Sunday, 11 December 2016

Unite support's a Citizens Basic Income!

By Derek Pattison,
President, Tameside TUC, (in a personal capacity).

IN this country and abroad, we are seeing a growing interest in the idea of a guaranteed universal unconditional basic income scheme for all citizens. What seems to be driving such initiatives, is the realisation that the world of work is becoming more precarious with jobs under threat from technology and automation. The Bank of England now estimates that as many as 15 million jobs are under threat from technology and a third of jobs in the retail sector, are predicted to disappear by 2025, due to such things as online shopping.

Another factor is the way in which the world of work is changing. One is seven Britons is now classed as self-employed. Although some of this so-called self-employment is possibly bogus, as in the case of Uber and Deliveroo, the latest official data shows that 83% of new jobs created in the UK between March and May 2016, were self -employed. Such is the rise of the so-called 'gig economy' that in 2015, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), reported that since 1995, 'non-standard' jobs - temporary, part-time or self-employed positions, - accounted for the whole of net jobs growth in the UK since 1995.

Employment law in the UK also makes it easier to hire and fire workers by using zero hour contracts and agency working where employees have very few employment rights. The self-employed don't get sick pay, holiday pay, pensions or employment protections nor are employers obliged, to pay their NI contributions or the living wage.

My own union, 'Unite', supports in principle a universal basic income scheme and is urging other unions to support such a scheme. At the Unite policy conference in July (2016), the following resolution was adopted:

"Conference notes the growing crisis of low pay, in work poverty and precarity in a labour market increasingly characterised by casualised forms of employment that offer low pay, zero hours contracts and no long-term security.

Conference further notes the evident inability of our bureaucratically costly social security system, with its dependence on means-testing and frequent arbitrary sanction, to provide an adequate income floor.

Conference believes that a Basic Income, an unconditional, non-withdrawable income paid to everyone, has the potential to offer genuine social security to all while boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Conference welcomes the ongoing exploration of the concept of a Basic Income by the think-tank Compass, the innovation charity Nesta, the Royal Society of Arts, and others; further welcomes the planned practical experiments in Finland and Utrecht, Netherlands.

Conference calls upon the union to actively campaign for a Universal Basic Income and eradicate poverty for all."

Although the Tories have rejected the idea of a basic income scheme as unaffordable, Scotland is considering a universal basic income scheme pilot and the Labour Party is considering a universal basic income which would replace means-tested benefits with a flat rate payment.

Postscript (11/12/2016):

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), passed a composite resolution supporting a Universal Basic Income Scheme, at their September 2016 TUC Congress.

No comments: