Further Outrage In Turkey As Court Jails Renault Workers

Renault workers who take part in demonstration jailed.

Workers fired from the Turkish automotive manufacturer Oyak-Renault have been handed prisons sentences for joining a march to protest against their dismissal, Turkish news site Evrensel reported on Friday.

Police detained the 15 workers in 2016 during a demonstration held by thousands of workers outside the factory. The gathering was called after 10 workers were dismissed amid a dispute with their employers over their right to choose to be represented by a new union, Birleşik Metal-İş.

Their employer, however, took the stiff police opposition to the protest as an encouraging sign, and later fired a further 130 workers for their membership of Birleşik Metal-İş, Evrensel reported.

The case was taken to court in Bursa, northwest Turkey, where a judge ruled in favour of the dismissed workers seeking compensation and their jobs back.

However, the court has found the workers who were detained at the protest guilty of joining an unlawful demonstration and sentenced them to five months in prison. Turkish authorities say the workers attacked police at the demonstration.

Birleşik Metal-İş issued a statement after the court’s decision was announced, saying verdict had sent a message to employers that they can fire or put pressure on workers for their union membership and have them sent to prison if they protest.

The union said the verdict had gone against precedents set by Turkey’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Court, and the European Court of Human Rights on workers’ rights to stage demonstrations.

More soon………

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US – UK Trade Deal ‘Unlikely’

From Inside Trade, November 15th  

 Sent in by Ben Davis of the United Steelworkers

The draft Brexit deal unveiled by the UK government last week could stop a future U.S.-United Kingdom free trade deal before meaningful talks have even begun, two British Conservative members of Parliament, along with a British trade analyst, argued on Thursday.

“I think it’s probably impossible,” MP David Davis, the former British Brexit secretary who resigned in protest of the direction of talks in July, said at a Heritage Foundation event.

The Withdrawl Deal could keep the UK in a customs union with the European Union for an indeterminate period of time, he added, which means the country would not be able to enact its own regulatory regime and pursue its own trade deals, including one with the U.S.

Brexit supporters have long touted free trade agreements – particularly one with the U.S. – as prizes for leaving the EU. Davis said U.S. officials he has talked to considered the UK to be first in the queue.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will be seeking public comment and to hold a meeting  in January to inform the negotiating objectives for a potential U.S.-UK bilateral trade deal, according to a notice set to be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Brexit should have been seen as a great opportunity by both the UK and the rest of the world – a G7 country building a trade policy from the ground up, said Shanker Singham, director of the international trade and policy unit at the London-based, right-leaning Institute for Economic Affairs.

Instead, he said, the UK could end up being seen by the U.S. as “a tiny version of the EU” that is not worth the effort needed to secure a free trade agreement.

Davis and MP Owen Paterson, another hardline Brexit supporter, said they didn’t believe the deal stood a chance in Parliament. They also said a “no deal” scenario was preferable to the current deal.

Unlike Brexit supporters, the business community has largely sought to maintain close ties with the EU single market, and industry groups so far have said they prefer the certainty of a deal over no deal.

  The USTR last month notified Congress of its intent to negotiate with the UK after the latter is out of the bloc. The UK is set to exit on March 29th.

The deal does contain some elements that could affect a future U.S.-UK trade deal. The big one is a “backstop” protocol for the Irish border. A longtime sticking point, the backstop as outlined in the draft deal would enact a UK-wide customs union in the event the two sides could not come to an agreement on their future relationship by December 2020, the end date for the transition period. The protocol would also keep Northern Ireland in line with many aspects of the European single market.

The deal does include an option allowing both sides to agree to extend the transition period to reach an agreement that would maintain a frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. If none was reached, however, the backstop would go into effect and the UK would stay in the backstop customs union “unless and until” a new agreement was reached. Additionally, the UK could not unilaterally leave the customs union — another element Brexit supports dislike.

Both the UK and the EU have said they do not want the backstop go into effect.

But Singham said the deal – even excluding the backstop – makes it likely the relationship between the EU and UK would involve a customs arrangement of some sort. Any arrangement like that would preclude the UK from negotiating its own tariffs or large parts of its regulatory regime, he said, and without that leverage, what could the UK offer the U.S. to get what the UK might want?

“This is the greatest tragedy of this deal,” he said. “It takes a country that could have been a major player in solving global problems, and it makes it completely irrelevant.”

At least one member of Congress was skeptical of any Brexit deal. “For many, many years, we’ve relied on Great Britain, especially, to carry our water in EU negotiations,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) told Politico. “We’re not going to have that when it comes to their exit from the EU, so we’re going to have to find new avenues of relevancy within the EU.”

The withdrawal deal also protects EU geographical indications, which have long frustrated U.S. producers. They argue that European GIs are too restrictive and cover “common names” of products like certain kinds of cheeses and wines. The protections for GIs in the withdrawal deal does not guarantee the same protection in any agreement negotiated during the transition period, but the EU has made a point to protect its robust GI system in all its free trade agreements. — Hannah Monicken (hmonicken@iwpnews.com)

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Unions mourn the assassination of Turkish trade union leader Abdullah Karacan

Abdullah Karacan, general president of DİSK/Lastik-İş (Rubber and Chemical Workers’ Union) was assassinated 13th November, while visiting union members at a Goodyear factory in the city of Adapazarı.

Unite the union in the UK and Ireland is deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the assassination of Abdullah Karacan, general president of Turkey’s DİSK/Lastik-İş (Rubber and Chemical Workers’ Union) and the attempt on the life of regional president of Lastik-İş Mustafa Sipahi and shop steward Osman Bayraktar, while visiting union members at a Goodyear factory in the city of Adapazarı in Turkey.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: Unite sends its sincere condolences to Abdullah’s family and to the members of Lastik-İş and confederation DISK, as well as the whole trade union movement in Turkey.

 “A committed internationalist, Abdullah Karacan visited the UK in 2015 in support of Unite members in Goodyear who were fighting against closure in Birmingham. We have lost a good friend and comrade.

“Sadly the situation facing trade unionists in Turkey is increasingly becoming more dangerous. The government of president Erdogan targets all those who stand up for their communities, their beliefs, human and workers’ rights and anyone who opposes the slide into authoritarian dictatorship that clearly is taking place in Turkey. Unite will continue to stand in solidarity with all the progressive forces in Turkey.

 “Unite joins with the IndustriALL global union federation in calling for a thorough investigation into this heinous crime.”

The United Steelworkers condemned the brutal assassination today of Abdullah Karacan, general president of the Turkish Rubber and Chemical Workers’ Union Lastik-İş.

Karacan was murdered while on a visit to workers at the Goodyear factory in the city of Adzapari.  The union’s regional president, Mustafa Sipahi, and shop steward Osman Bayraktar were also wounded in the assault.  Bayraktar remains in critical condition.
 
“We are outraged by this vicious assault on our sister union, which reflects the erosion of democratic rights under the Erdogan government in Turkey,” said USW International Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson.

“We send our condolences to the family of Brother Karacan and to all the members of Lastik-İş, and our prayers for the recovery of brother Bayraktar. The Turkish authorities must immediately investigate, arrest and prosecute the criminals who are responsible for this attack.”


Johnson co-chairs the rubber industry section of IndustriALL Global Union, the global union representing industrial workers to which both USW and Lastik-İş are affiliated.  Karacan, a member of IndustriALL’s Executive Council, led the fight against contracting out by major tire companies in Turkey including Bridgestone, Pirelli and Goodyear, winning permanent jobs for thousands of union members.

A committed internationalist, Karacan visited the United Kingdom in 2015 to support of members of UNITE the Union at Goodyear who were fighting against closure of their plant in Birmingham.

The USW and UNITE are partners in the global union Workers Uniting.

IndustriALL Global Union is horrified to hear that Brother Abdullah Karacan, general president of our Turkish affiliate DİSK/Lastik-İş (Rubber and Chemical Workers’ Union) was assassinated today, 13 November, while visiting union members at a Goodyear factory in the city of Adapazarı.

Regional president of Lastik-İş Mustafa Sipahi and shop steward Osman Bayraktar were also hit by the gunman. Bayraktar remains in critical condition after the attack.

“We are shocked to hear that Brother Karacan has been assassinated,” says Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary. “Brother Karacan was a genuinely committed union leader. We expect a thorough investigation into this heinous crime.

“Our sincere condolences go to his familty, his union Lastik-İş, his confederation DISK, as well as the whole trade union movement in Turkey.”

A highly respected union leader, Karacan, who was a substitute member of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee, managed to win a significant victory against precarious work by persuading multinational tyre companies to end outsourcing at their operations in Turkey.

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Breakdown of negotiations in metal industry in Austria

By Martina Schneller – PRO-GE

The already fifth negotiating session between our joint negotiating team of trade unions PRO-GE and GPA-djp and the employers of the largest subsector in metal industry, the association for the metal technology (FMTI) covering more than 130.000 workers/employees in machinery and metal ware production, was broken off in the late evening hours of November 8th, 2018.

Though during the first six hours of negotiations an agreement on framework conditions regarding remuneration of overtime pay seemed already tangible, employers withdrew their consent at the last minute. With the failure of the framework part, an agreement on wage increases was not in sight and the session was broken off. After the negotiation session failed, employers phoned and came up with an offer of 2,7 percent wage increase instead of the 2,02 percent offered during the fourth round.

Our negotiation team rejected the employers´ offer by phone as not serious and stressed again that, given the overall excellent economic situation in the metal industry, a mere 2,02 percent increase will only offset the inflation rate and therefore be insufficient.

On Monday 12th November trade unions will reconvene the suspended meetings with the workers in companies of the affected subsector to inform and discuss about the situation in the bargaining round.

From Monday 12th noon till Wednesday, 14th November midnight in 350 companies of the FMTI subsector warning strikes are foreseen.

Meanwhile negotiations in the other five subsectors of the metal industry will continue as planned.

The aims of the warning strikes:

  • Return of the employers to the negotiation table with an acceptable offer
  • 5 % pay rise (at least over € 100)
  • compensation for longer working hours caused by the recent prolongation and amended Working Time Act (12 hours daily working hours) in extra pay or time off as well as improved protection against dismissal in case of denial of longer working hours
  • uniform results of collective bargaining for all five subsectors in metal industry, covering 190.000 workers/employees
  • withdrawal of any counter actions by the employers against the strikes
  • continued pay during industrial action (meetings in companies and warning strikes)
  • Collective agreement for the whole metal sector should take retroactive effect as of November 1st, 2018

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Updated: Taylor Report And Tory Government Response

Matthew Taylor The Government repsonds to his report on the gig economy and employment rights.

The Government is to publish its response to the Taylor Report on precarious work and the gig economy.

Taylor’s original report recieved a tepid response from trade unions and if reports in the Guardian newspaper are anything to go by the Government’s response will get a similar response.

The Institute of Employment Rights has today (November 9th) set out details from The Guardian  and an intial response to the response.

The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom’s President Professor Keith Ewing said the report and response was: “Largely tokenism which generally is unlikely to make much difference. It does not address underlying problems – three tier employment status, and legality of zero hours contracts”

CTUF also agrees with the IER reponse and as the TUC said in a tweet “We will wait to see the fine print, unions have been leading the campaign to scrap the agency worker loophole which is a license to undercut wages.”

The IER states that “Theresa May has backed legislation to better protect agency workers, including closing the Swedish Derogation (a legal loophole that allows temporary staff to be paid less than their permanent peers) and imposing fines on employment agencies that withold holiday and sick pay.

“Gig” workers were promised the right to “request” (but not to receive) temporary or fixed-hours contracts after 12 months of continuous service (to be defined…), and clarification as to the difference between a “worker” and an “independent contractor”.

On this point Len McCluskey of Unite tweeted : “This is a piecemeal approach. Giving gig economy workers and those on zero hours contracts the right to request a contract after a year will not stop bad bosses exploiting workers. It must be a day one right, and zero hours contracts should be outlawed.”

The IER goes onto say “elsewhere, the government said it would investigate modern slavery at car washes, consider merging labour standards agencies, consider providing workers with the right to notice and compensation for cancelled shifts, and give all workers the right to a payslip.

If a worker’s rights are breached and their employer refuses to pay out court-ordered compensation in full (as happens in two-thirds of cases), that employer could soon be “named and shamed”, but aside from the dubious effectiveness of this punishment, whether this is a boon for workers depends entirely on whether they retain their right to access justice in the first place.

And it seems that vital right may be up for grabs once more, as Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, Richard Heaton, told the House of Commons Justice Select Committee earlier this week that his department was formulating a new tribunal fees scheme.

The last programme to charge claimants for taking their employers to court was found unlawful by the Supreme Court last year after a judicial review was brought by Unison. The government has since had to pay back over £7 million to affected workers. But Heaton insisted that the Ministry would find another way to charge litigants for enforcing their rights.

It is a key recommendation in the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law that employment tribunal fees are not brought back. Further, our proposals for reform go much further than those adopted by the government.

“Boiled down, May’s plan for workers’ rights is to fiddle while Rome burns – providing a little bit of extra support to those who miss out on holiday pay or are exploited by agencies, while doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions whose wage does not cover the basic cost of living.

We cannot protect vulnerable workers without providing them with equal rights to their peers. We recommend a universal status of ‘worker’ for all people in employment, providing everyone with the same rights from day one; sectoral collective bargaining to ensure that pay and conditions negotiated by unions and employers are rolled out across all industries, regardless of the employer; and the introduction of a real living wage, because no person in full-time work should be forced to rely on state benefits.”

Labour’s Rebecca Long Bailey

Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, commenting on reports of the Government’s plans for the gig economy, said: “After almost 500 days since the Taylor Review was first published the Tories are failing to improve the lives of working people. Their proposals are not only thin on detail but fail to grasp the inherent problems plaguing millions of workers such as insecurity, inequality and low pay. Labour will transform the British workplace and create a level playing field in the labour market by ensuring that workers receive their full legal rights from day one.”

The Labour Party explained:

  • Merely abolishing the Swedish derogation and allowing workers to request a more stable contract will do absolutely nothing to tackle the stark inequality in pay and type of work facing UK workers.
  • Labour will give all workers equal rights from day one, including sick pay, paid holiday, and protection from unfair dismissal;
  • Labour will repeal the Trade Union Act and introduce new laws that will enable the roll out of sectoral collective bargaining in the biggest transfer of power to workers in generations.
  • We will prioritise trade union and workplace rights through a new Ministry of Labour;
  • We will strengthen the enforcement of those rights by properly resourcing HMRC and fine employers who breach labour market rights and regulations
  • All workers have the right already to request that or whatever other improvement they desire. Until employers are obliged to provide a more stable contract the promise is empty rhetoric.
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United Steelworkers Say Labour Code Recommendations A Good First Step

Steve Hunt of the United Steelworkers in Canada

The United Steelworkers (USW) in Canada has welcomed recommendations for changes to British Columbia’s Labour Relations Code, but cautions much more must be done to bring the Code into the 21st century. 

The modest changes proposed to ‘successorship’ must be expanded to include all sectors, including forestry where loggers face constant contract flipping, the USW says.

“Every B.C. worker deserves to have their successorship rights fully protected, no matter where they work,” says USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt.

With employers promoting a gig economy – creating temporary, precarious work and pushing to treat more workers as contractors – workers need a code that recognizes that inherent power imbalance.

“We are grateful that Premier Horgan’s working life has given him knowledge and understanding about the value of card-check certification.  We need other B.C. legislators to remember working people and the barriers they face when trying to form unions.”

Other steps recommended today around timelines, penalties, mediation and arbitration are welcome changes that bring B.C.’s code into line with most other Canadian jurisdictions.

However, clear language is required to ensure access to things like remedial certifications and a clear and meaningful penalty for employers who interfere in organizing drives. Small monetary penalties simply become the cost of business for too many employers who face substantive penalties.

Finally, Hunt noted any recommendations for change are only valuable if the operation of the Labour Relations Board is fully funded.

 

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Canada Must Investigate Labour and Environmental Violations Committed by Candian Companies In Mexico

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Labour demands stronger workers’ rights as we leave the EU, Corbyn tells UN

The Labour Party wants to secure stronger rights for UK workers and communities as we leave the EU, Jeremy Corbyn will tell UN chiefs in Geneva today.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is in Geneva to meet the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, Guy Ryder, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Repeated attacks on rights at work and increased powers and privileges for corporations and employers have been at the heart of the failure of an economic system that needs urgent overhaul as we leave the EU.

While the Conservatives want to use Brexit as a race to the bottom in rights and standards, Labour is committed to strengthening rights and protections in the workplace.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“Britain is leaving the EU, but we must and will work together with those in other countries to resist the pressure to undermine rights and protections at work.

“Tax dodging, speculation and unaccountable corporate power have created economic inequality on a vast scale and sucked wealth and jobs out of community after community.

“Average pay in Britain is now lower than a decade ago and workers have faced a concerted attack on their rights under this Tory Government.

“We are determined to secure stronger rights at work and fair rules for business as we leave the EU as part of a new economic settlement which delivers for the many, not the few.”

 

 

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PCS wins £3million check-off compensation

PCS has achieved a major victory over the government as the High Court has ruled that ministers acted illegally by withdrawing check-off, the decades-old practice of collecting members’ union subscriptions directly from their pay packet.

The union has won £3 million from the government because of the illegal moves the Department for Work and Pensions took to try and smash PCS. In 2015 we were at the heart of opposition to the government, fighting against the government’s cuts and closures, robbing members of their redundancy rights and we were fighting to end austerity.

As a result the then Tory Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude took a particularly vicious decision to attack members’ terms and conditions, attack our reps and try to bankrupt us by overnight announcing that he would not allow PCS members to pay their union subscriptions directly from your pay packet. A system that had been in operation for many decades. He did that because he knew that 90% of PCS income came from that method.

Magnificent campaign
In a magnificent campaign we signed up over 160,000 members to pay their subs by direct debit in a matter of weeks and months to stop us from going bankrupt and to ensure we could continue to represent members at work. We also took legal action in the High Court to show that the government had acted illegally and to get compensation. Today that case has been settled and in a humiliating defeat for the government, in its attempt to smash PCS and other unions in the public sector, it has to pay £3 million compensation and all of our legal costs.

PCS now plan to take legal action against every major government department because of the illegal way they’ve treated PCS,

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Today’s announcement tells us we have settled one departmental case on union busting, we have many more to come. That’s good news for all of us, and now we’ll ensure we use that money to benefit our members.

This goes to show that this union can win. We can win in the courts and we can win through campaigning. We’ve defeated the government on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and we’re waiting for the outcome of a judicial review on the way the government handled pay this year because we believe they did not consult us lawfully. But we’ve got more campaigns to fight. We’ve still got to challenge the government on pay, and ensure that next year we can win above inflation pay rises.

We will continue to take them to court when we can, but the key to winning is to be a stronger union in every workplace. If you know a colleague who hasn’t joined PCS, please urge them to join. If you’re a member consider becoming a rep. The more of us who are in the union, the more of us who are active means we won’t just beat the government in court we will beat them in our campaigning, too.

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Why giving ‘gig’ workers rights isn’t as radical as politicians think it is

McStriker Lauren McCourt, Carolyn Jones, John Hendy QC, Professor Keith Ewing supporting the fast food strikes and campaign.

We could turn our country from one of the most unequal in Europe to one that offers decent pay and and quality jobs.

This article was written by John Hendy QC, Professor Keith Ewing and Carolyn Jones.

The past couple of weeks has seen ‘gig’ workers and people on zero-hours contracts take a stand against low pay and insecure jobs, with strikes held from Brighton to Glasgow among staff at TGI Friday’s, McDonald’s, Wetherspoons, Uber and Deliveroo.

Joining the picket line at Leicester Square, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell promised to meet the needs of the strikers through employment law reforms, such as rolling out sectoral collective bargaining, establishing a Ministry of Labour, and improving workers’ access to trade unions.

Opponents of these ideas react as if they are radical. They have claimed that providing precarious workers with stronger rights will make the economy less ‘flexible’ to business.

On both accounts, they are wrong. It is our current system – one that leaves workers uniquely vulnerable – that is unusual. Labour’s proposals would simply bring the UK up to the basic standards of most other developed economies.

McDonnell’s recommendations are based on those put forth in our new report Rolling out the Manifesto for Labour Law, which was authored by 26 of the country’s leading academics and labour lawyers. Among the ideas adopted from our Manifesto by the Labour Party was one to scrap the UK’s three-tiered employment status, which currently divides the workforce into ’employees’, ‘workers’ and the self-employed. Abolishing this framework is vital to protecting McStrikers and others in similar jobs.

Currently, those classed as ‘workers’ – a status less than ’employees’ – have access to only a handful of rights like holiday pay. By using the ‘worker’ classification companies like Sports Direct can limit toilet breaks and fire their staff for getting ill.

People who are self-employed have no workers’ rights at all. This is fine for those genuinely in business on their own account (like the independent shopkeeper) but has been exploited by companies like Uber, who try to misclassify their workers as self-employed to deny them rights entirely.

We propose a single status with equal rights for everyone at work from day one. The only exception would be for those genuinely running a business on their own account. By doing so, we can put an end to these forms of exploitation once and for all.

And there is nothing radical about this proposition. The vast majority of legal systems, including those of most developed economies, have a two-tier system just like the one we propose.

While some countries do have workers in a ‘third’ category, it would be extremely misleading to compare them to the millions of people in the UK trapped in ‘worker’ roles. Why? Because those ‘third’ categories are embedded in a totally different system of labour law that offers better protections to workers all round.

Take, for example, collective bargaining coverage. Sectoral collective bargaining – a central feature of our proposals – is the dominant form of industrial relations across Europe. It describes the process whereby representatives of workers and employers meet to negotiate and set minimum wages and conditions across entire sectors of industry. Under such agreements, every worker doing the same job, at the same level, is paid at least the same rate as their peers, regardless of who they are employed by or what their employment status is. In simple terms, this means workers are paid for the work they do, not which category their employer has pushed them into.

On average, across the EU, over 60% of the workforce are covered by collective agreements like these – negotiated either at sectoral level or with individual companies, or both – rising to more than 80% in some of the strongest economies like Sweden and Norway. In the UK, it is less than 26% – so most workers have no ability to negotiate and are instead forced to take or leave whatever their employer offers them.

A government department for labour that represents workers’ needs in government is another staple of most other developed economies. The UK used to have one too, but it was slashed by Thatcher’s administration. Re-establishing a Ministry of Labour is another way we can rise to the standards of our international peers.

Most other countries have independent labour Inspectors to enforce their labour laws. Not the UK. It’s hardly surprising, then, that one-third of claimants successful at tribunal never receive their compensation. It’s simply too easy to break the law. We propose a Labour Inspectorate to enforce compliance, compensation covering the losses victims have suffered, and tougher penalties including criminal sanctions for the worst offenders. Where did we get these ideas? By looking at what already works across the world.

As for flexibility, accountancy giant PwC recently proved that you don’t need to sacrifice your rights to fit your work around your life by allowing prospective candidates to choose their own hours without being treated as second-class ‘workers’. This is a matter of employer choice; nothing about our proposals prevents other employers from choosing it.

The government is expected to adopt Taylor’s proposals, which leave the UK’s labour system largely unchanged. Ours could turn the country from one of the most unequal in Europe to one that offers decent pay and quality jobs.

John Hendy QC is Vice president of CTUF and a Barrister at Old Square Chambers; Keith Ewing is President of CTUF and a Professor of Public Law at Kings’ College London; Carolyn Jones is Assistant Secretary of CTUF.

This blog first appeared on Left Foot Forward.

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