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Increasing pay and productivity? October 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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Very intriguing piece here in the Observer this last weekend where Katie Alan argues that ‘Median wages per hour – the hourly pay received by the typical British worker – have been growing below productivity since the early 1990s, and markedly so since the early 2000s’. And she points to this being a UK and a US dynamic. And, naturally, in such a circumstance there is rising inequality with ‘the benefits from any efficiency improvement have disproportionately flowed to funding pensions and rewarding executives’.

However she suggests that:

One solution to this problem of low and falling pay that is not talked about enough is simply to pay more at the bottom. How do you that before productivity rises? You do it so that productivity will rise. This sounds too easy to be true, but the living wage movement is providing a growing number of examples of where higher pay has bred higher productivity, rather than vice versa.

And that there’s strong empirical evidence that this is an actual phenomenon. She points to a raft of examples, including, entertainingly enough KPMG… who…

..says it cut the cost of running its buildings by introducing the living wage along with more flexible shifts and more holiday for cleaners and other staff. Turnover dropped and workers were happy to take on more responsibility.

Never! Though the thought strikes that for those at the other end of the pay curve higher rates are supposed to both reward work done and act as an incentive to future work. So why wouldn’t it operate at both ends? And in between.

It’s too logical, it’ll never catch on.

Sinn Feins troubles … Forcing The Civil War Parties into Coalition? October 30, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that were the current issues afflicting Sinn Fein have happened when they were in Government in The Republic that that coalition Government would have fallen.
Imagine the site of the opposition leader greeting Mairia Cahill in Leinster House, whilst the Taoiseach tells us that the issue is an internal Sinn Fein matter. Sinn Fein might get hit slightly in the polls but it would be the senior coalition party that loses a lot more support. In a way it’s the opposite to the dynamic where the smaller party like the Greens gets obliterated due to their time in Government, it is the senior coalition partner that could suffer the most.
The polls over the past while have indicated that Government formation may not align along familiar paths, Fine Gael and Labour won’t get the numbers, Fianna Fail and Independents won’t either, FF or FG and a smaller party unlikely too.
Politics can of course be fickle but the current events involving Sinn Fein and Mairia Cahill (and whatever else may come out of it) must surely mean that Fianna Fail , Fine Gael or Labour could not go into government with Sinn Fein after the next General Election.The Maths of course may well dictate otherwise but the potential of some form of scandal erupting is surely too much. Imagine the glee in the media who would only be too glad to carry stories damaging Sinn Fein. (The other complication is that the Fianna Fail membership will have the final say on any Coalition deal involving Fianna Fail).
So with Sinn Fein still vulnerable to scandals and probably untouchable by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael…… The Maths may well end up forcing the Civil War Parties together.

Those ‘rumours’ about Irish Water October 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

A TD writes… about Irish Water. And who is it, but Pat Rabbitte in the SBP. He’s quite a way with him for defending stuff which others won’t. For example he offers a boilerplate outline of Irish Water’s genesis.

The government decided to establish [he notes 'at the prodding of the troika - wbs], in public ownership, a utility to conserve, treat and supply water. Huge investment will be needed to dig out or refurbish the network in many parts of the country. The exchequer doesn’t have the money, so Irish Water will have to raise that investment off the national accounts. The alternative is to seriously worsen the deficit or raise taxes on people who go to work.

I like that last. But I wonder just what is the aversion to raising taxes? What new horror does it unleash?

He offers a soupçon, as it were, of sympathy…

For many families another charge is a charge too much. They are already struggling to make ends meet. What is heightening the opposition to water charges, however, is the fear of the unknown. The fears of such families are being exacerbated by uncertainty and lack of clarity. There are so many questions that arise where people just don’t believe that they have received clear or definite answers. They are entitled to certainty and clarity and it is the duty of government to ensure that they get it.

Some of us would think that the ‘charge [being] to much’ was… well… enough, and that ‘fear of the unknown’ on top of it was fairly irrelevant. If ‘many families’ can’t pay then they can’t pay. For them he offers no respite. Instead he’s off on a line – now familiar from the government and media proxies – that the ‘bonus culture’ of Irish Water is what raises peoples ire, rather than y’know, the actual charges.

Misrepresenting the remuneration system has become another weapon to undermine the company. Every second day there is a new “revelation” that stokes fear and opposition. The supposed €188 per hour callout charge is especially effective.
Since when did any water authority in Ireland come out to fix a leak on the premises? If there is a leak right up to the stopcock, that is the responsibility of Irish Water. After that responsibility, as has always been the case, rests with the householder who does what has always been done – get a plumber.

I’m a bit puzzled as to how this is a misrepresentation, there is indeed a €188 callout charge for fixing leaks (on their side of the meter). There’s also the following from the Journal:

The price would also include a €282 out of hours call-out fee, with an extra €141 an hour. It would also see Irish Water charging €220 to test water pressure and €17 for a special meter reading.

These are pretty scarifying figures and what about ability to pay? He continues:

The budget sought to address the affordability issue. However, water charges have become totemic for all the ills of society and for all the perceived failings of government. The company’s preoccupation with executing the huge challenge entrusted to it has not been reflected in the quality of its engagement with the public. The government has allowed a vacuum to develop.

But the odd thing is how little exercised he actually appears to be about the affordability issue – to coin a phrase. It’s just not on his radar.

Still, an interestingly apocalyptic note for him to strike at the end:

The new minister, Alan Kelly, seems smart enough and tough enough to take the issue by the scruff of the neck and deliver a water system fit for purpose. That would be an achievement to be proud of. If he fails, it won’t just damage his reputation – it could be the beginning of the end for the government.

Will it, will it indeed?

A revealing aside… October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

…about Israel in today’s reports about the war of words between the US administration and the government of that state.

Responding to the remarks late on Tuesday night, Israel’s far-right economics minister, Naftali Bennett, used his Facebook page to call for Washington to renounce the comments: “If what was written [in The Atlantic] is true, then it appears the current administration plans to throw Israel under the bus.
The prime minister is not a private person but the leader of the Jewish state and the whole Jewish world. Such severe insults towards the prime minister of Israel are hurtful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews all over the world.
“Instead of attacking Israel and forcing it to accept suicidal terms, it should be strengthened. I call on the US administration to renounce these coarse comments and to reject them outright.”

That’s a most interesting contention/confusion in regard to a Republic with a President – even in a context where executive power is vested in the PM, and I think it speaks volumes about deeply problematic dynamics within Israeli politics and beyond and about the nature of relationships that are expected to be extant between the state and Jews outside Israel on the part of some within the state. I’d almost say that it is a central part of the problem – an attitude whereby what the government of Israel does is in essence indivisible from the best interests of the Israeli and Jewish people.

Who wants to put together a government in 2015/16? Harder than it was two weeks ago… October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Adrian Kavanagh’s figures for the most recent polls make some reading. Let’s put aside all the stuff as to whether a 3% fall in support for SF indicates a ‘slump’, as the SBP puts it (whereas a 2% fall for FG doesn’t) – or the fact that while Adams has lost popularity he remains just 1% behind the most popular politician, and consider what his projections suggest. He notes that on the SBP/RedC figures:

Fine Gael 26% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 20% (down 3%), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 8% (NC), Independents, Green Party and Others 28% (up 5%).

From which he projects:

Fianna Fail 33, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 29, Labour Party 7, Independents and Others 41.

The Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes poll is remarkably similar.

Fine Gael 25% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 19% (NC), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 9% (down 5%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), Independents and Others 25% (up 3%).

From which he projects:

Fianna Fail 34, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 28, Labour Party 8, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 39.)

I could easily be wrong, but it seems to me to be some time since we saw two polls by different companies so close to one another. What to make of it?

The all important figure is 80 for even a bare majority in the Dáil. And on this on the SBP and the ST figures suggest it can’t be done other than with FF and FG. Forget about SF and FF or SF/FF and LP. Doesn’t work (IEL has had some interesting points to make on whether there’s a hope that others will work with SF with Adams in the picture. Maybe, maybe not, a lot depends on how matters proceed in regard to the most recent controversy). A minority FG administration? Maybe but on 48 it would be rightly screwed. A corralling of some Independents/Others into government supporting alliance. Those of us with not terribly long memories will recall 2007 and one B. Ahern’s efforts in that direction with Finian McGrath amongst others. Let’s just say things didn’t end that well – perhaps if the boom hadn’t crashed they might have. Perhaps not. But in any event, not a happy precedent. External support from FF in the national interest? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Other than that it’s back to the people time.

Thing is the rupture between said people and the larger political parties appears enormous. Note that in recent weeks support has gone towards Ind/Others, not FF. SF may, or may not – the figures are unclear – have suffered damage. But either way that rupture deepens. Of course we’ve months to go but nothing yet to suggest that there’s any real means of bridging the gap. I think FG and the LP may be resigning themselves to the thought that gratitude is unlikely to be forthcoming from citizens for their approach. Strange that – eh?

And what of that potential Dáil, if a minority government or an FG/FF administration took power with a large and fractious bunch of Ind/others looking on – and most likely SF there too. Who benefits in that scenario? Particularly, and this cannot be ruled out, the situation actually improves or they’re able – as they are already trying to do – to fudge water and other charges? Does it become a situation where 2015/16 is the one to go into government in order to cement power for a good two terms?

And what does that hold in regard to tempting the traditional parties to work together as never before?

Finally, as ever we see long established patterns of party support maintained. Labour at an abysmal vote share and projected number of TDs. What sort of LP would that be? How could it repurpose itself and in what context? A minor, very minor, party of government? But to what end? For Fianna Fáil a not entirely dissimilar range of questions, an improvement but not much of one all things considered. A smattering of urban TDs and some fresher faces, but still one big ‘B’ team all things considered politically. And how to position itself, slightly more left, further to the right? A government party, but in a minor key? That talk of two elections to true recovery ringing ever louder in their ears, but… problematically, no sign of any appetite on the electorate to give them much of anything that might indicate at that recovery.

And Sinn Féin, beset not by the direct issues relating to the conflict – armed struggle itself seemingly not as great a problem in retrospect as some might have imagined, but having to fend off all that went with it, the legacy of armed struggle and the structures and response that that engendered. There’s no doubting – and some of the more measured contributions to the discussion in the last week or two have made this point – that there’s a very certain sort of hypocrisy at work in this state in relation to the issue of sexual abuse and crimes, but there’s also no denying that the issues raised across that week or two in relation to the IRA has been deeply troubling for many. Politically it would seem the impact has been much lesser than might have been thought of.

And the Others/Independents, the last best hope of the Irish electorate – at least as a bloc – in these polls either the largest or equally largest bloc of support. Of course even to state it in those terms is to see the contradictions in operation here. There’s no cohesion, they are of left, centre and right. They are pretty much whatever the voter(s) want them to be. That is their greatest strength in the run-up to the GE. And it may well prove their greatest weakness subsequently if that government formation proves next to impossible.

Searching for a party? October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation founder David Hall’s unhappy plight, described in the Irish Times this week as regards the near illusory ‘new party’ in a way gets to the heart of matters. He describes having met Lucinda Creighton and Stephen Donnelly ‘about setting up a new party but has expressed frustration at a lack of progress’.

Note, however, that he met them separately. As he says:

“I met with Lucinda and Stephen separately.’

Yeah, okay, we got that already.

But he continues:

‘I don’t know what their intentions are as of yet. I don’t think they have made any definite decisions yet, but discussions are still ongoing,” he said.

Question number one, the thrust of the article is that Creighton and Donnelly are working together. But… why should that be a given? I’ve talked to some who’ve worked with Donnelly on campaigns over the past year or so, people from the further left at that, whose take is that he would not make an easy comrade of Creighton, being fairly clearly to her left (not, admittedly, a difficult achievement). So there’s no reason this ‘new party’ must contain both.

Hall continues:

Speaking to The Irish Times today, he made clear he felt the time was right for like-minded politicians and aspiring candidates to unite as the general election approaches.
“I’ve had multiple conversations with various people in respect of a new party with a common objective to bring about real change,” he said.
“It’s proven very frustrating, firstly in relation to funding such a movement and secondly in relation to various hints, rumours and stories people are floating around different intentions that now need to come to an end.”

That raises question number two. Why? Why should it come to an end? To whose benefit? Creighton obviously wants a vehicle, any vehicle. Donnelly, perhaps likewise, but his isn’t necessarily the same as Creighton’s. Meanwhile, there is, as the IT notes:

The intentions of Independent TD Shane Ross are also being speculated on, after he wrote to Independent councillors suggesting the formation of an alliance.

But Ross had the good sense – as it were – to invite a broad range of councillors of both left and right. Hard to see Creighton managing that trick whereas the somewhat more emollient Ross might just do it.

But the point being that just as that other rather illusory social democratic formation hasn’t manifested itself but is also talked about, the truth is that there’s many different versions of the ‘new’ party out there and many different motivations for one. And the sheer incoherence of the material from which any such party would be crafted is a major stumbling block. Some might think those named as being interested in a ‘new party’ as being of like minds. Superficially yes, that is the case, but in reality – in terms of actual political activity – anything but, and not merely in terms of distinctly different ideological viewpoints, even if all would be centre/centre right to varying degrees. Individual ambition, outlook and so forth shapes them and all others in the mix for a new party.

Small wonder that no-one has been able to conjure a new party into being. There’s already a large right of centre FG in situ and in power. No small thing. For those of a more liberal taste there’s the LP, albeit its stock is falling rapidly. Then there’s FF – whose definition is…erm… obscure. And a plethora of Independents take up the slack. One could even suggest that Hall himself exemplifies the problems in this process. Centre, centre right, but what’s his views on social issues, or austerity or… and there we have it. Try to pin it down and this inchoate mess, in terms of building a ‘new party’, is manifest.

I’ve no doubt someone will try to get it up and running in a more concrete form – though given the popularity of alliances I’d put money on it being looser rather than fighters as a grouping. I’ve doubts as to whether it will be a flier. Too late, again too inchoate, and in a sense entirely redundant given the actual political system we have as against the one the media keep trying to bring into being.

What you want to say – 29th October 2014 October 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

CLR QUIZ 3 from O’er the Water October 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From NollagO, a very welcome quiz…

1. Born in Ballylongford in 1850. Drowned on June 1916 when his ship, HMS Hampshire, sank west of the Orkney Islands struck by a German mine. He was making his way to Russia in order to attend negotiations. Who?

2. One of the left wing students in UCC in the 1950s. According to oral history his views then were considered so left wing for the time that he was dubbed the Antichrist. He became prominent nationally in the 1960s. Over time his politics moved publically very much to the right. He became a Fine Gael supporter the 1980s. Who?

3. In a by-election in 1982 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, the Labour candidate lost his deposit. Who was he?

4. If Criminals were green, Communists were red and Jehovah’s Witnesses were purple, who were yellow and who were pink? Where?

5. This racehorse, named after a disputed territory, was, in 2003, itself the subject of an ownership dispute. Name the horse.

6. British soldiers who had completed their tour of duty were sent to a small town in western India, to await transportation home. Because of the frequent delays of many months, boredom and heat, many a soldier turned insane. What is the slang name of the town which also part of a common phrase still in use?

7. Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley-Cooper, and Lauderdale were a group of behind-the-scenes advisers to British Monarch Charles II from 1668 to circa 1674. How were they better known? [There’s a clue in the question.]

8. Who, famously, was governor of the Bahamas from 1940 till 1945?

9. Prior to The Act of Union of 1707 there used to be a Scottish Embassy in London. Where?

10. On the orders of the First Lord of the British Admiralty, HMS Pandora left Portsmouth in November 1790 on a special mission. After visiting several Pacific islands including Tahiti, the ship ran aground on August 1791 on the Great Barrier Reef and sank. What was the uncompleted mission?

11. He first appointed John Nance Garner in 1933. His second appointment was Henry Wallace from 1941 till 1945. His third and final appointment was from January, 1945 till April, 1945? Who was he and which famous person did he appoint in 1945?

12. After a 10-week trial at Winchester Crown Court in 1973 when the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on one of the nine defendants, the others began to hum the Dead March from Saul and one threw a coin at her, shouting “Take your blood money with you”. What was that all about?

13. It was a secular Jewish socialist movement founded in the Russian Empire in 1897. By what four letter word was the better known?

14. In 1941, a mysterious Mr Galvin wrote to the Daily Telegraph offering to donate £100 to charity if anyone could complete a Daily Telegraph crossword in less than 12 minutes under supervised conditions. Six people did. What subsequent offer were the six made?

15. A horse called Anmer ran in the 1913 Derby but, famously, did not finish the race. Who owned the horse?

And a bonus question, slightly tongue in cheek!

16. Point 9 of The Official Monster Raving Looney Party’s 2010 General Election Manifesto was “We will ban all forms of Greyhound racing.” What justification did the manifesto give for this policy?

From the Southern Star of Skibbereen, Co.Cork. October 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

…and their Archon contributor, an entertainingly jaundiced view of the current political scene…


Losing October 28, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

I was talking to a friend recently who had seen firsthand the Greyhound dispute. The observation was made that those working for the company tended to have little or no familiarity of the very concept of scabbing. To them the protests were simply obstructing their work for which they were paid. And far from the stuff put about that these were non-nationals, overwhelmingly they were Irish.

And that got me thinking, because in the 1990s, which is beginning to feel like a very very long time ago now, I worked for a group of companies, one of which had a foot in basic manufacturing of electrical goods. And what was striking was firstly that those in that particular company were some of the vanishingly few of us who were members of unions and secondly how seriously this was taken by the companies involved. Unlike the rest of us they got wage increases in tandem with those agreed nationally and had slightly better working conditions.

Now, as an aside, one could consider for quite a while the lessons of that and just why was it that their approach wasn’t emulated more widely by workers in the companies. But that’s a different issue, in a way.

The other point was that everyone was aware of the implications of strikes and pickets and what would happen if those in the manufacturing side were at the main gate and there was no appetite to pass pickets whatsoever. And, despite the essentially depoliticised attitude of most workers in the place, that was a given. And I’d suspect that passing pickets, let alone accepting scab workers, was something that many would think twice about, let alone actually do.

I was wondering whether twenty odd years later things might be different, because of that anecdote from Greyhound. Has that broad, almost sympathy, dissipated in the past decade or so?

But it also strikes me that this is, in part, a result of the bizarre lack of interest on the part of the unions in the 1990s and on into the 2000s in extending further into the private sector and seeming to default to seeing the public sector as their primary focus. It’s important, of course, to note the exceptions to that, both in terms of unions that didn’t do that and individuals within unions that did who went above and beyond the call of duty. But I think I am describing a real dynamic. And this was linked into ‘partnership’ and approaches to taxation, unionisation of multinationals and so forth where once more the unions were found seriously wanting.

What do others think?


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