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F1 at Monaco (1993) in the early Schumacher years



The League Managers' Association represents individuals vis-à-vis powerful employers.

Set aside for the moment that those it represents are themselves powerful people. The LMA may become the model for what many 21st century trade unions will have to become.

It is vital to ignore that some individuals are rich or powerful if representation is to take place properly. Otherwise the reality of growing corporate power vis-à-vis the individual gets left trailing in the dust cloud.

So if you believe that pensioners who have free bus passes should keep this benefit then it is no use saying some of them are rich and don't need it. If you start to create further sub-sets then bus drivers will subtlely start to discriminate between those pensioners who present a card and those who do not.

When Michael Schumacher went to Ferrari it was a cause for celebration for those who did not quite believe in employer arrogance. Before Schumacher the reputation of Ferrari was that drivers only left it in two ways - either they were sacked or they left in a box but never of their own volition.

Schumacher was the first sportsman to establish that he was more important than a corporate team. (Are we still awaiting a sportswoman who will do the same?) His remuneration was agreed at a level that was phenomenal for the time. There had been well paid sportsmen before but not on a corporate salary (if salary was still the word used at the time) of this magnitude. Their reward had been subject to the vagaries of prize money.

The team then organised itself around Schumacher and he, to a fair degree, guided changes that made Ferrari a dominant team. The employee had become more important than the employer.

This victory for employees against a certain form of arrogance is one that can be credited to him. So he has at least two things to claim a place in history for. Though possibly not quite the best F1 driver of all time (who might have been better - Fangio, Clark, Senna?) he is probably also the one who has achieved most on the F1 racetrack.

Many have followed in his footsteps off the track.

The remuneration model for investment banks is that the employees take the bulk of the rewards, a set-up achieved with not a trade union in sight.

In the football world, arguably too many have followed in Schumacher's wake. The key stars' remuneration packages have pulled up the wages of nearly all regular premier league players to dizzying heights, to the extent that clubs' existence or solvency is regularly threatened.

What I can argue, as a classic conservative but not a neo-liberal is something that no one in the TUC, as far as can be discerned, would dare to do and that is the whole employer-employee construct is largely a 20th century one and deservedly on the way out.

The New Labour world where everyone had to be some kind of worker whether in a call centre or a security guard at an investment bank - it mattered little so long a they were a worker in good socialist tradition - is well and truly past though Labour has not moved on.

Once they were workers Labour believed they could be controlled by the socialist system through their employer.

New Labour's inspiration in this was Jacques Delors who came to talk to the TUC and conned enough people that a carve up between government (or large, unelected bureaucracy in his case) and big employers would be good for the labour movement because trade unions would find it easier to cut a deal with large units and get representation whilst small companies might escape the net.

So after the end of the dotcom boom, from 2001 or 2002 onwards, Labour inaugurated in Britain what is now in Europe called neo-liberalism and facilitated the effective destruction of opportunities for small business in favour of PLC sized companies.

Having worked on government procurement rules in the mid-nineties and seen what they looked liked by 2009 this was obvious.

The dotcom phenomenon was probably the last flourish of owner oriented capitalism. The founders and owners of companies like Yahoo! and Google are individuals who have given sustained directional input to their companies. New company creators find it harder to stick around so long now.

The exercise of prerogatives to do what they like with their businesses of genuine owners is perhaps understandable but to extend that to all management smacks of arrogance - managers are just employees, too. (A genuine owner might be defined as someone whose rewards from ownership potentially well exceed those from salary and bonuses).

Non-natural persons are ultimately there to serve natural persons. For managers to promote corporate interests to be self-serving is an obvious flaw in social organisation in a long term perspective.

Neo-liberalism, if its course runs long enough, might correct this.

Classic conservatism (and Thatcherite conservatism which it has assimilated), always more confident in its ability to shape the social environment irrespective of economic theories, might act quicker.

In truth, if the way people agree to provide goods and services to one another were reset to zero for the 21st century it would not restart with the employer-employee model at all.

It would choose something closer to the Michael Schumacher model of negotiating the sale of individual talent to the purchasing organisation. This is where the new or transformed trade union would come in. It would help those with lesser talent, or at least less negotiating skill or clout, to get the best deal to suit them as individuals but its offer would have to be open to all.

In reality, the world is trying to get to this model anyway. Only about half of people offering goods or services in Britain have full employee status and the proportion is likely to decline. Whenever an attempt is made to turn the clock back a new innovation like unpaid internships reasserts the change in direction.

This half-half system does not work well because essentially management employees have some interest in stacking the system in favour of inferior terms for those who negotiate but if everyone were negotiating the dynamic might change to favour the negotiators.

As mentioned, this already obtains in the investment banks and the Premier League and the oversupply of labour willing to work in these sectors is at least as large as anywhere else.

Stamford Bridge

With high pay, however, comes a high level of mutual obligations. Investment bankers work horrendous hours. Premier League footballers lose autonomy over what they eat and what medical treatment they have.

The changing world is likely to have an increasing number of companies as more individuals use them but ideally individuals would have less obligations to non-natural persons and more to one another.

The change is already happening. Wherever you have social organisations organised hierarchically - working men's clubs, gentlemen's clubs, golf clubs, political parties, professional bodies, some long-standing charitable organisations - they struggle. People are far too polite to do other than respect the dignity of office holders but membership declines or younger people avoid participation.

People no longer understand the need for the hierarchy or instinctively know that real power no longer resides there. Sometimes these organisations save themselves by adopting much more pluralistic entry, minimal rules and flexible organisational arrangements.

The workplace, though, remains the bastion of hierarchies. Those with egalitarian views often transform themselves into the most inflexibly hierarchical in the workplace. The Labour nomenklatura still seems to work along these lines, too.

As the TUC meets again this weekend a question it faces is whether it should set up a tombstone over New Labour, help the individual and make its peace with small business or follow Labour ideology and sing the blues for a Delors-inspired past that no longer exists.