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What to make of the Taylor Review

After a long period of consultation and deliberation, the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices has been published.  As to be expected, the reaction has been mixed so I wanted to just give a slightly different perspective on points in the review and also in the follow up questions during the launch.  Broadly, my thoughts come into three categories:   

  • Awareness, Enforcement and Extension - At the end of the launch, questions were asked about how pay gaps, encouraging more diversity and tackling low pay could be achieved via the review and all I could think of was 'strong unions, strong collective bargaining'.  It gave me flashbacks to conversations I'd have with members, non members or even family when they'd ask about entitlements.  Awareness of rights, as well as responsibilities is crucial to any legislative framework.  You can have the most progressive set of laws, but if people don't know they exist or what they mean then nothing can be acted upon.  The role of unions in raising awareness is very important.  So too is the work of unions in making sure the law (and agreements above its provision) is enforced.  Therefore, the importance of worker voice is a main chapter in the review, and the positive role unions play is highlighted should be seen as welcome.  Yet, let's take a further step to extension of the law which is the space that we occupy as well.  How can unions represent worker voice where there isn't representation and is there anything in the report that can offer help in that?  The reduction of numbers within the ICE regulations and the direct call for Government to work with unions is good, but I can't help but think that the real ability to tackle problems at work, to lift up wages and to ensure positive flexibility is in place, lies with more robust collective bargaining frameworks.  Unions are going to need to think about how future recommendations and outcomes from the report can link into industrial strategy and leverage voice in new sectors and non union sectors of work.  I remember a Regional Secretary once saying to me 'never rely on the law to get what you want, you need to push for more, for better.'   
  • Individual versus collective power - we can give workers/employees/self employed more rights, but if they are all centred at the individual ability to excise power, this is practically not just going to be resource intensive and also, not necessarily lead to industry, workplace and societal best practice at work.

All of this leading to...

  • Pushing for industrial strategy is going to be really important - In light of Brexit, in changes to the economy and an moving political settlement, industrial strategy both nationally and regionally is going to be very important and the ability of unions to engage in this process could make or break our influence in breaking into new industries and extending worker voice in existing areas.  In our most recent publication on Devo-Work and collective bargaining we outlined how unions may respond to changes to collective bargaining in light of devolution.  Some of these settlements seem more crucial than ever in moving forward in a 21st century economy.