Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Tories propose workers' coops in private industry, and rights to free trade unions - no, I thought not

The Tories are making proposals for 'workers' cooperatives' in the public sector. In the public sector, please note. They want to fragment yet further state provision in the NHS, education, etc. They want to undermine national pay bargaining. They want to 'empower' public sector workers - to make sure everyone works that bit harder. Workers' coops can keep any 'savings' (if there are any). What will the tax payer have to say about that?!

OK, so David Cameron has shown he can say the word 'worker' without spitting, but if anyone thinks this is some kind of empowerment of workers - as a class - they are deluded.

I have worked in a workers' coop. It's very hard to make a success of them, and they are very likely in the long run to be taken over by bigger boys - from the private sector. That must be Cameron's ultimate hope.

For the sake of public accountability, value for money, and the wellbeing of the whole public sector workforce, the last thing we need is more fragmentation.

Public sector workers innovate all the time. How do people think the services work? Sure, let's empower public sector workers against lousy managers, pointless or harmful targets, and the erosion of public services through cuts. That I would buy, but this latest Cameron proposal is patronising junk, supposedly framed to appeal to disaffected Labour voters. It might just work, dammit.

But if the principle is good for the public sector, why not the private sector? Let's make all private enterprises into workers' coops as well. Let's make everyone who works in them an equal partner, and do away with shareholders' dividends for people who don't work in them, but have only put up a bit of capital.

If Cameron really wants to empower workers, why doesn't he abolish some of the anti-union laws that make it virtually impossible for people to defend themselves against their employers? No one can reasonably justify, for example, the court injunction that banned the BA cabin crew strike last December. (Some readers might disagree... I invite you to debate!)

It's good to see the BA cabin crew union Unite responding strongly to this latest Cameron nonsense:
'David Cameron is using the language of socialism to mask a break-up of public services. He is mangling the English language to advance his anti-state ideology.'

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