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If Baristas Were Like the RMT…

By Sara Scarlett
March 14th, 2014 at 11:23 am | No Comments | Posted in Economics

Mark Steel fundamentally fails to understand how competition works, or in that regard where Bob Crow got his power from – the absence of competition in London for fast travel.

Suppose as Mark wishes the Pret-A-Manger and Starbucks baristas organised like the RMT, shutting down their respective chains on the public grounds that the steamed milk dispensers represented a serious health and safety threat to their members, while negotiating behind the scenes for more pay and pensions. Their employers might give in from time to time, and wages would rise.

Their employers would also stop investing in new shops. Practically because free cash was now going into current staff benefits and pragmatically as their London outfits were now less cost effective than stores elsewhere. Why invest in jobs in London if you can make better returns for shareholders investing in Birmingham or France? Prices in turn, in London would rise, leading to customer defections to Costa Coffee and Eat. That is those customers prepared to remain loyal despite the shops being closed for large parts of the year.

In time there would closures and headcount reductions. Presumably followed by more strikes and vocal denunciations of the boss class on the BBC. Campaigns would be launched urging consumers to pay more for their coffee and sandwiches in solidarity with staff already earning 2-3 times what they do. The campaigns would be ignored. Labour MPs would claim the Government has betrayed the barista community leading to the destruction of a once great British service industry.

On the Underground meanwhile none of these levers are available. Buses are not a practical alternative for many routes, nor do they have capacity to cope with the increase in trade during a network strike. Cars and taxis are even less useful, the conflation of all three leading to gridlock. In the long-run automation is an alternative to over-paid staff.

Bob Crow’s success then was to note the power imbalance between tube workers and their customers and extract rent from them for as long as possible before the inevitable, much like a mafia boss pending the end of prohibition.

That model happily cannot work in many areas of life, not even many public services, where alternatives can exist. What does work is what most of the working world has which is the free movement of labour from bad employers to good, and the facility to be rewarded for the effort you make using the skills you have, through negotiation and reason, and without strife.

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The EU Condemns Drone Strikes

By Sara Scarlett
March 1st, 2014 at 6:33 am | 4 Comments | Posted in EU

Excellent news from the EU!

European Union Members of Parliament condemned the use of drones in targeted killings in a vote of 534 to 49. The vote proposing a ban referred to the drone strikes as “unlawful.”

Not just a victory but a landslide victory.

I once heard drone strikes described as ‘surgical.’ They are the exact opposite. They are notoriously  imprecise, killing nine innocent civilians for every one ‘bad guy.’ The callous disregard of human life in affected areas can only serve to breed contempt and make us less safe. If the powers that be ever update the Geneva Conventions, I hope this type of warfare is explicitly acknowledged and condemned.

How to Solve the Obesity Crisis!

By Sara Scarlett
January 9th, 2014 at 4:55 pm | No Comments | Posted in drugs, health, Nannying, UK Politics

Replace sugar with cocaine.

There.

My work here is done…

Seriously, though – the Government has been giving huge amounts of free money to the Sugar Industry and the Corn Industry, which produces High Fructose Corn syrup, for decades. Before any taxes are imposed on people who enjoy their sugar responsibly, perhaps it would be wise to cease subsidising these industries instead.

New Labour’s Cruel Housing Legacy

By Sara Scarlett
November 20th, 2013 at 8:48 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in Housing

Under New Labour the population increased due to immigration and an ageing population but they deliberately restricted house building effectively pricing a generation out of home ownership.

Don’t get me wrong – I am a fervent supporter of immigration. Labour markets should be as free as all others should be free. More pressingly this country has a Welfare State structured like a ponzi scheme. Ergo, without immigrants over the age of 21, or the massive fundamental overhaul of the Welfare State that this government has neither the courage nor the appetite to follow through, services as most know them will cease to exist.

The building of social housing started to decline under Thatcher and New Labour ensured the development of social housing at about the same slightly dismal rate. For New Labour to open Labour markets to immigrants, whilst simultaneously restricting house building in the private sector and not factoring in an ageing population, is not just bad policy – it is down right cruel.

With two healthy Graduate salaries, my boyfriend and I can not afford the house my father could afford on a single salary at the same age. He had no degree and a wife and two children at the time. I feel more privileged than my parents in every other way and I know we’re better-off than a great many people our age. So if we’re struggling with our housing situation then I know a lot of people are too.

Stop blaming immigrants; they’re not the problem. The price of houses is directly linked to lack of supply. Had bread increased in price at the same rate as house prices, a loaf would cost just under £5. I’m pretty sure if bread were in such short supply that it was this expensive there’d be riots in the streets. There are millions of houses that do not exist thanks to continually piss poor housing policy since the end of WWII.

Alas, things look like they’re going to continue. The Help-to-Buy scheme is the policy equivalent of “You have been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS – take two aspirin and get a good nights rest.” Cheap mortgages are little comfort when the houses we need simply don’t exist.

Ed Milliband’s Energy Problem… 

By Sara Scarlett
October 7th, 2013 at 12:18 pm | No Comments | Posted in Energy

This doesn’t look like a very well-thought through intervention, on a number of levels.

First, the main reason there is a high degree of contact between the ‘big six’ and Government is there has been an Energy Bill every other year for the last decade, not to mention all the secondary legislation spinning off each one. The latest ‘Energy Market Reform’ is one of the most complex in history, and its success in no small part depends on the likes of EDF etc. following-up with real investment. If they weren’t speaking about this, a lot, they would be foolish.

Second, the principle architects of that ballooning complexity were the last Government. As the former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, the one who implemented the Climate Change Act, I’m not entirely sure Ed Miliband can exactly blame anyone else for that, bar himself.

Third, have his team gone through all the records of previous contacts between energy companies and the Labour Government from the period? I got the sense from the number of former Labour staff and activists working for the Big Six, including for example now Baroness Worthington, and Gordon Brown’s brother, there was a high degree of conversation and co-operation. Is he sure this Government is speaking to the Big Six less than his own?

Fourth, what now happens if there is another Labour Government? Can we expect energy policy by fiat, without consultation? Can the Energy companies only speak to Government if every letter is balanced by a commentary from an NGO or consumer group, regardless of relevance?

It’s smacks more than a little of more populism. Meanwhile the hard options Labour could review to really deliver lower energy prices, such as reducing barriers to competition, accelerating shale gas deployment, simplifying and reducing eco & social tariffs, shifting some renewable trials to more affordable markets, promoting international partnerships and so on are largely being left to the Coalition.



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