Thursday, February 13, 2014

Green Wage Subsidy Debate

It is two weeks to the start of Green Party Conference in Liverpool. Green Wage Subsidy (GWS) is up for debate, for the third (and as far as I am concerned, final,) time.

 In essence, GWS is legalised moonlighting. It allows a claimant to take his/her benefit (JSA &c) into work, so that it changes from being a dead dole into a subsidy for the green economy. It will benefit the UK to the tune of about £10 billion a year. The text of the motion is here.

I have seen a discussion on a Green Party email list that puts up some objections. I will answer them briefly here, as it would be a great pity if the GP made a decision that condemned people to further years on the "scrapheap" of life on the dole.

Unemployment is clearly a massive market failure, a device designed by the Tories (whether they know it or not) to drive down wages. Citizens Income (CI) is the Green Party response to the Byzantine comlexity of the benefits system, but CI is forever countered by the kneejerk "Oh that's a Shirker's Charter" response, as anyone who has tried to explain it on the doorstep will know.

GWS neatly sidesteps the Shirkers Charter argument by applying the other side of CI - the bit that says you can take CI into work with you.

My response to the points made:

1 GWS would undermine the living wage campaign Would it? No. Note that the income of the new employee is brought up to Living Wage levels.

2 If there is worthwhile environmental work to be done, ideally it should be done via a public service employing people at the right rate;
There's no "if" about it. There IS. And vital work to help people directly too.
"Ideally". Do not ever let the ideal get in the way of the better. This is politics we're doing here, not writing a tractatus of philosophy of idealistic structualism.

"At the right rate"; the employee does get the right rate.

3 how would we know that an employer couldn't afford to create a new job without the subsidy?
Er - because s/he isn't.

4 How would we know that they hadn't shed posts a few months back so they could now claim a subsidy?
Beause the tirbunal could look at their NIC records a few months back.

5 Would admin roles be included, and if so what if supporting green work was only a portio of their role?
Of course jobs at every level within the company (=all enterprises, public and private) are included. If the company is doing good work, everyone is contributing.

6 why ban payments to companies less than 5 years old - doesnt that support established big business rather than small, local businesses?
Good point. The concern here is that new set-ups with 100% GSW employees would have an unfair advantage. The way is to find out how things pan out in practice.

7 Seebohm Rowntree, when was setting up the principles he advocated for decent employment on a living wage back in the 1920s, argued that if an employer couldn't pay a living wage without subsidies, then they were parasitical

Was Seebohm Rowntree talking about employers in green concerns? By definition, green work is not parasitical, is it?

8 I don't particularly like it. I think we should oppose it OK. No answer to that

9 GWS would lead to the exploitation of young and vulnerable people. it aims to rule out compulsion it is difficult to see how it could work without it. It could simply provide a green wash to cover up exploitation and could undermine existing green policies in relation to workers' rights,a living wage and Citizen's Income.
Please explain why.
In particular, GWS is a precursor to CI, in that it demonstrates how CI would work.
The "compulsion" argument sounds like a replication of the Tory argument "The working class is lazy and feckless and needs to be compelled to work". As we all know this is an outrageous libel. There is loads of science of the role of work in a happy life.

10 Is this anything more than a reformist measure which deals with one aspect of the current economic status quo, when a far more radical transformation is needed ?
OK, if we are against reformism, why have we bust our guts over the last 30 years in electing 140 local authority councillors and 1 MP? Why arent we selling newpapers that preach total radical transformation?

11 we should be moving away from subsidising poor paying employers,
OK, so do we want to withdraw Working Family Credit, that keeps loads of families afloat, and is one of the most popular benefits around?

12 It isn't perfect. 
(I added this one myself, because it underlies nearly all objectons to GWS).
True. It is not perfect, not ready to be passed as a Bill in Parliament. This is because, like everyone here, I am not a perfect person, and in particular am not a lawyer or a Civil Servant. We are writing Green Party policy here, sketching out ideas, not writing primary legislation.

So - thanks for reading. Obvs I have been very brief, and sorry if I sound brusque, just pressure of time. My main concern at the moment is floods (plenty of work needs to be done on flood preventon).

The essence is that unemployment is a whip that the Tories use to beat working class people into submission. It makes people and communities sick - literally. Read my book, Bills of Health, if you want to know the medical impact of unemployment on health.

At the same time, there is a vast amount of work to be done - good work, work that heals the planet, heals the environment, heals the community, heals the vulnerable. Here we have an innovative, very simple, uniquely Green solution. It is what the Green Party needs, it is what the working class needs, it is what the nation needs. It can be piloted tomorrow in your local authority.

Why would the GP want to oppose it?

If you are a GP member who is going to conference, please put in a speaker slip to speak in favour of the GWS motion, even if it is to be just a simple statement to counter Objection Number 8. Debate at GP conference is often determined more by the number (and intensity) of speakers, rather than the quality of the argumentation. Having said that, all reason points to the value of Green Wage Subsidy, both to the Green Party and the nation.

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