This is dangerous talk Polly

La Toynbee is off again about John Lewis. The partners, those who work for the company and also own it, are the insiders. The people who do the cleaning jobs are outsiders. Lower pay and no cut of the profits.

Poll says that the cleaners should be made insiders.

Meh. Up to the partners really.

But this idea that the insiders should share their benefits with the outsiders. A very dangerous idea indeed for the union movement, don\’t you think?

Think it through: unions exist to benefit their members. That\’s what the subs are paid for. This has most certainly meant in the past that union members get higher pay etc than non-union members. Indeed, that\’s the point. Indeed, Hopi Sen details that union wage premium here.

But if outsiders are to be accorded the benefits of insiders then there should be no union pay premium, should there? Indeed, no reason to pay union subs.

For as Polly tells us it is right and proper that all should gain the same.

A dangerous argument for those you might think to be on the union side.

14 thoughts on “This is dangerous talk Polly”

  1. Haven’t the left been banging on for ages about John Lewis’s c0-op partnership model being a ‘sustainable’ and ethical alternative to the rapacious stock-market based business model?

    Why’s she gunning for them all of a sudden? Did her Aga not arrive on time?

    Anyway, I’m sure she’s thought it through and is all for the cleaners and temps at the Guardian becoming profit sharing members of the Scott Trust. Surely they should all receive similar remuneration to Polly?

    Might drive the price of Tuscan villas up a bit though.

  2. Think it through: unions exist to benefit their members. That’s what the subs are paid for. This has most certainly meant in the past that union members get higher pay etc than non-union members. Indeed, that’s the point.

    Up here in utopian socialist North (ie Finland), no. Unions negotiate binding collctive agreements, and those are then binding also for non-union members, provided that the union membership covers a sufficiently large portion of the particular industry. (Generally, 50 %, although the number is not hard-coded and whether a collective agreement binds the whole industry is actually confirmed by a ministry office, not the unions nor employer organisations).

    This might be what Polly has in mind, and it’s not a toatlly daft idea, although it has its problems.

    However, the overall argumentation is daft. Or at least Polly really should start with the cleaners at The Guardian.

  3. It would be no good the cleaners becoming partners at the Guardian, they’d end up owing the Scott Trust Ltd (never forget the Ltd bit) money due to all the losses.

  4. @ pjt
    You are missing Tim’s point. Craft unions like mediaeval guilds exist to push up the wages of skilled workers by preventing those who have not qualified through an apprenticeship from competing with them. Non-craft general unions use the threats of strikes or “working to rule” to force up the wages of their members above market-clearing-rates in those businesses where they have a dominant position or at least one large enough to be a credible threat. This results in a transfer of wealth to a group comprised wholly or largely of union members at the expense of fellow workers/shareholders/general public depending on whether the victim is John Lewis/a private company/public sector.

  5. Well, it’s how the public sector works, and that’s a stonking success.

    I’m in an education union but it’s not the UCU ‘cos I object to them for various reasons. Mostly to do with being a bunch of anti-Semitic socialist ne’er-do-wells. I don’t get paid any less than my unionised colleagues, though.

  6. pjt (#3)

    You’re playing into Toynbee’s hands by using Finland as a comparator country. It’s one of about 7 (usually the Nordics, used to include Iceland until its financial crisis) and possibly France and Germany (especially on Union matters) but Assuming a Finnish model were adopted, how are Regional differentials in pay to be taken account of?

    Indeed, how does such an idea work on Finland? Is a worker in an industry which is nationwide get paid the same in Helsinki as they do in the Aland Islands? The problem with such a scheme’s implementation in the UK is that is exactly what they would demand -a minimum wage in London should be the same as a minimum wage in Liskeard or Alnwick…

  7. Something doesn’t make sense – wouldn’t most partnerships (like most businesses) contract cleaning services from another company.

    Unless you’re a very large company you either contract out or your (in very small enterprises) employees do both their regular jobs *and* the cleaning

  8. @ Agammamon
    That is precisely the point. John Lewis outsources cleaning so the cleaners get a market wage from the cleaning company instead of a lower wage and a profit-sharing bonus. Polly thinks they should get a market wage *plus* a profit-sharing bonus.

  9. John77: erm, no. JL partners don’t get a market wage, they get more than a market wage (assuming what they do is equivalent to what people do at Sainsbury’s, which it more or less is). Polly thinks the cleaners should get the same deal.

  10. @ john b
    The Partners get more than the employees in Ssinsburys largely because they provide a better service, which generates customer loyalty/repeat custom and lower wastage because sales are more predictable, hence profits out of which bonuses can be paid. Their basic wage has to be set slightly lower than it would be if they had shareholders able to absorb losses.

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