that could inform this important inquiry. The lack of recommendations based on this knowledge raises the question who benefits from this report?
The report has been politely described as a missed opportunity. A less polite response is that it is a policy sleight of hand delivered to protect the vested business interests of the ‘gig’ economy. The digital tech sector, retail giants, private employment agencies and the thousands of consultancies and business courses designed to manage the decline of work.
The road to precarious work is not lined with good intentions, its lined with no intentions at all.
Even my mum doesn’t think that good jobs can be secured in the UK in the absence of a national industrial strategy. Although the report appeals to people finding more meaning in their work, the political economy point is that there is no meaningful work when the state washes its hands of setting the foundations on which good jobs can be created. The state is left entirely off the hook in joining the dots of the housing, decent jobs and skills crisis in Britain. Totally ignoring the genuine potential of active labour market policies in construction, such as direct labour organisations where local groups create local housing, or the now-shelved strategy of creating one million green jobs in the UK to address climate change and develop a new generation of decent jobs.
So long long-term job creation.
Despite the report’s admittance the state has to plug the National Minimum Wage gap by funding the welfare bill and tax credits for hard-working-people-in-poverty, the report makes no real mention of trade unions. This is likely to be for ideological reasons, but the pragmatic reason why they should be referenced throughout this entire report is that, if the entire history of employment relations is anything to go by, trade unions are the only show in town for collective bargaining. Without them wages just don’t get negotiated upwards.
Au revior social partnership.
The final insult in the report is that it has the nerve to underline the role of individual ‘resilience’ and development of ‘soft-skills’ as a response to the abdication of the state’s governance of work. It’s predictable that such an significantly failed inquiry gets slipped in just before the summer break. We’re tired and hot, no union can organise a sustained campaign and the policy machine goes off to their second homes.
I just can’t imagine how the next generation of workers will ever forgive us.
Last year a group of us – academics and practitioners – wrote a series of blogs Surviving Work in the UK in an attempt to raise our own and other people’s consciousness about the future of work as a way of improving our chances of surviving it.
To read our new eBook Surviving Work in the UK just download for free HERE.
Surviving Work will be back blogging in the Autumn.
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