Labour Is Redressing The Ills Of Working Life Today – CTUF at Durham Miners

Plans for new working rights and to smash the restrictions on unions will help turn back the neo-liberal tide, write Adrian Weir

Union activists attending the Durham Miners’ Gala last weekend warmly welcomed Labour’s twenty point plan to introduce new rights for workers and unions.

A fringe meeting in the Miners’ Hall organised by the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the Institute of Employment Rights on the even of the gala heard from union leaders, politicians and lawyers making the case that the movement was, for the first time in thirty years, close to regaining historic rights and freedoms.

Train drivers’ leader, ASLEF General Secretary and chair of TULO Mick Whelan, described his union’s current dispute on Southern Rail and the inequities of the law currently where an employer can apply to the High Court for an injection on the grounds that a union may have acted outside the law, the employer never has to prove that but the judge forces the action to be called off because the union may have.

Newly elected in last month’s General Election, Durham North West representative Laura Pidcock MP, spoke from her own experience of the life on zero hours contracts where the employer is able to send workers home, off pay, in quiet periods and then call then back when it suits. Labour has promised to end exploitative zero hours contracts.

Former teachers’ leader and co-convenor of Labour’s Workplace 2020 project, Christine Blower, set out how Labour’s twenty point Manifesto plan will redress many of the ills of working life today. She said that workers will be given the right to union representation as the best way of enforcing rights; unions will be given access to workplaces to organise workers. New laws will be introduced to tackle the uberisation of work.

Top trade union lawyer, John Hendy QC, argued for two essential points that had transitioned from the IER Manifesto for Labour Law into Labour’s Manifesto. Firstly, the need to re-establish a Ministry of Labour, and secondly, to re-establish sectorial collective bargaining.

A Ministry of Labour, with a seat at the Cabinet table, would ensure that workers’ voice was heard at the highest levels in a way that subsuming employee interest in the Business Department can never do. A Ministry of Labour would oversee a unified labour inspectorate policing occupational health and safety, minimum wage and other statutory rights.

At the beginning of the neo-liberal period over eighty per cent of workers had their contract determined by union led collective bargaining, that figure is now down at twenty per cent with a accompanying fall of the share of GDP going to wages and salaries. Union led collective bargaining at the sectoral level is essential to reverse the thirty year collapse of working class living standards.

The CTUF/IER fringe will take place again this coming weekend on Friday evening at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival. Speakers  awill include Prof Keith Ewing IER/CTUF; Christine Blower Workplace 2020; Jo Galazka Unite Regional Officer; and, Ben Chacko, Editor of the Morning Star.

This article appeared in the Morning Star 13th July 2017

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Unite on the Taylor report: Work must pay; swindling bosses need to fear the law

Matthew Taylor – his review into employment practices will be published July 11th

10 July 2017

Ahead of the publication of the long-awaited Matthew Taylor report tomorrow, (Tuesday 11 July) into workers’ rights in the changing economy, the country’s biggest union, Unite, said the urgency of the situation must be grasped as for too many work in the UK simply does not pay.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Taylor review is an opportunity to take a serious look at the forces driving the rise of insecure work and exploitation in this country.

“We cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation.  Workers are being hit by a triple whammy of rising living costs, falling wages and increasing insecurity.

“We need better answers from government on this because for far too many in this country, the bald truth is that work simply does not pay.

“Workplace insecurity is being super-charged not by gig-working alone, but by the deliberate and bogus use of self-employment, by the continuing use of zero hours contracts and the misuse of agency working where there ought to be permanent employment.

“The denial of basic rights and a fair wage to growing numbers of workers is a scandal on a huge scale. It must be addressed.

“So it is vital that what emerges from this report brings much-needed clarity to workers and can support them in pursuing their rights.

“But it must also be substantial enough to put a stable footing under the growing numbers of workers for whom the monthly outgoings are ever-rising but their incomes are in constant flux.

“The onus must be on employers, not employees, to prove that the employment status is legitimately self-employed, for example, and we call again for this country to do as New Zealand does and ban abusive zero hours contracts.

“The message must also go out loudly and clearly to those employers who swindle their workforce that the law is coming after them and that working people will have justice.

“That is why Taylor’s recommendation must be matched by effective enforcement of the law. Without fully resourced enforcement then all we have from Mr Taylor and the government is a dog that is all bark and no bite.

“Lastly, the government must overhaul the welfare system. It ought to be there to support people as they move in and out of work but instead is a force for creating the impoverishment of working people.”

Latest: The TUC are tweeting that if reports in the media on the Taylor Report are true gig economy employers have been ‘let off the hook’

 

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CTUF – IER At Durham Miners

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French Unions Gear Up For Fight With Macron Over Labour Laws

Phillipe Martinez, Secretary General of the French CGT union expects ‘loyal’ negotiations with Macron.

By Tony Burke

French unions lead by the CGT and the new government of  Emmanuel Macron the new French President are to use the traditionally long summer holidays  to set out the ground for a battle over French employment rights. Macron is proving that he is no friend of labour unions and has warned unions he intends to “reform” France’s labour code before the end of this summer.

Mr Macron said during his presidential campaign that he planned to ‘fast-track’ legislation through use of ‘executive decrees’ but unions have urged the government not to rush through the reforms handing France more neoliberal labour laws which will reduce France’s strong workers’ rights and protection.

Workers in France are protected under a powerful 3,000-page labour code and although  about 7 per cent of workers are union members, unions play a significant role in employment relations and they are normally able to mobilise mass demonstrations and strikes which are widely supported by workers.

But Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says they intend to prepare reforms during the long summer holidays in France when factories and offices close or run with reduced staff and many workers are away for three or more weeks.

Mr Macron had been accused of using the break to undermine the unions’ ability to organise against the legislation. It now seems more likely Macron will use the holiday period to prepare the ground for the reforms.

Unions are also going to use the holiday period to set out their stall. Fabrice Angei, a CGT official, said. “We’re setting out to argue, explain and convince people to join us, and this work will continue through the summer.”

Strikes, rallies and a rebellion in parliament were two factors that stopped Francois Hollande’s government’s attempts to introduce similar reforms.

Mr Macron was a minister in that government between 2014 and 2016 before he quit to launch his presidential bid.

In a document released recently, the government broadly stuck to measures contained in Mr Macron’s campaign manifesto including the capping of compensation for unfair dismissal cases.

Macron intends to try to split the French trade unions. Two of the biggest union federations appeared willing to engage in talks with the government. “I don’t think the unions will want to make a snap judgement since we only just got this letter from the government,” Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union said on French TV.

And the smaller FO union said the reform plan contained both positive and negative points.

But the more powerful militant CGT union, which represents many transport and manufacturing workers and takes the lead in mobilisation, said it disagreed with the reforms and called on workers to protest over the coming weeks commencing with a demonstration on the opening day of the French parliament.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said after meeting Mr Macron that he was looking for a “loyal” negotiation between the government and the unions, signalling that the president’s reforms might not be as quick as he would like. Martinez is playing his cards carefully. The CGT is calling on all workers to join a national protest day of action on September 12th and recognises that other unions may take a softer line than the CGT position.

A key issue is pensions: Mr Macron has said he wants to merge 37 pension systems into one, including the workers’ pensions at the state-owned EDF utility and SNCF railway companies.

This is an updated version of an article which first appeared in the Morning Star on June 14th. 

 

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CTUF- IER At Tolpddule 2017

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Greenpeace Leaks Secret EU – JEFTA Trade Deal Info

From Greenpeace media release. Thanks to Ben Davis at United Steelworkers.

Greenpeace Netherlands has released 205 pages of previously undisclosed chapters from secret talks for an EU-Japan trade agreement (known as JEFTA). Greater public access to JEFTA negotiating documents is good for democracy and will enable more balanced and transparent public participation by experts, politicians, civil society and the media. The European Commission has itself frequently highlighted the importance of democratic principles and transparency.

JEFTA negotiations were officially launched on 25th March 2013 and the EU Commission expects to conclude them in 2017. The leaked documents are dated between January 2016 and January 2017.

The original trade mandate from July 2012 has also been published online. The original documents have been retyped to protect our sources.

Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labour rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: JEFTA is once again about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.

You can download all the documents below, as a whole and per chapter. For more background info on the content of these documents and JEFTA in general, please check here (pdf).

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Canadian unions celebrate repeal of anti-union legislation

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Canada’s unions are celebrating the adoption of Bill C-4, legislation that repeals the former Conservative government’s controversial anti-union Bills 
C-377 and C-525.

“Our affiliates and labour activists across the country have organized and campaigned against these bills from the beginning, and this is their victory to celebrate,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then promised that, if elected, he would repeal these bills and we are happy he has kept that promise,” he added.

The former Conservative government argued Bill C-377 was about union transparency, but experts from across the spectrum agreed it was really about red tape that would have forced unions, their suppliers, and other businesses they work with to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours producing and processing expense reports to be reviewed and filed – all at taxpayer expense.

Bill C-525 would have made it more difficult for workers in federally-regulated workplaces to join a union. It was opposed by labour relations experts, but was nonetheless passed into law by the Conservatives in December 2014.

Bill C-377 was opposed by everyone from the NHL Players’ Association to Conservative and Liberal senators, constitutional experts, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, the insurance and mutual fund industry, seven provinces, and a long and diverse list of others in the business, financial, professional, legal, labour, and academic communities, private and public, federal and provincial.

Despite that opposition, the Conservatives used their Senate majority to pass the bill on June 30th, 2015.

“By passing Bill C-4, the federal government has demonstrated it understands the importance of fair labour relations, and the critical role unions play advancing rights for all Canadian workers,” said Yussuff.

“I want to thank everyone who opposed these bills over the years, in addition to both former minister MaryAnn Mihychuk for introducing Bill C-4 in January last year, and current labour minister Patty Hajdu for her Senate testimony in support of the bill. We are also grateful to Senator Diane Bellemare for shepherding it through the Red Chamber,” he added.

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ILO Convention 98 ratified: Canadain unions urge government to promote collective bargaining rights at home and abroad

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Canada’s unions are celebrating the ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 98, ‘The Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949′.

The Convention reinforces the right to collective bargaining and protects all workers from anti-union discrimination, including being forced to give up union membership in order to get a job, or job termination for participating in union activities.

“This is a long overdue and important step forward for Canadian labour relations and sends a strong message to the world,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “By signing this convention, Canada is finally recognizing the crucial role that strong unions and collective bargaining rights play in reducing inequality and building stronger, fair and inclusive economies.”

Today’s ratification of Convention 98 means Canada has ratified all eight considered by ILO to be the minimum “enabling rights” people need to defend and improve their rights and conditions at work, and to work in freedom and dignity.

Canada’s unions have been working for ratification for decades, but since 1949 and until now, successive Canadian governments have refused. Canada is the 165th country to ratify. The United States, Mexico, and 20 other countries have yet to ratify.

“By ratifying Co98, Canada is committing not just to respect collective bargaining rights, but to promote and uphold them abroad and at home,” said Yussuff. “This means encouraging and supporting provincial and territorial governments to find negotiated solutions to disputes rather than overriding collective bargaining rights with draconian measures like back-to-work legislation,” he added.

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French President To Use Holiday Period To Change Labour Laws

By Tony Burke

The new French President Emmanuel Macron has said he intends to reform France’s labour laws before the end of this summer after meeting unions and telling them he ‘intends to act swiftly’.

Macron warned during his presidential campaign that he planned to ‘fast-track’ legislation through use of ‘executive decrees’.

Unions had urged the government to take more time to discuss reforms which are aimed at reducing employment rights and giving France more neo-liberal labour laws which will reduce France’s strong workers protection.

Workers are protected under a powerful 3000 page labour code and although only around 7% of workers are union members, unions play a powwerful role in employment relations and companies and are normally able to mobilise mass demonstrations and strikes which are widely supported by workers.

But Macron’s prime minister says they intend to pass the reforms during the long French summer holidays when factories shutdown and many workers disperse to take upto three weeks off work.

Macron is aiming to use the break to undermine the unions ability to organise against the legislation.

Strikes and a rebellion in parliament were two factors that stopped the previous government’s attempts to introduce similar reforms.

Macron was a minister in that government between 2014 and 2016 before he quit to launch his presidential bid.

In a document released on Tuesday, the government broadly stuck to measures contained in Macron’s campaign manifesto including the capping of compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases.

Two of the biggest union federations appeared willing to engage in talks with the government. “I don’t think the unions will want to make a snap judgment since we only just got this letter from the government,” Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union said on French TV. The smaller FO union said the reform plan contained both positive and negative points.

Phillippe Martinez, leader of the French CGT union confederation

But the more powerful left wing CGT union lead by Phillippe Martinez which includes many transport and manufacturing workers and who take the lead in mobilzastion said it disagreed with the reforms and called on workers to protest over the coming days and weeks. Martinez said after meeting Macron he was looking for a “loyal” negotiation between the government and the unions, signalling Macron’s agenda  might not be as quick as the President would like.

A key issue is pensions where Macron has said he wants to merge 37 pension systems into one, including the workers pensions at the state-owned EDF utility or SNCF railway company.

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Wilbur Ross Breaths Life Into TTIP

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has told US media that the US – EU trade deal TTIP could be revived.

Ross said that whilst the US withdrew from the USA – Pacific Rim deal known as TPP he is open to continuing talks on a proposed trade deal with the European Union despite a frosty atmosphere being developed by Trump towards Merkel – and vice versa.

“It’s no mistake that, while we withdrew from TPP – we did not withdraw from TTIP,” Ross said. Talks around the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership were put on hold after Trump’s election last year.

“The EU is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the EU level and not with individual nations,” Ross said. “Thus, it makes sense to continue TTIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit:.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit with the EU in 2016 stood at $146.3 billion. So far in 2017, that deficit is at $32.1 billion.

Ross’ comments come less than a week after his meeting with German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries, who told a German newspaper, “It is not likely the U.S. will resume negotiations over TTIP.”

Quite where this will leave the Brexit bound UK is anyone’s guess – probably on the outside looking in – or as Obama told the UK during the referedum “at the back of the line”.

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