3.3 million Workers Lose Out As EU States Fail To Protect Collective Bargaining

Esther Lynch, Deputy General Secretary of the ETUC.

At least 3.3 million fewer workers are benefiting from a collective bargaining agreement across the European Union today compared to the beginning of the century, the latest figures show.

Collective bargaining coverage is down in 22 of the EU’s 27 member states since 2000 as a result of deliberate policies implemented by member states and endorsed by the European Commission, often because of a mistaken idea that high levels of collective bargaining are bad for the economy.

The facts show that the opposite is true and that strong collective bargaining systems contribute to higher wages and better working conditions, as well as to a fairer society and to better economic performances.

The biggest fall in the percentage of workers covered was in Romania (100% to 23%), Greece (100% to 25%) and Bulgaria (56% to 23%), according to figures from the University of Amsterdam.

The figures also show the number of workers covered has gone down in 9 of the 15 countries for which data is available, including Greece (-1.2m), Germany (-884,000) and Hungary (-439,000).

There is now a huge disparity in coverage between countries across the EU, with just 7% of workers benefiting from collective bargaining in Lithuania compared to 98% in Austria.

Source: Jelle Visser, ICTWSS Data base. version 6.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS. October 2019; OECD Stat.

The data shows falls in coverage in the following countries including coverage between 2016 and 2018.

Source: Jelle Visser, ICTWSS Data base. version 6.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS. October 2019; OECD Stat.

The ETUC is highlighting the figures during the European Commission’s consultation on fair minimum wages.

The Commission’s first stage consultation document stated: “Collective bargaining is an essential element of the social market economy promoted by the EU and a strong foundation for good wage setting.”

The ETUC believes the Commission needs to use its initiative on fair minimum wages to protect collective bargaining where coverage is already high and extend it in countries where it is low, in order to reduce inequalities, improve working conditions and raise productivity.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“Raising statutory minimum wages is the bare minimum needed to keep people above the poverty line, but collective bargaining is the best way to ensure workers receive a genuinely fair share of wages, as well as combatting the gender pay gap and providing good conditions for non-standard workers.

“Member States’ failure to act to promote workers right and ability to collective bargaining is holding all wages back. Low collective bargaining means also lower minimum wages: fair minimum wages can only be created in labour markets with effective collective bargaining systems which ensure an adequate coverage.

“It’s positive that the European Commission has recognised that collective bargaining is essential for a fair economy. It’s now logical that they need to promote collective bargaining, in particular where the numbers of workers covered are low. However, the EU should not interfere where there are no problems with collective bargaining.

“This can start with a requirement for the €2 trillion (14% of GDP) a year of public spending on services, works and supplies to go to firms with a collective bargaining agreement.”

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Stop Anti Union Laws In Ukraine

Join the global day of action 25th February urging Ukraine’s government to withdraw draft labour laws which are in contravention of national and international core labour standards.

Ukrainian unions mobilised their members for a “Stop labour slavery” protest action on 15th January in Kiev against the new draft law on labour introduced to parliament without prior consultation with unions.

Together with other drafts submitted in December last year, the latest draft, №2708, only protects employers’ interests and deprives workers of their rights and social guarantees. If adopted, the drafts would abolish union committees at company level, undermine union capacity to protect workers and would eventually lead to the elimination of trade unions in Ukraine.

Close to thousand union members picketed the building of the parliamentary committee for social politics on the day of the review of the draft law on labour.

The draft contradicts national law, including the Constitution of Ukraine, and core international labour standards, including ILO Conventions 87, 131 and 98.

The recent draft consists of 99 articles and is meant to regulate all labour relations.

Both recent and the earlier drafts submitted to parliament in December 2019 are full of anti-worker legal provisions, including: the possibility to set a 12-hour working day instead of the current 8 hour limit; reduction of overtime payments, allowing the payment of 120 per cent instead of the current double time; additional opportunities for easier dismissals, including that of pregnant women and women on maternity leave at the employers’ discretion; abolishment of additional leave for workers employed in hazardous industries, for parents with many children and mothers of disabled children; and the elimination of social guarantees for vulnerable categories of employees.

On 16th January, leaders and representatives from 60,000 local unions that represent 7,000,000 union members in Ukraine gathered in Kiev for an activity by the All-Ukrainian Trade Union Council for the protection of workers’ constitutional, labour and socio-economic rights and unions.

Although invited, neither the president nor prime minister attended the event.

The Council adopted a resolution with the unions’ demands, including:

  • Demand that the state authorities immediately withdraw the draft law On Labour №2708 and invite ILO experts to examine of any new drafts law on labour, trade unions and social security;
  • Demand that the government launch fair labour law reform through tripartite social dialogue in full compliance with national and international law;
  • Propose the adoption of a Labour Code of Ukraine on the basis of two drafts (№ 2410 and 2410-1) previously submitted to the parliament and already examined by the ILO;

After the adoption of the resolution, participants marched to the buildings of the president, parliament and government where they handed over a copy of the resolution.

Please tweet the following message:

Join global day of action 25th Feb urging Ukraine’s government to withdraw draft labour law in contravention of national and international core labour standards #HandsOffUkraineUnions

 

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CLAIMING DATE: June 6th, CTUF Employment Rights Conference

The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom with the Institute Of Employment Rights are organising a conference on Employment Rights on June 6th,

‘Trade Union Rights: Resist, Repeal , Replace’ Venue: Unite Office Moreland Street, London commencing at 11am – through to 4pm.

More details of speakers and information soon.

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Brexit – Why Free Ports Are A Race To The Bottom

By Scott Gilfillan

There’s no evidence that free ports create jobs or stimulate growth – and they could be a Trojan Horse for watering down employment protections after Brexit.

This week, the government launched a consultation on creating up to 10 tax-free ‘free ports’ across the UK.

The government wants these free ports to sit outside the UK’s main tax and tariff rules, with lower regulations to attract investment and business.

It argues that this is needed to bring jobs and prosperity to the UK in a post-Brexit world.

Of course, there was nothing stopping the UK from setting up tariff and tax-free import zones when it was a member of the EU (around 80 such zones are in operation across the bloc today).

But there’s one big difference between the EU zones and the free ports the government wants to create.

The EU zones can’t deviate from single market regulations, including those on employment protections and other workers’ rights.

For people working within them, that’s a good thing.

But free ports in the UK won’t be bound by this rule, so anyone working in them is likely to have less protection at work – not only with the EU but with the rest of the UK as well.

That means lower pay and less job security in coastal communities that are already in long-term economic decline.

Free ports are a Trojan Horse to water down employment protections.Instead of a race to the bottom on workers’ rights after Brexit, the government must guarantee they’ll be protected for every worker in the UK.

Union concerns

Trade unions have several other concerns about the government’s plans.

The government has set up a Free Ports Advisory Panel to determine where the free ports will be created.

But this panel has no union representation, even though thousands of jobs are at stake.

Free ports encourage tax avoidance and are likely to become tax havens. That means less money for our NHS and schools.

And they may even become hotspots for organised crime such as money laundering and smuggling.

Jobs at risk

Several academic studies have debunked the suggestion that free ports create jobs or stimulate growth.

And while some argue that free ports will help support existing UK industry, there will be widescale job losses if we crash out of the EU without a deal or with a minimal trade deal.

It’s not just unions who are worried that low regulation, low tax-free ports will be bad for jobs.

The former Labour MEP for North East of England Jude Kirton Darling has questioned whether free ports will even create new jobs or just move them from one area to another:

The North East has many manufacturing companies that are dependent on imports and exports. If a free port was established on Teesside, would this create more jobs for the region or just shift jobs from across the North East into one area? An area where they pay less tax and basic worker protections and health and safety standards may not apply. (February 2018)

This view was supported by the Centre for Cities in a recent report that considered how effective low regulation and tax zones are at creating jobs.

It found that, while there was significant job reallocation when businesses moved from local areas to the new zones, the net impact on overall job creation was negligible:

Zones offering tax incentives or tariff reductions to relocate are likely to move activity around the locality or in from elsewhere in the country, rather than create new activity. And they are unlikely to attract in higher-skilled jobs that would change the fortunes of an economy.

‘In the zone? Have enterprise zones delivered the jobs they promised?’, Centre for Cities, 2019

Put workers first

Instead of using free ports to drive down hard-won workers’ rights, we need an EU trade deal that keeps the UK as closely aligned as possible to the Single Market and Customs Union.

This would ensure workers’ rights in the UK never fall behind the EU.

And it will mean our businesses can continue frictionless trade with our largest trading partner.

Tens of thousands of jobs depend on our trade with the EU. Protecting them should be the government’s top priority.

Originally published on TUC.org blogsite. February 13th 2020

 

 

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The Survival of the ILWU at Stake!

Coastwide Port Action Can Stop Union Busting! Labor Solidarity Must Prevail

By Jack Hayman. From www.counterpunch.org February 13th 2020

A recent federal court decision in Portland, Oregon poses an immediate existential threat to the strongest union in the U.S. today, the ILWU, and ultimately to the labor movement as a whole.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), arguably one of the most militant unions in the U.S., has been hit with a union-busting $93.6 million dollar court-imposed fine for a secondary boycott deemed illegal under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. The plaintiff, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is owned by the third richest man in the Philippines, billionaire Enrique Razon Jr. and operates in 27 ports worldwide, mainly in poor, developing countries.

The maritime company claims it was run out of business in Portland because of a secondary boycott by the longshore union during a long-running dispute over two mechanics jobs which are presently done by another union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). ICTSI argues the primary employer is the Port of Portland which hires the mechanics, so they claim the longshore union organized an “illegal” secondary boycott. For the ILWU’s part, it was a foolish top down campaign organized by the dubious Leal Sundet, then, an ILWU Coast Committeeman who had previously been an Oregon area executive for the employers group, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

On February 14 in Portland, this capital vs labor battle may be decided by a federal court judge. The response of the ILWU to the union-busting verdict should be to take the struggle out of the courts and onto the docks where our strength lies, as it did so many times in the past. Otherwise the union leadership is agreeing to let this battle between labor and capital be decided by a capitalist judge. Some members don’t want to declare bankruptcy but that would mean an exorbitant assessment of all longshore workers. Others want to re-join the AFL-CIO but that doesn’t necessarily mean real support for the ILWU. The main obstacle is that the leadership is offering no kind of active labor defense, only a deadly silence in the media.

Known as the slave labor act by the organized labor movement, the Taft-Hartley Act bans solidarity actions or secondary boycotts as the government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) refers to an action not directed against the primary employer. But it was solidarity actions that built the labor movement during the Great Depression and it was solidarity actions that won and sustained ILWU’s victories that are recognized internationally.

  • In 1984, during the repressive Reagan years San Francisco longshore workers boycotted a ship from South Africa for 11 days to protest apartheid. After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison he addressed a packed Oakland Coliseum on his 1990 world tour. He praised ILWU Local 10’s action for sparking the anti-apartheid movement in the Bay Area.
  • In 1997, longshoremen refused to work the Neptune Jade, a ship from England, in solidarity with locked out Liverpool dockers. The action, with the backing of ILWU President Brian McWilliams, sparked a boycott in three consecutive ports across the seas that displayed a union power that frightened maritime employers.
  • That international solidarity action was followed with a campaign to defend the predominantly black longshore union, ILA Local 1422, against union busting in Charleston, South Carolina. That campaign, initiated by the ILWU and Local 1422, became a cause celebre of the entire AFL-CIO, peaking with a march of several thousand trade unionists protesting at the state capitol which was flying the Confederate flag.
  • In 1999, President McWilliams addressed a rally of thousands in Seattle announcing that the

ILWU shutdown West Coast ports in solidarity with anti-WTO demonstrators including Teamsters and other unions and in protest against police brutality.

  • That same year ILWU led a march of 25,000 through the streets of San Francisco, supported by the San Francisco Labor Council, to demand freedom for innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. His death sentence was rescinded but he still remains imprisoned after 38 years.
  • In 2008, ILWU shut downall West Coast Ports to protest the “imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” despite vicious PMA threats to sue the union under Taft-Hartley in the NLRB.
  • In 2010, Local 10 shut down Bay Area ports to protest the BART police killing of Oscar Grant and has continued protest actions against racist police and fascist terror.
  • In 2010 and 2014, Local 10 members refused to work ZIM Lines ships to protest the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid. These actions drove ZIM ships out of the port of Oakland much to the dismay of the Zionist government.
  • And in 2011, When Wisconsin workers were under attack by Governor Scott Walker and had occupied the state capitol building, AFL-CIO President Trumka and ILWU President McEllrath sent out calls for solidarity with the state workers. ILWU Local 10 answered that call with job action, shutting down all Bay Area ports in a solidarity strike action.All these actions were in violation of Taft-Hartley’s secondary boycott provision.

ILWU’s history shows that labor’s strength lies in union solidarity actions not in kangaroo courts.

Yet, this new ILWU leadership has limited the fight against Taft-Hartley to the courtroom. ILWU’s International President William Adams states in the November 2019 issue of The Dispatcher, the union’s newspaper, “While we respect the process, we disagree with the excessive damages award”. Respecting the anti-labor Taft-Hartley process means an unprecedented course of navigation for the union into treacherous waters with a broken sextant. This strategy rejects ILWU’s history of challenging Taft-Hartley from the very start. Adams, who has never played a leading role in solidarity job actions, claims ILWU may declare bankruptcy but will survive. Veteran activists know that accepting such an onerous fine will not only bankrupt the union but chill solidarity actions, stifling the future of ILWU’s proud legacy. Adam’s demagogic calls for “unity” behind this defeatist strategy will land the union’s ship on the rocks. The ILWU must appeal, publicize its case broadly and initiate labor solidarity actions.

ILWU’s Historic Role in Fighting Taft-Hartley and Building Labor Solidarity

West Coast maritime workers have long been in the forefront of U.S. labor struggles. In San Francisco in 1934 longshore workers and sailors led a mighty maritime strike in the midst of the Great Depression. A general strike in San Francisco was provoked when police killed two strikers. Today, in front of the Local 10 union hall a “Bloody Thursday” sidewalk mural of the fallen martyrs defiantly proclaims,”Men Killed, Shot in the Back, Police Murder.” The news media railed against communists, socialists and anarchists during the General Strike but to no avail. San Francisco was shut down tight with solid support from the Bay Area’s working class. Despite the conservative San Francisco Labor Council bureaucrats ordering all workers to return to work after a few days, maritime workers refused and returned to the picket lines with a new resolve and in the end won their key demands, including the hiring hall, union recognition, a coastwise contract, a six-hour shift and safe working conditions. That radical image stands the test to time and is instrumental in ILWU’s recent organizing drives at Anchor Steam brewery and Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act,(on which ICTSI owner Razon hangs his litigious hat) was passed with support from both Democratic and Republican parties at the beginning of the McCarthy witch hunts. It banned all manner of class struggle: solidarity strikes, mass picketing, closed shops, including union hiring halls, and communists from holding union office. ILWU was one of the first unions to challenge the law and became a haven for workers purged from the CIO and the AFL by anti-red union leaders. These workers led struggles in the ’30’s that built the unions: Blackie Meyers (NMU), Bill Bailey (MFOW), Shaun Maloney (SUP and the Teamsters), Morris Wright (MMSW) and Jim Herman (MCS). As West Coast maritime unions began negotiations in 1948, ILWU members at the recommendation of its Coastwide Longshore Caucus voted 89% to authorize a strike. However, in 2002 after the 9/11 attack and the subsequent government anti-terror campaign, the Longshore Caucus stopped that standard practice of backing the Negotiating Committee with a strike authorization vote, an early sign of union’s departure from its militant past.

Phil Drew cartoon from The Dispatcher, 1948.

When President Truman invoked Taft-Hartley, longshoremen responded with class struggle, a work slowdown. (What McEllrath/Sundet did in 2013 at ICTSI’s terminal in Portland was in the service of class collaboration.) After the 80-day cooling off period, Truman’s National Labor Relations Board tried to bypass the union leadership by ordering longshoremen to vote on the employers’ proposed contract. The two outstanding issues were both banned by Taft-Hartley: the union hiring hall and a union leadership that employer propaganda accused of being “dominated by the Communist Party.” Of the 26,695 members on the entire West Coast not a single ballot was cast in the NLRB vote. Later, another vote was taken on the employers’ proposals but was rejected by 96.8% and a second vote on forcing union officers to sign a non-communist affidavit was again rejected by 94.39% of the membership. Then, the ILWU went on strike. European dockworker unions expressed solidarity sending telegrams to President Truman warning that any ships loaded by the military would not be unloaded in Europe. That’s the way working class struggles are won!

During the repressive McCarthy period ILWU President Harry Bridges was jailed and threatened with deportation. Other ILWU officials including Jack Hall and Bob McElrath of the “Hawaii 7” were accused of being communists and jailed under the Smith Act. (Robert McElrath, husband of the late ILWU firebrand Ah Quon McElrath, was no relation to “Big Bob” McEllrath.) ILWU Hawaiian plantation workers struck to demand their leader Jack Hall’s freedom. He was released from jail the next day. The Communist Party (CP) had applauded the jailing under the the very same anti-communist Smith Act in 1941 of their Trotskyist opponents in the Socialist Workers Party, including leaders of the militant Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934. That political transgression only emboldened the government to use the Smith Act against the leadership of the CP seven years later.

In 1964, ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Archie Brown, an open member of the Communist Party, was indicted for violating a key provision of Taft-Hartley. He was tried, convicted and arrested. Brown, with backing from the union, appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. The communist-exclusion clause was ruled invalid, although AFL-CIO tops still try to use it to keep reds out of office, but the law as a whole still stands.

The West Coast longshore union was forged in the cauldron of class struggle in the ’30’s. Victory was achieved by mass picketing, appeals for solidarity and racially integrating the union. That was 30 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. The ILWU went on its own fight for reforms— building affordable housing for working people in St. Francis Square and negotiating with Kaiser to establish one of the first comprehensive medical plans for its members on the West Coast and Hawaii. These stories,  portrayed in murals all over the Bay Area by WPA muralists, Victor Arnautoff and Anton Refregier, were targeted for destruction by right wing nuts during the McCarthy period because the muralists were members of the Communist Party. Today, the SF School Board and Democratic Party identity politics individuals want to cover up or destroy Arnautoff’s murals at George Washington High School. The ILWU defended those murals then as it does today.  ILWU now has a majority African American, Latino, Asian and Hawaiian membership that has continued its militant historyof defending immigrant workers’ rights, organizing protest actions against racist police and fascist terror and in solidarity with workers struggles internationally. All this is threatened by the verdict against the ILWU.

Razon’s Rogue Business Gambit

Razon’s modus operandi for ICTSI is raw, aggressive neo-liberal capitalism, buying up public-owned ports in developing countries, busting unions, suing competitors or government agencies and making billions in the process. Razon, like the rest of the Philippine elite, keeps close ties with the military, which is noted for its relentless repression of labor, left populist protests and the Muslim rebellion in the south. Last year, he was awarded alumnus status by the Philippine Military Academy. The pugnacious image which Razon likes to cultivate fits well into his latest venture to build luxurious super casino resorts in the Philippines to compete with Macau.

Razon, like many in the ruling class of the Philippines, are descendants of the Spanish colonists, who have waged a vicious campaign against working people whether at home or abroad. Many Filipinos work as seamen aboard foreign-owned ships. Labor contractors and shipowners exploit these crews by paying slave wages and often not remitting allotments from wages to their families back home dependent on them for survival. The ILWU has fought to defend these workers. In 1980, while Reagan was firing PATCO strikers, Philippine dictator Marcos’ agents killed two ILWU officials Silme Domingo and Gene Viernesin the Seattle Local 37 union office. Marcos was successfully sued by the families for that crime.

In Honduras in 2013, Victor Crespo, General Secretary of the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), received threats on his life for organizing dock workers shortly after Razon’s ICTSI was granted a lucrative 30-year contract to operate in Puerto Cortez, Honduras. Crespo fled the country but the following year his father was murderedoutside the family home.

Where the ILWU Went Wrong: Putting the ICTSI Dispute in Context

This battle between ICTSI and the ILWU began in 2012, shortly after a year-long lockout by the international grain conglomerate Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Washington downriver from Portland. Longshore members did everything in their power to win that conflict— blocking grain trains on the tracks, and when they were slapped with injunctions their wives and daughters stood fast on the tracks. They occupied the EGT facility, defended themselves against violent police attacks and went to jail for picketing. When ILWU President McEllrath was called to the front of a protest on the railroad tracks by members he was arrested. All Northwest ports shutdown and marched on Longview the following day. That’s the power the union wields.

Yet, the moment of truth came February 2012, as a scab grain ship was escorted by an armed Coast Guard cutter dispatched by President Obama. State and local police forces were mustered. Faced with an all out fight on the docks with mass support to be mobilized in caravans committed by labor councils in Longview, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco and the burgeoning Occupy movement, the ILWU International President Bob McEllrath and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet, fearful of a serious class battle, capitulated and forced local officials to sign the contract. Longview union members were incensed by this betrayal. They were not even given the right to vote on the contract which violates the ILWU Constitution but not capitalist law. The ILWU was able to maintain jurisdiction, but the loss in working and safety conditions was devastating. The union tops had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Dan Coffman, Longview Local 21 President, and Byron Jacobs, Secretary-Treasurer, tried to call for a Longshore Caucus, an elected body representing all ports, at the start of the EGT struggle to build solidarity actions on the Coast. International Officers blocked that effort, stopped Local 10 from implementing solidarity actions and kept the locked out workers isolated from the major ports in California. Moreover, union members like Longview Local 21’s Byron Jacobs and others were arrested for picketing and left in jail for weeks without bail or union defense. Tragically Byron died 2 years ago while working on the Longview docks because of unsafe working conditions. Many were inspired by Byron’s brave class struggle actionsduring that hard-fought battle.

Veterans of historic ILWU actions in defiance of Taft-Hartley against solidarity actions opposed the EGT contract in a signed leaflet, Danger! ILWU Headed in Wrong Direction! EGT-Longview Contract -Worst Ever!June 12, 2012 because it undermined basic union principles, gains and for the first time codified Taft-Hartley into a longshore contract. Apparently, this ILWU leadership has learned nothing from the union’s long and storied history. Signers of the leaflet included Local 10 members Leo Robinson, Howard  Keylor and Larry Wright who led the 1984 anti-apartheid strike and Herb Mills who organized protests against the 1960 HUAC hearings at San Francisco City Hall and the 1978 refusal of longshoremen to load bombs for Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile; Jack Mulcahy, longtime Local 8 activist who participated in the militant actions of the Northwest longshore grain workers and Jack Heyman, Local 10 who initiated the 2008 May Day West Coast ports shutdown against the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a union action stridently fought for and won against by PMA’s obstinate opposition with dire threats of suing the union over Taft-Hartley. All of these labor actions were initiated and organized from the bottom up not the top down.

ICTSI Campaign Was Top Down and Wrong—Union Solidarity Actions Are Bottom Up

Shortly after the EGT debacle was over, Sundet directed the “job trusting” campaign, actually union raiding, in Portland to get the two electrician jobs at ICTSI. Sundet, in an act of class collaboration, even got PMA to join the lawsuit jointly with the ILWU against ICTSI but the employers bailed out later. The “slowdown” claimed by ICTSI only reduced container handling by 5-7 cans an hour. ICTSI said ILWU was gimmicking safety issues. The truth is union members were being fined by Local 8 officials for raising safety beefs, shamefully doing diligent work for the employer. To top it off the judge wouldn’t allow this scandalous discipline by union bureaucrats to be introduced in court! Many members were frustrated by Sundet’s long-running top down job action. In any case the capitalist courts shouldn’t determine union jurisdiction. A job trust is an employer-worker monopolistic scheme for the benefit of the employer and labor aristocrats. An all port workers council should have been organized with longshoremen, electricians, mechanics, port truckers and other port workers to make the Portland waterfront 100% union and democratically decide jurisdictional disputes amongst the workers excluding the employers. Real class unity can challenge the employing class and even stop the fascist attacks in the Portland/Vancouver area.

At the start of the EGT campaign Sundet directed longshore workers to cross picket lines of AFL-CIO construction unions who were picketing the use of non-union labor to build the new EGT facility. Sundet’s scabrous action made it difficult later to get unions to honor ILWU picket lines and to get resolutions passed at the Oregon and Washington state AFL-CIO organizations. A couple years later during master longshore contract negotiations ILWU International Officers extended the expired agreement in order to help employers in Los Angeles quash a picket line of port truckers, mainly immigrant workers. That scam allowed the PMA arbitrator to rule it was an “illegal” action. Union officials then directed longshoremen to cross the truckers’ picket line breaking the action. It was these kinds of traitorous acts that earned ILWU President McEllrath and PMA President McKenna a joint Connie Award from the maritime capitalists.

Worse still, ILWU officials have continued to direct longshore workers to cross truckers picket lines. Local 13 president Ray Familathe, (who lost to Adams in the last election) even warned striking ILWU Boron miners in 2010 not to set up picket lines in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach under pain of losing their strike fund benefits. Other officials directed ILWU longshore workers to cross picket lines of the striking ILWU Local 63 Clerical Unit, largely women workers. ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles have been jettisoned down the hawsepipe sending the union in a downward tailspin. The need for a class struggle leadership is abundantly clear for the sake of all divisions of the ILWU.

Honoring ILWU’s “Ten Guiding Principles” and Building a Class Struggle Leadership

At the peak of the McCarthy witch hunts, the ILWU concerned about the survival of the organization, hammered together “Ten Guiding Principles”, one of which is to never cross or work behind a picket line even if ordered by your union officials. The last ILWU president, Brian McWilliams who understood the importance of labor solidarity and picket lines, was instrumental in supporting international solidarity for the Liverpool dockers struggle and shutting down West Coast ports in solidarity with the WTO protesters in Seattle.

A defining moment in the ILWU occurred at the 2002 Longshore Caucus. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Czar Ridge threatened the union that if there were any jobs actions on the docks, troops would be called out to occupy the ports.  The leadership did not call for international labor solidarity actions as in the past but requested the delegates not to vote for the traditional strike authorization to bolster the Negotiating Committee.

“Homeland Security,” cartoon by Mike Konopacki 2002.

Labor Must Defend the ILWU 

If ICTSI’s owner billionaire Enrique Razon is successful in his court suit, it would be a body blow to labor’s solidarity actions. Union bureaucrats, whether in ILWU or in any union, before taking any action will first consult with attorneys which means no action because of the fear of fines. Given the long history of ILWU’s labor solidarity, often challenging Taft-Hartley, it’s high time for other unions in the U.S. and internationally to reciprocate even if the ILWU isn’t at this time affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The old syndicalist motto must prevail, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

Has the labor movement learned its lesson from the defeat of the 1981 PATCO strike? President Reagan attacked the striking air traffic controllers, shackling its union leaders and hauling them off to jail in front of TV cameras, Trump style. The AFL-CIO leadership remained criminally silent, refusing to lift a finger to support the strikers’ picket lines and shut down the airports. Reportedly, when ILWU President Jim Herman suggested to IAM President William Winpisinger that airports and seaports be shutdown in an act of solidarity he was rebuffed. The trade union movement has paid a heavy price for the betrayal of PATCO strikers. Union membership has atrophied for the last 40 years, peaking in 1979 with 21 million members and atrophying to less than half that figure today.

In 2011, when AFL-CIO President Trumka issued a call for unions to support the besieged Wisconsin state workers. Only ILWU Local 10, again in defiance of Taft-Hartley and in the face of PMA employer threats, took on-the-job action and shut Bay Area ports down in a bold act of solidarity. The S.E. Wisconsin AFL-CIO issued a letter stating: “Whether it’s racist apartheid in South Africa, imperialist war in Iraq, or fascist plutocracy in Wisconsin, Local 10, over and over again, shows us “What a Union [should] look like!!” Please convey our appreciation to your members and kick some PMA ass on April 25. In Solidarity, James A. Cavanaugh, President.”

Now the survival of the ILWU is at stake. If the ranks follow ILWU’s militant history, West Coast ports will be shutdown against a union-busting, government-imposed fine. Other unions must join the fight. The ball is in the court of the working class, organized and unorganized. If Trumka doesn’t act in defense of the ILWU and call for solidarity actions, workers must pick up the cudgel. This anti-labor court decision in Portland is a decisive moment for organized labor and all working people.

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Support Unite Members In Dispute With The RSPCA

Unite the Union members at the RSPCA are currently being balloted to take strike action over new contracts being forced on them by RSPCA, who are proposing to end their hard working, skilled, caring and loyal staff’s contractual right to sickness, holiday and maternity pay.

The CEO Chris Sherwood is refusing point blank to negotiate with our union.

On Monday he will be on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett show at 11am.

To support the workers at the RSPCA by tuning in and join in the conversation. TEXT your questions to 85058.

Suggested questions:

  • You are forcing staff to leave your charity who have worked there for years. Why?
  • You have accepted that bullying is a big issue within the RSPCA. What have you done to try and resolve this?
  • Do you think that forcing everyone to change their contracts is also bullying?
  • Staff at your charity are balloting for industrial action. Do you feel that you have the confidence of your staff?

You can also Tweet the following messages to @bbc5live

 Please paste into your tweets one of the images at the bottom of this blog.

@bbc5live @RSPCA_Official @RSPCAChris Stop making staff sign their contractual rights away. Sit down with the @unitetheunion for meaningful talks. #RSPCAStrikeballot #RespectRSPCA

 @bbc5live @RSPCAChris I stand with @RSPCA_Official workers and @unitetheunion because negotiation is always better than imposing ‘bully boy’ contracts without consultation.#RSPCAStrikeballot @unitetheunion #RespectRSPCA

@bbc5live @RSPCA_Official @RSPCAChris Respect your staff and @unitetheunion. It’s time to return to the negotiating table and listen. #RespectRSPCA #RSPCAStrikeballot @unitetheunion

@bbc5live @RSPCA_Official @RSPCAChris Please stop the bully boy tactics and work with @uniettheunion to to rebuild trust. #RespectRSPCA #RSPCAStrikeballot @unitetheunion

@bbc5live @RSPCA_Official @RSPCAChris we stand with workers and are against the imposition of contractual changes without meaningful negotiation. #RespectRSPCA #RSPCAStrikeballot @unitetheunion

@bbc5live @RSPCA_Official @RSPCAChris I am outraged to hear that hardworking and dedicated RSPCA workers are being forced to sign new contracts which remove sick pay, maternity pay and other contractual rights. #RespectRSPCA #RSPCAStrikeballot @unitetheunion

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Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Zero-hours contracts – are they banned or not?

By Pat Rafferty, Unite Scotland Regional Secretary

The number of people on zero-hours contracts in Scotland has risen by 10 per cent over the last year: according to the Office for National Statistics, 70,000 people are on a zero-hours contract.

This represents a 10 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure of 64,000. It’s a worrying trend which we fear will only increase as Boris Johnson sets about delivering his Brexit dream of a low-wage and low-tax economy with minimal employment rights for workers.

This is where the Scottish government’s Fair Work First policy comes into play in the absence of employment law being devolved — which Unite supports. The policy sees conditions attached to workers’ pay and conditions for firms seeking grants or public contracts. It includes paying employees the Scottish Living Wage and perhaps this contractual clause is helping.

There has been progress in the percentage of workers earning less than the Living Wage falling to 16.9 per cent from 19.4 per cent in Scotland. But it’s important to highlight that the majority of work paid less than the living wage is in the private sector in Scotland where 343,000 or 24.8 per cent of workers still earn less than the living wage compared to 3.2 per cent in the public sector.

However, the rate of pay is only one element of the wider workplace contract and this is why we are concerned that the Scottish government’s policy doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. Unite has repeatedly asked the Scottish government for clarity on whether the new criteria are being actively applied.

There remains a great deal of confusion on what now determines whether a company gets public funds through an enterprise agency grant or on what grounds a company will be refused a public procurement contract through the new Fair Work First criteria.

For example, zero-hours contracts are not banned but instead the Scottish government says that there should be “no inappropriate use.” From our perspective any use is inappropriate and it should be leading by example by pledging to ban the use of these contracts — instead of leaving a back-door open.

We have written to government ministers on a number of occasions in order to dig a little bit deeper on what this criteria now means such as Fergus Ewing, the cabinet secretary for the rural economy, regarding the £1.7 million award to Bhagat Holdings Limited. The company has taken over the site of the former Pinneys of Scotland seafood plant in Annan.

Unite is pleased that around 120 much needed jobs are likely to be created and it’s right that levers are used to attract investment. However, we have got to demand that in return for taxpayers’ money, zero-hours contracts will be banned completely and that trade unions must have access to the workforce as conditions.

The Scottish government when asked directly on these issues in parliament stated that it will “attach conditionality to as many grants, funding streams and public contracts as we can by the end of this parliamentary session.” In our opinion this is evasive and elastic in terms of the timeline for implementation.

Despite the positive words of intent from the Scottish government that’s all it appears to be — warm words. In the context of Brexit and the Tory government it’s vital that the Scottish government proactively does all it can to protect and support workers including those who represent them.

The time for action is now. Unite is determined to hold every government to account and we will not let the Scottish government off the hook on creating decent working standards and conditions for all who live here.

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Posted in UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Why You Should Be A Trade Unionist

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey presents the case for joining a trade union in a new book, entitled ‘Why You Should Be A Trade Unionist’, published on 28th January. 

Drawing on anecdotes from his own long involvement in the labour movement, McCluskey looks at the history of the trade unions, what they do and how they give a voice to working people, as democratic organisations.

He considers the changing world of work, the challenges and opportunities of automation and why being trade unionists can enable us to help shape the future.

McCluskey sets out why being a trade unionist is a political role that compliments an industrial one and why the historic links between the labour movement and the Labour Party matter.

Ultimately, McCluskey explains how being a trade unionist means putting equality at work and in society front and centre, fighting for an end to discrimination, and to inequality in wages and power.

Commenting on ‘Why You Should Be A Trade Unionist’, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: A brilliant, accessible and thought-provoking book – and a reminder that unions will always be the best way for working-class people to win justice. 

 “Featuring a wealth of historical material, this lively and personal account shows how organised labour can thrive in the future. A must-read for trade unionists, activists and anybody who wants to build a more equal society.”

Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror’s associate editor, said: Len McCluskey is Britain’s best known, and arguably most powerful, trade union leader for good reason. He engagingly mixes personal experiences with unflinching conviction to present a compelling argument for the value of organised labour – whichever political party is in Government.”

Why You Should be a Trade Unionist’ is published by Verso Books and is available to order here.

For book related enquiries please contact Maya Osborne on 0207 437 3546. Email: Maya@verso.co.uk

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Ukraine Unions Mobilise Against Anti Union Laws

Kyiv, January 15, 2020: the IUF-affiliated Agro-Industrial Workers’ Union of Ukraine (AIWU Ukraine) in a joint union protest against the draft labour law.

From the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) 

The government of Ukraine is preparing a massive legislative assault on fundamental trade union rights. A draft labour law submitted to parliament on December 27th, with no prior consultation with unions, would undermine fundamental rights by, among other measures: excluding unions from the workplace and eliminating collective bargaining; encouraging unfair dismissals while promoting fixed-term and zero-hour contracts; facilitating the transfer of employees without their consent; imposing a massive expansion of overtime; and eliminating many social protections, for example by facilitating the dismissal of mothers with small children.

The proposed law is in flagrant violation of ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 131 on Minimum Wage Fixing as well as the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The IUF, our members in Ukraine and unions internationally are calling on the government to immediately abandon the draft labour law and respect international standards and commitments made to unions at national level.

Kyiv, January 15th, 2020: the IUF-affiliated Agro-Industrial Workers’ Union of Ukraine (AIWU Ukraine) in a joint union protest against the draft labour law.

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ASLEF Says Anti Union Laws Amount To ‘Slave Labour’

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan

Draconian new rail anti-strike laws planned by the government amount to “slavery and forced labour,” Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said yesterday.

He said that this new Tory legislation would require rail unions to sign “minimum service agreements” guaranteeing maintenance of services during strike action.

If such an agreement was not honoured, a strike would be deemed unlawful and unions could face court injunctions or damages.

Mr Whelan told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I’m at war with the ethos of forced labour, any form of indenture or slavery.

“I think that’s what they’re trying to do. The reality is that it’s not a well-known fact that only Lithuania has worse labour laws than we do.

“Now you want to take the actual opportunity to strike against bad employers away.”

He agreed that “slavery” was a strong word to use and added: “That’s the strength of feeling. When I talk to people not just in my industry but elsewhere, that is the feeling of how it is.

“I think it’s a form of forced labour. We have no right to strike in the UK now, we only have the right not to be sued if we jump through a multitude of hoops that are put in place.”

Previously Mr Whelan had described the latest anti-strike proposals as a “declaration of war” against rail workers.

The proposals have been widely criticised, with Labour peers condemning the plans as “reprehensible.”

They follow widespread strike action on England’s rail network, particularly by the RMT in its campaign to protect passenger safety by keeping the jobs of guards on trains.

The government is pressing privateer rail operators to get rid of guards despite their proven role in helping passengers to safety in emergency incidents, which have included derailments and collisions.

Most recently RMT staged 27 days of strike action on South Western Railway in the long-running dispute over guards.

Operators in Wales and Scotland have reached agreement with RMT on the guards’ issue.

From the Morning Star January 20th.

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Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, International Employment Rights, UK Employment Rights, Uncategorized | Leave a comment