Australia: Union Voice & NUW speed up merger talks

Hot on the heels of the proposed merger in Australia of the Construction and Energy Workers union with the Maritime Union and the Textile Workers union which employers, the Australian Government and the right wing media are attempting to stop – via legislation – (which includes a test to see if union mergers are ‘in the public interest’) the Nationa­l Union Of Workers and United Voice are speeding up their merger plans to create a 170,000 strong union.

Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull has vowed to take action to try to stop the merger of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia into a 120,000 member union, (see our previous story on this here) but now the NUW and United Voice have upped the stakes by speeding up talks to create a “powerful organising and campaigning force”.

The Turnbull government, employers and right wing media are running scared the prospect of union mergers, given the potential to unify unions to speak for workers with one voice, have a powerful voice in the Australian Labor Party and to confront the countries anti-union laws.

The NUW has more than 70,000 members working across warehousing, distribution, food, dairy, cold storage and other food-related and production industries.

United Voice (previously the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union), has more than 100,000 members across hospit­ality, childcare, health, manufacturing and community services.

NUW members attending a meeting in Melbourne were recently advised that merger plans were ‘progressing quickly’.

United Voice’s Victoria branch members received emails confirming the merger talks were picking up speed, describing a “commitment” between the two unions to proceed with amalgamation.

Victoria branch secretary Jess Walsh said : “The talks have been excitin­g and the two unions will have more over the coming months.’’

Along with Turnbull, some media commentators in Australia have gone into overdrive on the prospect of union mergers, (and other unions such as those in transport joining the talks) – describing unions as ‘lawless’ and the mergers themseleves being designed by union officials to damage the Australian economy and supply chain.

 

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Israeli High Court signals end of right to strike at state-owned enterprises

Valter Sanches, General Secretary IndustriALL Global Union

The High Court of Justice in Israel has issued a preliminary ruling that workers at state-owned enterprises can no longer strike against market reforms being undertaken by the government.

The conditional order overturns an earlier judgement in support of the right to strike, and comes in response to industrial action by the Histadrut union federation against the privatization of the publicly owned monopoly, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

The IEC employs 12,500 workers. For the past three years, the government has instituted a so-called market reform programme to end the state monopoly on electricity generation. The privatization plan means the company will stop generating electricity and sell its power stations to the private sector.

The so-called reforms have already cost 800 jobs. The Histadrut expects the privatization to result in between 5,000 and 6,000 job losses. Workers at IEC took part in industrial action in June and July, including refusing to issue electric bills.

In May 2017, the High Court upheld early judgements by regional and national labour courts in support of the right to strike. However, the government appealed the ruling, claiming that because the strikers oppose government policy, the strike is political and therefore illegal under Israeli labour law.

The government was supported by private electric corporations, who argued that strikes should not be allowed to influence, harm or cause financial loss.

The Histadrut argued in court that the strike is economic, and therefore legal, and not political. It is a legitimate defense of workers’ terms and conditions, and the right of the union to be consulted before the so-called reforms are implemented.

The ruling is seen as an attempt to fundamentally challenge the position of labour in Israeli society. The court signalled that the right to strike undermined anti-trust and competition law, preventing the government from making pro-market reforms.

The outcome of this case will have ramifications on other essential public services and on the legal status of the right to strike. In previous cases, the right to strike was recognized by Israeli High Court of Justice as a fundamental and constitutional right derived from the right to freedom of association, including in cases when the strike was against the government’s decisions.

Historically, there was a very close relationship between the Histadrut federation of labour and the public sector, with the federation also owning a number of enterprises. This relationship has been successively undermined by economic liberalization and changes to the law since the 1980s.

In a letter of solidarity to the Histadrut, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote:

“The Court’s decision would seriously impinge on fundamental workers’ rights, including the right to employment stability. It is obvious that one of the main tasks of the Israeli High Court is to protect human rights, and the right to strike is one of them.

“IndustriALL Global Union is very concerned about the possibility of imposing serious restrictions on the right to strike. We believe such an outcome would be against the International Covenant on Economic, Social and cultural Rights, as well as against ILO’s Convention 87 concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and ILO’s Convention 98 concerning the application of the principles of the right to organize and to bargain collectively.”

From IndustriALL Global Union.

 

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FURTHER UPDATE: Aussie Bosses & Prime Minister Try To Block Union Merger

Australian mining, oil and gas employers, backed by the Australian Government are to try to block a union merger which would create a 120,000 strong union.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will try to block the merger between the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) using legislation to be introduced to parliament this week that would force Australia’s Fair Work Commission to apply a ‘public-interest’ test for union mergers. The CFMEU has described the public-interest test as “ridiculous”.

The government is seeking to impose a new test for mergers of unions that requires the Fair Work Commission to consider a union’s record on industrial disputes (the right wing press and Turnbull describe this as ‘lawlessness’) and whether the merger ‘served the public interest’.

The Turnbull government believes that the new laws, if passed by the Senate, would have the effect of blocking a CFMEU-MUA merger, who have been talking about a merger since late 2015.

In truth the government and employers are fearful that a new union would create a much more powerful voice for workers across crucial sectors of the Australian economy as well as having a strong political voice in the Australian Labor Party.

The small Australian Textile, Clothing & Footwear union is also looking to join the new union. However, two small maritime unions have expressed opposition to the merger as they see their existence threatened – they have claimed legally they have an ‘interest’ in the merger.

The CFMEU is not required to ballot its members on the merger – but the MUA and the textile workers would have to ballot.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said the proposed merger was “alarming”, considering the influence the unions already held over the Labour Party.

Australian unions are looking to mergers and amalgamations in the face of a shrinking economy and globalisation – arguing that the Australian trade union movement is under threat and the merger would help bolster their financial and legal resources.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin has previously described the merger as a need to build a new union to counter “a lot of adversarial stuff out there, a lot of anti-unionism, there is a political ideology in this country that’s pervasive and ­actively offensive against trade union rights”.

A well placed source in the Australian trade union movement told us: “The employers and the government have only just cottoned on to the fact that the merger application was made months ago. Which means that they will have to close the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted.”

“The unions are in discussions with politicians about the retrospective impact of the legislation – politicians don’t usually retrospective legislation and it is hard to see how Turnbull will stop this process given that it’s well underway.”

Update: August 17th: The Australian sets out why the Australian Government, Employers and media pundits oppose the idea of a merger between CFMEU – MUA – TCFUA. It because they will be powerful stupid!

More info as we get it from our contacts in Australia,

 

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CTUF AGM 2017 Details

The  CTUF AGM 2017 will be at 11 am on Saturday, 2nd September at Meeting Room 3/4 at the ground floor Unite, 128 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8TN.

Please put this date in your diary and we look forward to seeing you there.

 

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Unite secures landmark holiday pay ruling

Unite has today (Monday 31 July) called on employers to urgently get their ‘house in order’ over holiday pay after it secured a landmark legal victory meaning employers must now include voluntary overtime in holiday pay calculations.

Today’s decision by the employment appeal tribunal on an appeal by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council is the first to confirm that payments for entirely voluntary duties, such as voluntary overtime, standby, call-out work and travel-time linked to that work, should be included in the calculation of workers’ holiday pay.

It builds on a previous ground breaking case taken by Unite legal services in 2014 that resulted in a separate employment appeal tribunal ruling covering holiday pay for workers who are contractually obliged to do overtime.

Today’s ruling is of major significance to workers nationally, many of whom receive payments for voluntary duties while working, but do not receive those payments when they take holiday. It sets a legal binding precedent which employment tribunals across the UK are obliged to follow.

The case against Dudley council involved 56 Unite members employed by the council as tradesmen, including plumbers, electricians and carpenters, working on maintaining Dudley’s housing stock.

They worked regular overtime, including on Saturdays, on a purely voluntary basis. They also elected to go on a standby rota every four weeks to deal with emergency call-outs and repairs.

In some cases their earnings for this additional voluntary work amounted to around £6,000 a year on top of their basic salary. While they would receive these payments while working, these amounts were not included in their holiday pay. The underpayments of holiday pay suffered by each claimant varied depending on how much voluntary work they performed between around £350 and £1,500 per year.

Commenting, Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett, said: “Today’s landmark victory further clarifies the law on holiday pay and is of major significance to workers across the UK. It means employers must now include all earnings, including payments for voluntary duties and overtime, in calculating holiday pay.
 
“The ruling means unscrupulous employers no longer have carte blanche to fix artificially low levels of ‘basic’ hours and then contend the rest of time was ‘voluntary’ overtime that did not have to be paid in respect of annual leave.
 
“Unite will be liaising with Dudley council and its legal team over reaching a satisfactory settlement for our members. In the meantime we would urge other employers who have been fleecing workers of their holiday pay to get their house in order or face legal action.
 
“Once again Unite legal services has shown that it pays to be a member of Unite and that it will leave no stone unturned in ensuring our members are not short-changed. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank law firm OH Parsons and Michael Ford QC and Mark Whitcomb from Old Square Chambers for pursuing the case on behalf of Unite legal services.”

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ISDS Court Deals Blow To Argentinian Airline Nationalisation

The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom has long warned of the Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses in the new generation of trade deals including trade deals under negotiation. Now one of the most astonishing rulings made by a secret ISDS court has come to light.

The Argentinian airline Aerolinis Argentinos which was nationalised by the Argentinitan government has been the subject of an ISDS case and it’s outcome should worry trade unions and democrats.

The following article is from the website Portside written by David Dayen

A company that specialises in bank rolling lawsuits has won a huge payday from the government of Argentina, in one of the biggest examples of financiers using the secret courts embedded in trade agreements as casinos.

Burford Capital, the world’s largest firm for “litigation finance,” will earn $140 million on a $13 million investment in an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) case against Argentina over the nationalization of Aerolineas Argentinas, the nation’s flagship airline. The case was brought under Argentina’s bilateral investment treaty with Spain; the investors in the airline were Spanish.

Under ISDS, part of over 3,000 trade agreements worldwide, corporations can sue governments for changes in law or regulation that violate trade agreements, and win awards equaling “expected future profits” they might have otherwise gained. The idea was to protect investors from seizure of assets, outside the court system of the offending government. But instead of helping companies resolve legitimate disputes over seized assets, ISDS has increasingly become a means for rich investors to speculate on lawsuits, winning huge awards and forcing local taxpayers to foot the bill.

Donald Trump did not seek to eliminate ISDS in his negotiating objectives for reimagining NAFTA. He will only try to add some transparency mechanisms, such as making hearings and final rulings publicly available. The Burford Capital award reveals why that is wholly inadequate.

In 2010, investors with three insolvent affiliates of the Spanish travel firm Marsans filed an ISDS claim, arguing that Argentina forcibly expropriated the national airlines from them, first by restricting fare prices and finally by passing a law forcing a sale for $1. Argentina said it nationalized the airlines because they were mismanaged and deeply in debt, and paid no money in the sale because they were functionally worthless.

Investors sought $1.6 billion in the case, but in a 400-page ruling, the ISDS tribunal issued $324 million in awards. While the tribunal didn’t agree that Argentina unnecessarily restricted fares (in fact, there were two fare hikes allowed in 2008), it ruled by a 2-1 count that Argentina did partially violate the investment terms with Spain.

Burford agreed in 2010 to pay $13 million in legal fees for the case, in exchange for a cut of any judgment. The firm now stands to take home over 40 percent of the award.

“We are very pleased with this result and are gratified to see justice done for Teinver and its stakeholders,” said Christopher Bogart, Burford’s CEO, in a statement. “Without Burford’s capital, it is doubtful that this kind of recovery could have been obtained for the claimants.”

Burford will make over 10 times their initial investment, despite never having been investors in the underlying business. While ISDS tribunals were supposed to be a venue of last resort for corporations wronged in a foreign jurisdiction, they now serve as a playground where investors with no connection to the initial investment can get rich.

This kind of speculation, known as champerty under English common law, was once illegal. But rebranded litigation finance, it has spread across the globe in the past 50 years, serving as an attractive vehicle for hedge funds, private equity firms, and institutional investors.

At least 16 ISDS cases have featured third-party funding between 2009 and 2015, according to a report from Jean-Christophe Honlet, a partner at the global law firm Dentons.

But it’s likely that far more third-party funding is being used. The International Council for Commercial Arbitration suggests that at least 60 percent of ISDS cases “enquired about (but not necessarily sought or obtained) third-party funding before their cases were lodged.”

Only the richest of elites can access this investment opportunity. It’s a transfer of wealth upward, from local taxpayers to financial operators. And most often, vulnerable countries are the ones targeted. In fact, no country has been sued more in ISDS tribunals than Argentina. As of January, of the 767 ISDS cases in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) database, at least 59 were brought against that one country. Argentina has paid out $980 million in ISDS awards since 2002, in addition to the millions it spent to defend itself in arbitration.

This isn’t the only way financiers have manipulated ISDS courts. In multiple cases, hedge funds have bought companies simply so they could file claims against host governments for staggering sums.

We only know about Burford’s role in this ISDS claim because of a bankruptcy proceeding in Spain involving the former Argentine airline investors. Trump’s proposal for NAFTA’s ISDS chapter might change that, by adding more public access to proceedings. However, the special courts themselves would remain, and continue to serve as a potential money-making engine for the wealthy, rather than the initial purpose of protecting foreign investors.

Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, has proposed that investors self-insure against losses, which is the only option for most ordinary people assuming financial risk. “The obvious solution is for the investors to put their skin, not ours, in the game,” Bernstein said last year.

Burford Capital stressed that the ruling “does not necessarily mean that this amount will actually be paid in full, or at all.” The award could be overturned, though that is unlikely, or Argentina could refuse to pay.

David Dayen is a contributor to The Intercept, and also writes for Salon, the Fiscal Times, the New Republic, and more.

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Dave Prentis: We have won a moral struggle to end the tax on justice

Dave Prentis

Today’s supreme court ruling (July 26th 2017) is the most significant judicial intervention in the history of British employment law. This result is a massive win for our union and a massive win for all workers, whether they’re Unison members or not.

Working people who need protection the most – low-paid workers, the vulnerable and those treated poorly by their employers – were denied access to justice by employment tribunal fees.

The government infringed EU law, constitutional law and even the Magna Carta with a piece of legislation explicitly designed to deny working people their rights.

Today, the supreme court has righted a terrible wrong and sided with those the government sought to silence. This ruling shows that rights are only meaningful if they can be upheld – that’s a principle with significant implications for all of our protections as we head towards Brexit.

This result has been a long time coming and has involved years of hard work. Our challenge to the then coalition government – including the Liberal Democrats and their so-called progressive values – was of course legal. It was also a moral struggle – one of those moments where something is so clearly and blatantly unjust that it is imperative to challenge it by any means possible.

The government’s attacks on public service employees as a result of austerity had already hit Unison members hard in terms of pay, jobs and services – to then turn on their right to legal recourse was the final straw.

I knew as soon as the legislation was introduced that our union had to take a stand, especially when it had such a clear and direct discriminatory impact upon our million women members.

Back then I promised Unison members at our conference that we’d take this fight to the highest court in the land to fight for their rights. Today we can say that we did that, we fought, and we won.

I made a promise to our union that whatever it took – however many years and whatever the cost – I wanted our union to take this case. This was more than a legal case – it was a moral case.

Doing so has been a hard slog and a huge financial investment for Unison, but it has been worth every penny. I am so proud of our union –  and in particular of our union’s legal team, who have worked tirelessly to achieve this incredible result. Their skill and dedication has once again secured a huge win for working people everywhere.

Of course, as well as being a day of celebration, today is also a time for reflection. We will never know just how many people were stopped from taking legal cases as a result of employment tribunal fees. We will never know how many people have been denied access to justice and to legal recourse.

Their stories may remain untold and their rights unprotected. Likewise, there are those who have been forced to pay employment tribunal fees who will now demand those fees are returned to them. We will work with them to ensure the government cough up and admit they were wrong – legally and morally.

Today’s result should bring to an end the cruel employment tribunal fees regime, and ensure that no-one else is ever forced to pay crippling fees just to access basic justice. But it is also a reminder of the importance of trade unions in fighting for all of our rights, and the importance of a legal system that allows us to stand with our members, and win for our members.

Dave Prentis is general secretary of Unison.

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Mary Turner: A Giant Of The Trade Union Movement

By Peta Steel

Mary Turner, one of the most dynamic women members of the trade union movement rose from being a school dinner lady to becoming a Trade Union National President. A hugely popular figure, Turner established a reputation as someone who wasn’t scared of standing up for the rights of those she worked alongside or represented, including hungry children. She also sat on the Labour Party’s National Executive. Tim Roache, General Secretary of the General and Municipal Workers worked closely with her: ‘The word giant is sometimes overused, but in the case of Mary she really was a true giant of our movement.’

Turner nee O’Brien was born in 1938 in Tipperary, Ireland moving to Kilburn in North London when she was 12, where she attended the local Secondary Modern. Her father was a trade unionist, asking Mary when she was 16 and just starting her first job, whether she had joined a trade union; she had, it was the Tailor and Garment Workers Union, joined, whilst working as a bookkeeper at Jackson’s Tailors on Oxford Street. She later worked in the printing industry, serving as SOGAT Mother of Chapel before taking time off to bring up her two children. She had met and married Denny in 1956, six weeks after meeting him. He died in 2015 and they are survived by their son John and daughter Denise)

In 1970 Turner returned to work, this time as a dinner lady in Brent having joined the GMB in 1969. She made her name and reputation as someone who wasn’t scared on taking on the authorities as she organised the poorly paid, untrained, badly treated female workers.   Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn recalled meeting her at that time: ‘Mary was such a great campaigner for people.’

Shocked at not only seeing hungry children but also those being stigmatised having to queue separately for free school meals; she began what became a life time’s campaign to get free school meals for all. Later as chair of the Labour Party’s Policy Forum, working with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls she would get the party to adopt it as policy, and incorporated in its Manifesto. Elected a member of the GMB’s Central Executive Council in 1983, she was at that time, the only woman out of 40 to serve on it. In 1997, she was elected as National President of the Union, a position she was repeatedly re- elected to. She was still serving as President when she died and was in charge at this year’s conference in June, putting people in their place and encouraging others, just as she had normally done.

Turner fought injustice wherever she saw it. Nothing was beyond her skills, from feeding 600 young marchers taking part in the People’s March for Jobs in the 1980s, helping out in the Steel Strike to taking on the National Front; always working to help low paid workers and to make sure their interests were looked after.

A lifelong member of the Labour Party, she was elected onto the NEC in 1995, serving as its chair in 2003/4. A delegate to the TUC she spoke at every congress and in 2012 received the TUC Women’s Gold Badge. She also received an MBE and a CBE. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady paying tribute to Turner described her as ‘A true champion of free school meals and a fighter to the end.’

 

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CTUF At Tolpuddle

The CTUF Fringe Meeting held at Tolpuddle attracted a full house with speakers reporting that festival goers spilled outside of the marquee for the duration of the fringe. Speakers this year included Professor Keith Ewing who is the President of the Institute of Employment Rights and CTUF, CTUF’s Adrian Weir, Chrstine Blower from Workplace 2020, Joe Galazka Unite Regional Officer, Morning Star Editor Ben Chacko with Unite Regional Secretary Peter Hughes in the chair.

 

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Taylor Review : Class Panel Says It’s A ‘Missed Opportunity”

The Taylor Review into modern employment practices was roundly dismissed as a ‘missed opportunity’ by a panel put togther by CLASS – the Centre For Labour And Social Studies.

Trade unions across the UK as well as the TUC were highly critical of the report which failed to deal with issues such as protection for ‘gig workers’, banning zero hours contracts and protecting agency workers. Only a reference to changing the ‘Swedish Derogatation’ which is being misused by employers and employment agencies employers found some favour although it is not clear what will be propsed to put right the derogations misue.

A panel assembeled by CLASS gave the organisation their views on the Matthew Taylor’s review.

Sally Hunt, University and College Union (UCU) General Secretary:

This report offers warm words for people on casual contracts, but it’s tinkering around the edges of the problem. Insecure workers don’t want sympathy, they need real change that gives them proper rights at work and ends exploitative contracts.

When it comes to flexibility, too often it is a one-way street. Employees need to have clear rights and a decent contract, not just the option to ask for them. For people who live in daily fear that their hours will be cut if they even speak out, such a right is quite meaningless and makes this review a massive missed opportunity.

 Zero-hours and other exploitative contracts stop people from being able to plans their lives on a monthly, or even week-by-week basis. It is quite shocking in this day and age that we allow these kind of practices to proliferate, and for bosses to pretend that employer and employee benefit equally from flexibility.

John Hendy QC:

Changes to the law to protect the rights of those who work for a living are essential. But the most crucial step in every sector of British industry is to reintroduce sectoral collective bargaining, that is the settlement of minimum terms and conditions of work for the entire industry by negotiation between unions on behalf of workers on the one hand and employers’ associations on behalf of all the employers in the industry on the other. Those minimum terms and conditions can set the rules by which flexibility, security and a decent standard of life can be secured for all in the industry.

The agreed terms can then be enforced in respect of all workers and on all employers in the industry. Of course, the minimum standards can be improved by collective bargaining at enterprise level.

That sectoral collective bargaining is the future for a productive and efficient economy  was recognised in the publication last week of the OECD’s Employment Outlook 2017. And the roll-out of sectoral collective bargaining is also a keystone of Labour’s election Manifesto, For the Many not the Few. Sectoral collective bargaining has many benefits (to ensure democracy a the workplace, to deliver social justice and greater equality at work, to raise wages and hence increase demand in the economy, and because international law requires it). But it is particularly appropriate to deal with the growing problem of the gig economy, for example: delivery riders and drivers, care workers, and  hotel and catering workers.

James Farrar, United Private Hire Drivers

When Theresa May launched the Taylor Review last year and promised the Conservatives would be the party of worker rights I dared to hope that the government was learning the lessons of our Employment Tribunal victory over Uber. I thought she was taking heed of a rising threat of populism as more and more people gave up on a system seemingly rigged against them.

I didn’t allow myself to get too optimistic but I was confident in the direction of travel.

All hope came crashing down around the ears of 40,000 Uber drivers today.

We were betrayed.

We emphatically won the right to be recognised as workers under the law entitling us to minimum wage and holiday pay for every hour of the 48 hour week and average Uber driver works. But if Taylor’s recommendations are implemented we will now only be entitled to the minimum wage for ‘peak’ hours. Uber’s business model relies on an already oversupplied market since it carries no employment cost so where will the peak hours come from? Uber will be allowed to cherry pick the few most lucrative hours in the week when we can make the minimum wage anyway to bestow us the right to earn it.

According to Uber, ‘top drivers’ gross £18 per hour for 48 hours per week and when we deduct 25 commission that comes to £648. Take away another £400 per week typically to cover fuel, vehicle rental and commercial taxi insurance and a ‘top driver’ earns £5.17 per hour – and that’s top drivers. With such high overheads its simply not possible to work the peak hours and go home. Drivers will be forced to work the off peak hours with no worker rights protections to keep chipping away at overhead.

Another big concern is that the minimum wage, when allowed, will be linked to piece rates or in our case jobs per hour. This means drivers will be on the treadmill rushing in traffic and weather to keep on target just so to remain qualified for basis worker rights protections. In an industry already very poorly regulated this is a public safety disaster waiting to happen.

And if there was an alternative to Uber and I chose to multi app with another platform then all bets are off and protections from anyone.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have seen this coming. Throughout the long consultation a false choice between rights and flexibility was presented. I have always rejected that and I still do. When you are at the bottom just looking on to the bare minimum of worker rights I could never accept that the government would present me with a choice between flexibility and fairness. I will continue to fight for both for the ranks of all of us in Britain’s precariat.

John Earls, Head of Research, Unite the Union

When Matthew Taylor launched his review he rightly acknowledged that too many workers feel that they lack control in the workplace. Unfortunately, today’s report misses an opportunity to make some bold proposals to address that.

Taylor gives a nod to how trade unions have tackled abuses and worked with employers to deliver more successful and secure working environments. Trade unions and collective bargaining are an important part of addressing the imbalance of power that exists in work.  However, there’s nothing here to properly promote collective bargaining and the ability of workers to organise.

Taylor calls for “sectoral strategies engaging employers, employees and stakeholders to ensure that people…are not stuck at the living wage minimum or facing insecurity.” Why not new sectoral bodies bringing together unions and employers to negotiate pay, conditions, progression and training? Modern Wages Councils anyone?

The proposals on ‘dependent contractor’ status risk making things worse. I am also concerned at talk of ‘piece rates’ which can be used to oppress workers.

Existing rights should be extended to all those in work, not only those who qualify for ‘employee’ status. This should include creating a legal presumption that everyone qualifies for the full set of employee rights, placing the onus on the employer to prove that this is not the case. Taylor’s call for the burden of proof in ET cases be reversed onto the employer in part seems to recognise this.

Government must also make sure that those rights can be realised effectively. This includes abolishing Employment Tribunal fees and ensuring that enforcement agencies are given sufficient resources to deal with employment abuses.

Taylor’s call for naming and shaming of employers who do not pay ET awards is not an adequate deterrent and the claim that the naming and shaming of employers who fail to pay the NMW is “a huge success” is misguided.

There is no ban on zero hours contracts, yet there is no reason why the precedent set in New Zealand, where legislation has meant that large, multi-nationals, who also operate in Britain, have moved to fixed shifts and hours, cannot work here. Having a ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours after a year will not deter bad employers.

On the positive side, the calls to scrap the so-called ‘Swedish Derogation’ and ensure equal pay for agency workers, stamp out unpaid internships, and provide sick leave for low-paid workers are welcome.

Taylor is right to highlight the importance of the quality of work and to call for all work to be “fair and decent”. But there’s too little here to make sure that it is.

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