The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom was established in 2013 following a merger of the Liaison Committee For The Defence Of Trade Unions and the United Campaign To Repeal The Anti Trade Union Laws. The CTUF is a campaigning organisation fighting to defend and enhance trade unionism, oppose all anti-union laws as well as promoting and defending collective bargaining across UK, Europe and the World.

The Trans Pacific Trade Agreement – Chapter 19 – Labour Laws

By Tony Burke, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

Here is a very interesting YouTube clip which looks at the Labour Chapter contained in the new TPP Trade Agreement which will go before the US Congress for ratification in 2016.

Trade unions and other campiagning groups have been critical of the TPP deal and the AFL-CIO and unions in the USA is busy scrutinising the agreement’s Chapter 19 on Labour standards.

The Obama administration says that Chapter 19 attempts to address union concerns by distinguishing TPP’s labour provisions from what the his administration says are the weak labour standards in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other free trade agreements.Obama’s administration sys there has been a “sea change” from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, and claims that the TPP establishes “a new global norm for labour rights” backed up by dispute settlement procedures and trade sanctions.

According to the Obama administration the TPP requires the 12 signatory countries to ‘adopt and maintain fundamental labour rights and enforceable labour laws as recognised by the International Labor Organization (ILO)’.

All of these rights and laws are “fully enforceable” and backed by sanctions.That is, all signatory countries must afford their workers the rights set forth in the ILO’s “fundamental human rights” standards, including: freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively, the elimination of forced labor, abolition of child labour, and freedom from discrimination in employment.The TPP also requires signatory countries to adopt and maintain laws on “acceptable conditions of work” including minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational health and safety.

Signatory countries also commit not to weaken employment laws in export processing zones.The AFL-CIO has already announced plans to defeat the TPP.  Of course, the TPP obligates the United States, as a signatory, to commit to “acceptable” labour standards as well – including ratification of ILO conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining rights broader than those contained in current U.S. labour laws.

As the USA has not ratiified ILO Conventions on these issues it remains to be seen if this just ‘spin’ being put on the labour chapter.

We will publish more responses from the trade union movement as we get them.

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John McDonnell on the TU Bill “It’s Our Duty To Defy Unjust Law”

o-MCDONNELL-570By Conrad Landin from the Morning Star, November 23rd.

Workers “have a duty” to defy anti-strike measures if they are passed into law, John McDonnell has said.

The shadow chancellor said the Tories’ “scorched-earth policy” was an attempt “to kill off trade unionism in this country,” and that trade unionists “have a human right to resist it.”

The Trade Union Bill, which now only needs the approval of the House of Lords before it becomes law, will impose arbitrary thresholds on strike ballots.

It will also place new restrictions on picketing and end the collection of union subs at source in the public sector.

In a wide-ranging contribution at a conference organised by the Trade Union Coordinating Group, Mr McDonnell told activists: “We’ll do everything we possibly can to defeat [the Trade Union Bill], but the reality is that unfortunately the government’s going to get its way and push most of this through.

“This is a scorched-earth policy by this government to kill off trade unionism in this country within its period of office, and we’ve got to recognise the seriousness of it.

“That means of course we use the democratic process to oppose it … but recognise that if it is introduced into law, if enacted, we still have the right, the human right, to resist it.

“Now we would not have trade union legislation in this country at all, any form of trade union rights, if we were [bound] by the inherited law.

“We’ve always had to campaign in a way that we feel is most effective to secure our basic human rights. And if that means defying unjust legislation, we not just have a right to do it, I think we have a duty.”

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who also addressed Saturday’s conference, said the need for resistance was evident from Greek tragedy.

“Sophocles’s Antigone is all about the important imperative to defy unjust laws,” he said.

But he called for a nuanced reaction and for workers to take advantage of the focus on balloting to prove its strength.

“It was a mistake in 1984 that we didn’t have ballots during the miners’ strike,” he controversially asserted.

“We should shower them in ballots. We should use this legislation to have ballots where 90 per cent of workers vote in favour of strikes and have ballots every day.”

Probation union Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence agreed that the Bill was only likely to be defeated through “civil disobedience.”

He said this was “not an easy message” to give to union members, but that he was “under no illusions” there would be a Lords rebellion akin to that over tax credit cuts.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward called for campaigners to move “beyond the political process” of the Bill, calling for the TUC to name a date for the day of action it resolved to organise at its annual congress in October.

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Stop The Korean Government’s Attacks On TU Rights.

d5e10143-a706-47a8-8f79-3544c1e62ae1The increasingly authoritarian government of Korean President Park Geun-hye is stepping up its attacks on trade unions and their rights. Police raided the offices of the KCTU Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) on November 6th, attacked participants in a mass demonstration against regressive new labour legislation on November 14th and followed that up by raiding the offices of eight KCTU affiliates on November 21st.

The government is attempting to silence democratic criticism and force through anti-union legislation and an unpopular trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), by restricting basic trade union and democratic rights.

To learn more and to send a message to the government of Korea CLICK HERE

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Statement by UNI Global Union On The Trade Union Bill

18th Meeting of the UNI World Executive Board

Nyon, 11-12 November 2015

Statement of Solidarity: The British Government’s Trade Union Bill

The UNI World Executive Board emphatically rejects the introduction of the Trade Union Bill by the British Conservative government. This proposed law is a malicious attempt to constrain democratic, industrial and political opposition to its austerity programme.

The proposed law is an uncompromising and unnecessary assault on the rights and freedoms of all workers in the UK. It is the work of a vindictive Conservative Party using the levers of government for its own political ends, seeking to outlaw legitimate protest, stifle free speech and choke off the resources of political opponents.

Workers across the UK have seen a fundamental shift from fair and decent jobs towards insecure employment models characterised by exploitative contracts, bogus self-employment, agency work and low pay.

The imposition of balloting thresholds for industrial action sets targets that few UK Members of Parliament have met in their own elections. It turns abstainers into “no” voters, effectively raising the bar of the threshold even further and imposing voting thresholds that have already been declared in breach of international law.

The UK general election in May 2015 produced a government elected by 26 per cent of the eligible electorate of the UK. There will be no turnout threshold for the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The current system for balloting in the UK is the most draconian in Europe, with outdated methods and antiquated processes that have not moved with advancement in technology such as online voting systems. If the British government really wanted to increase participation in union ballots they would allow electronic balloting.

The refusal of the government in the UK to countenance secure electronic balloting for statutory ballots only serves to underline the hypocrisy of these proposals. There is no excuse for excluding statutory ballots from this now mainstream development.

The UNI World Executive Board is alarmed by the proposal to criminalise the code on picketing – equating picketing with public disorder is an indication of the real views of the government on trade unionism. Furthermore, suggestions that powers will be taken to intercept electronic communications during industrial disputes has profound civil liberties implications.

The possible criminalisation of workers involved in industrial action is blatantly unjust, as is the plan to allow the use of agency workers as strike breakers. The proposed repeal of the law prohibiting employers from using agency workers to substitute for striking workers will do nothing to aid a return to good employment relations and will put agency workers, many of whom are young people, in an invidious position.

The UNI World Executive Board believes that free trade unions can make a huge contribution to the economy and society. British trade unions are the first line of defence for millions of working people against the government’s austerity offensive.

The UNI World Executive Board urges all affiliates to join in solidarity with trade unions in the UK campaigning to stop this Bill. It is essential to prevent the rights of over six million British trade unionists being placed outside the law.

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EU – Australia Free Trade Deal Proposed

eu_australia_flagBy Tony Burke, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The news that Australia and the EU will begin negotiations on a free trade agreement  in 2017 will sound alarm bells ringing within the EU and Aussie trade union movements.

It seems like the EU is determind to press ahead with trade deals whereevr they may find them. Not content with CETA (with Canada), TTIP (with the USA) – both of which face significant trade union opposition we aleady have on the stocks a possible deal with Mexico and now a deal with Australia.

Malcolm Turnbull the Australian PM has met EU officials to map out a  timeline for the negotiation of the proposed FTA with the EU, and was told it would take time to do the requisite groundwork with EU member states.

The Australian prime minister secured the backing of Angela Merkel the German chancellor, for Australia to negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe during his one-day visit to the chancellery in Berlin last Friday.

“This is a very important day as the European Union begins its internal process of framing the negotiating position it will take to the discussions with Australia from early 2017 … towards a European-Australian free trade agreement,” Mr Turnbull has said.

The EU’s Jean Claude Juncker told reporters after the meeting the European Union was undertaking an impact assessment ahead of a decision to enter into formal negotiations. He said the aim was to finalise the negotiation “mandate” in 2017, which is required from EU countries before the talks can start.

The EU accounts for about a quarter of global GDP, covering 28 countries and more than 500 million people.

As with the other trade deals we can expect a best a weak employment rights chapter alongside Investror State Protection clauses which back the interests of coporations.

Interestingly, Australia has just pushed through a free trade agreement with China in which the Australian Labor Party won concessions on employment issues.

We will publish the reaction of Australian Unions to the news of the proposed EU- Australia talks as we get them

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TU Bill – The Fight Goes Into The Lords

TUC General Secretary, Frances O'Grady - taking the fight into the Lords

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady – taking the fight into the Lords

Unions have vowed to continue campaigning against the Trade Union Bill which was voted through its Third Reading in the Commons with a Government majority of 34.

The planned legislation now moves to the House of Lords, which will be targeted by opponents of the Bill.

One Labour MP warned there would be “civil disobedience” if the Bill becomes law, while union leaders have said they will be first in line to be arrested.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government has shown once again its determination to undermine the fundamental right to strike.

“Ministers simply want to make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work.

“While today’s vote is disappointing, the campaign against the Bill is far from over. We will continue to oppose it as it goes through the House of Lords.

“As was shown in Parliament today, there is widespread concern about the threat this Bill poses to good industrial relations. It was welcome to see politicians from many parties recognise the damage it could do.

“This Bill is not fit for purpose and should have no place in a modern democracy.”

The Bill will introduce a 50% turnout requirement for strike ballots, while in public services such as health and transport at least 40% of those entitled to vote would have to back action for it to be legal.

It also contains measures relating to picketing and the way in which trade union subscriptions are paid.

Labour MP Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) slammed the Bill and said it was a “ferocious, full-frontal attack on the trade union movement”.

He said: “I predict one thing – that ordinary people who are pressurised too much, you will get a reaction.

“I predict from the floor of the House of Commons that there will be civil disobedience because bad laws need to be changed.”

Dave Ward, Communication Workers Union general secretary said: “As the Trade Union Bill moves to the House of Lords, we now need to take the fight beyond the political process. It is time for the union movement to name a day of action and protest.

“A government that is pushing through attacks on the union movement and reducing the incomes of millions of families has no right to claim to be the voice of working people.

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TUC Welcomes Government Climbdown On Social Media

lobby-emailYesterday afternoon the Government announced a climbdown on their proposals to restrict picketing and protest. It was a small but still an important move – but there is still much more to do to defeat the Trade Union Bill, which still contains significant clauses designed to attack trade unions and the Labour Party.

Annoucing the climbdon the TUC said: “The Government has dropped its proposal to make unions publish a protest and picketing plan 14 days in advance. This would have made unions spell out in great detail how they planned to campaign during a strike. It would have given employers and the police two weeks’ notice of everything the union planned to do – where and when pickets would be held, how many would attend, even whether megaphones would be used. And it would have made unions declare online campaigning plans – including what they were intending to post on Facebook and Twitter. And if they didn’t stick to the plan, unions would have been liable for fines of up to £20,000.

The government have also decided not to go ahead with proposals to create new criminal offences around picketing, to make every picketer wear an armband or give their name to the police – more wins for our campaigning.

Crucially, the government have dropped their proposal for the picket organiser to have to carry a letter of authorisation with their name and address on, which would have to be shown to the police and any member of the public who asked to see it”.

But picket organisers will still have to wear an armband. They’ll still have to give their name and address to the police. And they’ll still have to carry a standard letter from the union authorising the picket. So concerns about blacklisting and victimisation may be reduced but they haven’t gone away.

And, more widely, from giving employers powers to use scab agency workers to replace striking workers and new opportunities to win injunctions and damages, the trade union bill is still a fundamental attack on the right to strike and to organise – in ways that I have set out time and over again.

The bill gets its final Commons vote this coming Tuesday, before it moves on to the Lords. Concern has been growing amongst government backbenchers. At second reading five Conservative MPs speak on the bill, with David Davis MP threatening to oppose at third reading unless it was changed.

The TUC says: “Will this last minute compromise be enough to buy back the votes of worried Conservative MPs next week? And convince the sceptical Lords in the weeks that follow? We shall see. And the TUC will continue to fight this threat to the right to strike all the way”.

If you haven’t yet written to your MP about the trade union bill, there is still time to do so before the final reading on 10 November. And if you have, please let them know these changes don’t go anywhere near far enough.

email your Conservative M.P. here and ask these questions

  • With recorded strikes at a historic low, what is the real purpose of the Trade Union Bill?
  • How will allowing for the recruitment of agency labour during an industrial dispute improve an already tense situation?
  • It is unprecedented that a governing party would use its parliamentary majority to legislate to cut off funding for the opposition party, is this not anti-democratic?
  • Given the police do not wish to be given any new powers, why is the Government pressing ahead with the proposals for identifiable “picket supervisors” who must show a “letter of authority” to almost anybody who asks seem draconian and could lead to a new round of “blacklisting”?
  • Why is the Government refusing to accept secret, supervised workplace ballots and electronic balloting for union members taking part in industrial action ballots?
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USW Union Says TPP Deal Will Kill Jobs

imagesThe United Steelworkers issued the following statement today in response to the release of the text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement:

The USW is unalterably opposed to the TPP because it’s a dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing. Even the Wall Street Journal predicted the deal would cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses. This sector has yet to share broadly in the economic recovery and is shedding good, family supportive jobs at an ever-increasing pace.

The TPP provides incentives for U.S. companies to outsource production and offshore jobs – and that is far from the kind of trade policy America needs. The TPP may gain the United States brownie points with other countries, but at the cost of American economic strength and national security.

In section after section, this proposed agreement compromises America’s economic future and inflicts enormous damage. Workers, like our members, have been on the losing end of trade agreements for far too long, and this deal fails to change that. That is because it does nothing to stop international rule breakers – and countries like China will once again be the winners.

Here are some problems in the TPP’s hundreds of pages of text, side agreements and sweetheart deals:

  1. The TPP would dramatically increase job loss in our nation’s manufacturing sector.
  2. The TPP’s rules of origin in autos and auto parts would allow China to provide a majority of a car’s parts.
  3. The TPP would not stop currency manipulation.
  4. The TPP would fail to stop state-owned enterprises (SOE’s) from receiving state support and protection, and the new chapter would create a legal quagmire.
  5. The TPP would result in foreign workers continuing to suffer violations of their rights since protection provisions are still limited. The plan negotiated with Vietnam would allow this country to receive up to seven years of reduced tariff benefits while still violating worker and human rights. Negotiators failed to get Mexico to agree to specific and much-needed reforms in its labor laws. There is no formal plan to ensure that U.S. engagement and enforcement in this critical area would change at all.
  6. The TPP would give foreign corporations greater substantive and procedural rights than domestic firms to challenge government policies intended to protect the public interest. Corporations may potentially receive taxpayer compensation under investor-state dispute (ISDS) resolution provisions when they challenge domestic laws.
  7. Finally, the TPP would do nothing to ensure that any of the provisions would, in fact, be enforced.

The TPP has been promoted as a 21st century trade agreement, but this free trade deal would take American workers backward, not forward.

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Fighting The New Trade Deals.


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Vote No To CETA Says TUC

ceta1By Steve Turner, Unite Assistant General Secretary

This week, as TUC spokesperson on Europe, I handed in a petition to MEPs in the European Parliament from constituents asking them to reject the trade deal the EU is currently finalising with Canada, known as CETA.

You may not have heard of CETA, but perhaps you have heard of TTIP, the EU-US trade deal currently under negotiation which represents the largest handover of power from elected governments to global corporations ever seen, threatening workers’, consumers’ and citizens’ rights as well our NHS and other public services, alongside safety and environmental protection.

But unlike TTIP, CETA negotiations have concluded and directly threaten both our NHS and wider public services.

CETA is TTIP’s dangerous cousin. The text of the agreement contains inadequate exemptions to prevent continued NHS and public service privatisation while enabling global corporations to sue democratically elected governments that attempt to bring our services back in-house. The TUC is opposed to CETA, which is likely to come to the EU Parliament early next year. That’s why we are raising concerns with MEPs now to make sure that when the deal comes before them, they vote to reject it.

Amongst many unacceptable provisions contained with the CETA, is an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision which would allow any foreign investors with bases in Canada to sue EU countries for compensation – not simply for actual, but for assumed future losses, if they feel their business interests have been challenged by a particular law or regulation. In the past companies have used ISDS to sue Egypt for raising the minimum wage, Germany for ending its nuclear programme and Australia for introducing plain packaging on cigarettes.

No wonder a UN expert this week concluded that the ‘investor-state dispute-settlement [has] adversely impacted the international order and undermined fundamental principles of the UN, state sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law.’

Irrespective of TTIP, the adoption of CETA will allow US investors with bases in Canada to sue our governments for billions too – a very real threat given that 80 per cent of US companies operating in the EU have bases in Canada. In reality they wouldn’t need TTIP’s ISDS to sue, they could simply sue via the proxy of a Canadian operation.

While foreign investors get special, secret international courts to claim their rights, CETA gives workers, citizens and consumers nothing: no courts or sanctions against those who violate core international labour standards, product safety or environmental protections.  In other words, corporate interests get all the rights, opportunities and protections without any responsibility for their actions or having to exercise any social responsibility for the welfare of their workers.

If CETA is voted through it will make it easier for deals like TTIP to further weaken workers’ rights, threaten public services and democratic decision making on social, consumer, environmental and industrial policy.

That’s why MEPs must take notice of the concerns of their constituents that signed the petition we delivered yesterday and say no to CETA and all trade deals not in the public interest.

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