Everybody relies on post, whether it is bills, cards or packages, and everyone is annoyed when something goes missing, which has becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Over the past few weeks, a country already suffering from the economic downturn has also been suffering from a lack of post, as workers throughout the Royal Mail have been striking over pay and job cuts. Postal workers are now to vote on a national strike, although the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said they will call it off if the Royal Mail agrees to stop all redundancies.
And it’s not just individuals who are suffering. Businesses have also been affected, as packages go missing and costs begin to rise. However, there is good news for one firm, the DX Group. DX Mail is the only independent mail operator in the UK which doesn’t rely on the Royal Mail for any part of its service. If the disputes continue, it could see a significant boost to its sales.
Consider the following articles and think about the effect this strike may have on businesses and the economy and then have a go at the questions.
Postal workers to vote on strike BBC News (17/9/09)
The DX: Keeping Business Mail moving during strike Hellmail (30/8/09)
Mail Privatisation to ‘go ahead’ BBC News (11/6/09)
Threat of strikes underlines TUC warning over spending cuts Times Online (14/9/09)
Postal strikes drive customers to Royal Mail’s rivals Guardian (18/9/09)
Postal workers strike in Swindon BBC News (16/9/09)
Royal Mail denies mail backlog BBC News (11/9/09)
Postal strike over job cutbacks The Herald (Plymouth) (5/9/09)
Managers and unions fail to sort out Royal Mail modernisation Guardian (17/9/09)
- In what ways is a postal strike likely to cost businesses?
- What other options are there for postal workers apart from strikes? Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- How does a trade union affect wages and employment when an industry becomes unionised? What happens if a trade union is facing a monopsonist employer of labour?
- What is this dispute about and what do you think is the best way to resolve it for all concerned?
- Why in pay negotiations is a trade union more effective than each individual asking for higher pay?
According to labour market data released by Office for National Statistics on 16 September, unemployment has risen to a 14-year high. The Labour Force Survey figures show a rise in unemployment from 2.26 million (7.2%) in the three months to April 2009 to 2.47 million (7.9%) in the three months to July 2009. The data also show a 12,000 rise in the claimant count between July and August.
However, there are signs that the UK economy is growing again. This was underlined by evidence given to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee on 15 September by the Governor of the Bank of England. So does this mean that businesses will take on more labour and that unemployment will fall?
The problem is that unemployment is a lagging indicator of economic activity. The reason is that many firms are reluctant to shed labour in recession and simply take up the slack as the economy recovers, without taking on extra labour. Even if they are short of labour, they may prefer to offer overtime to existing staff rather than employing new staff for fear that the upturn may be short-lived.
So what is likely to happen to unemployment over the coming months? Will it slowly fall or will it go on rising and, if so, for how long? Read the articles and then attempt the questions.
UK unemployment at 14 year high (video) BBC News (16/9/09)
UK jobless rate hits 14-year high Telegraph (17/9/09)
Unemployment crisis creates divide between private and public sector Telegraph (16/9/09)
Record one in five young people out of work (including video) Times Online (16/9/09)
Unemployment hits highest since 1995 Guardian (16/9/09)
Rising UK unemployment (charts of UK unemployment from 1984 to the present day) Guardian (16/9/09)
Unemployment at highest level since 1995 (including video) Channel 4 News (16/9/09)
- What is meant by the terms ‘leading indicators’ and ‘lagging indicators’? Give some examples of each.
- What determines the length of lag between a rise in output and (a) a rise in employment and (b) a fall in unemployment?
- Is unemployment a good measure of the excess supply of labour in the labour market? What other evidence might you need in order to assess the degree of slack in individual labour markets?
- If labour becomes more flexible in terms of the hours that people are prepared to work, will the unemployment lag increase or decrease? Explain.
- Under what circumstances does obtaining a university degree improve your job prospects?
- To what extent would reforming the benefits system, so as to reduce the poverty trap and give people a greater incentive to work, reduce unemployment (a) during a recession and (b) over the long term? What type of unemployment would be affected?