Sunday, November 27, 2011

The urgent need for better education

If ever there were a need to prove the point that this country needs to invest more in education, it would be provided by the lamentable quality of “research” from the Tory Tax Dodgers Alliance, whose latest contribution to understanding of the world of work is to have yet another go at the supposed “cost” of trade union facility time.

They are concerned that the public sector (where their “research” – which involves taxpayers to pay for information for them through Freedom of Information requests – has identified a weak foundation for wild assessments of the total cost of trade union facility time) has more strikes than the private sector.

This, they think, rebuts the counter argument from Dave Prentis, who has rightly argued that the role of trade union representatives in the workplace is, as the Donovan Commission held more than forty years ago, more a lubricant than an irritant. There is also contemporary evidence of the benefits to organisations in the public and private sector of effective trade union representations.

If the author of the reactionary twaddle published by the cheerleaders of the Tory Right had ever had a proper job he might have a little more understanding as to why the presence of union organising in the workplace may be associated with evidence of collective struggle (including industrial action) – and that this doesn’t necessarily mean that organisations with less collective organisation (and less struggle) are better performing.

Still, we mere workers mustn’t be sniffy about clueless intellectuals. We should offer them some suggestions to the author in question. He could read up a bit on “exit, voice and loyalty” for example and think about how that might apply to the performance of public and private sector employers.

If the “libertarian” right (whose concern never seems to be for the liberty or dignity of working people or the poor) were ever to achieve their fantasy of workplaces free from effective collective organisation, they would simply see that indices of individual discontent would rise. The production of complex services requires from much of the workforce a positive engagement and informed consent which cannot be achieved simply by diktat.

The agenda of the right is not about improving the performance (or “value for money”) of public services, but about hobbling the trade unions to weaken a bulwark against their attack upon our Welfare State.

The only taxpayers they care about are the ones who never earned their money in the first place.

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