I’m intrigued by the debate over whether or not we should legislate to allow vetoes on pay remuneration committees, among other things. Those in favour believe it will naturally rein in excessive pay and bonuses in businesses that reward failure or even just the basic fulfilment of a contract (the company has not gone bust, here’s a million quid, the company has gone busy, here’s two million etc). Those against say that it won’t make much difference and where it currently exists there is little evidence it has done much to curb large pay awards.
With David Cameron now saying his government is going to act on the issue the TUC has said that it welcomes the fact that all three main parties are now calling for what has been TUC policy for a decade.
While it’s inevitable the TUC will rightly laud its own policy position being adopted by others I couldn’t help but feel it highlighted its own insignificance and lack of influence in the debate. David Cameron isn’t going to act on the issue because the TUC have called for him to do so, and we had years of a Labour government ignoring the TUC’s position as well. Perhaps the TUC encouraged Labour to finally take it up as a position, perhaps thats even likely given that Ed Miliband is now our leader and won on union votes, but while in government we obviously felt safe enough ignoring them on this issue, though there are many where we’ve successfully worked with them to create good policies that benefit a lot of people.
But if the TUC have been calling for something for ten years, most of which was with a sympathetic government, and nothing happened until external factors pushed the hand of the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to act on it, doesn’t that simply highlight the TUC’s own irrelevance to the debate?
You could argue that they have influenced the wider debate, helped the item rise up the public agenda so people sat up and took notice and this forced the government’s hand, but let’s be honest about how much influence the TUC have with the wider public. If it was that influential it wouldn’t have taken them a decade in the first place and if it has been influential then it’s clearly failed in getting them the recognition they deserve.
Of far more importance is the economic crash and resulting recession, the austerity package of the government and the resulting political need to ensure the richest are seen to ‘pay their share’ in words if not in deeds. Public attitudes have changed and rightly the government are responding to it.
I’m not having a pop at the TUC, it’s essential for an organisation like that to blow its own trumpet to encourage its members their membership is worthwhile, encourage others to join and also to try increase their influence in the public debate. But rather than be pleased that the TUC were seeing their ideas being taken up, I actually found their statement quite depressing.
It’s hard to feel pleased on the TUCs behalf when it’s their own irrelevance being highlighted.