Should Trade Unions support Universal Basic Income?

Posted on November 24, 2021

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I have argued during a meeting of the retired UCU members’ branch of Yorkshire and Humber that trade unions should support the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI can be seen as a societal strike fund which strengthens the ability of every citizen to challenge unjust and harmful structures in society.

I have used some concepts of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault about power and applied them to UBI. The regular and guaranteed basic income is a form of personal capital and this will allow the recipients of UBI to exercise power in society. Power is based on capital and can be defined as the ability to appropriate social energy and determine the interests of other people.

A UBI which is sufficient for basic needs will give people more control over their own time and help to achieve time autonomy. Workers with increased power and time autonomy are more likely to demand a change of the work and management ethos in their workplace. Primary motivation where work makes sense to workers and contributes to the common good of society will become more important than secondary motivation just to work in order to gain an income for livelihood. Management will have to convince rather than force workers to do certain jobs.

Trade Unions can play an important role to make the best use of UBI. UBI will provide the individual with the ability (agency) to challenge harmful structures in family and workplace. Trade unions can organise individuals with a UBI as a collective force (agency) to create better organisational and societal structures.

UBI is a facilitator which makes it easier to address many personal, organisational and societal problems. UBI will assist Trade Unions to organise collective agency and focus on structural changes in workplace and society. In summary Trade Unions can support citizens with a UBI to move towards a grandchildren-friendly society for the common good.

You can find my presentation at the UCU meeting here. Comments are very welcome. Please send them to <> .