Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Income Equality at Work is better for everyone

This is my speech to the UNISON London Regional Council AGM last week on Motion 4 "Why Income Equality at Work is better for everyone". Which was passed and selected as a regional motion to send to our national conference.

"Council, Convenor, John  Gray Housing Assocaition Branch moving motion 4. "Why Income Equality at Work is better for everyone". Council, Let us not forget that it is not just the Bankers and the Executives in the private sector who have been filling their pockets with other peoples money to a degree out of all recognition to their worth. In the traditional public sector and in supposedly “Not for profit” organisations, who provide public services, you also find that many Executives and members of the SMT have in recent years, enjoyed massive pay rises and massive increases in their income. We use the example of the CEO of the housing and social care association, Anchor, who earned over 330k last year - up 14%. At a time when many of her employees, doing a difficult and demanding job, caring for the frail and the vulnerable, earn little more than minimum wage. Nearly 30 times less.

For crying out aloud, Anchor Housing, was originally set up by the respected charity “Help the Aged”. This pattern of greed at the top for a few and poverty for the many at the bottom is repeated in many other private and public organisations providing public services up and down the country.

This issue is not just about fairness or social justice nor is it about the so called “politics of envy”. Such vast and growing inequalities in income are not just morally wrong it is deeply damaging and destructive to those organisations that allow it.

In the same way as researchers for the book “The Spirit Level” found compelling evidence that the more unequal societies are, with regard to incomes, the more rotten the society. The more unequal the greater the death rates of new born babies; the greater the levels of mental illness; the greater the drug abuse; the greater the violence; the greater the ignorance and squalor. It is ironic that the day after the 200th birthday of the birth of Charles Dickens, we still find in our own Capital city, one of the very richest cities in the world, that your life expectancy, how long you live, is determined largely by how affluent the postal code is in the area you happen to have been born in.

With regard to income inequality in the work place it is not enough for us to simply condemn but to explain to our members how harmful it is not only to society but to that workplace– If you are managed by not just highly paid or people on a good earning but the super rich; while most workers struggle to keep their head above the water - it is corrosive it is divisive. It causes low staff morale and poor service; it causes resentment and mistrust from our clients, residents and services users who after all have to pay for all this inequality.

We are told that there is no choice, competition is king, the market must decide the rate of pay, yet there is a choice. There are successful modern countries in the world such as Sweden where there is much, much less inequality. Where for example trade unions reps sit on boards and remuneration committees as a matter of course. They have done this for decades and act on as a brake on greed. There are countries such as Japan were if there are economic problems, managers become leaders and will often be the first to volunteer for pay curbs or restraint. Unlike in my sector, where yesterday I found out that staff at project being tuped over to a supposed charity, who had won a tender, were told by this charity that they had to have pay cuts and low jobs since they had to “pay their way” to keep to the new contract. While at the same time the SMT of that organisation pays itself massive bonuses to reward themselves for winning new business. This culture, this attitude, this view of life, can and must change.

The Equality Trust is the charitable arm set up by the authors of the Spirit level to promote income equality. Please also consider affiliating your own branches to them. Next week they are coming to my branch AGM to speak to us about what we can do to help bring about change.

Finally Council remember that greater income equality at the work place will make it a better place and help bring about greater income equality in our society, which will make it a better world for all.

Thank you please support this motion (orignal motion similar to this)

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