Changes to RBA Act will further entrench the depoliticisation of economic policy and reduce democratic accountability
Today, I consider the latest development in the entrenchment of neoliberalism in the Australian policy…
It’s Wednesday and so not much blog writing today. I have a few writing commitments to finalise in the coming few weeks and I need some time to do that. So today I provide some working notes and analysis of the data on UK Zero-hour contracts after I updated my dataset today. Some advertising of upcoming events follows and then some great guitar playing. A typical Wednesday at my blog it seems.
I was updating some datasets today and did some thinking about the so-called – Zero-hour contract – situation in the UK.
Here are some things about this data – really I am just providing some notes I took about the data.
The neoliberal era has generated many indecent affronts to progress and these working arrangements have to be up there at the forefront.
They represent a massive transfer of power to the employer and allow them to push a significant proportion of the risk of enterprise onto the workers, which sort of defies the concept of entrepreneurship (risk and reward, etc).
The first graph shows the evolution of Zero-hour contracts since the December-quarter 2000 to the June-quarter 2021.
It is clear they took after not long after the Tories were elected in May 2010.
This graph adds the unemployed and you see that as unemployment was falling the zero-hour contracts were rising.
At present, the British ONS is reporting a strong growth in unfilled vacancies but my preliminary analysis – more next week – suggests these are concentrated in low-wage employment opportunities, including zero-hour arrangements.
The following graph shows the growth of these contracts across the age distribution from the December-quarter 2013 to the June-quarter 2021.
Other facts are that an increasing proportion of full-time workers and a decreasing proportion of part-time workers are on Zero-hour contracts.
And since the December-quarter 2013, there has been a 56 per cent increase in these contracts – 48 per cent for males and 62 per cent for females.
For those not familiar with this working arrangement, the UK – Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) – indicates that a zero-hour contract allows an employer legally to avoid having to provide a minimum number of working hours to their workforce and the workers are on permanent stand-by to work as and when required.
As is usual, the employers claim this benefits the workers.
The flexible choice narrative is now tiresome, having surfaced in the 1970s, as governments allowed employers to increasingly casualise their workforce.
This coincided with the increased participation of women in the labour force (particularly married women), which reflected social changes (feminism etc).
The conservatives started talking about ‘work-life balance’ etc but the rising incidence of official underemployment told us that the part-time and casual trend was not the exclusive result of ‘choice’ but rather a lack of work, as governments moved towards an austerity bias and allowed labour underutilisation rates (unemployment and underemployment) to persist at elevated levels.
The conservatives use the same argument about these sorts of contracts.
They argue that a high proportion of workers on the Zero-hour contracts are happy. The evidence doesn’t support that conclusion. Around 40 per cent are not happy.
And related evidence on the mechanics of these arrangements is rather damning.
A study – How can job security exist in the modern world of work? (January 19, 2017) from the – Citizens Advice – found that 20 per cent (odd) of employers using these contracts cancelled or altered shifts within a 48 hour period of notice.
They also found that 20 per cent of workers on Zero-hour contracts were unable “to specify times or days when they were unavailable” and 10 per cent indicated they “could not turn down a shift or specify their availability.”
Those sorts of result predicate against the argument that these are worker-friendly arrangements.
On December 17, 2018, the British government released the – Good Work Plan – which sought to outline “how the government will implement the recommendations arising from the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.”
The – Taylor Review – was conducted by the boss of the Royal Society of Arts and was published on July 11, 2017.
One of its briefs was to provide legislative advice on how to overcome some of the negative aspects of the Zero-hour contract arrangements in the light of experience.
We are still waiting for the so-called ‘Employment Bill’, although the Government claimed it would implement all the recommendations from the Review.
A discussion of the detail is not something I want to do today but in terms of Zero-hour contracts, the Review found that:
… a minority of employers abuse the current system, transferring too much risk to the individual. This jeopardises workers’ financial security and personal well-being. Matthew Taylor termed this ‘one-sided flexibility’, giving examples of employers cancelling shifts at short notice or sending staff home when customer demand is low. He uncovered evidence of some individuals remaining on insecure, atypical contracts for long periods of time, when their working patterns were sometimes the same as permanent employees who had fixed, regular hours.
The Government claims it will tackle this “one-sided flexibility”. We will see.
There were many other elements that the Government says it will deal with:
1. Compensate workers for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice.
2. Require reasonable notice of hours of work.
3. Enforce the right of workers to switch to different contractual arrangements that would deliver more stable and predictable working conditions are 26 weeks of attachment.
4. Require employers provide information that allows the worker to gauge the likely length of service and other conditions of the job.
5. Entitlements to holidays and pay etc enforced.
6. “The government should replace their minimalistic approach to legislation with a clearer outline of the tests for employment status”.
There were many other relevant recommendations that the Government claims it will accept and legislate in the yet-to-be-seen Employment Bill.
Frankly, the British Labour Party should be out there leading the way on these issues rather than fighting about how to stop members voting for their leaders (see below).
Over September 26-28, 2021, the Resist Movement with partners is staging a great event – Resist at the Rialto – to provide inspiration for progressives who are seeing their political voices crumble given the on-going incompetence of the British Labour Party.
I hope many Labour Party members who are in town for the Labour Party Annual Conference, shift across to the Resist event and throw their weight behind this growing movement.
I will be appearing on Sunday, September 26, 2021, at 11:00 in a session – Is Modern Monetary Theory the solution to the crisis of capitalism?.
While the title is not one I would choose, the session should be excellent (Carlos Garcia and Michael Roberts will also be speaking at that session).
You can find more details at their – Information Page
Write to the organisers if you are interested in them live streaming the event. I am not sure of the details about that.
This is a time to get a voice in the debate.
Apparently, the Labour leadership banned a motion to debate the Party’s approach to a ‘Green New Deal’ at the Conference.
The leadership of the British Labour Party are also trying to shore up their position by changing the way leaders are elected.
The leader (Starmer) is trying to revert to pre-Corbyn rules that privilege the Parliamentary MPs over the rank-and-file members in terms of voting within the Party.
The old system was abandoned in 2014 in favour of one membership, one vote, which is the democratic norm.
This is how Jeremy Corbyn was able to assume leadership, given his popularity with the broad membership but antipathy from the MPs aligned with the old neoliberal Blairite grouping.
If Starmer succeeds in this internal coup, I expect internecine wars will further erode Labour progress.
At the half-way mark between elections, Labour is polling well down on the Tories, the latter which is one of the worst governments Britain has endured.
The leader (Starmer) is well down in the poll relative to Boris Johnson.
He stands for very little it seems except shoring up his own power base and making the Party undemocratic in the process.
I hope everyone gets behind Resist.
The same group are launching their movement at the – Festival of Resistance – which is being promoted as a “festival of left unity”.
It will be held at the City Conference and Banqueting Centre, Carlton Road, Nottingham, UK.
I will also be appearing at this event and I will release more details when they become known.
There is a great list of speakers, musicians, and artists appearing and presenting.
I hope to see everyone there.
You can get tickets – HERE.
Every guitarist of my generation who has been influenced by jazz, R&B, soul, rock (less for me) and more plays lines that were being worked out on the West Coast of the US, particularly in 1950s around Los Angeles and to a lesser extent San Francisco.
Perhaps many of these guitarists are oblivious to that fact but the point remains.
When – T-Bone Walker – moved from Texas to Los Angeles in the early 1940s he started a trend which has been variously called – West Coast Blues – which is a hybrid style combining jazz modes and – Jump Blues.
There are notable features of this style – lots of left-hand piano bass lines, boogie-woogie piano, jazz-style lead guitar runs, smooth vocals that were the precursor of the great R&B singers of the 1960s.
As Fender and Gibson started to make workable electric guitars and amplifiers became more available, the guitar started to assert a new prominence in the big bands, which for economic reasons were being whittled down to the essential elements to allow musicians to make ends meet.
All the ingredients of the 1960s rock’n’roll were being worked out at this point.
Chuck Berry copied many of Pee Wee’s guitar riffs, even though he never admitted it.
One of the great exponents of this style, who derived his playing from T-Bone Walker, was – Pee Wee Crayton – and if you are a guitarist and you are not sure why you are playing those riffs and the lead lines you do, then it is probable you got them of this guy, down the hand-me-down chain that defines all musical progress.
While he was certainly directly influenced by T-Bone Walker and acknowledged that openly, his early motivation came from listening the – Charlie Christian – who was Benny Goodman’s sideman.
I listened to Pee Wee Crayton a lot in the 1970s and I studied his tone to see if I could get the same sort of sounds because he was one of the first (if not the first) blues players to shift from the hollow-body conventional jazz guitar to the solid-body Fender Stratocaster, apparently after the boss of Fender bestowed one of the early models on him as a gift.
If you listen to the opening lines of the Beatles Revolution you will hear Pee Wee Crayton’s 1954 song ‘Do Unto Others’ channeled through John Lennon.
Lots of the riffs modern blues players use come from this period via T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton.
Anyway, I dug out an old recording today and refreshed my memory of this wonderful period of electric guitar that shaped what we all do now.
Here is his first single recording (recorded in LA 1948) – Blues After Hours – which went to No. 1 on Billboard R&B charts in that year.
I have this on his debut LP album – Pee Wee Crayton – which was released in 1960 by Modern Records and was essentially a compilation of his singles from 1948.
The legacy of T-Bone Walker is evident.
The band playing included all the great LA players of the time:
1. David Lee Johnson – piano.
2. Buddy Floyd – tenor.
3. Floyd ‘Candy’ Johnson – drums. He was an interesting character as he started out on drums and then became a magnificent sax player.
4. Bill Davis – bass.
Here is some more historical information on – Pee Wee Crayton.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.