The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom was established in 2013 following a merger of the Liaison Committee For The Defence Of Trade Unions and the United Campaign To Repeal The Anti Trade Union Laws. The CTUF is a campaigning organisation fighting to defend and enhance trade unionism, oppose all anti-union laws as well as promoting and defending collective bargaining across UK, Europe and the World.

Judith Kirton-Darling MEP Reports On This Week’s EU TTIP Vote

Judith Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP

Judith Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP

By Judith Kirton Darling Labour MEP

We have just had an important vote on TTIP in the trade committee of the European Parliament. I am writing this post to explain what was voted on , and how this fits in the overall TTIP negotiations.

Trade deals in the EU are negotiated by the European Commission, on the basis of a detailed mandate adopted by the Prime Ministers of all the 28 EU countries. The European Parliament is not part of the process to adopt the mandate, and we can’t stop the negotiations either. However, the European Parliament recently gained the power to veto any trade deal. This is a blunt power, as MEPs can only say yes or no. This means we cannot amend any trade agreement.

TTIP is currently being negotiated. Talks started in 2013, and progress has been extremely slow. No one expects the negotiations to be concluded anytime soon. In fact, TTIP may very well not be finalised before the end of the current European Parliament in 2019.

Rather than sit and wait for the end of the negotiations, the Socialist group in the European Parliament and other progressive political groups have consistently pushed for the current European Parliament to adopt a resolution to set out in advance our conditions for supporting any deal with the US. This way, we can influence the negotiations: it would be very unwise for the Commission not to take into account what Parliament has to say about TTIP, considering that MEPs will have the final say.

But in order to get this resolution, we need the numbers. Since we don’t command a majority on our own, or even together with the Greens and the radical Left, this means agreeing common demands with the conservatives and/or liberals.

In this context, this week, we made a great first step forward. In the trade committee we’ve adopted a resolution that set out our positions on a wide array of issues. It is just a first step: texts adopted in committee (meaning, by 41 MEPs) must then be voted by the plenary of the European Parliament (all 750 MEPs). This second vote will take place on 10th June.

One such position contained in this resolution calls for a broad carveout of all public services. Here is the full text of what was adopted: “to build on the joint statement reflecting the negotiators’ clear commitment to exclude current and future Services of General Interest as well as Services of General Economic Interest from the scope of application of TTIP, (including but not limited to water, health, social services, social security systems and education), to ensure that national and local authorities retain the full right  to introduce, adopt, maintain or repeal any measures with regards to the commissioning, organisation, funding and provision of public services as provided in the Treaties as well as  in the EU’s negotiating mandate  ; this exclusion should apply irrespective of how the services are provided and funded;”

This is largely based on recommendations we’ve received from public services users, providers and employees. With this clause we are sending a clear message to the Commission that we won’t accept anything that could impact the NHS and other public services in TTIP. This was already the position of the Labour Party and European Socialists. It is now the position of the trade committee, and hopefully it will become the position of the whole European Parliament on 10 June.

Anyone that has heard David Cameron call our concerns for the NHS “nonsense” last November can appreciate that this is a very significant victory.

We have also managed to secure strong provisions to defend binding labour safeguards in the agreement, so as to prevent social dumping. We reached a great outcome on standards too. The text we agreed on the infamous “regulatory cooperation”, which some multinationals and Tory MEPs view as a way to bypass Parliament in order to slash our standards, clearly rejects any kind of undemocratic power grab.

On private tribunals – known as ISDS or Investor State Dispute Settlement – the outcome reached in the trade committee is a clear step forward even though it is not ideal. I had tabled an unambiguous amendment against ISDS, for which I had gathered support of 66 Socialist MEPs.

This amendment was incorporated in a compromise text, together with all other amendments on the topic. The compromise adopted reads as follow: “to ensure the applicability of international agreements, to bring an end to the unequal treatment of European investors in the US on account of existing agreements of Member States; to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and have a fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances while benefiting from no greater   rights than domestic investors:

  • to build on the concept paper recently presented by Commissioner Malmström to INTA Committee on May 7 as a basis for negotiations on an effective investment protection clause, as it provides very welcome proposals for reform and improvement 
  • taking into account the EU’s and the US’ developed legal systems, to trust  the courts of the EU and of the Member States and of the United States to provide effective legal protection based on the principle of democratic legitimacy, efficiently and in a cost-effective  manner;
  • to propose a permanent solution for resolving disputes between investors and states which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny , where potential cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges  in public hearings and which includes an appellate mechanism, where consistency of judicial decisions is ensured and the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the Member States is respected
  • in the medium term, a public International Investment Court could be the most appropriate means to address investment disputes”

I have made my position on ISDS clear time and again. I believe that while we may include investment protection rules in trade deals, such as TTIP, I don’t believe that these rules should be enforced through special private tribunals in which multinationals can secretly sue governments. I have defended the use of national courts in TTIP, and I’m sympathetic to the idea of creating an international tribunal in the medium or long run so that all countries would have access to the same system, as long as this tribunal is not based on arbitral justice. Therefore, I have made it very clear that I will vote against TTIP in the end if it contains ISDS.

Nothing in the compromise above goes against my position on TTIP. In fact, it’s very much a step in the right direction as it does not mention ISDS, while it says that we should trust national courts in TTIP. To me this means no ISDS in TTIP.

This is not the end of our fight. On 10th June, the text we adopted this week in committee will be put to the vote in a plenary session of the European Parliament. We will have the possibility to table amendments again, and I will continue to press for a strong position from the Parliament that says explicitly “no ISDS in TTIP”. Labour MEPs will of course support such a move, but in order to win this vote, we’ll need to get some Tory, UKIP and Lib-Dem MEPs to join us – and you can make a difference in helping us to convince them.

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Unite: Statement On Union Bill

UnknownThe following statement was issued by Unite on the Trade Union Bill:

The Tories are taking Britain back to the 1920s with this shamelessly partisan attack on the funding of the opposition  party. Political funds are already subject to approval being given in regular ballots by unions.

Tory hedge fund and multimillionaire donors will face no similar restrictions, leaving boards free to write hefty cheques backing the Tory party.

Absent from the Tory manifesto, there is zero popular mandate for this move which is just one more attack on working people.  It is clear there is no place for trade unions in Cameron’s ‘one nation’.

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GMB: One Rule For The Tory Slush Fund And Hedge Funds And Another For Union Members

GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny

GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny

State funding a step nearer as elite and companies having unfettered and unlimited rights to fund the Tory Party while shackling bodies funding political opposition to them is not sustainable says GMB.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said “This is just the same old Tories who are anti-trade union, anti-working people having a voice and anti-democratic.

It’s one rule for the Tory slush fund, hedge funds and another for trade union members.

This will not deter or silence the voices of millions of working people who already give their approval for political funds through democratic ballots governed by statute.

It will bring state funding for political parties a step nearer. It is not sustainable to allow the elite and companies unfettered and unlimited rights to fund the Tory Party while shackling the bodies that have funded the political opposition to them for more than a century.

As for strike ballots, these proposed rules will run the risk of an increase in unofficial stoppages.

This Queen’s Speech gives no hope for the millions on zero hours contracts or those struggling to get by on low pay. It is just more dogma from the Tory class warriors representing the rich and powerful.”

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Carolyn Jones : The Trade Union Bill

images-1By Carolyn Jones, Assistant Secretary Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The Trade Union Bill announced in the Queen’s speech holds few surprises. We knew it was coming. The Tories and their big business friends don’t like “third party interference” in the labour market. To them unions are a hindrance – and a popular one at that! So the Conservatives hope that by tying unions up in ever more restrictive laws, unions will fail to deliver their promises to provide a voice in the workplace and to protect workers’ rights.

So what’s the Tory plan of attack? First they came for the strikers.

As John Hendy QC has quite rightly said, collective bargaining without the right to strike is collective begging. Not surprising then that the first target of the Tories is to further restrict our right to take strike action.

By demanding a 50% turnout threshold in a ballot and an additional 40% yes vote requirement in “core public services” (health, education, transport and fire services), the Tories hope to make it impossible for unions to organise lawful strikes. Add to that the new time limitations on ballot mandates and the Bill is an open invitation to employers and courts to interfere and delay legitimate industrial disputes.

To make it worst, even during official industrial action, new laws will allow bosses to bus in agency workers to cover the jobs of strikers, abandoning a law that’s been in place since 1973. Any attempt to picket the workplace to prevent the use of scab labour will be subject to new criminal sanctions, backed up by new and intrusive surveillance legislation.

Then they came for the trade union reps

It is a fact that workers in unionised workplaces enjoy better terms and conditions. Why? Because trained trade union reps are active in the workplace negotiating, representing and promoting the wellbeing of the workforce.

That role is ever more important as inequality in power and wealth increases. According to a recent report from the OECD “We have reached a tipping point. Inequality in OECD countries is at its highest since records began.”

Trade unions help to rebalance power relations in the workplace – a fact commonly recognised by 70% of respondents in MORI polls who say unions are “essential to protect workers’ interests”.

To undermine that fundamental role of trade unions, the last government put a cap on the proportion of the civil service pay bill that could be spent on trade union facility time, restricted the number of union reps given full time release and banned paid time off for trade union activities. Now the government propose to extend those restrictions across local government and into the private sector.

Then they came for trade union finances

Plans are also in place to change how unions collect their membership fees – both through individual payments and through check-off arrangements. Believing that money is power, the Tories are determined to try and undermine trade union finances to make it   difficult for unions to operate effectively.

 Then they removed our rights

Undermining the role of unions at work is fuelled by Tory determination to deregulate the workplace. They want a labour market free from what they call “red tape” and what we call rights at work. They want to use the UK labour market as an example of what could be achieved throughout Europe if governments were determined enough to resist unions, remove employment rights and restrict the rights of workers to withdraw their labour.

Then they removed our benefits

The back drop to this Bullingdon Boy Bill, is a set of additional proposals aimed at slashing benefits and creating a reserve army of workers forced to beg for any type of “apprenticeship” or free work on offer – including as scab agency workers.

Now we must stand together

This is a divide and rule Bill. The Tory aspirations are clear. They want cheap workers, unable to withdraw their labour, unprotected by either trade unions or employment rights and threatened with destitution if they refuse to accept low-standard work.   The Tories believe that money is power. We know that power lies in numbers and that by standing together and supporting each other we stand a better chance of winning. Our aspirations have to be to educate, agitate and organise. We are the many – they are the few.

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Taking away workers’ rights make Brexit more likely says TUC

imagesBy  TUC

As Nigel Stanley reported on Touchstone last week, we had an opinion poll in the field immediately after the election, to find out more about why people voted the way we did. We held a few of the findings back from the main release, though, because they were about the hot story of this week – the EU referendum. And as Frances O’Grady wrote in her open letter to business leaders in this morning’s Financial Times, our polling found that taking away workers’ rights would make Brexit more likely.

The reason this matters is because some business leaders and Conservative politicians are choosing to interpret public concern about ‘EU red tape’ as an opportunity to strip away workers’ rights. No one in the business community genuinely believes that paid holidays, parental leave or fairness for agency workers are holding the British economy back, but they wouldn’t say no to getting shot of those rights if they thought they could get away with it, and they would be very pleased with a cast iron pledge that there will be no further rights for workers (even though they’ve always opposed new rights until they are enacted, like the National Minimum Wage.) We know that what they want much, much more, is access to the European single market and the inward investment that comes from UK membership of the EU.

Actually, those employment rights are popular (which is hardly surprising, really), but – as work by the High Pay Centre showed last month, people don’t always associate them with the European Union and don’t know they could lose those rights if we left the EU, or if Conservatives and business leaders got their way. So taking those rights away would jeopardise the chances of Britain voting to stay in.

Our poll shows that 55 per cent of the public would be more supportive of Britain’s membership of Europe if it did more to help working people get decent pay and conditions at work. By contrast, fewer than one in four (23 per cent) say they would be more supportive of the UK’s EU membership if it did more to cut red tape on businesses.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This poll should be a warning shot to business leaders and politicians. If they opportunistically use re-negotiation to call for weaker employment rights they will make getting a ‘yes’ vote much harder. Support for staying in Europe will haemorrhage if ordinary Britons feel their working lives are going to be made worse.

“Chipping away at paid holidays, rest breaks, maternity rights and fair treatment for part-time and agency workers is the last thing people want. Europe is at its best when it meets the interests of both business and workers. Abandoning this blueprint would be a disaster for the UK and the EU.”

So we will be campaigning for the rest of the year to oppose any renegotiation of workers’ rights, and working with our colleagues across Europe to prevent their governments giving ground to Davis Cameron on this issue.

Respondents were asked which of the following statements they agreed with most strongly:

  1. I would be more supportive of Britain’s membership of Europe if it did more to help working people get decent pay and conditions at work; and
  2. I would be more supportive of Britain’s membership of Europe if it did more to cut red tape on businesses.

30% agreed with statement 1 strongly, and 24% somewhat (rounding brings overall agreement to 55%), whereas only 10% agreed with statement 2 strongly, and a further 13% somewhat. Neither scored 13% and 9% didn’t know.

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CTUF AGM – June 27th

AGM Agenda 2015

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GMB Warns Labour On EU Employment Rights

timthumb.phpThe GMB’s General Secretary Paul Kenny has sent a stern warning to  the Labour Party not to sign up to Conservative plans which he said would damage workers’ rights.

Paul said: “On the EU renegotiations and the referendum, Labour must not give Cameron a blank cheque – and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights. Labour are sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU.”

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Target’s Latest Anti Union Video – Cheesy Or What?

1431621669999-dxeij3jhp5oy9zfr-66ff5d7f474a59089f19dff477bff1fbTarget is America’s third largest retailer. It is also as staunchly anti union as they come. This anti-union video is one of a series issued by Target which are not supposed to be duplicated.

The existence of Target’s new anti-union employee training video (entitled “Think Hard: Protect Your Signature”) has now been made posted on a number of websites.

It features ‘Dawn and Ricardo’, who talk to Target workers about about unions. “Someday, someone you don’t know may approach you at work, or visit you at home, asking you to sign your name to an authorization card, petition, or some other union document,” Ricardo warns.

“At Target, an open door policy isn’t just a catchphrase,” clarifies Dawn, in her smirky, Rachel Maddow-esque way. “It’s a policy.”

“Unions want what we have” the video declares. Ricardo explains, as if speaking to a child: “We’re a target, because unions are threatened by us. And here’s why: when we take business away from retailers that are unionized, those companies may downsize, reducing the number of employees. And that means the union loses members, which is a big problem for the union business. Did you notice how I just called it a business? Because that’s what it is.”

Target, which posted $73.3 billion in revenues in 2012, is presumably not a “business.”

Dawn warns, “But if the unions did try to organize our team members, chances are they would change our fast, fun and friendly culture.” That’s the fast, fun and friendly culture that Target employees.

The video drones on for 15 minutes, as ‘Dawn and Ricardo’ plod through various dire consequences of unionisation. “You could come into work one day to find union protesters telling our guests not to shop at Target,” Dawn says. “And how could that possibly be good for anyone on our team?”

How about higher wages and better benefits and improved working conditions? Notably absent from this video is any discussion of the fact that the primary reason Target does not want any of its employees to unionize is not because it fears a loss of its precious “culture,” but because it fears having to pay higher wages and provide better benefits and working conditions.

At the end, the video proclaims that if a union comes into the happy Target workplace, “All those open doors may have to close.”

To experience this undoubtedly awful video or can sit through fifteen minutes of this drivel click here or on the graphic above.

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Keith Ewing : Where Do We Go Now?

timthumb-1.phpTrade unions face a crisis like no other as 5 years of Tory rule beckon. We need a new vision — and we need it now, by Keith Ewing, Vice President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom.

 Shortly after the general election in 2010, I wrote in these columns that David Cameron would win the 2015 general election (Morning Star June 18 2010).

The reason for this was largely historical. In this country Tory governments typically get at least two terms.

Indeed since the end of the second world war only one Tory government — that elected in 1970 — has failed to do so.

But history was not the only factor that led me to this pessimistic view. The concern I expressed then was that the 2015 election would be fought on territory chosen by the Tories and the right-wing press.

This was an agenda that would be misinformed by selective memories of the deficit in 2010 and claims about Labour’s alleged economic mismanagement.

What I did not anticipate of course was the eruption in Scotland, which provides an opportunity for a different explanation of the defeat.

Nobody could have anticipated Labour’s grave mistake in swallowing the Cameron agenda during the independence referendum.

It may have won the referendum vote, but Scottish Labour died on September 18 2014.

Nor could anyone have foreseen the impact of the Scottish Question on the English electorate.

Terror stalked the land about the danger of Scottish influence in a British government, stoked by voices since curiously mute about the fact that a Tory Party now governs Scotland with only one MP at Westminster. The Scots, it seems, just have to put up with it.

Trade unions will now pay a heavy price for Labour’s defeat. Tory plans are set out clearly enough in their election manifesto, including the much-trumpeted proposals for yet more restrictions on strike ballots, most notably a requirement that strikes in certain sectors will need the support of 40 per cent of those eligible to vote, as well as a majority of those voting.

As has been said many times before, this is a requirement that offends democratic principle, and it has been rightly condemned.

At the 2015 general election the Tories won about 37 per cent of the vote nationally, representing only about 25 per cent of those eligible to vote.

The legitimacy of the Tory mandate will of course make no difference — but the hypocrisy is clear and complete.

Nor will a lack of legitimacy stop the proposed attack on trade union facility time or the use of the check-off to collect trade union dues.

The attack spearheaded by the coalition against PCS seems about to go viral. Nor will the lack of legitimacy stop the proposed attack on the trade union political levy and the right of unions to an effective political voice.

Yet it will get worse — much worse — before it ever gets better, if only because of the European Question.

Whatever happens in the forthcoming EU referendum, the referendum will split the movement.

Just as importantly, whether we are in or out, it will lead to further erosion of employment rights — paid holidays, Tupe and redundancy consultation.

For trade unions, this is a crisis like no other, and it is one that catches us ill-prepared.

Membership is in decline, leading to a loss of authority and income; collective bargaining coverage is at historically low levels, so that we are touching the lives of fewer and fewer workers; and we are about to have zero political influence, as civil war breaks out in the Labour Party.

Yet my fear now is that the present government is embedded for another 10 years and that we will have at least a three or four-term Tory hegemony, as in 1951-64 and 1979-97.

Labour will not be ready for government in 2020 and in any event there are about to be boundary changes and fewer MPs, handing another 20 parliamentary seats to the Tories in the process.

But even if Labour is ready for government, Scotland will almost certainly not be ready for Labour.

The corpse of Scottish Labour will still be decomposing in 2020. Indeed, Scotland may be a sovereign state by then. At least for now, the SNP — and some of its impressive candidates who speak about workers’ rights — are the authentic voice of the working class, whether sceptics like it or not.

In this bleak political landscape, the challenge for trade unionism is huge, now facing a challenge of leadership, a challenge of purpose and a challenge for survival.

How are trade unions to deal with the ideological onslaught about to overwhelm their members and their organisations? And how are we to deal with the fresh legal onslaught that is about to hit us?

The movement is about to be tested like never before. It would be a serious mistake to baton down the hatches until the next general election and hope for a Labour government.

We need a new, clear vision to lead the movement not for the next five years but for the next generation — a vision that questions organisational activity, as well as industrial and political strategies.

We will need it soon.

  • Keith Ewing is professor of public law at King’s College London and president of the Institute of Employment Rights.

 

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Unions Furious As Obama Gets Approval For ‘Fast Track’

1tppfasttrack-620xauto-1By Tony Burke, Chair Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

President Obama may have got his way on ‘fast track’, the legislation he needs to drive through approval of a new generation of free trade agreements but US unions have vowed to continue to fight on against the deals.

‘Fast track’ will allow Obama to drive through the Transatlantic Trade Agreement known as TPP between the USA and twelve Pacific Rim countries and also the controversial proposed agreement between the EU and the USA, TTIP, by limiting debate in the US legislatures on the controversial process.

The US Senate voted 62-37 on May 22nd to cut short debate on ‘Fast Track’ allowing him to drive through new trade deals without line-by-line scrutiny by US lawmakers a victory for Obama and Republicans in Congress.

The vote marked a defeat for Democrat senator Elizabeth Warren who had clashed with Obama in recent weeks criticising the secrecy of trade negotiations as well as the lack of guaranteed labour rights in the trade deals.

US unions are furious. Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers said: “Senators who voted to stifle debate and approve fast track so quickly have undermined rights of working Americans. With less than one full day of debate, and refusing to consider hundreds of important amendments, the Senate essentially took a big step to provide this and future presidents with the authority to negotiate trade agreements any way they choose. In addition, Congress abdicated its responsibility to fully engage in the process. 

“Republicans in so many areas have criticised the President but, when it comes to trade, the majority of them are beholden to corporate backers who are salivating at the prospect of increased profits at the expense of workers here in America and around the globe.

“Trade deals like NAFTA (the previous North American Treaty) have constricted economic growth, contributing to stagnating and declining wages, while fueling off shoring and outsourcing of production. All of this contributes to our country’s rising income inequality. But, rather than fully debate those issues and provide effective measures to reform and update our trade policies, the Republican-led Senate shoved fast track through the Senate.

“Unfortunately, a handful of Democrats joined with Republicans in this effort. The majority of their Democratic colleagues voted on behalf of U.S. workers. Those who voted for cloture and for final passage fully share the blame.

“The approach taken by the Senate will damage U.S. production and jobs. No one voting for fast track should laud this bill. More than 150 objectives were included in fast track, but the administration has already said that they do not intend to pursue all of them. Senators who voted yes may try and take cover behind the lofty rhetoric, but the substance gives them nowhere to hide. Workers want good jobs and wages, not more false promises”.

Jimmy Hoffa President of the Teamasters union described the vote as a “legislative setback”, and that “The war is far from over. We will continue this battle in the House of Representatives, where we know opposition to fast track is strong. A bipartisan collection of lawmakers in the House understand it makes no sense to give a quick up-or-down vote to bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will only ship jobs overseas and lower wages in the U.S.”

The Communications Workers Union (CWA) said: “The limited discussion just this week in the Senate showed the serious concerns that surround Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Senators should not give away their right to amend a trade deal that has been negotiated in secrecy and is virtually complete.”

“There is strong opposition in the House to moving forward on Fast Track,” the press release continued. “Currently, the Democratic opposition in the House is overwhelming, and rejection there remains a real possibility.”

US and European unions (including the German trade union confederation the DGB and the powerful metalworkers union IG Metall, along with the British TUC and unions such as Unite, Unison, GMB and others) argue the new generation of trade agreements such as TTIP, CETA (the EU deal with Canada) and TPP will benefit multi-national corporations and the expense of working people, undermine employment rights, and allow for the take over of public assets by multi-national corporations, without any possibility of them being returned to public ownership.

Download Adrian Weir’s speakers notes and guide to TTIP, CETA, TPP, Fast Track by clicking here.

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