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Tag Archives: equality auditing

Michael Taft writing in Unite’s Notes From the Front reports favourably on Switzerland’s 1:12 initiative and other moves to reduce inequality of income.* This is really good stuff from Switzerland and it’s the sort of approach the Irish Labour Party and the left generally should be taking: Link top pay to the minimum wage or the pay of low paid staff members. Moreover, every initiative, every policy, every budget should be evaluated with reference to inequality of income. I might add that every cut in public expenditure should be similarly evaluated. Since 2012 this kind of equality audit has been Labour Party policy but it’s a well-kept secret and labour’s critics on the left show not the slightest interest in it.**

The notion of limiting top pay to a multiple of the lowest pay appears in the thinking of even the British Conservative Party.

I put forward an argument that the first cut in the public service pay bill should be a cap on pay and extras of 100k and a 50k ceiling on pensions. It was met with hostility to the extent that I couldn’t get my own branch or constituency Labour Party to put it on the 2012 conference agenda.*** How about now putting it to a plebiscite now?

There were other proposals. One was to call the bluff of those who said that increases in the minimum wage would close businesses especially in the hospitality industry. The suggestion was that the minimum wage would be payable only within companies whose top earning staff member or director had an income of less than, say, three times the minimum wage; all other firms would pay the minimum wage plus, say, three euro per hour. Another was that state contracts would be confined to companies whose top earning staff member or director had an income of less than, say, three times its lowest paid staff member or, say, four times the lowest paid staff member in any of its contractors.

The multiples can be debated and indeed changed periodically. The important point is that inequality of income becomes a matter of public controversy.
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* http://notesonthefront.typepad.com/politicaleconomy/2013/10/a-few-referenda-ideas-that-just-might-succeed.html
** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/inequality-of-income-can-labour-put-it-on-the-public-agenda-and-achieve-some-reduction-while-in-government/
*** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/prioritising-public-spending-and-reducing-income-inequality-in-the-public-sector-a-motion-which-failed-to-make-the-agenda-for-the-labour-party-conference-2012/

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It’s received little attention so far but five motions to the Labour Conference 2012 which were adopted unanimously have considerably strengthened Labour’s position on equality by a) placing inequality of income centre stage, b) making its reduction an objective during the lifetime of this government, and c) deciding to prepare the data necessary to having budget discussions that focus on income inequality.

The motions were no. 28 (Donnybrook, Dublin SE,) no. 30 (Hugh Geraghty CDW, Dublin SC), no. 87 (Ashbourne, Meath E), no. 94 (Labour Youth) and no.132 (Labour Equality).

I’ve looked at these motions and found them in general agreement. There are minor differences as to which of the measures of income inequality should be used and over techniques/terminology around “equality auditing”, “equality reporting” etc. However, the position in summary seems to be this:

  1. Labour has made the reduction of inequality of income not only a short term objective but also a measure of the party’s performance in government.
  2. Labour wants all policy and particularly budgetary measures audited so as to make it absolutely clear what effect they are likely to have on income inequality.
  3. In the event of  Labour’s partners in government declining to effect equality auditing,  it is Labour’s position to press ahead using whatever resources are available and to have the information so generated inform Labour’s cabinet contributions and public debate.

 

The full texts of the motions can be found here http://www.labour.ie/conference/schedule/ If I’ve misinterpreted or made some other error, I’ll be happy to be corrected.