UK: Anti-trade union law a ‘dark day’ for UK workers

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

The completion of the parliamentary stages of the Conservative government’s Trade Union Bill will be remembered as a ‘dark day’ for working people, the UK’s largest union, Unite has said.

The bill now awaits Royal Assent after a series of amendments intended to lessen the worst aspects of the new law were accepted by the government benches.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We have always questioned the place of these proposals – described by the government’s own advisors as ‘not fit for purpose’ – in a modern democracy.
 
“The waves of opposition to the bill at every parliamentary stage proved our point. This is a law to solve a problem that does not exist, and which will do a great disservice to harmonious industrial relations in this country.

“The bill’s progress today is simply a dark day for workers and for those who speak up in their defence when power is misused. Moreover, it is the workers of England, who will bear the brunt of the Conservative government’s measures, for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all stated this law has no place in their countries or workplaces.
 
“Congratulations must go to those in both the Commons and the Lords, to the unions and to their members for their dogged exposure of the many short-comings of this bill. Our movement’s determination has wrung significant concessions from the government.
 
“Welcome though these concessions are, they cannot detract from the main purpose of this bill – to make it harder for UK workers to defend themselves.

“We will also be holding the minister to his word on the new powers granted to the certification officer. His clear direction today was that these powers must not be used to impede the day-to-day work of unions, that of protecting their members, because our resources will be tied up dealing with baseless complaints.
 
“Lastly, we urge the government to reflect upon the message that its campaign has sent to working people – the decent people who tend our sick, educate our children, clean our streets and staff our shops – and conclude that they can never again lay claim to be the party of the working people.”

Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary said: “While we are pleased to have secured significant changes to the Trade Union Bill, it still remains a very bad and divisive bill.

“The history books will show that the government’s first major act of this Parliament has been to attack the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“This legislation, even in its amended form, poses a serious threat to good industrial relations and is completely unnecessary.”

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40,000 US Verizon Workers On Stike For Thrid Week

From Uni Global Union

The largest strike in the USA since 2011 is into its third week as more than 40,000 workers, members of the Communication Workers’ of America (CWA), fight outsourcing and offshoring by the company. The strike also includes retail staff in New York who are fighting for their first contract.

The strike follows 10 months of negotiations between the union and the company, where Verizon has maintained their stance over the following issues:

  • outsourcing contact center jobs to the Philippines and Mexico.
  • – outsourcing of certain US based jobs to low-wage contractors.
  • – Provisions that would allow the company at a moment’s notice to transfer workers up to 1,000kms away from their homes and families for up to two months at a time.

In 2015, Verizon made US$4.31 billion in the first three months of 2016, up from US$4.22 billion in the same period a year earlier. Over the past three years, Verizon has reported US$39 billion in profits.

One of the effected Verizon Contact Center workers Mandy Poe, said that she was on strike “for my future and my children’s future”. Jennifer Masferrer, who also works at a Verizon Contact Center said, “my fight for my family is important, my fight for my home is important, my fight for my sweet girls is important and I’m willing to go on strike for that.”

Verizon technician Dan Hylton said that, “the biggest issue for me is that the company wants to relocate jobs on a moment’s notice. We are all husbands, fathers, daughters, sons and when you’re asking someone to move in some cases out of state for up to four months at a time it’s nearly impossible.”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “UNI Global Union stands with Verizon workers in their fight for decent jobs and decent pay. These workers and their families deserve a life and not to be constantly living at the whim of Verizon.”

Alan Tate, the head of the ICTS division of UNI Global Union, which includes telecommunications, said, “we stand in solidarity with the brave workers of Verizon in the United States in the face of the company’s brutal attack on their living standards and way of life”.

CWA has expressed concern that safety violations are occurring as Verizon rushes to maintain its network using unqualified contractors, a practice the union says is likely to increase as the company pushes to outsource more jobs.

CWA is asking that supporters sign this petition to Verizon CEO Lowell McAda

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CETA : Trouble in The Netherlands.

Chrystia Freeland - Canadian International Trade Minister

Chrystia Freeland – Canadian International Trade Minister

Thanks to Ben Davis at the United Steelworkers for the information.

The EU-Canada trade agreement known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is running into trouble in the Netherlands with the Dutch parliament rejecting provisional application of the deal.

Opposition to the trade deal in European countries is growing. The Walloon Parliament also refused to sign up for the deal requesting the regional government not to grant full powers to the Belgian federal executive to sign the CETA deal.

The Dutch parliament requested that the government present a proposal to MPs before taking any position on CETA, in case the European Commission makes a proposal on the provisional enforcement of the treaty.

In June, EU leaders are supposed to ratify CETA. Although final government approval is expected in September, the June meeting is the last chance for European governments to raise serious objections.

Dutch voters are increasingly looking to a referendum on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as their next target.

Some 100,000 Dutch citizens have already signed a petition demanding a referendum on TTIP. 300,000 names are needed to trigger a non-binding vote on the issue, as was the case with the recent vote on the EU – Ukraine agreement..

The treaty must be ratified by the European Parliament, and each of the parliaments of the 28 member states of the EU, to finally come into force.

Last week, Canadian Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland was in Brussels to try to convince MEPs to look at CETA in its own right.

In a somewhat bizarre comment she said: “Sometimes when Canadians and Europeans speak, we want to just have a tête-à-tête, but it becomes a ménage à trois. Let’s not make our relationship a ménage à trois, I would love unanimous support in your parliament. I’m gunning for it in mine. You are not going to get a better deal. And this deal will be a very important precedent for progressive trade deals going forward”.

The EU and Canada negotiated a deal almost without any opposition until unions, campaign groups and the public started mobilizing.

The controversial investor-state dispute clause (ISDS) in CETA has been re-written to review the deal and include the setting up of an investment court instead of standing by post-NAFTA improvements worked out with the US during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

But there is a major worry that that US companies could use CETA to launch investor lawsuits against EU states.

Ms. Freeland responded by arguing that the investor court would prevent business-to-state disputes from becoming state-to-state diplomatic row.

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TUC Sets Out Changes Government Have Been Forced To Make On TU Bill

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady: 'Much More To Do On TU Bill'

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady: ‘Much More To Do On TU Bill’

The TUC has published a detailed list of changes the government has been forced to accept to the partisan Trade Union Bill.

The TUC says “there is still some why to go – but the bill is now much shorter – shorn of some of the most damaging proposals”.

The government has to date has:

  • Dropped extreme measures to restrict protest, such as giving employers detailed plans for pickets and social media campaigns two weeks in advance, or making everyone on a picket line show their personal data to the police, employers or anyone who asked to see it.
  • Scaled Back the double threshold for strike ballots in “important public services”, to avoid capturing hundreds of thousands of ancillary workers.
  • Abandoned plans to ban union subscriptions via payroll (check-off), provided the union pays payment processing costs (as many already do).
  • Conceded safeguards against politicisation of the role of the union regulator (Certification Officer) and reduced its costs to unions.
  • Watered Down plans to restrict union political funds. Changes will no longer apply to existing members, and the cost and effort of new requirements will be much reduced.
  • Agreed to a review of letting unions use online methods for strike ballots. This would help increase turnouts, as we know postal balloting suppresses them.
  • Added safeguards to a new reserve power to cap union facility time. This will happen now only after at least 3 years of research and negotiation with employers.

As the TUC says there are still some harmful proposals that could become law, including:

  • Unfair strike ballot turnout thresholds – including a huge double threshold for so-called “important public services”.
  • Rules about identifying picket leaders to police that worry trade unionists in light of the construction blacklisting scandals.
  • New membership rules that seem to be designed to cost unions time and money, and increase employers’ opportunities to use the courts to stop strikes.

The TUC comments that the “next step is to see if the Lords will insist on their amendments that the government refused. But even if the bill passes, there will still be arguments to come on the mass of secondary regulations and codes of practice still to be published.

And there will be a major battle around the proposals to remove the long-standing ban on employers using agency workers to break strikes. This was never part of the bill, but progressing alongside it. It’s disappeared for now, but we suspect it will be back.

“There is more to do” says TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady “but union members everywhere can feel justly proud today in what we’ve achieved – and in what that tells us about the power, relevance and vitality of our trade union movement”.

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TU Bill: Government Backtracks On Political Funds And e-balloting

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

The Government has again back tracked on parts of the Trade Union Bill, after accepting a House Of Lords amendment on delaying changes to trade union political funds.

The Tories have now conceeded changes to the roll-out of political funds reforms, facility time, as well as accepting a trial for industrial action e-balloting.

The new rules, force trade unionists to “opt-in” to the political fund, will still be introduced, but over a 12 month period rather than three months.

The Government have had to make concessions on the Trade Union Bill following changes made in that the House of Lords which forced changes to the proposals on check off of subscriptions. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the latest climbdown, but stressed that MPs should continue to oppose the bill in full.

“This is another victory for common sense. We are pleased the Government appears to have backtracked from implementing damaging changes to union political funds,” she said.

“These concessions follow months of lobbying from the TUC, trade unions and thousands of individual trade union members. And we are thankful for the support from peers of all parties and none.

“We are pleased ministers have listened to reason and committed to holding a review of electronic voting for strike ballots. 

“However, if online balloting is secure enough for the Conservatives to use to select their candidate for London Mayor, there can be no excuse for delaying its introduction for union members.

“It must be a case of when – and not if – trade unions are allowed to use modern balloting methods. We will continue to make this case forcibly.”

On the concession that ministers will delay imposing a cap on facility time in the public sector, Frances O’Grady said: “We are also pleased that ministers have backed away from imposing a cap on union facility time, having originally planned to introduce this within six months of the Trade Union Bill becoming law.

“Paid time off for public sector union reps to represent their members is granted by employers because it is good for staff well-being, improves communication and stops problems escalating into disputes.

“We welcome the range of concessions that the government has offered, but continue to oppose the Trade Union Bill in its entirety.”

“The Trade Union Bill still poses a threat to industrial relations. The TUC will continue to press for further changes to this divisive and unnecessary Bill, and urges MPs to oppose it in its entirety.”\

The government last week backed away from plans to ban workers from opting to pay their union subscriptions through payroll in the public sector – the so-called ‘check-off’ system.

Angela Eagle, shadow Business Secretary, said: “After months of campaigning by the Labour Party and trade unions, it is welcome that the Government have thought again on changes to political funds and taken account of the proposals from peers of all parties and none in the report of the House of Lords committee, which was initiated by a motion from Labour’s lords.

“Despite the concessions from the Government, Labour remains opposed to the Trade Union Bill. It is entirely unnecessary and is bad for workers and businesses.”

Eurosceptics have claimed that the Government is backing down on parts of the TU Bill in order to secure the support of unions who are being forced to deal with issues related to check 0ff rather than campaigning for the Remain side in the Referendum.

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TPP Trade Deal : Why US Unions Oppose It.

The US and 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is a trade agreement that will stimulate the outsourcing of American jobs and devastate manufacturing.

The Allegheny County Council voted on a resolution against the TPP because it will harm their constituents. Watch this video and learn why.

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Chattanooga USA: Update For Unions At Volkswagen

volkswagen-chattanooga-plant

U.S. GOVERNMENT AFFIRMS UNION VICTORY IN CHATTANOOGA, USA.

In a long-awaited ruling on April 14th, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rejected Volkswagen’s request that it nullify the vote of skilled trades workers at the Chattanooga plant to form a union with the United Auto Workers (UAW).  The decision means that Volkswagen is now obligated to begin negotiations with the UAW for a first collective bargaining agreement.

Volkswagen, however, has not made its intentions clear.

After the ruling a spokesperson said the company was “reviewing the decision and evaluating our options.”

It is possible the company could use legal maneuvers to stall and delay, further denying Chattanooga workers’ right to collective bargaining.

We ask that you communicate immediately with leadership in Wolfsburg, asking them to do the fair and just thing by beginning negotiations with Chattanooga workers:

Chairman Matthias Müller
Volkswagen AG
Brieffach 18800
D-38436 Wolfsburg, Germany
office.mueller@volkswagen.de

Thanks to Kristyne Peter at UAW, Washington

TIMELINE

August 2015: Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled-trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.

October 2015: UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the NLRB seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled-trades unit.

November 2015: The NLRB rules in favor of UAW Local 42 and orders an election for 160 skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, rejecting an attempt by the company to block the election.

December 2015: Skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative. The NLRB confirms that 71 percent of employees voting favored recognition for UAW Local 42. Volkswagen refuses to recognize UAW Local 42 or enter into collective bargaining, and asks the NLRB for a review of the election.

February 2016: UAW Local 42 files charges with the NLRB stipulating that Volkswagen is violating the National Labor Relations Act and has “unlawfully continued to refuse to bargain.”

April 2016: The NLRB denies Volkswagen’s request for a review of the December election, in effect, upholding the election and its results.

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Keep Up The Pressure On The Trade Union Bill

killthebill badgeThe Government was dealt a major blow this week on the Trade Union Bill when they had to drop the proposed ban on Check Off in the public sector.

The Government have now been defeated three times over on key parts of the Bill.

It’s clear they are on the back foot and we now have to keep the pressure up.

The Bill now heads back to the Commons, and we need MPs to listen to the House Of Lord, and vote to keep the Lords amendments in place.

You can do this by writing to your local paper by following this link.

Even with these amendments this is still a bad Bill that undermines working people’s voices at work and in politics – but without these changes it’s even worse.

Before the Bill was debated in the House of Lords, thousands of campaigners across the country wrote to their local papers about this attack on democracy.

Could you take a few minutes to write to your local paper by using this link.

You just need to fill in the information required – there is a standard letter which will be automatically sent to newspapers in your area.

It is time to tell readers about the Trade Union Bill and to urge your MP to support the amendments when the Bill comes back to the House of Commons?

It’s only with the voices of campaigners like you, signing petitions, campaigning on social media and writing to your local papers that we can continue to oppose this attack on unions.

 http://action.unionstogether.org.uk/newspaper

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McDonald’s Moves On Zero Hours

Flyer for demonstration at a London McDonalds.

Flyer for demonstration at a London McDonalds.

McDonald’s is to offer its UK staff working on zero-hours employment contracts the option of moving to fixed hours following a long campaign against their employment practices by unions and campaign groups such as Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero. The chain is one of the biggest users of the contracts in the country, with an estimated 80,000 workers on zero hours.

Paul Pomroy, the boss of McDonald’s UK, said the company was ‘revamping its employment policy’ after staff said they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they are not guaranteed employment each week.

The company has now started offering staff the option of moving to contracts guaranteeing a minimum of 4 hours, 16 hours or 30 hours work a week following a trial run in St Helens, Merseyside, which McDonald’s is to roll it out across the country.

But about 80% of workers in the St. Helens trial decided to stay on zero hours – of those who took up the fixed-hours option, three of five went for the maximum of 30 hours.

Pomeroy said: “In September, the feedback was that there is an element of people within our restaurants that did want to look at a more permanent set of hours. It was driven by the difficulty they were facing getting car loans, mobile phone contracts, mortgages. It was not that they weren’t getting the hours they wanted at McDonald’s, but as financial lending tightened it was becoming a real challenge”

The trial in St Helens included 246 people, with 42 taking up the offer of fixed hours. The company plans to expand it to another six restaurants in London and the east Midlands from May, testing how it works in school holidays, before rolling out the new policy across the country from the end of the year.

Once the national roll-out begins, it could take a year to be in every restaurant, partly due to technological upgrades required in the shift-scheduling system. McDonald’s say they could evolve the proposals as they are rolled out, with a 40-hour contract potentially introduced.

Under the trial, staff are offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. New starters will still have to wait three months to be offered a fixed-hours contract.

Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “On the face of it, this move by McDonald’s is a step in the right direction and shows the likes of Sports Direct that businesses can wean themselves off their addiction to insecure zero-hours contracts and give their staff the security of a permanent contract. Zero-hours contracts leave people not knowing from one week to the next whether they can feed their kids or pay bills and should have no place on Britain’s high streets. While the devil will be in the detail, this move by McDonalds suggests that the penny is finally dropping with some employers over the exploitative nature of zero hours contracts and the dissatisfaction they can breed among a workforce.”

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Mexico: Los Minero’s Halts Yellow Union Plan.

Napoleon Gomez, the head of Mexico's metals and mining union, Los Mineros

Napoleon Gomez, the head of Mexico’s metals and mining union, Los Mineros

The Mexican mining and metalworkers union Los Mineros has won a major victory at the Hercules Mine in the state of Coahuila, defeating a company supported (yellow) union 585 to 375.

AHMSA, a major steel and mining company owned by Alonso Ancira, set up a company union in 2015 in an attempt to gain control of the 11 Los Mineros locals (Branches) that represent its workers.  This was the first time workers had a chance to vote, and they chose to stick with the Los Mineros.  It’s a huge win for the union and a major a defeat for an employer who was recently named in the Panama Papers, as well a defeat for the federal and state government that backed up the company.

Los Mineros is headed and directed by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, its President and General Secretary, who said his union was grateful for the support provided by national and international unions including the United Steelworkers from the U.S. and  Canada (USW); Unite the Union inthe United Kingdom and Ireland and IndustriALL Global Union.

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, also congratulated the members of Section 265 in Hércules, Coahuila and their families for having stood up with courage against the threats and pressures of the company lead by Alonso Ancira Elizondo, and for the unity, loyalty and solidarity that they amply demonstrated in this important struggle.

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