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A little light fisking of Brendan Barber's speech to Amicus / TGWU 'Unite'.

Found here.

'This is a critical time for British workers. Yes, we've conquered the spectre of mass unemployment, but inequality, unfairness and insecurity still disfigure our workplaces.

Unemployment is at the same level as in 1979. I don’t remember Len ‘MadeiraMurray judging everything to be fine and dandy then.

'Despite the genuine progress delivered by Labour - the minimum wage, union recognition rights, family-friendly policies, all the rest of it - we have yet to move from high employment to high-quality employment. That remains very much work in progress.

Remember the ‘high quality employment’ the state gave us through nationalisation?

'And next week, of course, a new political era will begin.

Uh-huh….

'A chance for this Government to make a fresh start.

'Not to retreat to the failed policies of the past, but to develop an imaginative agenda that once again resonates with ordinary working people. One that rebuilds the winning coalition of 1997; that appeals to the aspirational middle class but not at the cost of the heartland vote.

So Brendan concedes that the Attlee/Wilson/Callaghan model failed? That’s big of him.

'And I believe a vision of good work must be at the heart of the new Prime Minister's programme. Recognition that work is central to people's lives. That the workplace is as much about social justice as economic competitiveness.

‘Social justice’ eh? Let’s call a spade a spade and call it redistribution of income courtesy of ever more punitive levels of taxation. Try looking up ‘Laffer curve’.

'That the only way we can succeed in the global economy is by raising standards not lowering costs.

Meaningless cant.

'So today I challenge Gordon Brown to be bold and to open a new dialogue with the TUC on the way forward.

Yes, it’s beer and sandwiches again. Or perhaps lager and wraps…

'To reject the low regulation, low skill, low productivity malaise that has held this country back for so long. To revisit a faith in flexible labour markets that leaves one in five workers vulnerable and many more insecure.

So more regulation will make the economy more successful. What a fascinating, and indeed novel, idea.

'And yes, to have the courage to stand up to those at the top of our corporate life who seem to see themselves as the untouchables, a law unto themselves, floating free from the realities faced by the people they employ.

Ah-ha. Out pops the cloven hoof again. Nothing like a nice bit of class warfare to gee up the troops, eh?

'The FTSE-100 directors who award themselves an average pay rise of 28 per cent, then complain about the minimum wage being inflationary. The captains of industry who enjoy telephone number pensions, then close down decent occupational schemes for the rest of us.

Not heard of remuneration committees and corporate governance, Brendan? It really is not that simple.

'And the partners of private equity firms who enjoy riches beyond the dreams of avarice, then leave workers to pick up the pieces of the corporate wreckage they leave behind.

I don’t know, my dreams can be remarkably avaricious. And the likes of 3i, Permira and so on buy up companies just to wreck them do they? And there were you banging on about low productivity just now…

'My argument is simple. Britain at work could be - should be - so much better. More equal, more innovative and more productive. And that applies just as much in our public services as it does in the private sector.

More equal’. So damn the size of the cake, what matters is the size of an absolute slice. Maybe you would like to take the lead on ending restrictive practices and the like in the public sector?

'Indeed the most urgent task facing the incoming Prime Minister is to re-engage a public sector workforce thoroughly demoralised by an endless cycle of reform, restructuring and reorganisation.

The most urgent? Poor darlings with their gold plated pensions, unlimited sick leave, 35 hour weeks, pay on a par with the private sector and the like. If the public sector is quite so ghastly, why does it not have much trouble recruiting?

'It goes without saying that we welcome the massive investments that have flowed into our schools and hospitals under Labour.

Most of which has gone into pay rises.

'And despite what the detractors may say, despite what the right-wing press may claim, this has made a real difference. But that progress is now at grave risk from a toxic cocktail of privatisation, contestability and cuts. 'Untried, untested reforms, imposed from above without consultation, that command neither the support of the workforce nor the backing of the general public. We urgently need a meaningful, wide-ranging dialogue about the way forward.

Translated – no reform of public services, and no accountability.

'And we seek not an abandonment of reform: but a new way of doing things that delivers for service users, taxpayers and workers alike.

And it so happens that Brendan has stumbled upon that particular Philosopher’s Stone? Talented chap.

'So to Gordon Brown I say: Listen to us, consult us, and involve us in shaping change. Together, let us deliver the world-class services this country deserves.'

Sigh.

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Anonymous Some quare fella said... 3:27 pm

For some reason I read that as Brendan Behan. Now there, if you like, was a gentleman and an alcoholic.  



Blogger Croydonian said... 5:57 pm

"Come down from the stove granny, you are far too old to be riding the range". Or something like that.  



Blogger istanbultory said... 7:56 pm

Borstal boy is a fine read isn't it?. Brendan's brother Dominic Behan/ Doiminic Ó Beacháin wasn't a bad writer either. They both subscribed to utterly horrendous politics though.  



Blogger Croydonian said... 8:03 pm

Yes, a fine book.  



Blogger CityUnslicker said... 9:30 pm

Broon loves the UNions thouhg, he will no doubt lap this up. his ideas of refrom are gnerally the opposite, in true doublethink mode.  



Blogger Praguetory said... 7:54 am

Nice fisk. Interesting but flawed narrative from Brendan on why occupational schemes have been closed down.  



Anonymous Nomad said... 9:10 am

Envy generating "gold plated" pensions notwithstanding, I think it would indeed be a very good idea for Nulab to re-enagage with the public sector, particularly the civil service which has been largely politicised and sidelined over the past 10 years. There is a need to heed (or at least consider!) expert and generally independent advice and argument rather than listen to unfocussed focus groups and secretive armchair special advisers and mini cabals. Maybe then, some of the horrendous and expensive mistakes of the past will not be repeated. The part that the unions may/may not play in all this is of course another discussion.  



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