IndustriALL Europe Warns On EU – Mexico Trade Deal

As delegations of the European Union and Mexico met in Brussels on 13th – 14th June for the first round of negotiations to update the Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation Agreement (Global Agreement), which entered into force in 2000, IndustriALL Europe the union body covering manufacturing, energy and mining unions across Europe has warned any deal must include an end to attacks on free trade unions in  Mexico. And a new report just published sets out a damning critique of the proposed deal. (See below)

In a press release Mexico and the EU said the new deal was neccesary. “It is notably crucial to adapt  EU-Mexico relations to the new realities of global trade and investment policies and flows, strengthen political dialogue and increase cooperation and coordination on foreign policy issues to better respond to the shared global challenges of a new modern world, from security threats, to migration, the fight against epidemics and climate change”.

However, IndustriALL Europe agreed with a proposal from Unite at the recent IndustriALL Europe Conference in Madrid that the revision of the agreement could have a significant impact on workers in both the European Union and Mexico, especially taken in conjunction with the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which has already been negotiated and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is currently under negotiation.

Ben Richards from Unite’s International Department

Unite’s Ben Richards highlighted the deteriorating human rights situation in Mexico and the systematic complicity of government officials and security forces in forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions by security forces, attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, persecution of refugees and asylum seekers – and the government’s failure to prosecute human rights violators – have been documented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other impartial observers.

Unite warned that Mexico continues to systematically violate international labour standards regarding freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining. Specific concerns included corruption and conflict of interest in the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, the pervasive use of employer-dominated “protection contracts,” (which allow for non independent company or yellow unions) and delays in union representation elections.

Unite also said that there was continuing gender discrimination, child labour, and violations of workplace health and safety among also serious ongoing problems. Unite said these violations have been extensively documented in the reports of ILO supervisory bodies and independent experts.

IndustriAll Europe, agreed that in coordination with the ETUC, the ITUC and TUCA, IndustriALL Global Union and its Mexican affiliates, they will raise these concerns with Members of the European Parliament, with the European Commission and with our national governments.

Importantly it is intended to strengthen the ISDS clauses in the revised agreement which would allow global corporations more freedom to sue soverign governments if they take action that could impinge n their profits.

A new report has been published which highlights the dangers of the ‘modernised’ deal.

Unmasked: Corporate rights in the renewed Mexico-EU FTA’ sets out in detail the danger of the modernised agreement and the full report can be downloaded here.

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Campaign For TU Freedom – On The Road – Fringe Meetings – Tolpuddle

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Campaign For TU Freedom – On The Road – Fringe Meetings – Durham

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Campaign For TU Freedom – On The Road – Fringe Meetings

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Iran: Miners Receive Floggings For Protest Action

Flogging IranFrom the International Alliance in Support Of Workers in Iran (IASWI), June 1st, 2016

The anti-union anti worker regime of Islamic Republic of Iran in May 2016 has carried out flogging sentences against 17 workers at Agh Dareh Gold Mine in West Azerbaijan Province. Each worker received between 30 and 100 lashes.

The regime carried out these brutal flogging sentences against mine workers after they staged actions to protest layoffs of about 350 workers.

This is not the first time the anti-worker IRI has sentenced workers to flogging.

However, within the currant socio-economic and political contexts and the implementation of the most aggressive austerity and anti-worker agendas in Iran after the nuclear deal with the US and other world capitalist powers, the regime is preparing for even harder stance against the working class.

We are calling on the international working class to strongly condemn the barbaric flogging sentences against workers in Iran and to pressure the Iranian regime to stop this brutal and torturous practice altogether.

 

 

 

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The sort of company the UK shouldn’t want to keep at the ILO

ilo-logoBy Owen Tudor Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department. (First published on June 2nd the TUC’s Touchstone blog)

The annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is taking place during the first half of June in Geneva, and the TUC’s delegate Stephen Russell has already blogged on the key issue of the conference – the rules governing global supply chains. But there is another, rather more domestic issue on the agenda: the UK government’s Trade Union Act. And the ILO’s considerations should be causing very red faces in the Government.

Every year, the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) – made up of employers, trade unionists and government reps from around the world – considers some of the worst breaches of the ILO’s international employment standards, as identified by the ILO’s hugely respected Committee of Experts. And for the first time since the Thatcher government banned trade unions from GCHQ, the UK is back on the CAS agenda – because of the Trade Union Act.

The Act will be considered by the CAS next Monday, with their decision due to be reported to the ILO’s plenary session next Friday, 10 June. But whatever the result, the very fact that the Trade Union Act is one of only 24 breaches of international labour standards being considered by the CAS should be embarrassing enough for the UK government.

What’s even more embarrassing for the UK is the rest of the list: the sort of international company that the UK is keeping thanks to the Trade Union Act. Other countries up before the CAS this year include Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. These are hardly models of respect for workers’ rights!

The British Government is likely to argue that the Act isn’t in force yet, and that the subsidiary regulations which bring some of its critical elements into practice haven’t yet been written. But that’s one of the key reasons why the CAS should hear the case: so that its findings can be taken into account, either by scrapping the law entirely which is the TUC’s preference, or amending it to bring it more into line with the fundamental human rights set down in ILO core conventions.

And it was one of the more surprising conclusions of the ILO Committee of Experts’ report in March, which went beyond its normal practice of saying “we’ll see how it turns out in practice” by recommending changes to the legislation while it was still being considered by Parliament. The Committee’s findings were influential in the House of Lords’ consideration of the then Trade Union Bill, and helped us secure some of the amendments that were won.

Key outstanding issues which we’re hoping the CAS will take up – apart from the Act as a whole – are the use of agency workers to replace strikers, the sectors covered by the double lock balloting requirements, and allowing electronic balloting – all issues still in play.

Of course, the Committee of Experts’ report still stands, no matter what the CAS decides – the experts are just that, after all! But the CAS’ tripartite membership gives an indication of just how far out of step with acceptable practice the Trade Union Act is. And it puts the British government in a rogues’ gallery of workers’ rights abusers that should give Ministers further grounds for thinking again.

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CTUF On The Road – Tollpuddle Festival

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CTUF On The Road – Durham Miners Gala

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UK Union Membership Up – Denisty Down

Union-Flickrreach.richardgibbensBy Tony Burke, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have recently published its Trade Union Membership 2015 Statistical Bulletin. The report tracks trade union membership and density across the UK economy in both private and public sectors and provides a snapshot of the state of union membership.

It does not make for easy reading as this years report shows a mixed picture with a welcome increase of 36,000 members between 2014 and 2015 – but given growth in total number of people in employment trade union density has fallen slightly to 24.7%.

Union membership in the private sector increased for the fifth successive year but overall union ‘density’ declined to 13.9%. Public sector union density increased slightly to 54.8% which reflects the decreasing number of public sector employees, but also a rise in union membership levels in the public sector against a background of significant cuts to the workforce.

The report shows that 43% of employees are employed in a workplace where a trade union is present – providing opportunities for unions to mount ‘in-fill’ or ‘100%’ organizing campaigns.

The long-term trend of a decline in male union membership continues, whilst women workers are once again more likely to be a union member – the proportion of men in unions is 21.7% compared to 27.7% for women.

Worryingly union members are increasingly older workers. The proportion of trade union members aged below 50 has fallen since 1995, whilst the proportion aged above 50 has increased – and union membership among workers aged between 16 and 24 is still very low – at 5%.

Workers in the professions are more likely to be union members with workers in education showing the highest levels of union membership followed by health workers, energy workers and transport workers. Manufacturing – once the heartland of union membership in the UK is around 18%.

Middle income earners are more likely to be trade union members and workers in full time, permanent work are more likely to be union members. As with previous years UK born and black ethnic group employees are more likely to be union members.

The report shows that workers with a disability are more likely to be a trade union members and workers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the northern regions of England are more likely to be trade union members, but union membership levels were down compared with 1995 in England, Scotland and Wales, but increased in Northern Ireland.

It is still the case that workers in larger companies are more likely to have pay and conditions negotiated via collective bargaining but for the first time in four years, the union wage gap decreased – in the public sector down from 21.6% in 2014 to 16.1% in 2015 and in the private sector down from 8.2% to 7.7%, but the report shows there is there is still a ‘trade union premium’.

The continuing cuts in the public services and the decline in large scale manufacturing continues to effect union membership – as does the growth in precarious work – agency work, zero hours, self employment and as the digital disruption of the economy grows with new forms of work including ‘gig’ working and the Uberization of employment this will add to the pressure on unions to find new ways of organizing and representing workers.

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Obituary; Ken Cameron

Ken Cameron : "A Socialist And Comrade"

Ken Cameron : “A Socialist And Comrade”

By Peta Steel

Ken Cameron, the stalwart socialist General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who has just died at the age of 75 was one of the most charismatic and effective figures in the trade union movement as it came under attack from the Tory Government during the 1980s.

Cameron was a constant supporter to the Mineworkers, print workers and ambulance workers as they faced action from Thatcher and her Ministers as they tried to dismantle the welfare system and strip workers of their rights.

Cameron was General Secretary of the Fire Brigades’ Union from 1980 to 2000, and during that time led the fight to stop the fire brigade from being privatised and to protect their pay and conditions. At the same time he did much to support other trade unionists and in particular the National Union of Mineworkers raising money to help them and liaise with other organisations.

Cameron was born in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands in 1941, his mother who was Irish worked in the local big houses as a cleaner taught him about socialism. He was to remain immensely proud of her and of his background for the rest of his life. His clear Highland’s accent though later tempered through years of living in England would demand immediate attention as he spoke.

Like many Scots he received an education that gave him a fundamental understanding of international relations and an abiding hatred of apartheid and injustice.

He left school determined to make a difference. A brief span training as a journalist on the Aberdeen Press and Journal came to an end when he was sacked after falling into a swimming pool whilst covering an international swimming competition.  Jobs in those days were less easy to come by as the exploration of the local oil fields was only just beginning.

Cameron who had also worked as a special constable moved to Birmingham where he trained to be a policeman, before joining the fire brigade service.

It was no surprise that he became increasingly involved with the Fire Brigade’s Union; gradually rising through its’ ranks, becoming one of its most progressive and charismatic leaders. He was to lead the protest following the strikes of 1977-78 as the fire brigade were threatened with cut backs under a Labour Government. In 1980 he became General Secretary of the FBU a role he was to hold for the next 20 years.

His appointment came as Thatcher with her hard views at taking on the trade unions and dismantling the nationalised industries was elected in to Government. He was one of the first to warn of the impending struggle and to try and unite the unions so that they could defend themselves.

But it was during the miners strike to protect jobs during 1984/1985 that Cameron came to the fore playing a leading part in raising money to help the union. Even travelling to the USA to raise funds; And at one time taking money from his own union’s funds to help them, the £20,000 was paid back six years later.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Cameron became a familiar face on the picket lines and at meetings constantly giving support. He was to do the same during the Ambulance Workers Strike. He never turned down calls for help and earned a reputation for being approachable and supportive.

He was also a champion of international causes giving strong support to the ANC and Mandela in the fight against apartheid, which was in those days being undermined by Thatcher who looked on Mandela as a terrorist and in raising awareness of the problems and the injustice suffered by the Palestinians.

He was to move the first pro Palestinian motion at Congress in 1982.   On his retirement he was to receive a personal letter from Nelson Mandela who by that time had become a friend, becoming an honorary member of the FBU in 1990.

He was both sanguine and pragmatic when Blair became leader of the Labour Party, resisting measures that would see the jettisoning of Clause Four. But on the day the motion to get rid of it passed, mourned its loss and made reference that Labour would come into government but would lose some of its soul in doing so.

On his retirement he served on the Central Arbitration Committee. He was chair of the PPPS management committee which runs the Morning Star for several years.

Paying tribute to him Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU said ‘Ken was a forward thinking, socialist union leader who devoted many years of his life to protect Fireworkers pay and conditions. Ken defended everything that was good about the work of firefighters.

Asked how he would describe himself Cameron said: ‘a socialist and a comrade’.

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