BRITAIN should replace its benefits system with a “universal basic income,” a major union has urged.
Before a speech by shadow chancellor John McDonnell last night, who said that Labour was giving serious consideration to the measure, general union GMB became the first major union to swing behind it.
The union unanimously endorsed a motion saying that a state payment to all “could effectively eradicate the worst levels of poverty completely.”
Berkshire and North Hampshire branch secretary Nikki Dancey said the rate should be set at around £1,500 a month.
“This is essential for a society where very, very soon there simply will not be enough work to sustain themselves from work. “Looking forward, unemployment is likely to be a bigger social problem than underemployment.
“The Labour Party is getting behind this, but it’s looking at £70 a week. The GMB has a duty to push that up substantially.”
GMB’s support for the policy came as its leader Tim Roache in his keynote address called for unions to adapt to increasingly automated and casualised workplaces.
“If the world is changing, we need to change with it,” he said.
Labour has not officially supported the policy, but Mr McDonnell said that the party would consider the arguments in its favour.
He was speaking at a meeting organised by liberal-left think tank Compass, which has produced a paper arguing for a “modified” version of the policy.
It was mooted by the Green Party before last year’s general election but opponents said it would hit Britain’s poorest.
In a referendum in Switzerland on Sunday, 77 per cent of voters rejected the proposal.
GMB national organiser Martin Smith said: “Basic income is an idea whose time has come and we should give it serious consideration.”
The union now plans to raise the issue at Labour’s conference in September.