Saving Species

I was heartened to read an article The Independent that was reporting on an article in Nature. The apocalyptic headline “Humans are ushering in the sixth mass extinction of life on earth” was followed by the warning that “tens of thousands of species are now threatened with extinction. The number may or may not be accurate – have they counted them? – but most would agree that there is a major problem. Over-fishing, poaching, pollution and loss of habitat will result in the irreversible loss of species on a large scale.

Nothing very heartening in any of that, but the article goes on say that it “it was not inevitable that this process would continue”. The abstract from the original Nature article says; “Proactive international efforts to increase crop yields, minimize land clearing and habitat fragmentation, and protect natural lands could increase food security in developing nations and preserve much of Earth’s remaining biodiversity”.

All of this without the usual, lazy references to “Global Warming”. Whether the US administration dumps the Paris Accord or not makes next to no difference to the future of biodiversity. The Paris Acccord is about CO2 emissions. For all the virtue signalling that goes on in connection with CO2, there is no evidence that it raises temperatures in the real world (no temperature rise in the last 20 years), and it may even be beneficial (global greening).

I have blogged about this before and the whole CO2 footprint debate is a wretched distraction from the real issues so neatly summarised on the Nature abstract. If scientists and media are now turning away from flogging the CO2 horse, then that should hearten all of us.

EU Subsidiarity

I came across this gem today. I had always thought that subsidiarity meant that if something could be done better at the national or regional level, rather than at the EU level, then it would be done at national or regional level. No. Apparently that was me being credulous!

Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union says this: “Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.”

So, if something falls within the competence of the EU, such as health and safety legislation, then any action must happen at the EU level. On the other hand, if something does not fall within the competence of the EU, such as defence, then the EU may act if it decides that the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by member states.

The wording is carefully asymmetric, in favour of action at the EU level. The UK is so much better off out!

UK Immigration Changes

The headline from Stuff, in New Zealand, on the Conservative Party manifesto for the UK election is “New Zealand, Australian workers to suffer under Theresa May’s immigration pledges”. This angle has been entirely ignored in the UK press, which does have the feel of a nation turning inwards.

One of the pledges will require UK companies who employ a migrant worker to pay £2,000 per employee, per year to the UK government. That is probably low enough so that current employees are not going to be fired en masse. And, high enough to discourage new employment of migrant workers, including those earning significantly more than the minimum wage.

Incidentally, with around 6m non-UK born workers in the UK, this amounts to a tax grab of some £12bn per year.

There is a problem with the over-supply of low-skilled, low-wage labour in the UK. It is a shame that the Conservatives are unable to focus on that. Other countries will reply in kind. This is a nasty, inward looking measure.

Skills and Training

I have now read the manifestos for the UK 2017 election from the; Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives. I think it would be fair to say that after closing out Brexit, the unifying theme is the unfairness of the workplace. By this I mean the phenomenon of the rich getting [much] richer, while the rest don’t [or worse].

The parties are all committed to raising the minimum wage, with some adding in variants of things like; workers on boards, and binding share holder votes on executive pay. The Labour party has the eye-catching policy of a maximum ration of 20:1 between the highest and lowest paid in public sector and companies tendering for public sector contracts.

However, they all collude in the skills and training “deceit”. That is to say they all emphasise increased skills through training as a way to lift people into higher wage jobs. Clearly, better skills, and the improved productivity that might come with it, are a good thing. However, it does not solve the low pay problem.

The reason for this is that, whilst one individual may train up and move from a minimum wage job into something better paid, the minimum wage job remains. There are whole swathes of the economy which requires low skilled labour; harvesting, hospitality, care, retail . . . That is not to say that all jobs in these sectors are paid minimum wage, but very large numbers are, and will remain so. Changing the bedding in a hotel or a care home, serving a customer in a coffee shop, cutting lettuces, picking items in a fulfilment centre – are all jobs that are not going to be somehow “upskilled”. Yes, some of these jobs may be automated – though losing those jobs raises a shed-load of different problems.

What is needed is to pay the people doing these low skilled jobs better. And raising the minimum wage comes close to being a sledge-hammer to miss a nut. It does not allow for those who would willingly work for less, so those businesses do not exist. And it does not help the low paid to earn more than the minimum wage.

The Lib-Dem manifesto pledge to give workers in listed companies with more than 250 employees the right to request shares, confuses fair pay with ownership. Employees add value [hugely] to companies and should share in the profitability,  without any claim on the ownership of the company.

All the parties manifestos treat capitalism as if it was an immutable law of nature. Currently, the law stipulates that ALL the profit of a company is the property of the shareholders.  That needs to change; so that employees benefit in their pay packets, from the success of the businesses they work in.