Launch of Workers Right Bill

MPs Tracy Brabin, Keir Starmer and Melanie Onn launch the Workers Rights Bill.

MPs Tracy Brabin, Keir Starmer and Melanie Onn launch the Workers Rights Bill.

January 11th saw MP Melanie Onn launch her backbench bill to protect workers rights during the Brexit negotiations and to stop the Tory Government inserting ‘sunset’ clauses into the Great Repeal Bill which would mean they would be able to repeal EU employment rights without going to parliamant. The bill ensures that EU employment rights are protected as UK primary legislation along with EU court decisions which affect employee rights.

Speaking at the launch Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said he did not trust the government on workers’ rights. He referred to comments made by Priti Patel, now the international development secretary, during the referendum campaign who said that she wanted to “get rid of 50 per cent of rights” including “working time directive”.

The Working Time Directive protects workers from being forced to work long hours – but importantly it also provides protection for workers on guaranteed holidays, guaranteed rest breaks between shifts, meal breaks at work and the employment of minors.

Starmer also suggested that Labour could seek to amend the article 50 legislation, saying “we need to think about amendments to the bill”. When asked to clarify this in a question, he added that Labour is “actively considering what we’re going to put down”.

Starmer said that most voters, whether they supported leave or remain, did not vote to destry their employment rights.

Liz Snape, assistant general secretary of Unison, saying that “despite Theresa May’s carefully crafted rhetoric” her promises are worthless and “glib”.

The private members bill, which is tabled for Friday, is at risk of not being heard, as the Tories could talk it out. However Onn said if the Tories were really serious about protecting EU employment rights they should back the bill.

It was pointed out the bill was a good “campaigning tool” and sets a “gold standard” for future workers’ rights legislation to meet.

“Rights for working people in Britain have been hard-won, often the result of decades of pressure from the labour movement. Brexit gives the Government the opportunity to undo all that work,” Onn said.

“My bill would protect in the strongest form of UK legislation all workers’ rights which are derived from the European Union. It will be the first test of whether the Conservatives will keep to the promise Theresa May made at their Party conference in October last year, that workers’ rights will be maintained after Brexit.”

Starmer said: “It’s absolutely vital that leaving the EU does not lead to any reduction in workplace rights.”

“The bill would ensure that the workplace rights millions of people rely on – from parental leave to rights for agency workers – are enshrined in UK law and cannot be watered down as a result of Brexit.”

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Happy Birthday Kevin Halpin

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New Year Greetings From The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

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AFL-CIO Releases Blueprint On Rewriting NAFTA To Benefit Working People

nafta-protestFollowing Donald Trump’s election in the USA the AFL-CIO has released a blueprint for how to rewrite NAFTA to benefit working families. This is in response to Trump’s many campaign speeches in which he said that the North American Free Trade Agreement would be ‘ripped up’ and re-negotiated to benefit US manufacturing, create jobs and working people.

There is much scepticism that his billionaire buddies will let him do that.

But the AFL-CIO said there was much needed discussion on the impact of corporate trade deals on the manufacturing sector and on working class communities.

Their outline below puts forward solutions that should garner ‘bipartisan support if lawmakers are truly serious about realigning our trade policies to help workers’:

 Improving NAFTA for Working People

Over the last year the country has shown that we want a different direction on trade. This movement has been largely driven by workers. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, it is important that workers’ perspective lead the debate. In the coming months, the AFL-CIO will highlight how NAFTA should be rewritten.

The AFL-CIO has long supported rewriting the rules of NAFTA to provide more equitable outcomes for working families. To date, the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA have been multinational corporations, which have gained by destroying middle class jobs in the U.S. and Canada and replacing them with exploitive, sweatshop jobs in Mexico. It doesn’t have to be this way. With different rules, NAFTA could become a tool to raise wages and working conditions in all three North American countries, rather than to lower them.

Key Areas for Improvement
Eliminate the private justice system for foreign investors.

NAFTA established a private justice system for foreign investors, thereby prioritizing corporate rights over citizens’ rights, giving corporations even more influence over our economy than they already have. This private justice system, known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, allows foreign investors to challenge local, state and federal laws before private panels of corporate lawyers. Although these lawyers are not accountable to the public, they are empowered to decide cases and award vast sums of taxpayer money to foreign businesses. Under NAFTA, these panels have awarded millions of dollars to corporations when local and state governments exercise their jurisdictional power to deny things like municipal building permits for toxic waste processing facilities. ISDS gives foreign investors enormous leverage to sway public policies in their favour. Scrapping the entire system would help level the playing field for small domestic producers and their employees.

Improve the labour and environment side-treaties (the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation).  Add them to the original agreement, and ensure they are enforced.

The NAFTA labour and environment agreements were not designed to effectively raise standards for workers or to ensure clean air and water. Instead, they were hastily patched together to quiet NAFTA’s critics. These agreements should be scrapped and replaced with provisions that effectively and robustly protect international labour and environmental standards.  Violators should be subject to trade sanctions when necessary—so that we stop the race to the bottom that has resulted from NAFTA. Without stronger provisions environmental abuses and worker exploitation will continue unchecked.

Address currency manipulation by creating binding rules subject to enforcement and possible sanctions.

Within months after NAFTA’s approval by Congress, Mexico devalued the peso, wiping out overnight potential gains from NAFTA’s tariff reductions. This devaluation made imports from Mexico far cheaper than they otherwise would have been and priced many U.S. exports out of reach of average Mexican consumers. Countries should not use currency policies to gain trade advantages—something China, Japan and others have done for many years. All U.S. trade agreements, including NAFTA, should be upgraded to create binding rules, subject to trade sanctions, to prevent such game playing.

Upgrade NAFTA’s rules of origin particularly on autos and auto parts, to reinforce auto sector jobs in North America.

NAFTA’s rules require that automobiles be 62.5% “made in North America” to qualify for duty-free treatment under NAFTA. Even though 62.5% seems high compared to the TPP’s inadequate 45%, it still allows for nearly 40% of a car to be made in China, Thailand or elsewhere. The auto rule of origin should be upgraded to eliminate loopholes (through products “deemed originating” in North America) and to provide additional incentives to produce in North America. This, combined with improved labour standards will help create a more robust labour market and help North American workers gain from trade.

 Delete the procurement chapter that undermines “Buy American” laws (Chapter 10).

NAFTA contains provisions that require the U.S. government to treat Canadian and Mexican goods and services as “American” for many purchasing decisions, including purchases by the Departments of Commerce, Defence, Education, Veterans Affairs and Transportation. This means that efforts to create jobs for America’s working families by investing in infrastructure or other projects, including after the great financial crisis of 2008, could be ineffective. This entire chapter should be deleted.

Upgrade the trade enforcement chapter (Chapter 19).

NAFTA allows for a final review of a domestic antidumping or countervailing duty case by a bi-national panel instead of by a competent domestic court. This rule, omitted from subsequent trade deals, has hampered trade enforcement, hurting U.S. firms and their employees. It should be improved or omitted.

 Contact: Carolyn Bobb (202) 637-5018

 

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UPDATED: Unions To Fight De-Recogntion At Peguin Random House

penguin-random-house-uk-logoLast week Unite and the NUJ recived notifcation that Penguin Random House intended to de-recognise unions at the PRHUK sites in London. This is remenisiant of the 1980s when publishers began the process of derecognsing the print unions and the NUJ for no reason.

Here is a letter from Unite and the NUJ to workers and chapels at Penguin Random House UK .

“Penguin Random House UK have this week notified both the NUJ and Unite the Union that they are not renewing the house agreements for staff across both sites at 80 Strand and Vauxhall Bridge Road.

Staff will be aware that the company gave notice on the collective agreements at the end of September and talks have been ongoing since then. While the talks began well and much common ground was found in bringing together the Penguin and Random House collective terms, the unions are unable to accept the company’s stance on Redundancy Payment terms.

For Penguin employees, these terms in the collective agreement are also contained within the Terms and Conditions for Penguin Books Ltd, and this therefore makes your redundancy terms contractual. This is not the case for staff at Random House, and the company are seeking to align the terms to those of RH, removing from Penguin employees both their accrued terms and any future protections around redundancy compensation.  The company is not prepared to have any reference to redundancy terms in the House Agreement.

This was not acceptable to the Penguin Random House UK Chapel or the unions, and the company have made no attempt to compromise on this matter.

For this reason the company have chosen not to extend the current agreement, or to continue the talks to find a solution. While the negotiating team have asked the company to consider further discussions under the auspices of ACAS (the independent conciliation service), the company has declined this offer.

In the meantime your union reps and full-time officials at the NUJ and UNITE will be commencing a campaign across the sites to restore the collective agreement through the legal channels of the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – effectively an industrial court that decides recognition issues.

Under the law in the UK, if more than 10% of the workforce are in the Union (and this is the case here) and the majority of the workforce demonstrate their support for a union agreement, then the union can be legally recognised and the agreements restored.

All PRHUK staff, whether they are in a union or not, are now being asked to sign our petition to restore the union rights at the company and to ensure we can continue to negotiate on your behalf in future years.

The union agreement not only provides the collective means for the workforce to negotiate with the company, it provides for the annual pay negotiations and it provides a strong voice on behalf of the employees. PRHUK have this week unilaterally terminated that relationship without any consultation with the wider workforce. Not only is this a blatant disregard of the views and wishes of the employees, it damages quite significantly the good reputation of the business as being one that cares about people.

We want to demonstrate to the company that the employees at PRHUK do not accept this and want those collective rights restored and their terms and conditions to be protected.

The petition you are being asked to sign is confidential and your name WILL NOT be shared with the employer but will be shared with the independent body ACAS or the CAC”.

The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom will be following the dispute and supporting Unite and the NUJ in this blatant attempt at union busting by the biggest book publisher in the world.

Click here to read news item in The Guardian:

Statement issued by PRH, Unite and NUJ on 21st December:

Unite/NUJ Press Release

Statement from Tom Weldon, Penguin Random House UK, Fiona Swarbrick, National Union of Journalists, and Louisa Bull, Unite

 “Penguin Random House UK, Unite and the NUJ held a positive meeting today (Wednesday 21 December) at which all parties agreed to continue talks with the aim of securing a new collective agreement for the combined Penguin Random House UK business.

 “While some elements of the agreement in discussion are yet to be finalised and agreed upon, we are pleased to be working together to resolve these final points and come to a mutually acceptable position.”

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Workers Uniting Statement: CETA Is Not A Model For A Progressive Trade System

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Taylor Review On Modern Employment Practices

Mathew Taylor, CEO of the Royal Society Of Arts

Mathew Taylor, CEO of the Royal Society Of Arts

A review lead by Mathew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts on “modern employment practices” is to look into the impact of changes to the labour market.

The review would is to address questions on issues such as job security, wage levels and employees’ rights.

The Taylor review will undertake a regional tour of the UK, where Taylor will meet with employees and employers to “discuss their concerns” about the labour market.

The panel consists of Paul Broadbent, chief executive of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority; employment lawyer Diane Nicol; and Greg Marsh, who founded home letting company onefinestay. The review will last six-months.

Taylor said: “We have a lot of research and policy to discuss, but the most important part of our process is getting out and about to talk to businesses and workers across Britain about their experiences of modern work.

“As well as making specific recommendations I hope the review will promote a national conversation and explore how we can all contribute to work that provides opportunity, fairness and dignity.”

He pointed to recent Office for National Statistics data, which suggested that around 15% of those working in the UK’s labour market are self-employed, as well as a rise in short-term casual labour and the availability of apps through which employers can source workers and vice versa.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner called on the government to get its act together. “Not only is the gig economy a gross and blatant attack on workers’ rights, it is also eating away at our public finances by allowing large companies to get out of paying their fair share to society,” he said.

“The government needs to overhaul a rotten system that allows unscrupulous bosses to maximise profits by cheating employees of their statutory entitlements and spending tens of thousands of tax deductible pounds to minimise their tax bill to the nation.

“If they’re serious about tackling wage and tax theft they can start by supporting strong, effective trade unions and providing the framework for sectoral collective bargaining, ensuring that every worker gets their fair share of the wealth they create and by properly resourcing and updating the tax system to ensure it’s fit for purpose to deal with a modern digital economy.”

The review has been welcomed by the TUCs Frances O’Grady. However, the lack of high profile union involvement and representation (it will be intresting to see whether unions such as Unite and GMB will be consulted) Unions will be watching to see what actually comes out of Taylor’s review in the way of specific proposals to end the exploitation given a high media profile this year  – notably the to the publicity generated by Sports Direct and the GMB Uber Employment Tribunal and other ‘gig economy’ or ‘platform’ workers such Deliveroo.

CTUF will be updating supporters as and when we get information on developments.

 

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Airbus 8 Commission Hearings

maxresdefault-6-768x432Resumption of the Activities of the International Commission for the Defence of Workers Prosecuted for Going on Strike and the Repeal of Article 315.3 of the Penal Code.

Meeting report of the Commission, 7th October, at the Lawyers’ Centre of Atocha, Madrid

Madrid, 5th November 2016

Last 7th October, this Commission met at the prestigious Lawyers’ Centre of Atocha, Madrid, in the presence of Gérard Bauvert, secretary of the International Committee Against Repression (CICR). Fifteen comrades, among whom were unionists prosecuted for going on strike and lawyers of Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and the UGT, met to inform themselves and act jointly in favour of union freedoms in our country and in defence of the hundreds of workers prosecuted for going on strike. Other comrades, who had actively participated in meetings organised by this commission and had shown interest in knowing the decisions it adopts and continuing its activity, were unable to attend.

The fundamental motivation of this commission is to obtain the repeal of article 315.3 of the Penal Code and to thus obtain the annulation of all the legal proceedings against the hundreds of workers and unionists prosecuted for going on strike. Consequently, we would like to contribute to creating the indispensable unity of political and union organisations who uphold the interests of workers so that they organise the mobilisation and necessary actions permitting the repeal article 315.3. Obviously, there is now a majority in the Congress of Deputies which can and must make it a reality.

The workers’ movement has known an important initial victory in the mobilisation initiated by the CCOO and the UGT concerning the judgement of the Airbus 8, who were finally acquitted at their trial. However, the emergency remains, a large part of the proceedings go forward and there are several cases where the accusations have been upheld by the public prosecutor, with the demands for imprisonment, which find themselves awaiting hearing. For example, the condemnation to hard prison of six workers and unionists were upheld, which find themselves waiting for a pardon. In other cases, there also acquittals and dismissals but also severe condemnations in the form of financial sanctions.

The contribution of this commission has been to bring the international solidarity of organisations and militants from 18 countries, who addressed themselves to Spanish embassies and our government, to demand that the proceedings for going on strike be annulled and that article 315.3 be repealed. This contribution, made possible thanks to the Cicr, has been made available to our union confederations, the UGT ant the CCOO and to the campaign “A Strike is not a Crime”, and expressed itself in two demonstrations which we organised in Madrid 20th November and 5th February, as well as in other demonstrations which took place in Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.

Two days before this meeting, 5th October, a large gathering organised by the CCOO took place in front of the Móstoles tribunal, where proceedings were scheduled against Juan Carlos Asenjo, president of the Coca-Cola Factory Committee in Fuenlabrada (Madrid). This hearing didn’t take place and was postponed because several agents supporting the act of accusation against Juan Carlos were not present. Asenjo is prosecuted for having participated in a picket in his factory during the general strike against the reform of the Labour Code by Partido Popular (PP, Rajoy) in 2012 and is faced with three years of prison. Gérard Bauvert of the CICR participated in the Coca-Cola gathering and was able to show his support for Asenjo and the other leaders of the CCOO.

The same day as the Asenjo judgement, a new non-legislative motion which considers that 315.3 must be repealed was approved in the Employment Commission of the Congress of Deputies at the initiative of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya), which is the object of a deal with the PSOE and which was supported by the Unidos Podemos, PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) and other groups against the votes of the PP. However, it is now time, with a new government, that a bill eliminating point 3 of article 315 of the Penal Code must be approved to thus end the legal proceedings.

At this very moment, we have new proceedings against workers and unionists for having taken part in strike actions. 4th November, that of Ricardo Vercher, member of the Enterprise Committee of the Barcelona Metro for the CCOO, faced with 5 years and a day of prison for the events which happened during the general strike against the reform of the Labour Code in 2012. In this very case, the principal infraction is stipulated in point 3 of article 315.

In the meeting, a communication indicated that CCOO unionists of the Madrid Metro were preparing demonstrations of solidarity with their prosecuted comrades at the Barcelona Metro (concretely, a resolution of the workers’ council of the metro and a delegation from Madrid who showed up at the trial); they are currently elaborating a contribution concerning the minimum service decree of 1977 and the implied limits imposed on the exercise of the right to strike.

At the end of November, Pedro Galeano, worker for the municipality of Coslada in Madrid, is also ordered to appear. At first, the public prosecutor asked for three years of prison, later reducing his demand to 9 months, for the accusation of pressure on other personnel during a picket during the general strike of 29th March 2012.

The status of the recourse presented to the European Tribunals after the condemnation of UGT unionists at Asturias and the continuation of the judicial battle concerning several proceedings relating to the mobilisation of miners were also explained at the meeting.

We also spoke of the situation of other workers prosecuted and condemned for having participated in mobilisations in defence of workers, accused in the name of the gag law or for other crimes habitually associated with all these cases in which the prosecutors action take precedent and, above all, the agents of order benefit from the presumption of veracity in the realisation of complaints against workers or unionists during the mobilisations.

In particular, the Andrés Bódalo affair was addressed. This SAT (Andalusian Workers Trade Union) unionist and municipal councillor for the city of Jaén, condemned to 3.5 years of prison and already imprisoned 7 months, is accused of an aggression that he didn’t commit, as would have been shown by video recordings realised by the forces of order themselves which the judge, however, found inconvenient to take into account at the trial. We spoke of the possibility of helping him in his demand for a pardon. 4 November, Bódalo undertook a hunger strike to denounce his treatment in prison.

At the meeting, it was mentioned that the following day a meeting of the CCOO would take place in the Marcelino Camacho auditorium, in Madrid, where Georgina Cisquella’s documentary on the struggle of the Coca-Cola workers would be projected.

Also, information was shared on the elaboration of the documentary “No solo ocho” (They aren’t only 8), by Pablo Roldán, on the struggle of the Airbus 8, of which he will show the steadfastness and engagement, as well as their acquittal, in the combat for the repeal of 315.3 and the annulation of all the proceedings for going on strike in Spain. In the meeting, it was decided to contribute to making known the campaign of support and crowdfunding to finance the work of the editing of the film “No solo ocho”.

  • At the meeting on the 7, it was decided:
  • To create an informational bulletin on the current situation to continue to inform all the organisations in 18 countries who have shown solidarity with this campaign.
  • To have regular meetings of the commission, approximately every month, to create a permanent blog, to open social networks and to prepare new public demonstrations.
  • To establish an inventory of the cases of proceedings for going on strike and mobilisation.
  • To stay informed of the situation of the bills presented in the Congress of Deputies by several parliamentary groups to repeal 315.3 and thus annul the proceedings for going on strike.

At the end of the month of November, the commission will meet again in Madrid.

Pablo Garcia-Cano

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Hammond Dumps Osborne’s “Shares For Rights” Policy

Osborne's Flagship Policy Dumped By Hammond.

Osborne’s Flagship Policy Dumped By Hammond.

One of the Tories most peculiar policies was his decision to give tax breaks to workers who agreed to forfeit some of their employment rights. It was described as one of George Osborne’s flagship policies at the time.

The idea was roundly ridiculed by lawyers, industrial relations experts, trade unions who all thought it was barmy idea – but Osborne liked it because it allowed him to show Tory rightwingers that he had not completely ignored the regulation-slashing proposals in the infamous Beecroft report.

It proved to be a total flop as there was little interest shown by employers and employees.

“The tax advantages linked to shares awarded under ESS [employee shareholder status] will be abolished for arrangements entered into on, or after, 1 December 2016. The status itself will be closed to new arrangements at the next legislative opportunity. This is in response to evidence suggesting that the status is primarily being used for tax planning instead of supporting a more flexible workforce”.

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Support Korean General Strike For Workers’ Rights!

montage1Struggling against the government’s attacks on labour rights, unions in South Korean are holding a general strike for workers’ rights on 30th November. Global Union IndustriALL is calling for global days of action to support the unions’ fight. 

Korean unions are struggling against a government crackdown on labour rights. The administration of South Korean President Park oversaw police raids of trade unions’ offices and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful trade unionists.

Park has attempted to make changes to Korean labour law that include permitting firing without due process, cutting wages for senior employees and allowing more outsourcing.

The Park government has been implicated in a scandal in which major Korean corporations paid bribes to foundations controlled by an ally of Park in exchange for support for anti-labour policies and other favors.

As part of an ongoing fight back that recently included one million Koreans marching through Seoul, Korean unions have called a general strike for 30th November.

Join in the global days of action to support the Korean unions between now and 30th November by:

  • Sending a protest letter. Put it on your union’s letterhead, insert your union’s name in the first sentence, add a signature and send it to the email addresses listed at the top of the letter.
  • Taking selfies with the solidarity sign (links to the right) and post them online with hashtag #KoreaGeneralStrike and send them to press@industriall-union.org to share.
  • Holding an action at a Korean embassy or consulate or at a location of one of the anti-labour, corrupt Korean corporations such as Hyundai, LG, Posco or Samsung. You could deliver a protest letter to the embassy, consulate or management. Make sure to send pics or video of the action to press@industriall-union.org to share.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches, who recently visited Korea on a solidarity mission, says: “I urge you to support this general strike by participating in the global days of action and show the Korean government the strength of global solidarity”.

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