Make Tea Not War has a long post up at Work Without End on Flexibility and the Guaranteed Basic Income. While the initial focus is on Sue Kedgley's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill (and whether it would be effective in helping those who need it most), the real target is the underlying paradigm of employment law. Traditionally, employment law has recognised that there is an imbalance of power between employer and employees, and aimed to correct this through regulation and the promotion of collective bargaining. However, while this helps, it doesn't change the fact that usually employees need to eat far more than employers need their work, and this is a fundamental limit on its effectiveness. And the bottom end of the employment market, where employees tend to be in greatest need of protection because they have few other options available, is precisely where that protection fails, because employers are able to use the threat of starvation to force "agreement" to conditions which noone would voluntarily agree to.
In this situation, MTNW thinks that a universal or guaranteed basic income - a universal payment given to every adult regardless of circumstances - would be the supreme equaliser:
How much easier would it be, for example, to say to an employer, for example, "I will need to finish work every day by 3 so I can be at home with my kids after school" if you weren't depending on that job to put food on the table? I feel pretty sure that if workers had genuine power of exit if their needs can't be accomodated rather than a token right to voice that more flexible working arrangements would evolve very quickly indeed.
And its very hard to disagree. Free people from the necessity of having to work to eat, give them real alternatives to shitty jobs or shitty employers, and the market will be forced to change to accommodate their needs. The work will still need to be done, and, apart from a few people who want to spend their lives surfing or blogging or whatever, people will still want to do it (we have to have something to do with our lives, after all) - but we won't have to put up with so much shit any more. From either party. As MTNW points out,
Equalising the bargaining power of workers would mean that the State could back right off on making rules concerning employment relationships thus reducing red tape and compliance costs significantly.
This is what we should be aiming for. It would dramatically increase the actual, substantive freedom of ordinary people to spend their lives how they wish - a key goal of the left - and end the nastiest practices of the employment market. Yes, we'd have to pay for it - Grey Shade had some interesting calculations on that which I think I still have somewhere - and it would result in substantial economic change; some shitty industries would (deservedly) go to the wall. But it would be well worth it in terms of human happiness and freedom.