Wish I’d seen this live! Never mind.
Via the BBC.
Wish I’d seen this live! Never mind.
Via the BBC.
Last night I attened the Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Lecture at City University (invited by virtue of having been, once-upon-a-time, the President of the Students’ Union there). The speaker was another ex-Sabbatical Officer, albeit one from an older generation than me, Brendan Barber – the recently elected General Secretary of the TUC.
His speech was entitled “The Future of Trade Unions”. He began by giving a roundup of the current state of the Trade Union movement here in the UK, outlining some of the recent trends membership numbers and profile, spread across various sectors, stuff like that. He briefly touched upon the movement’s relationship with the current Government and disparaged that element of recent media commentary which labeled some of the recently elected Union officials as the “Awkward Squad”.
His discussion on the future direction of the Trade Union movement touched on several areas, including skill development and provision and the continuing importance of collective bargaining, but what I found most interesting was his brief discussion of the potential role of unions as shareholders – “saving capitalism from the capitalists”, if I remember his phrase correctly.
Using the currently relevant issues of pension security and fat-cat pay as hooks, he set out an argument for the increasing participation of Trade Unions in Business at the shareholder level. After all, Union members are essentially investors in many large companies in their roles as pension scheme contributors, and Barber argued that Unions could do well following the example of those groups who sought to influence the policy of large corporations by buying shares in order to get voting rights at company AGMs and the like.
He cited the recent stories of fat-cat pay deals being voted down as examples of the potential power of well-organised shareholders over boards and executives, and suggested that by getting into business at this level, Unions could not only oversee the interests of their members in these uncertain times but also possibly impose some sort of moral or ethical framework over the corporations.
Whatever your reaction to ideas like this (to be honest, I’m not really sure how new it all is), it’s certainly interesting. It brought to mind the old concept of the “shareholder democracy” which never really took off as intended. Perhaps what Mr. Barber is thinking of is a new form of (stake|share)holder democracy, but one where the Unions, and possibly other groups, act as our proxies?
All interesting stuff, I only wish I had been a little less tired and that I’d remembered to take a pen and paper to make notes with. (What? Real time wireless moblogging? You wanna buy me the kit, I’ll do it Please read this last statement as a slight disclaimer – I am reporting only my impressions and memories, and it’s altogether possible that I’m misrepresenting Mr. Barber’s arguments, although I’d hope not. It’d be interesting to hear any views on this stuff, so if anyone actually reads this post, please consider leaving a comment!
(NB: After I wrote this summary, I discovered this article at the Times online, covering the speech.)
marginwalker is a shared discussion space intended to incubate practical ideas, tools and strategies for living in these hopeful and difficult times: “open-source futurism,” if you will. Think of it as a space combining some of the best features of tool-strewn workshop and Viennese coffeehouse.… Some of the things we’re interested in: global nomadics; newer urbanisms; postnational states and the “second superpower”; the body, the mind and the self; new materials; conflict prevention and preemption; ubiquitous and ambient information systems; new paradigms for sociality. This all sounds so terribly polysyllabic and serious – but trust us, we’re a very friendly and sociable bunch of people.
This looks interesting enough to take a long lunch for – Cory Doctorow speaking on the “wireless commons” in London on June 24th:
Wireless technologies can revolutionise the way we live and work. But all wireless technologies, from Wi-Fi and 3G to taxi satellite systems and digital radio, need scarce radio spectrum to work. And spectrum regulation is under pressure.The American Government recently announced a high level task force to look into the issue. An emerging consensus argues that restrictive Government allocation of spectrum hampers innovation and lessens competition. Allocation through auctions, the other popular model, is publicly discredited after 3G licenses nearly bankrupted the UK telecoms industry. But what system could take their place? Should spectrum be seen as private or common property? And what will be the social and economic consequences of that decision?
For more info, see the press release.
(Funnily enough, via a post at Boing Boing.)
Although he doesn’t really say much that’s new if you’re familiar with the debate, it’s nice to see an anti-RIAA view being expressed in a mainstream media outlet. It’s also nice to see that most commenters agree with the sentiment. (Link)
Copyright holders like record labels have too much power over what people do with songs, argues technology analyst Bill Thompson.… The DMCA was written to give massive power to copyright owners, and it is working. There is also little chance of any changes to the law getting through a US political system where many elected representatives rely on campaign funding from the entertainment industry. So we can assume that from now on any time the record or music industry wants to know whose computer is hosting a pirate version of Spiderman, a few ripped MP3s of some old songs or the odd installation of a piece of unpaid for software, they will be able to find out – at least in the US.
Via Avedon Carol, a link to this utterly bizarre story at the BBC – it appears that trainspotters are being discouraged from their time-honoured pursuit of standing on platforms taking photos of trains on the grounds that they might be terrorists. No longer welcome to just turn up and start snapping, train-spotters now have to phone in advance and seek explicit permission. Some have been manhandled from platforms and have had camera film confiscated. The mind boggles, it really does. What next?