Every opinion piece you're about to read about the royal baby

In predictable fashion, anyone with a column to fill in the next week is going to write about the new royal arrival. Rafael Behr saves you the trouble of reading them.

It was a quiet news week and then a royal princess had a baby. Every columnist and commentator in the land will want a piece of the action. To save you some time, here is every opinion piece to be published in the coming days.

A moment of national joy to celebrate. Britain is champion country of the world

Patriotism by numbers with a passive aggressive hint that failure to be moved by a royal birth means there is something shrivelled and ugly about your soul.

This monarchist carnival proves that we are a Conservative country, which is a good thing

David Cameron spoke for us all when he said "congratulations." How dismal life must be for the tiny minority of joyless lefties shivering on the margins of our national identity.

This monarchist charade proves that we are a Conservative country, which is a bad thing

This is surely how Solzhenitsyn felt. We republicans are internal exiles and dissidents.

It just goes to show how class is dead

The Middletons are so middle class they even have “middle” in their name. What more proof do you need?

It just goes to show how class is alive and kicking

Oh Britain! How easily you are seduced into deference and feudalism.

This is the spawn of imperialism and don’t forget it

Hysterical rant about the evils of the British Establishment

Gotcha! Lefties hate babies – how dare Labour call itself compassionate

Gleeful denunciation of extreme republicans culminating in call for Ed Miliband to distance himself from a comment someone unconnected to the Labour party may have made on the internet.

He will be the Twitter King

Getting desperate now. What’s the social media angle?

He will not be the Twitter King

Oho, you all fell for the social media angle, but really this is a timeless thing that transcends faddish technology.

Leave the poor child and its parents alone

No-one should write about this anymore, apart from me and this, obviously.

 

 

The Sun's royal boy-baby frontpage. Photograph: Getty Images

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.