Green leader Natalie Bennett wants to revolutionise employment by introducing a Universal Basic Income and having a shorter working week. Ms Bennett was speaking at an alternative employment event last night at The Cornerhouse in Manchester following elections which saw her party growing their share of EU and council seats in the UK.
Natalie Bennett's input into the conversation was well informed and to the point, but a distinct lack of fanfare and cameras shows the publicity problems the Green Party is facing. It's possibly a less cynical way of doing politics, but it does not win elections.
The discussion, organised by anti-capitalist group Plan C, centred around three questions:
1. What does the future of work look like currently?
2. What would you like the future of work to look like?
3. How can we organise and what interventions can we make in order to create the future of work that we want to see?
The leader of the Green Party in England and Wales told the audience that a universal basic income is something her party aims towards, but admits that there are political limitations her party has to work within, highlighting the need first of all to “first make minimum wage a living wage.”
Academic Nick Srnicek, who was also on the panel, agreed with these political aspirations but said they would have to be worked on over years.
Mr Srnicek thinks that a Universal Basic Income, an income based on need not ability, could be a solution to problems such as wage stagnation, job precariety and underemployment. He also sees it as a “leverage for class power” as it increases the value of work. This is a point Ms Bennett was able to develop: “The nature of the payscale will change. For example, a sewer cleaner would be paid more than a banker, because it's a job that less people would be willing to do.”
Panelists agreed that a shorter working week is also a necessity, with Natalie Bennett highlighting issues around childcare that could be easily resolved with a shorter working week.
When challenged on how a UBI and shorter working week could be financed Nick Srnicek suggested that the money could be found somehow. Natalie Bennett said it's hard for economists to work out what would happen because it's hard to predict how people will behave, however she did point out that UBI had had atransformative effect in some developing countries where it doesn't cost a lot to finance.
Natalie Bennett outlined her party's positions on employment very well, and the political realities of the modern world, but the Greens failed to generate publicity around the event and to really drive their message home. It might be fair to say she was being respectful to the debate in not using it to score points politically, but in reality her party need to take those opportunities to do that.
There seemed to be a fairly broad consensus in the room, both with the audience and the panel. The event was well attended, well organised and the audience had plenty of opportunities to input ideas. "A Future that Doesn't Work" was organised by Plan C MCR. The podcast will be available on their website soon.