Nudge Psychology and the Unemployed.

Nudge Psychology and the Unemployed.

A survey using a large questionnaire of 240 questions has been reduced to 48 questions by the Nudge Unit at number 10 Downing Street. The original design was by an American not-for-profit organisation, who at first objected to the way it was used by the Nudge Unit.

The purpose of this survey is to analyse the answers given by the unemployed, in an attempt to improve their chances of getting a job. by showing them evidence of their positive strengths. This has produced criticism of the Nudge Unit for creating a “nanny state”, which does not fit well current government ideology.

More seriously, the unemployed may have feared that this information, and it’s analysis might undermine their chances of future employment. This could lead to deliberate lying in the questionnaire. Whether this fear is well grounded or not, the Nudge Unit has created at least 5 pairs of questions; where the second of the pair checks on the truth of the first. So the nudge unit anticipated lying.

Here are just a few examples. What is striking is that all examples have the first sentence as the positive, and the second as negative; and always in that order. Also, the pairs are next to one another. The possibility of having the pairs further apart would have created a better check on lying.

I always finish what I start./ I get side-tracked when I work.
My life has a strong purpose. /I do not have a calling in life.
I always let bygones be bygones./ I always try to get even.

Secondly, there are 5 cases of questions where a positive answer might indicate a lack of interest in gaining employment. Despite these positive answers which I put to the following questions, an analysis of answers showed that on every count I was extremely suitable for employment. Here are a few examples:
I am easily bored.
I never go out of my way to visit museums.
I get side tracked when I work.
I mope a lot.

Despite agreeing with the “museums” question, one of the results of the analysis of my answers was as follows.

“You always loved school, reading, and museums”.

What this shows is that whatever negative characteristics I reveal, the Nudge Unit shows me to be a very good candidate. Presumably all answers will reveal positive, even positively exaggerated, results.
At the least, this brings into question the validity of this exercise. Beyond that concern, the exercise begins to look manipulative. Firstly, because there are sanctions if this exercise is not completed. Secondly, the exercise produces a “character”, which the unemployed person may, or may not, believe in.

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AA and Saga Job Losses

Three years ago three private equity firms piled their debts onto the books of AA and Saga. This created the need for large interest payments on the debt; this in turn reduced profits. A crisis was created which led to 2,800 job losses and pension cut backs. 
Which are the laws that allow the recycling of debts from private equity firms to other firms they have just taken over? Who are the private individuals who place capital into private equity firms in the first place? Do the individuals even pay much tax? Are they non-doms?  Why do these private equity firms debts in the fitrst place? Have they made bad investment decisions? If so, why do workers have to suffer for the mistakes of financiers?
What to do? Newspapers should name and shame, not only the private equity firms, but also the individuals who invest capital in them.

Strike British Airways Part Four.



Strike: British
Airways: Part Four


For the second time the courts have stopped this strike. On the first
occasion the issue was to do with a small number of voters who should not have
been allowed to vote. This time it is to do with 11 ballot papers which were
spoiled. 11 is a small number compared with the total number of union members
of around 10,000. One of three judges recognised this.


Under Section 231 of the 1992 Trade union act 4 separate pieces of
information are specified. All 4 pieces must be notified to all members of the
union. The pieces are:


Number of votes cast in ballot

Individuals answering yes

Individuals answering no

Number of spoiled voting papers.


The court found against union as not all members were informed about the
spoiled papers. Even though the place where spoiling took place had notices put
up. Further, the union used a number of ways to communicate; via the union
website, via text and email, via notices at airports, and via a newsletter. One
barrister argued that letters should have been sent in the post. The union is


None of this addresses the current issues which are causing conflict. Specifically,
the issue of about 5,000 cabin crew who went on strike last March, and a number
of union activists whose jobs are at risk. The cabin crews had their “perks”
taken from them. These “perks” included subsidised and free travel. However, it
is probably true, though not certain, that most of this travel was not for
holidays, but to get to work on time.


The union now feels that they cannot go on strike legally. So, what to
do? Some years ago many workers at Heathrow reported illness on the same day.
Should this tactic be tried again?


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British Airways Strike Part Three.

British Airways Strike: Part Three.


An on-line members poll of 11,000 British Airways flight attendants is expected to vote for 4 waves of 5 day strikes each. This is happening with a hung parliament, which means that there is not likely to be any government intermediary to calm the two conflicting parties.


The original issue was about cutting staff on long haul flights. Management have now repealed this proposal. The issue now is the reinstatement of staff travel “perks”. Management has now allowed free travel, but only when staff are travelling to work. But senior staff  lose their perk of priority for stand-by tickets.


Further, a senior union official has just been sacked for failing to turn up for duty. He was engaged on union business at the time. This used to be called victimisation; and has traditionally caused great anger amongst union members. Was there no agreed allowance for this union work?


The union tactic in this second strike seems to be firstly to hit peak travel in school half term: and secondly to double the length of the strike, and make it more difficult to find and keep temporary workers.


Who will win?

Management is suffering financial losses from volcano ash, from the first strike, and reputation loss from frustrated passengers. The Union might not receive the very high support in got in the previous ballot. Workers on low pay have already lost some pay. They are being asked to lose more. But the sacking of one union official, and the future possibility of other sackings may well increase the vote for a strike. Also the Unite Union is more supportive of it’s members than last time, when it was said that a 12 day strike was over the top!


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British Airways Strike: Part Two.

British Airways Strike: Part Two.


On the 12th February I attempted to understand how, and why, the union Unite lost its court case to  allow a strike. Yesterday, the first of a number of projected strikes finished. This time there was no legal delays. Nearly half of BA’s flights did not fly over the weekend. Although BA does not accept Unite’s figures.


Unite’s union leader attended a meeting of strikers at Heathrow, where some hundreds of cabin crew booed when a BA flight took off. More strikes are possible from 14th April. Sympathetic unions in America and Europe have promised action in their own airports to support Unite.


Currently there is a standoff, with no new negotiations planned. Who will win this dispute? What would count as winning?


For BA winning would be a new flight of aircraft with lower fares, fewer cabin crew on lower wages; effectively competing with other low cost airlines. We have been here before with “GO”! Go was a previous BA low cost set of planes. It was deemed a success, but was sold off. So BA knows practically how to achieve this.


For Unite winning would be to stop the move to lower wages. Put differently, it wants to stop BA wage levels dropping to the level of other low cost carriers.


What is at risk here is BA’s reputation as the national carrier, traditionally paying more than the competition; especially to pilots. BA’s task here is very complex as there are a number of different unions involved; with much rivalry between them.


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Not all banks are evil?

  • Not all British banks are evil?
  • It is a good argument to show that the whole purpose of bundling together many mortgages to sell to others, is to reduce the effect of the number of defaulters. This relatively small number of defaulters on their mortgage payments makes the bundle more attractive to potential buyers and keeps the price high.

The unstated assumption is that the great majority will not default. This has been largely true in Britain. But it is not true in America. There some bundled mortgages were largely for mortgagees on low, or very low, incomes. They defaulted in large numbers. This created a panic, where even the relatively safe bundles fell in price. All this did have a knock-on effect in Britain.

Fundamentally, the charge is that banks were not being responsible to their original mortgagees by selling on these mortgages in bundles to the highest bidder. The banks may well have avoided a loss created by the falling value of the mortgages they gave to their customers. But the loss did not entirely disappear. The last holder of the bundle may will have bought at a very low price; but this still could produce a loss.

All this produces an incentive to evict defaulting mortgagees and sell the property to the highest bidder, and so recoup some of the loss. So, who ultimately suffers most? It is the original mortgagee. In the coming year all tax payers may also have to pay more as well.

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British Airways Strike Breakers.

British Airways: Strike Breakers!
Following an abortive attempt last October in the high court to stop management reducing the number of cabin crew from15 to 14, the trade union Unite has returned to the high court. The union has also called another strike, and is currently balloting it’s members. This strike could start on March 1st. 
What has complicated this ongoing conflict is a set of 15 cabin crew being suspended for naming and shaming on Facebook 40 pilots who have volunteered to be trained as cabin crew if a strike happens. The relatively well paid pilots may well belong to another union; although some may belong to no union. Historically, strike breakers were the relatively poorly paid; some imported from Ireland. A further complexity is that non-flying staff, including baggage handlers and check-in staff, are also being retrained as cabin crew. The pilots are to get 3 days retraining: the other staff 3 weeks.
This flurry of activity by both management and union produces a conflict on many levels. There is the legal level in the high court, attempting to reverse last October’s decision in favour of management. There is the level of inter-union conflict over strike breakers who are already members of a union. There is the suspension of 15 staff, who risk discipline or dismissal. There the prospect of major job loss if the number of cabin crew on long haul flights are reduced. There is a 2 year pay freeze. Finally, new recruits to staff may be paid at a much lower rate than existing staff.
This does present management as acting aggressively. But the union, by returning to court, can also be seen in the same light. This is not surprising as there is much at stake here. Protecting jobs conflicts with the need to reduce costs. Underlying these current conflicts are longer term concerns. Is British Airways down-sizing; is it attempting to join another competitor? This scenario paints a more radical loss of jobs. This produce a feeling currently of job insecurity.  
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