A thesis about trade unions and Basic Income

A thesis about trade unions and Basic Income

Luca Michele Cigna has written a master’s degree thesis about trade unions’ positions on Basic income: Looking for a North Star? Trade unions’ positions in the Universal Basic Income debate

First, unions’ propensity to support a UBI depends on
the degrees of socio-economic insecurity. In contexts characterised by high levels of poverty,
unemployment and precariousness, UBI proposals look more attractive in the eyes of union leaders.
Secondly, welfare regime generosity is a strong explanans of trade unions’ support. Less
encompassing welfare systems encourage trade unionists to regard UBI as a legitimate policy
alternative. Third, trade unions’ attachment to the work ethic and the insurance principle affects their
preferences for unconditionality and universality in policy settings. Fourth, their role in the industrial
landscape, and their degree of organisational inclusivity, have a strong influence on UBI support.

The Netherlands: Largest trade union makes an important step towards a basic income

The Netherlands: Largest trade union makes an important step towards a basic income

The largest trade union in The Netherlands with over one million members, FNV (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging / Federation of Dutch Trade Unions), held a conference on May 10-11 at Sport Business Centre Papendal to discuss its policy plan for the years 2017-2021.
The policy is based on the experiences, opinions and observations of the members, non-members and experts of the organization. During a comprehensive consultation phase, each member had the opportunity to identify the most important topics which should be included in FNV’s conceptual policy plan for 2017-2021. A preliminary summary of the most important subjects was published in a separate draft resolution that was discussed by the Congress of the FNV on May 10. Despite several attempts to amend the draft resolution, the board of the FNV turned down all the proposals that went beyond the statement that “The FNV will investigate a basic income in the coming period and will start a discussion about it.”

However, on the 11th of May, during debates with members of FNV’s parliament and especially with the sector beneficiaries therein, this announcement was replaced by a more powerful and far-reaching text stating that

The basic income is an interesting option, especially in the way it is formulated by FNV Sector Beneficiaries. The FNV therefore proposes to start investigations and experiments in a practice-oriented manner based on the recommendations of FNV Sector Beneficiaries. As a result of this, FNV will decide whether a basic income can become one of the instruments that can equally share work, income and capital.

A ‘basic income’ as formulated by FNV Sector Beneficiaries is

  • an amount that is comparable to the Dutch state retirement pension (AOW) in which a couple receives less than a single person;
  • for anyone who has legally lived in The Netherlands during 18 years;
  • income from paid employment will not be set off with the basic income;
  • current allowances such as rent and care benefits continue to exist;
  • unemployment and disability insurance also remains for that part of the income that comes from paid work.

“Due to the hard work and non-stop pressure of the section of welfare recipients among FNV’s members, they now have negotiated a much better outlook for the introduction of a real basic income in the long run,” says Johan Horeman, “A huge step is set in the right direction.”

The adoption of the amendment was made possible by the driving forces Willem Banning and Harrie Ortmans, board members of FNV Sector Beneficiaries and Johan Horeman, advisor of the board.

Thanks to Ad Planken and Dave Clegg for reviewing this article.

Credit Picture CC Terence Faircloth

Julie Wark and Daniel Raventós: “Why don’t Trade Unions support an UBI (precisely when they should)?”

Julie Wark and Daniel Raventós: “Why don’t Trade Unions support an UBI (precisely when they should)?”

(Picture credit: Counterpunch)

In this article Julie Wark and Daniel Raventós write about why the trade unions do not support an unconditional basic income when “properly understood and administered, basic income could have enormously positive consequences”.

Prior to their discussion of the reasons why trade unions do not support an unconditional basic income, they first try to assess both the normative and the practical questions that must be answered when it comes to speaking about the unconditional basic income.

It is also analyzed the right-wing and left-wing unconditional basic income supporters.

Finally, Their discussion is comprised of a point by point response to the six arguments most often raised by unionists when opposing basic income and after discussing them the article is finishes by saying that unionists “also raise basic issues about what kind of society we should and might be able to have because the underlying human rights concerns are always the same and they affect everybody: freedom, justice and dignity”.


Daniel Raventós is a lecturer in Economics at the University of Barcelona and author inter alia of Basic Income: The Material Conditions of Freedom (Pluto Press, 2007). He is on the editorial board of the international political review Sin Permiso.
Julie Wark is an advisory board member of the international political review Sin Permiso. Her last book is The Human Rights Manifesto (Zero Books, 2013).

More articles by Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark, here.


Read the original article:
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark, “Why don’t Trade Unions support an Unconditional Basic Income (precisely when they should)?”, Counterpunch, January 11th, 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Leader of Largest Trade Union Federation Calls for BIG

SOUTH AFRICA: Leader of Largest Trade Union Federation Calls for BIG

Sdumo Dlamini, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), has called on the government of South Africa to implement a basic income guarantee. He voiced this demand before the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), which held its congress in Johannesburg on Thursday, November 17.

President Jacob Zuma with Sdumo Dlamini, CC BY-ND 2.0 GovernmentZA

President of South Africa Jacob Zuma with Sdumo Dlamini, CC BY-ND 2.0 GovernmentZA

In his speech, Dlamini contended that “the state’s approach to social protection has been fragmented and narrow,” leaving many members of the population uncovered by social assistance despite lacking an adequate income through their own earnings.

Dlamini also called for other reforms, including a new unemployment insurance fund, a single national pension scheme, and national health insurance.

COSATU is South Africa’s largest trade union federation, representing 1.8 million members (as reported on its website). It has held long-standing support for an inflation-linked basic income grant.

FEDUSA is the nation’s second largest trade union federation, with 20 affiliated trade unions and approximately 515,000 members (according to the latest updates on its website).


Zintle Mahlati (November 18, 2016) “Cosatu spurs on basic income calls” Business News.

Article reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Cover photo: Sdumo Dlamini at Presidential Labour Working Group (June 2016) CC BY-ND 2.0 GovernmentZA

UK: Major Trade Union Federation Endorses UBI

UK: Major Trade Union Federation Endorses UBI

The Trades Union Congress, a federation of trade unions that represents nearly six million workers in the UK, has passed a motion endorsing basic income.

As previously announced in Basic Income News, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) voted on a motion to endorse universal basic income at its 148th annual congress held from September 11 through 14.

The TUC is a federation of trade unions in the UK, currently representing 51 unions and a total of more than 5.8 million workers [1].

The full text of the successful motion on UBI is as follows:

Universal Basic Income

Congress notes the growing popularity of the idea of a ‘Universal Basic Income’ with a variety of models being discussed here and around the world. Congress recognises the need for a rebuilding of a modern social security system for men and women as part of tackling poverty and inequality.

Congress believes that the TUC should argue for a progressive system that incorporates the basis of a Universal Basic Income system paid individually and that is complementary to comprehensive public services and childcare provision.

Congress believes that such a system would be easier to administer and easier for people to navigate than the current system which has been made increasingly punitive and has effectively been used to stigmatise benefit claimants. The operation of sanctions pushes people into destitution for trivial reasons.

Congress recognises that until the housing crisis is resolved there would also be a need for supplementary benefits to support people on low incomes with high housing costs and that there will always be a need for supplementary benefits for disabled people.

The transition from our current system to any new system that incorporates these principles should always leave people with lower incomes better off.

Congress believes that our social security system must work in tandem with our agenda for strong trade unions and employment rights and secure, decently and properly paid work.

The motion was introduced to the TUC by Unite, the UK’s largest individual union, which passed a motion endorsing basic income on July 11.

Becca Kirkpatrick — a UNISON and Unite member whose Regional Sector Committee was responsible for moving the successful motion at Unite’s policy conference — had this to say about the TUC decision:

This important decision is only the beginning of a big conversation to be had across the unions, about our preferred level of UBI, how it should be funded, and what additional policies must go alongside it to ensure that it is progressive. But most importantly, no great social change has ever been won by working people passing a motion in a conference room. We must organise and build a powerful movement in order to see the kind of Basic Income — and the kind of future — that we want [2].

To stay up-to-date with future news and announcements, follow Basic Income UK Trade Unionists on Twitter and join their discussions on Facebook.

[1] According to the TUC’s website (accessed September 15, 2016).

[2] Personal communication.

Photo CC BY-NC 2.0 xpgomes12.

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