Dingbat assertion of the week

I am a Norwegian economist who has lived and worked in London for 27 years. Strong and responsible unions are in my view one of the reasons that the Norwegian economy is doing well. The same can be said for Sweden and Denmark.

The unions in Scandinavia have given priority to employment for all, decent working conditions and a fair distribution of income. A drive to strengthen unions and increase union membership in the UK would in my opinion inevitably result in a stronger and fairer UK economy. Strong unions are bound to be responsible.

We had strong unions for a couple of decades. And as it turned out they weren’t responsible.

29 thoughts on “Dingbat assertion of the week”

  1. “Employment for all” ?????
    Closed shops where the company was barred from employing anyone who was not a member of the right union.
    I think he means “all union members” – if you aren’t a member of a union you don’t count.

  2. “Strong unions are bound to be responsible.” They WERE responsible – for the virtual desruction of the UK. Thanks.

    Alan Douglas

  3. Can someone give me the post war topping point from strong to weak unions, and the average GDP growth figures for 20 years prior and post?

    Curious to know.

  4. Shinsei
    “Always a good idea to take the advice of someone who has lived for three decades in a foreign country about how much better things are in his own”
    Careful, that rules out our host and most of the commenters.

  5. I sometimes have the impression that many people in the UK are not well informed about the benefits of good and strong trade unions.

    There is a narrative here in the UK that strong unions and workers’ rights are detrimental to the economy, something not obviously true about other countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

  6. There is nothing wrong with the idea of Trade Unions in itself, so long as they are neither attacked or enabled by the state.
    The poison of socialism is what has fucked British unions–or more exactly the dues-paying members of British Unions.
    In the UK there are 2 types of Union hierarchy–
    1–the “moderates”, who are bosses men. Support for them is as good as letting the bosses run the show.
    2–the “millitants” who are supporters of socialist bullshit all the way. Their main interest is using the members contributions to support whatever flavour of statist/socialist tyranny is presently in favour with the left. Members vote for these people, NOT because they support the poison agenda but because the “militants” once in a while actually take a few steps to try and protect members from whatever the bosses may be up to.
    They regard this–actually looking after the membership- as a side business and a distraction from their real work–promoting socialist evil–and they are quite incompetent at it, being many times outmaneuvered by the bosses. However, they do make some attempt to look after the membership and that is why they get voted in.

    Generally speaking , the bosses are up to far less than the left claims they are, but there are plenty of arseholes out there who won’t hesitate to crap on their fellow human beings to get what they want–socialists being foremost amongst such.
    The British state is a particularly nasty employer these days–below the 50-60,000 management hacks and 4000 senior civil service–absolute scum–the pay is poor–one third of low-level civil servants are not that far above the minimum wage, and conditions, which were good–flexitime/pension–are now under constant attack from NuBluLabour. They are still better off than the bottom-end of the private work, but not that much. If your wage was low to begin with your pension will not be that great.

    Lest anybody thinks I am defending the civil service, it is my opinion that the civil service should be wound-down and disbanded along with the rest of the evil state but fairness and general decency must apply to the treatment of all human beings–except socialist/statists.

  7. “Careful, that rules out our host and most of the commenters.”

    I think most of the commenters living outside the Uk are less than complementary about the Old Country, and are pretty vocal as to the reasons they left – viz its a shithole nowadays.

  8. A Norwegian who’s been in London for 27 yeas has yet to figure out that Norwegians are fundamentally different from Brits? It’s the same as the people who ask why we’re not more like Germany. Answer: we’re not Germans.

    Besides, I have it on good authority that Norway’s low unemployment figures have much to do with their disability figures, which I am told are among the highest in the world. Putting people on disability keeps them out of the unemployment stats.

  9. “Strong unions are bound to be responsible.”

    Really? Seems to me the relatively easy part is being “strong” – the really hard part is being “responsible.”

    And while some few things are “bound to be” associated with strength, many are not; I think “responsibility” is not.

    Appears to me this economist uses the term “responsible” simply as economic and political silly putty.

  10. “The unions in Scandinavia have given priority to employment for all”: that’s odd; the purpose of a trade union is to run things so that their members (and in due course their sons) get the jobs, and the excluded can go and whistle.

  11. The significant Union that Norway doesn’t have is the European one, combined with being the fifth largest oil exporter, perhaps these factors may be more significant in the country’s economy.

  12. @ uk liberty
    Strong unions and workers rights are *different*
    Secondly strong unions don’t have to be bullies. One of the problems at British Leyland was *weak* union leadership which allowed a handful of rogue shop stewards like “Red Robbo” to usurp their role and wreck the company, not so much to benefit their small segment of the workforce as to wreck the company.
    Workers’ rights should include the choice as to whether or not one joins a union* and whether or not one goes on strike. “Strong unions” are now defined as those that take away that choice.
    Mrs Thatcher recognised the need for Equity to have a closed shop because there are so many would-be actors willing to be exploited just to have the chance to perform that the market was dysfunctional, but in normal circumstances the right to free choice should prevail.
    *including at GCHQ

  13. One of the most striking outcomes of a ‘strong union’ is that the business becomes nationalised. Amusingly, unions such as the NUT have ensured that there is a monopoly employer of their services, ensuring their members wages are some way below the level which a competitive market would offer.

  14. Rob – and look at their response when even the potential of market based (ie performance & skill) pay is suggested. Mind you, Gove could suggest tomorrow is Monday and the NUT would want to shout out he’s wrong because of who he is.

  15. @ Rob
    There is *not* a monopsonist employer of teachers. There are schools that are not funded by the state and have some choice about which teachers they employ.
    There are screams of fury at irregular but very frequent intervals about the unfairness of the superior results achieved by these schools.
    The differential was smaller when the NAS and AWT were separate unions standing up for quality before they merged and the new union became an even more political organisation than the NUT.

  16. Unions are a problem when they go too far, when they become too powerful. Like anything. We need balance and competing forces, or else the economy gets sick.

    That’s why it makes no sense to be pro-union or anti-union, to be progressive or conservative. A healthy society depends on balance.

    So in other words, you have to be pro union or anti union depending on where the pendulum is.

    And there seems little doubt where it is now…….

  17. Norway spends more on sickness and disability benefits than any other OECD country, nearly 6% of GDP. It has lower unemployment simply because it pretends most of its unemployed are sick or disabled.

    Unions don’t come into it.

  18. Is it not the other way round? That is, responsible unions are able to become strong because no-one feels the need to curb their strength if it’s not being used irresponsibly.

  19. Seth, I agree. While government always wins elections, I always want a strong opposition. Balance, someone to say what needs saying, someone to stop the more extreme of government ideas.

  20. MC: according to the latest statistics I´m reading in Norwegian from the labour and welfare administration: over 9% of 18-67 year olds are on permanent disability benefits, 5% of the same group are on “temporary work assessment” benefits, in contrast to the 2% of the same group who are registered as unemployed. In addition you have an unknown number who at any time are technically employed, but on long-term sickness benefits (on 100% of normal salary). So yes, the norwegian model is all about ensuring low “unemployment”, but making sure that the marginal labour that is displaced by the high-tax/high benefits model is to put a significant amount of the population out to pasture.

  21. “I sometimes have the impression that many people in the UK are not well informed about the benefits of good and strong trade unions.”

    That could very well be. It is also possible that many people in the UK still remember Arthur Scargill.

  22. “I have it on good authority that Norway’s low unemployment figures have much to do with their disability figures, which I am told are among the highest in the world. Putting people on disability keeps them out of the unemployment stats.”

    See the most recent OECD Annual Economic Survey of Norway for color on this.

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