Australia : “Integrity” legislation flouts international labour standards

Australian PM Scott Morrison launches major attack on trade unions.

Thanks to Barry Camfield for sending this article from the Workplace Express workplace express.com.au

Thursday, July 18th

New analysis warns the Morrison Government that it will breach two key ILO conventions if it proceeds with its revived legislation to make it easier to deregister unions and disqualify their officials.

The research by the UK-based International Centre for Trade Union Rightshas landed as the government and unions are lobbying key Senate crossbenchers over the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019.

The paper, by the ICTUR’s director Daniel Blackburn and researcher Ciaran Crosson behalf of the ACTU says the Bill would allow the Minister, the ROC and any person “with sufficient interest” – which could include employer groups and lobbyists – to seek to have union officers disqualified or unions deregistered.

It says these provisions are “incompatible with Australia’s commitments” under the ILO’s Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

In particular, the report cites Articles 2and 3of Convention 87 which deal with workers’ rights to establish their own organisations and to draw up their own rules and elect their own officials.

It says the legislation conflates serious crimes and minor legal infractions, blurs joint and individual liabilities, and establishes “punitive sanctions that are both disproportionate and arbitrarily directed”.

It argues the criminal law should apply without special dispensation for unions, but the Integrity Bill allows for disqualification of officials and deregistration of unions for “designated offences” which include relatively minor breaches of industrial law.

The report notes that the standards for disqualification from office are stricter than those applying to Federal MPs, who are barred from nominating as candidates if serving a prison sentence of 12 months or more.

It argues that allowing persons with “sufficient interest” to apply for disqualification of officials and for deregistration of unions is not “a recipe for industrial peace.”

“In operation it turns the current system of registration into one under which the basic purpose of freedom of association – which should be guaranteed without restriction or impairment – may be severely curtailed on minor grounds, at the initiation of employers or other parties hostile to organised labour.

“This creates instability and unpredictability in industrial relations and such an outcome is unlikely to benefit even those who are advocating it.

“Deregistered unions are unlikely to roll over and die – a fact to which Australia’s own historical experiences with deregistration can testify.

“On the contrary, such measures are likely to exacerbate conflicts over industrial and employment policies.

Proposal aligned with oppressive laws in Turkey and Brazil

Overall, the report says the Bill is even more oppressive than Turkey’s labour laws and “invites comparisons with the regulations deployed by repressive regimes.”

It also compares the proposed legislation to laws introduced by a Brazilian dictatorship in the 1940s that was “probably the closest [to the Integrity Bill] of all those we considered”.

“For Australia to propose an industrial law reform that would bring it closer to the example provided by Brazil’s historical dictatorship than to those found in modern Western Europe illustrates just how alarming these developments are.

“The proposal is not merely ‘out of step’ with the industrial relations systems of comparable countries; it has no rightful place in a modern liberal democracy.”

Australian Congress Of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neilsays Australia already has one of the most restrictive regimes of regulations on workers’ organisations among democratic nations.

“This extreme new law would align Australia with authoritarian, undemocratic countries,” she said.

IR Minister Christian Porter has argued that the 2019 Bill introduces new and streamlined cancellation grounds to deal with registered organisations that are closer to the law relating to companies and company officers under the Corporations Act (see Related Article).

These changes have been made to an earlier Bill – which was introduced in 2017 but not passed before this year’s federal election – after it failed to win crossbench support.

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019, Research paper by The International Centre for Trade Union Rights, on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, by Daniel Blackburn and Ciaran Cross,
July 2019

EM says Bill “reasonable and proportionate” on rights

The 2019 Bill’s  explanatory memorandum maintains that the changes do not affect the rights of workers to continue to be represented because an “organisation that obeys the law and complies with its rules is not at risk of having its registration cancelled”.

The EM says that the Federal Court can make alternative, lesser orders to disqualifying an official or deregistering a union.

“Providing for the possibility of disqualification from office and restricting who can be elected to office, in circumstances where a ground for disqualification has been made out and the Federal Court considers disqualification just, is a rational means of ensuring greater compliance with the standards of conduct reasonably expected of officers, and a rational method for improving governance of organisations more generally.”

“Any limitations on the capacity of registered organisations to regulate their affairs as they see fit are a necessary and proportionate means of ensuring greater compliance with the standards of conduct reasonably expected of officers and improving the governance of registered organisations,” it says.

“These are reasonable and proportionate methods of ensuring that officials who deliberately disobey the law are restricted in their ability to be in charge of registered organisation.

“It is also necessary and proportionate that the sanction of disqualification for a substantial number of members’ failure to comply with core industrial laws is placed on officials as it is incumbent on those in leadership positions to promote a culture of compliance.

“This will serve to protect the interests of members and support public order by ensuring the leadership of registered organisations act lawfully.”

The EM says that article 8(1) of ILO Convention 87 specifically provides that, in exercising the rights to freedom of association, workers, employers and their respective organisations shall respect the law of the land.

“Choosing to register under the Act is a privilege governed by the existing Act.

“Organisations registered under the Act do not currently have freedom to conduct their affairs in any way they see fit, but are bound by the Act.

“When organisations or their officers deliberately breach the Act then there must be an effective sanction if the system of registration is to remain meaningful. In the case of a registered organisation, the sanction could include losing the right to expand through amalgamation, being placed into administration, or losing registration.

“Consistent with the existing structure for the registration of industrial associations, the Bill makes clear that there is a framework within which registered organisations must operate.” 

The legislation has been referred to a Senate inquiry(see Related Article).

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CTUF – IER Rally at the Durham Miners Gala by Lorraine Mannion

Unite Assistant Chief Of Staff Speaking on trade with the USA

John Henry QC speaking on a new set of Employment and Collective Bargaining rights under Labour

Dr. Lydia Hayes talking on sectoral collective bargaining and employment rights in Wales under a Wales Labour Assembly

Laura Pidcock MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister Of Labour (with son Solomon) speaking on Labour’s programme on employment rights and collective bargaining.

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In Place of Strife (1969): Trade Union legal rights & responsibilities revisited

In response to Peter Dorey’s new book In Place of Strife, History & Policy’s Trade Union and Employment Forum held a seminar on 27 April at the Modern Records Centre, at the University of Warwick.

Historians, trade unionists and academics gathered to discuss the conflict, 50 years ago, between the Harold Wilson Labour Government and the trade unions over the Barbara Castle White Paper ‘In Place of Strife’ which was one of the pivotal moments of post-war British Industrial Relations.

It pitched voluntarist ideas of ‘free collective bargaining’ against ideas of economic planning and public policy concerns about strikes, inflation and restrictive practices.

Listen to the event on SoundCloud. The audio is also available on iTunes.

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Step forward for workers’ rights as ILO clamps down on violence and harassment

ILO delegates who agreed the new convention and recommendation. ©ILO

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

The decision of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to create new labour standards which address violence and harassment in the workplace has been welcomed by trade unions and human rights groups across globe.

The ILO adopted the new convention on 21st June in the new ‘Violence and Harassment Convention 2019’ (the first new ILO Convention since 2011).

The new convention calls on countries across the globe to enforce ‘zero tolerance’ of any form of violence and harassment at work.

The Violence and Harassment Convention 2019 was also adopted along with the Violence and Harassment Recommendation 2019 and covers violence and harassment directly in the workplace; during workers’ breaks; at work-related events and visits and commuting to and from work. The Convention will not only tackle physical violence but also worker discrimination and labour law abuse.

It calls on countries to promote the rights of employees to organise into unions, the right to collective bargaining and the prevention of forced labour and child labour.

The ILO said that countries – in line with the new labour standard, laws and policies – must assure inclusivity and equality in the labour force especially for women and for workers who are part of sectors or groups vulnerable to violence and discrimination.

The treaty covers all workers, trainees, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, job seekers, and others, and applies to both ‘formal and informal sectors’.

It also covers violence and harassment involving third parties, such as customers and service providers.

The new convention defines violence and harassment as: “A range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.”

The Convention will officially come into force 12 months after two member states have ratified it. ILO Conventions are legally binding while Recommendations are guidelines on how Conventions are to be implemented.

A number of countries advocated stronger protections, against violence and harassment at work including France, Canada, New Zealand, Uganda, Namibia, Philippines, and many Latin American and Caribbean states.

Of 476 votes, 439 voted for, seven voted against, and 30 abstained.

The United States reversed its decision from last year and chose to vote in favour of the convention – but not for the recommendation which provides further guidance on the measures required under the convention. Singapore, Russia, El Salvador, Malaysia, Paraguay and Kyrgyzstan abstained on the ratification.

Governments are now being urged to ratify the convention to ensure it comes into force as soon as possible.

This blog was first posted on Left Foot Forward on June 28th.

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How the ministry of labour will defeat neo-liberalism

Laura Pidcock is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and MP for and MP for North West Durham

Today workplaces are hostile environments – but Labour’s new ministry by and for workers will change all that, Laura Pidcock told the Arise festival of left ideas.

The work of the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) over the last three decades has been essential and remains so today.

It has been advising me in my role as shadow minister for labour, but much more than that, it’s been instrumental in providing the building blocks for a new department in a future Labour government, a ministry of labour, which I believe will be transformative for workers and workplaces.

It’s such an important and exciting part of Labour’s programme and I’m delighted to be heading it up.

So where are we at? Many workplaces are hostile environments, for both workers and their representatives, the trade unions. That isn’t good for us, as a labour movement, the economy or society.

We have a generation of people for whom work means stress and insecurity, where their rights are seen as insignificant in relation to the power of their employers, where contracts are temporary and where their wage doesn’t pay the bills. People in this country are underemployed, overworked and poorly paid.

And the roots of this hostile environment? The answer is obvious. It’s about a lack of union power and the decimation of bargaining coverage, that is for trade unions to be able to negotiate the terms, conditions and rates of pay of workers.

What we must do is explain that to people who’ve grown up in an environment where unions have been stigmatised or ignored. But that is the reality: even the Institute for Financial Studies — hardly a bastion of revolutionary thinking — has recently pointed out the correlation between pay inequality and a rapid dwindling of trade union power and membership.

As the work that John Hendy and Keith Ewing have done via the IER has shown, the percentage of workers covered by a collective agreement has gone from 82 per cent to around 22 per cent.

In the private sector it is even worse — it’s impossible to say precisely, but collective bargaining coverage in the private sector is generally considered to be around 15 per cent.

The roots of this are entirely political: they lie in a neoliberal political project Margaret Thatcher heralded from the 1970s onwards.

The deliberate strategy of the Thatcher government was to take on the unions in order to make the British economy work for a different, free-market model — making a quick profit on the back of low pay and insecure contracting.

Its aim was to individualise and atomise work and shift the cultural norms of the British workplace explicitly to divide workers.

And of course, that had a knock-on effect. It was remarkably effective in lowering worker confidence. While the miners fought on, through a year of the miners’ strike in the mid-1980s, their ultimate defeat was another hammer blow to the idea of collective strength of the unions.

Now, we have two generations who have not experienced collectivism of the kind that could fundamentally shift the hold of employers over workers and a generation who do not know what a trade union is for and the power of workers standing together. It was such a successful strategy.

We now have workers who are scared to ask to go to the toilet, urinating in bottles, miscarrying at work, there are chicken factory workers in the US who have to wear nappies because they are not allowed toilet breaks.

Of course, in between those defeats and the situation we’re in right now, where precarious work has become commonplace, we had three New Labour governments.

That could have been an opportunity to roll back some of the Thatcher revolution, but instead it was an opportunity wasted. Not only did Tony Blair and co fail to remedy the anti-trade union laws, in some cases they boasted that we had the most restrictive labour environment in Europe.

Of course it is easy to pay lip service to the unions and unionised workers. There are still six million trade union members and even the current government is aware of this fact.

So, while they restrict facility time, enact legislation which makes negotiation harder, strip away rights and force unions to jump through ridiculous bureaucratic hoops to take strike action, they also set up the Taylor review, or to give it its full title: “Good Work: the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.”

But Taylor fundamentally misses the mark, because it does not acknowledge the structural problem, which is lack of union role in our workplaces.

So, how would we respond, as the Labour Party in government? The first thing to say is that we would acknowledge and build our solutions around that gap: we would put unions and their members at the heart of our economy. Easier said than done of course, which is why we have a plan.

That plan involves creating a ministry of labour, bringing back a department specifically designed for workers, their rights and industrial relations.

This was abolished by Thatcher and unsurprisingly, the current Tories have no interest in bringing it back.

So, even though I am shadow minister for labour, I have no opposite number. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t get to ask questions in the House of Commons, just that they have to scrabble around to find someone to answer them — what a disrespect to workers.

Sectoral collective bargaining will be the beating heart of that department — because the institution of collective bargaining, that is, the ability for workers to negotiate their pay and conditions, collectively, changes everything.

The ministry of labour will also oversee an uplift of the statutory minimums — not just on pay, but things like maternity and paternity pay. We will also take enforcement seriously and create a labour inspectorate to enforce those minimums — because they are useless if they are on paper only.

We’ll also put equalities at the centre of this new working environment. And this will work hand in hand with an ethical social security system headed up by Margaret Greenwood, our shadow work and pensions secretary.

We’re not tinkering any more, because we know that will not be enough. After 10 years of austerity and three decades of free-market dogmatism, we know that only a radical change will shift our society in the direction of workers.

I am so excited and energised by this project and the work that I’m doing with Ewing, Hendy, the IER and trade unionists from all over the country — because, if we work together, and get it right, it will result in the largest transference of power from bosses to workers in generations.

Thank you for all the work you have put in, as trade union reps and organisers and activists over the years. Please see this project as your project — and a future Labour government as us all going into government together.

Of course, there is an obvious onus on the trade union movement, too, and will need to meet that challenge.

There will need to be a concerted effort to recruit. It will be our aim, in government, to provide the legislative framework for trade unions to organise; to have access to the workplace; for workers to have the right to withdraw their labour.

But it will be a joint effort, the political and the industrial halves of the labour movement coming together. That’s the only way we will succeed — and I think we will, comrades.

 Laura Pidcock is shadow minister for business, energy and industrial strategy and MP for North West Durham.

 This article was first published in the Morning Star on June 29th

Laura Pidcock will be speaking at the CTUF – IER Events at the Durham Miners Gala on July 12th and Tolpuddle on July 19th.

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Trade must promote good jobs and labour standards

Paul Nowak Deputy General Secretary of the TUC

The TUC’s Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak has been appointed to the government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group that will advise the government on trade policy. 

On the day of the Group’s first meeting, June 6th, with Secretary of State for International Trade Dr. Liam Fox MP for the first meeting of the Government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. the TUC joined with fellow members of the group – the employers body the CBI, the Federation of Small Business, SB, Fairtrade Foundation and Which? – to release a statement calling on the government to ensure trade policy and trade deals:

  • Enforce and uphold international labour standards
  • Provide full protection for all public services
  • Promote the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Ensures fair and transparent dispute resolution
  • Promote good jobs and fair pay

The joint statement can be found here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/jointstatementUKtradepolicy

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35th Annual Orgreave Rally

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A ban on zero-hours contracts – a massive victory for Irish unions

Two warehouse workers

By Matt Creagh TUC Policy Officer

This week, following sustained union campaigning, Irish legislation came into force which bans zero-hours contracts and secures other key rights for workers in insecure employment. 

This is ground-breaking, and gives added impetus to the UK union campaigns to ban zero-hours contracts. TUC analysis shows that there are 850,000 workers in the UK trapped on zero-hours contracts. 

Patricia King, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, described the legislation as “one of the most significant pieces of employment law in 20 years”.

Irish unions have won three key rights for zero-hours workers, that UK workers don’t yet have:

  1. Zero–hour contracts are now banned, in almost all circumstances.
  2. Workers have the right to compensation from their employer if they turn up for a shift but are sent home without work.
  3. Workers are entitled to guaranteed hours of work that reflect their normal working week.

Key problems faced by zero-hours workers in the UK

Zero-hours contract workers do not have guaranteed, specified working hours, despite often working regular hours. Zero-hours contracts often don’t reflect the true nature of the employment relationship. Other problems include:

  • Employers having complete discretion over working hours. Workers must make themselves available for work at their boss’s request. They are effectively on call constantly.
  • Zero-hours contract workers face great uncertainty about their working hours and income, making it harder to plan their finances and other needs such as childcare.
  • Workers have reported being denied bank loans and mortgages because of the lack of guaranteed hours in their contracts.
  • Job insecurity triggers stress and anxiety amongst many workers, who have bills to pay and families to support.
  • These workers are much less likely to receive key employment rights than they are legally entitled to, such as sick and holiday pay.
  • Workers who raise workplace issues or are unable to work when required by the employer, will often find their working hours reduced as a form of punishment.

The campaign to ban zero-hours contracts in the UK

In many workplaces, unions are negotiating agreements with employers that prevent the use of zero-hours contracts, making sure that workers have greater financial and job security.

The Low Pay Commission is an independent body that advises the government about the National Minimum Wage. It has written to the government advising it to adopt almost identical measures to those set out in the Irish legislation. It has also suggested that workers should have a right to reasonable notice of their work schedule. 

The Low Pay Commission recognises that there is a problem with “one sided flexibility” in the labour market, which enables employers to have an “on demand” workforce, while minimising their obligations to the people who work for them.

The UK government must do more

The government recently published a Good Work Plan in response to the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. The recommendations from both the review and the plan are inadequate. They fail to take any measures which will guarantee greater job security for people working on zero-hours contracts. 

The government proposes introducing the ‘right to request’ – a more stable and predictable contract after six months in the job. We have repeatedly said the ‘right to request’ is no right at all. It provides workers with the option to ask, but no right to receive, so the power dynamic remains firmly in favour of the employer.

Nevertheless, the government is likely to introduce an employment bill to implement some of the other recommendations in its plan. The TUC will continue to press for a ban on zero-hours contracts to be included in this legislation.

An alternative to zero-hours contracts is possible

The UK government has fostered an environment where businesses can operate with very limited obligations to the people who work for them. They defend this business model by saying it allows both employer and worker more flexibility to determine their working arrangements. 

This does not reflect reality: many people on zero-hours contracts are trapped in these jobs, unable to turn work down that their employer offers them. TUC research has shown that most zero-hours contract workers would prefer a contract with guaranteed hours.

The Irish unions’ campaign and subsequent legislation has demonstrated the viability of banning zero-hours contracts. Trade unions negotiating agreements with employers, to provide greater job security for their workforce, is evidence that it is possible to operate a business without having a brazen disregard for the workforce.

The government should recognise the weight of evidence from home and abroad that a ban on zero-hours contracts is long overdue.

First published on the TUC blog site.

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ESSO/UGLy Dispute – Longford, Australia Reaches 700 Days

The dispute in Longford Australia at Esso/Ugly has reached a marathon 700 days on our picket line as we fight back against Exxon Mobil & UGL/CIMIC’s blatant attack on their workers & workers families.

By use of a sham collective agreement signed by just 5 people 2200 miles (3500Km’s) away, Exxon Mobil & UGL/CIMIC successfully slashed wages by 40%, cut 40 years of hard fought conditions, stripped a number of employee allowances & imposed a stand down clause that will see workers at work, but without pay.

We cannot let them get away with this & set precedence to do the same thing anywhere else in the world.

Standing on a picket line 24 hrs per day, 7 days per week takes a lot of hard work from our members & a lot of support from others. So to thank you for your ongoing support, we have uploaded a small 5 minute video to say an extra special thank you to all those who have (& continue) to support us Internationally. We appreciate each & every single one of you & hope to send you some good news soon.

But for the time being, it’s “Stand Up, Fight Back” & “for as long as it takes”.

Please see link below, and feel free to contact me anytime.

In unity & solidarity,

Troy Carter, AMWU Lead Delegate, ESSO/UGL Dispute Australia

+61 419 358 196

Please send message of solidarity to the dispute at:

troyoffshore@netspace.net.au

 

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Holiday Inn Group Reported To UN For Anti Union Behaviour

Holiday Inn owner, IHG reported to United Nations Global Compact for ‘unethical’ anti-trade union behaviour

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has lodged a formal complaint to the United Nations Global Compact today (Wednesday 1 May) over the ‘unethical’ anti- trade union behaviour of the world’s fourth largest and richest hotel chain, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), in breach of its obligations under the UN’s international agreement.

The complaint includes a report, Unethical IHG,  which details a decade of poor working practices and deliberate anti-trade union avoidance tactics across IHG’s UK hotel-estate, including housekeepers at a five star IHG-owned hotel being bullied, overworked, and then denied the right to have their grievance heard collectively. 

IHG, which made $27.4bn last year, signed up to the UN Global Compact in 2009, committing to uphold its 10 principles including, principle 3; the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining – a move which helped secure its contract as the official hotel provider for the London Olympics in 2012.

Unite is now urging the UN Global Compact to step in after IHG management’s repeated backtracking on allowing Unite access to the group’s Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels in London to speak to workers, distribute union materials and represent members over nearly a decade of on-off negotiations.

On Friday (3 May) fair hospitality campaigners from Unite will also be greeting shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting (AGM), with a call for the hotel operator to pay its UK staff the real living wage of £9 an hour (£10.55 an hour in London) and recognise the union.

The AGM is taking place at its flagship Intercontinental Park Lane, London W1J 7QY from 11am.

Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said: “Hotel staff at IHG branded properties, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, are being bullied, overworked and underpaid. Their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining denied. This is according to a report, Unethical IHG, that Unite has submitted with a complaint to the UN Global Compact over breaches to principle 3; freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“Unite wants to see the UN Global Compact step up and defend the integrity of its corporate sustainability initiative. Companies need to understand that promoting and protecting human rights at work is more than just a box ticking exercise.

“The UN Global Compact has got to mean something. It’s got to be genuine. If it’s not, or companies are allowed to get away with picking and choosing the bits that suit, then the whole thing is devalued.

“When you have room attendants reporting a culture of fear and bullying, with one saying that she is ‘made to feel that I can’t do anything right’, as her manager regularly shouts and asks if ‘she can read properly.’ There is a problem. When union reps are then prevented from speaking up for these very same workers, there is an even bigger problem.

“IHG needs to be a global leader and start working with Unite to root out low pay, work insecurity, bullying and exploitation in its hotels. It’s only by working with the union and living up to its commitments that things can start to change in hospitality.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded at https://unitetheunion.org/media/2384/unethical-london-brochure-ihg-crowne-plaza.pdf

IHG: Operating under 12 different brands including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, in 100 countries, IHG is the world’s fourth largest hotel management and hotel brand franchisor. Of its 5,600 hotels only eight are directly owned and managed by the company.

According to the group’s most recent results, operating profits are up 8 per cent to $816m, with room growth up 4.8 per cent to 837k, and total gross revenue up 6.6 per cent to $27.4bn.

UN Global Compact: Established in 2000, companies that sign up to the UN Global Compact, commit to promoting 10 universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining which are of particular importance to Unite.

For more information please contact, Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull on 07980 721 427 

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