Unions Welcome Australian High Court Decision On Offshore Oil & Gas Workers Visas

paddy

ITF President and MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has welcomed a decision by Australia’s High Court to rule invalid a decision by the Australian Conservative government to exempt workers on vessels in the multi-billion dollar offshore oil and gas industry from domestic visa requirements.

The exemption, granted by the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, in December 2015 was overturned by the High Court today following a case lodged by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU).

The long-running saga was thwarted first by the Australian Senate in July 2014 and then the full federal court in March 2015. Today’s decision in the High Court was unanimous.

ITF President and MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “Bringing in often exploited foreign workers is a dangerous attack on the rights and safe working conditions of seafarers, regardless of their nationality.

“The ITF welcomes the decision which helps rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation for adversarial and destructive attacks on the trade union movement.

“The offshore industry in any country’s territory must be the domain of the national workforce as it involves the development of that country’s sovereign and public wealth.”

ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: “It is clear that the failed legislation and subsequent circumvention by the Australian government that was rejected by the High Court today was partly driven by international hydrocarbon players including Chevron and Allseas.

“This is a great victory for the protection of workers rights in the offshore industry all over the world. 

AMOU President Tim Higgs said: “The Government has hugely overreached with these tricky legislative instruments. The Minister’s attempts to bypass existing laws and give unfettered work rights to non-Australian workers was always a terrible idea.”

 

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Public Wants Zero Hours Banned

Unite's Len McCluskey

Unite’s Len McCluskey

More than six in ten UK people (64 per cent) want zero hours contracts banned a new poll commissioned by Unite has revealed. It is also confirmed that most people (53 per cent) also feel that there are too few decent jobs in their area.

The call for a ban is backed by voters from both the Conservative (55 per cent) and Labour (71 per cent) parties.

Unite urged that a start be made by the government banning zero hours contracts which have left almost one million workers with no certainty in their earnings or their working life.

Unite also believes that the 41 per cent of those polled supporting a universal basic income, in contrast to the 33 per cent who do not, reveals that the public is looking for ways to address the insecurity associated with modern working life.

Unite led calls at this week’s Trades Union Congress for a wholesale reform in social security to reflect the serious social problems resulting when work does not pay.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “These findings reveal a disunited Britain and the scale of the task facing the prime minister who has vowed to govern not just for ‘a privileged few’.

“Fighting back against the scourge of insecure employment has to be top of her ‘to-do’ list. When it comes to measures to address economic and employment uncertainty there is widespread agreement on the one course of action that the government should take. It should bring forward plans now to make work pay in this country again, starting with banning zero hours contracts. If it can be done for the workers of New Zealand, it should be done for the workers of the UK.”

The union’s call comes as the Office of National Statistics recently revealed a 20 per cent jump in the use of these contracts in the last year alone.

Summary of the poll findings:

  • The majority of those polled (53 per cent) do not feel that there are enough secure, well-paid secure jobs in their area. Among those aged between 45-54 years of age, 62 per cent state that there are not enough decent jobs in their area. Four in ten of those polled (40 per cent) do say that they feel more optimistic for the future, compared to the 24 per cent who are pessimistic.
  • Between the generations, views differ with six in ten (60 per cent) of over 65 year olds polled stating that they are confident about the state of the economy, while 55 per cent of those aged 18-24 years are not.
  • Better off adults in social grades AB (35 per cent) and C1 (29 per cent) are more likely than those in grades C2 (22 per cent) and DE (20 per cent) to say that they are better off compared to this time last year.
  • The difference in outlook becomes more graphic between supporters of political parties. Nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) of Conservative voters feel confident about the economy, but only 28 per cent of Labour voters share that view. For Liberal Democrat and UKIP voters, the results were 39 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.
  • Among the population as a whole, only just over one quarter (27 per cent) feel better off than they were this time last year, but 25 per cent state that they feel worse off.
  • Only days after the Office for National Statistics revealed that the use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) had leapt by 20 per cent in the past twelve months, 64 per cent of those polled want the government to ban these contracts, a move that attracts cross-party political support with 55 per cent of Conservative voters rising to 71 per cent of Labour supporters backing such action.
  • As an indication that the public understands that work is failing to pay in the UK, significantly, 41 per cent support replacing the existing welfare system with universal basic income compared to 33 per cent who oppose it.

Methodology Note: ComRes interviewed 2,004 GB adults online between 9 and 11 September 2016. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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Unison Backs Call For Orgreave Investigation

Unison has backed the call for an independent and thorough investigation into what really happened at the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in South Yorkshire  on June 18th, 1984 during the miners’ strike.

Campaigners calling for an inquiry into the police handling of the Battle of Orgeave have welcomed reports an official review is set to be approved.

Reports suggest Home Secretary Amber Rudd wants an investigation that delivers ‘complete’ answers but will not ‘drag on’. Eports suggest this we be an ‘will be an official inquiry’, but it is yet to be decided what format it will take.

Campaigners who met with Rudd said they welcome the news.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, meanwhile, has called on Mrs Rudd to confirm immediately if reports of an official inquiry are true.

The official version of events – put forward by the police – was that the miners were to blame for the violence that erupted that day, and that the police were acting in self-defence.

But unions have always known that wasn’t the real story. Miner were faced by 6,000 officers in riot gear, some on horse back – with dogs set on pickets.

This was not a standard police action, and the use of an overwhelming force, is an example of what Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt called “a brutal example of legalised state violence”.

For years striking miners – standing up for their communities and their livelihoods were described as mindless thugs.

The allegations against the police are serious – including officers filing reports on arrests they didn’t carry out. All point towards a corrupt culture within the South Yorkshire police.

After the outcome of the Hillsborough inquiry earlier this year, Unison said it now time the force is also held to account for what happened in Orgreave.

This was not the only wrong doing perpetuated by the police against striking miners, but it is perhaps the clearest example of police targeting striking workers in a seemingly pre-meditated and politically motivated attack.

Unison said the time has come for justice to be served and for the truth to be heard, in full, at long last.

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McCluskey Calls For Outright Ban On Zero Hours Contracts

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has called on the UK government to follow New Zealand’s lead in outlawing exploitative zero hours contracts as official figures showed a 20 per cent increase in the number of people saying they work on a zero hours basis as their main job.

The increase, up from 747,000 a year ago to just over 900,000, points to a world of work which is becoming increasingly insecure and an economy becoming ever more reliant on low paid precarious work warned Unite.

Commenting on the figures, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This sharp rise in the numbers of people reliant on zero hours work points to an economy which is increasingly being built on precarious work with more and more workers not knowing from one week to the next whether they will be able to pay the bills.
 
“Since the Conservatives unleashed their austerity on working people in 2010, insecure, poorly rewarded work has risen three-fold. This is the real story of the Conservatives and their stewardship of the economy –  growing numbers of people trapped in the daily worry of not knowing if they will have work or can keep a decent roof over their family’s head.
 
“As New Zealand has shown governments do not have to sit on the sidelines when it comes to tackling exploitation. They can outlaw zero hours contracts.
 
“Prime minister Theresa May now needs to prove true to her word about supporting working people by setting out her plan to rid working people of the twin curses of insecurity and low paid work.
 
“Let’s see the UK government follow the lead of their counterparts in New Zealand and ban the use of zero hours contracts as part of a plan to halt the tide of insecure low paid work.”
 

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John Hendy QC To Speak At Peoples Assembly Conference In Birmingham

lg-200001John Hendy QC, Vice President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom, and one of the UK’s leading employment rights lawyers is to speak at People’s Assembly Conference as part of the lobby of the Conservative Conference in Birmingham on Saturday 1st October, 10:30am – 5pm at Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square, B3 3DQ

You can obtain more information on the conference by clicking here.

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CTUF & IER At the Labour Party Conference

CTUF Labour A5 flyer

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CTUF At The TUC

CTUF TUC A5 flyer_

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Novelis Blasted For Bad Employment Practices – Ordered To Recognise Union

Novelis-1By Ken Sturtz, Thanks to Ben Davis of the United Steelworkers

A US federal agency has again ordered Novelis Inc. (a aluminum products manufacturer) to recognise the United Steelworkers union as the collective-bargaining representative for hundreds of workers.

In decision a three-person panel from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed with the findings of an administrative law judge. The panel said Novelis engaged in unfair labuor practices when workers campaigned to unionise several years ago at the massive aluminum products plant, which had never before had a union.

 The decision said that Novelis violated the law in the following ways: 

  • Threatening employees with job loss if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
  • Threatening employees with a reduction in wages if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
  • Threatening employees with more difficult working conditions if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
  • Threatening employees by telling them that they did not have to work for Novelis if they were unhappy with their terms and conditions of employment.
  • Threatening an employee with layoff if employees selected the union as their bargaining representative.
  • Threatening employees that Novelis would lose business if they select the union as their bargaining representative.
  • Misrepresenting that the union was seeking to have Novelis rescind employees’ pay and/or benefits and blaming the union by telling employees that they would have to pay back wages retroactively as a result of unfair labor practice charges filed by the union.
  • Interrogating employees about their union membership, activities, and sympathies.
 Prohibiting employees from wearing union insignia on their uniforms while permitting employees to wear anti-union and other insignia.
  • Maintaining an overly broad work rule that unlawfully interfered with employees’ use of the Novelis email system for lawful purposes.
  • Selectively and disparately enforcing the company’s posting and distribution rules by prohibiting union postings and distributions while permitting nonunion and anti-union postings and distributions.
  • Removing union literature from mixed use areas.
  • Granting wage increases and benefits in order to discourage employees from selecting union representation.
  • Soliciting grievances and promising to remedy them in order to discourage employees from selecting union representation.
  • Maintaining and giving effect to its overly broad unlawful social media policy.

The NLRB ordered Novelis to reinstate Everett Abare, who it said Novelis demoted over a union-related Facebook post. The company is to make up any lost earnings or benefits. They were also ordered to rescind or modify their unlawful social media policy.

 In addition, the NLRB ordered Novelis to do the following: 

  • On request by the union, rescind the changes to Sunday premium pay and unscheduled overtime for its unit employees that were implemented on Jan. 9, 2014.
  • Rescind the overly broad work rule that unlawfully interferes with employees’ use of the Novelis email system.
  • Furnish employees with an insert for the current employee handbook that (1) advises that the unlawful provision has been rescinded, or (2) provides a lawfully worded
provision on adhesive backing that will cover the unlawful provision; or publish and distribute to employees revised employee handbooks that (1) do not contain the unlawful
provision, or (2) provide a lawfully worded provision.
  • Recognise and, on request, bargain with the union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative, retroactive to Jan. 9th, 2014.
 Within 14 days after service by the Region, post at its facility in Oswego copies of the attached notice marked “Appendix.” In addition to physical posting of paper notices, notices shall be distributed electronically, such as by email.

Novelis could appeal the NLRB decision in federal court.

The showdown between the aluminum products manufacturer and the United Steelworkers began in 2013 after the company did away with Sunday premium pay and its practice of letting workers use personal time on Sundays as time worked. Workers began efforts to unionize in early 2014 and Novelis reversed its decision.

The NLRB said Novelis waged an illegal campaign against unionisation, which helped tip the balance in a close vote on whether to organize.

With nearly 900 workers, Novelis is one of Oswego County’s biggest employers. In recent years the company has added jobs and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into expansions at the plant to make aluminum panels for automobiles. But critics say Novelis has also reduced pay and benefits.

The Steelworkers represents workers at four other Novelis plants in North America – Terre Haute, Ind.; Fairmont, W. Va.; Kingston, Ontario; and Toronto. The Scriba plant, which was opened in 1963 by Alcan Inc., has never had a union, however.

Novelis spun off from Alcan in 2005 and was acquired in 2007 by Aditya Birla Group, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, India.

 

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Germany’s Vice Chancellor Gabriel: US-EU trade talks ‘have failed’ – but beware!

0,,19379887_303,00This weekend UK media has been widely reporting comments by Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel that the free trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States have ‘failed, after three years of talks – an agreement has yet to be reached’.

Discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been unsuccessful, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the country’s vice chancellor, said.

“In my opinion the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it,” Gabriel told German broadcaster ZDF.

“Nothing is moving,” he added.

Gabriel, who heads the Social Democrats (SPD), and is likely to be their candidate to stand against Angela Merkel in the forthcoming election noted that after 14 rounds of talks, the two sides have yet to agree on even one chapter out of the 27 being discussed.

One of the reasons given for the breakdown in negotiations was that “we Europeans did not want to subject ourselves to American demands,” Gabriel said.

But it is worth noting Gabriel defended the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA.)

“The debate has become very difficult in that the agreement with Canada and the one with the USA have been lumped together,” Gabriel said, adding that this assumption is incorrect.

He praised the Canadian agreement, saying it was fairer for both sides. The Canadian-European deal is much further advanced and could be ratified in the near future.

Equally, there is suspicion that Gabriel maybe ready to dump TTIP to help get CETA through in Germany on the basis that the US could get much of what they wanted from TTIP by using US companies many of whom have subsiduaries and offices in Canada or could easily re-regaister them there..

German trade unions and other organizations have called for rallies across German cities on September 17th to protest the two trade agreements.

The above article is well worth reading as it sets out the opposition to TTIP and CETA in Germany.

It is worth noting at present there is a mixed response to CETA from German unions, with the giant services union ver.di coming out strongly against CETA but there are other unions who are sitting on the fence or accept CETA as it is.

Supporters of the TTIP hope to lock down the outlines of an agreement before France and Germany’s general elections in 2017 and before US President Barack Obama leaves office at the end of 2016.

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The Future of Trade Unions : September 3rd

eabf1d405e232a73aa6ea5b16bcf9082Notwithstanding a truce during the EU Referendum campaign, the Government’s relationship with trade unions has reached rock bottom with more restrictions aimed against them through the new Trade Union Bill 2016.  Trade union membership has remained fairly static over recent years and the changing face of work presents new challenges.

With this in mind, History & Policy’s Trade Union Forum will be hosting a half-day conference The Future of Trade Unions, where eminent speakers from both academia and trade unions will take stock of how trade unions’ relationship with government has evolved over time, and hypothesise as to where unions should go from here.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dave Ward, General Secretary of the Communication Worker’s Union – on the his union’s future in the now-privatised sector.
  • Dr. Alastair Reid, Life Fellow, Girton College, Cambridge & author of United We Stand: A History of Britain’s Trade Unions – on how out of favour traditional union policies might fare in future union thinking
  • Siobhan Endean, National Officer for Equalities at Unite the Union – on what effect mergers and the role of “mega unions” can have in best promoting equalities in the entire trade union movement
When
Where
Unite The Union – 128 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8TN – View Map
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