New Aussie Union Leader Takes Stand Against Anti-union Laws

Sally McManus, ACTU General Secretary

by Barry Camfield in Australia

Sally McManus has recently been elected Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the first woman to hold the post.

In her message to Australian workers she argued: “… the need to take on corporate greed and tackle inequality is urgent … The rules are not working for working people – that’s clear from the recent Fair Work ruling cutting penalty rates and the fact that jobs are being rapidly casualised … We are going to build and lead a movement to change the rules and bring fairness back to Australia.”

She expanded on this theme in a radio interview: “”I believe in the rule of law, when the law is fair and the law is right … But when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it … It might be illegal industrial action according to our current laws, and our current laws are wrong … It shouldn’t be so hard for workers in our country to be able to take industrial action when they need to.”

She was immediately attacked by the leadership of the Liberal (Conservative) Party which sought to drive a wedge between the unions and the Labor Party by calling on Labor to distance itself from the unions (which it did).

Ms McManus came back fighting, making the case against the anti-union laws: “Australia has been built by working people who have had the courage to stand up to unfair and unjust rules and demand something better … There is rampant lawlessness in the workplaces of Australia and this is occurring in the form of chronic underpayments of workers, exploitation of visa workers and workplace that put safety and lives of people at risk … Australian unions are committed to changing the laws at work because they are no longer strong enough to guarantee and protect workers’ rights.”

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CTUF – IER : Bexit & Employment Rights

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UN Rights Expert: “Fundamental Right To Strike Must Be Preserved”

GENEVA (9th March 2017) – Further to the Human Rights Council side event on freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly in the workplace which took place on Monday 6th March, and on the occasion of a key meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, is recalling that the right to strike is a fundamental one enshrined in international human rights and labour law, and that its protection is necessary in ensuring just, stable and democratic societies:

“As the 329th session of the Governing Body of the ILO starts today, I wish to reiterate the utmost importance of the right to strike in democratic societies.

As stated in my 2016 thematic report to the General Assembly (A/71/385), the right to strike has been established in international law for decades, in global and regional instruments, such as in the ILO Convention No. 87 (articles 3, 8 and 10), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 8), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 22), the European Convention on Human Rights (article 11), and the American Convention on Human Rights (article 16). The right is also enshrined in the constitutions of at least 90 countries. The right to strike has in effect become customary international law.

The right to strike is also an intrinsic corollary of the fundamental right of freedom of association. It is crucial for millions of women and men around the world to assert collectively their rights in the workplace, including the right to just and favourable conditions of work, and to work in dignity and without fear of intimidation and persecution. Moreover, protest action in relation to government social and economic policy, and against negative corporate practices, forms part of the basic civil liberties whose respect is essential for the meaningful exercise of trade union rights. This right enables them to engage with companies and governments on a more equal footing, and Member States have a positive obligation to protect this right, and a negative obligation not to interfere with its exercise.

Moreover, protecting the right to strike is not simply about States fulfilling their legal obligations. It is also about them creating democratic and equitable societies that are sustainable in the long run. The concentration of power in one sector – whether in the hands of government or business – inevitably leads to the erosion of democracy, and an increase in inequalities and marginalization with all their attendant consequences. The right to strike is a check on this concentration of power.

I deplore the various attempts made to erode the right to strike at national and multilateral levels. In this regard, I welcome the positive role played by the ILO’s Government Group in upholding workers’ right to strike by recognizing that ‘without protecting a right to strike, freedom of association, in particular the right to organize activities for the purpose of promoting and protecting workers’ interests, cannot be fully realized.’

I urge all stakeholders to ensure that the right to strike be fully preserved and respected across the globe and in all arenas”, the expert concluded.

ENDS

Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, took up his functions as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in May 2011. He is appointed in his personal capacity as an independent expert by the UN Human Rights Council.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Click on graphic for further information.

 

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Merseyrail Legal Challenge Fails

RMT on Merseyrail legal challenge

9th March 2017

General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“This is an important victory for the union. However, it is frankly ludicrous that Merseyrail have been wasting important time and money on bogus legal challenges this week when they should have been sat round the table with the union negotiating a safe and sustainable settlement to this dispute which gives the travelling public the guarantee of a guard on their trains.

The strike action goes ahead”/

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Bangladeshi Garment Workers Released

Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL the global trade union for manufacturing and energy workers has announced that 35 Bangladeshi unionists and garment workers arrested in December last year have all been released. This follows an international campaign led by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union against the Bangladesh government’s crackdown on the labour movement.

A tripartite agreement was reached on 23rd February between IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), the Ministry of Labour and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, providing the release of the arrested trade unionists and garment workers. According to the agreement cases against them will be disposed of.

This follows an incredible show of global solidarity, and is an important victory for garment workers in Bangladesh, sending a strong message to the country’s industry to enter into a constructive dialogue with the trade unions.

IndustriALL says they were also successful in putting pressure on brands in the context of the Global Framework Agreements with them.

The issue that sparked the crackdown on unions at the end of last year still remains. We will continue to support the fight for higher wages and will closely monitor the situation until all charges are dropped.

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Tory Anti-Union Laws Come Into Force

As the new anti-union legislation pushed through by the Conservative Party will the UKs biggest union Unite said it would continue to support working people seeking justice.

Speaking the Trade Union Act comes into law Len McCluskey announced regional dispute teams to ensure that not one member will be denied the justice or support they need, as the regressive new rules impose higher thresholds for industrial action ballots and attack trade unions’ ability to campaign.

This follows the union’s rule change to ensure that it can take action to defend members even if forced outside the law by this Act, in addition to the establishment of a £35 million strike fund to support members through disputes.

The Act, which seeks to tie unions up in red tape and administration costs, as well as erecting barriers to the fundamental right to strike – has been derided as ‘not fit for purpose’ by the government’s own regulator and denounced as ‘needlessly ideological’ by former business secretary, Vince Cable.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is a dark day for basic rights in this country. Once again, Conservative laws are a gift to the bad bosses as they make it harder for working people to get a fair hearing. They have priced working people out of the tribunal process and now they want to intimidate their unions into inaction.
 
“Well, that is not going to happen at Unite. There is no way that this union will allow a Conservative or any other government to further stack the dice against working people.
 
“Unite has already organised itself to be able to see off these attacks and to ensure that our members will be defended to the hilt when they need to be.  Our rules have been changed to ensure that we can defend members even when the law has been twisted to prevent this, and our £35 million strike fund ensures that no Unite member will ever be starved back to work. Added to this our regional dispute teams will provide the rapid and expert support workers need when faced with trouble in the workplace.
 
“The Conservative party is fundamentally wrong in how it treats union members.  There are six million of us, all with families and friends, so our reach is far further.  We are not the `enemy within’. We are the people who care for our sick, our children and our communities, who keep our shops shelves stacked, keep our country defended and the lights on.
 
“The anti-worker legislation being brought in today is a disgraceful way to treat decent people.  Today, sadly, this county, thanks to the Tories, takes a massive step backwards into becoming a more unequal nation.”

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Unite Demands Government Ends Umbrella Companies

Unite Acting General Secretary Demands End To Umbrella Companies Rip Off

Unite, now the UKs biggest union for construction workers, has called for ‘umbrella companies’ to be outlawed after a BBC report exposed how construction workers are falling victim to wage theft.

The union made its demand after BBC Look North on February 24 carried an expose on how workers operating via umbrella companies in construction and other sectors are having huge deductions taken from their pay.

Umbrella company workers have to pay employers’ and employees’ national insurance contributions as well as income tax, a tax rate of 45.8 pence in the pound on eligible earnings.

Workers often have their holiday pay rolled into the rate, meaning they are unpaid when taking leave. If they pay into an auto-enrolment pension they have to pay both employee and employer contributions. Umbrella company workers have to pay a fee of around £20 a week to be paid in this manner.

The huge growth in umbrella companies operating in construction began in April 2014. This was a result of government legislation which attempted to outlaw employment agencies from bogusly self-employing construction workers.

Overnight the industry moved to the umbrella company model in order to avoid paying employer’s NI contributions.

Unite have recently established a bogus self-employment unit to step up their support of members who are being denied basic employment rights. The unit is also targeting umbrella companies.

Acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “Umbrella companies are highly immoral and rip off workers. The government need to end the misery of umbrella company workers by outlawing this practice and all forms of bogus self-employment.”
 
“Unite has already succeeded in outlawing umbrella companies for example on Hinkley Point. The Scottish and Welsh governments and several local authorities have introduced measures outlawing umbrella companies on public sector contracts. If the government fails to act we will step up pressure on all public and private sector organisations to ban these sinister organisations.”
 
“The message is loud and clear Unite are coming for rogue employers who increasingly rely on false self-employment. We will leave no stone unturned in exposing the blatant unfairness of umbrella companies, ending exploitation and getting justice for our members.”
 
The government has previously estimated that 430,000 workers are paid via umbrella companies. Unite believes that this figure is an underestimate as unscrupulous employers in sectors such as logistics, supply teaching and pharmaceuticals are increasingly using this form of employment.

 

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Trump To Visit Boeing S.C. Plant After Anti Union Vote

Following on from the good news of the withdrawal of his nomination for US Labor Secretary by Andrew Pudzer, US unions suffered a setback when workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plants voted against recognition of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union following massive pressure and a fierce anti union campaign by the company and local politicians. 74% of 2800 workers voted against the union. South Carolina is one of the least unionised states in the USA.

US President Donald Trump is expected to appear at the plant today celebrate the rollout of the first 787-10 jet liner, the largest version of the Boeing Dreamliner.

The vote came two years after the Machinists union had called off a vote at the South Carolina facilities following widespread misinformation and ‘unrelenting pressure from local politicians’.

The Machinists union were confident that this time workers would vote for a union citing management’s unfair approach to evaluating staff, pay raises and promotions.

Workers complained that instructions on performing their jobs changed from month to month. Production and maintenance workers in South Carolina, make $23 per hour on average, compared to about $31 per hour for comparable workers in Washington State.

Boeing’s efforts to defeat the union organising campaign proved too strong. The company using well tested anti union messages implied to workers that a union would drive a wedge between them and management and they also used the machinists’ union’s opposition to its 2009 decision to open a second Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina.

The union back then had argued that opening the plant would undermine the protected right to strike of tens of thousands of Boeing workers in Washington State, and the machinists filed a charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

Opponents of unionisation also ran a series of adverts opposing the union, including one depicting the machinists union as a casino boss who wanted workers to gamble away their future.

Critics of the union say they rushed the campaign to unionise the S.C. sites before Trump could appoint two new members to the N.L.R.B., which would give Republicans a majority on the board.

Mike Evans, the lead organizer for the machinists’ union, said the union had moved to hold the vote ‘because it believed it had finally built sufficient support among workers’.

The N.L.R.B.’s make-up will be a factor in future organizing campaigns as a Republican board could undo rules enacted in 2015 to expedite the union election process, a move widely viewed as helping organizers.

 

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Anti Union Pudzer Withdraws From Nomination For USLabour Secretary

By Tony Burke : Chair, Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

Many trade unionists in the USA have a ‘spring in their step’ today (Wednesday 16th February) after learning that Donald Trump’s nominee for US Labour Secretary Andrew Pudzer withdrew his nomination when he recognised the uphill climb he was facing on Capitol Hill.

Pudzer the CEO of fast food chain giant CKE Restaurants, (owners of Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s outlets) was due to appear before the Senate health, education, labour and pensions committee Thursday

Pudzer’s nomination was facing opposition from unions, progressive groups, democrats and even some republicans.

The US Department of Labor website states that its mission is to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

Puzder’s pedigree showed that he was likely to fall foul of the statement – as he has done the exact opposite of what the mission statement requires.

He has fought against workers’ rights; argued against increases in minimum wages; argued for replacing workers with robots and “and showed disdain for his own employees –   the very people who helped make him a multi millionaire” according to Sarah Baker who led the vetting team in the White House during Obama’s presidency.

It transpires that Puzder employed an ‘undocumented immigrant’ and never paid taxes – and he would have been responsible for wage and working hours standards, benefits and providing protection for workers.

Adverts for his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s outlets have been described as ‘pornographic’ and ‘sexist’ – depicting scantily clad women in bikini’s eating burgers. Pudzer naturally disagreed calling the adverts ‘American’.

In 1990, Puzder’s ex-wife went on the Oprah TV show (in diguise) and alledged that Pudzer abused her – a claim she has since withdrawn.

Richard Tumka the President of the US union umbrella organization the AFL-CIO says “the power of collective action” brought Pudzer down.

Unions and progressive groups have organized demonstrations against Pudzer since his nomination was announced, with a remarkable degree of success.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), staged protests around the country, the largest outside of CKE’s St. Louis headquarters.

Mindful of the blue collar support for Trump among their own members unions made Puzder the focus of a campaign to portray Trump as a tool for corporate interests who favours low wages and exploitation.

Thomas Perez, the former US secretary of labour who is in the running to lead the Democratic National Committee, called Pudzer a “frequent flyer defendant – someone for whom we had a steady diet of wage and hour cases”.

“When you call your workers the ‘the worst of the worst,’ (as Pudzer has done) that’s no way to earn or command respect,” Perez said.

This decision was good news but as a US friend and a senior union official told me: “Who knows who Trump will bring forward next? The CEO of Burger King?”

Read more by clicking here: The New Yorker

 

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Unfair EU-Canada Trade Deal – Wrong Response To Trump

by Pia Eberhardtceta-mailing

Ahead of next week’s Ceta vote in the European Parliament, its proponents are touting the EU-Canada agreement as “the most progressive trade deal ever”.

They claim Ceta will be a blueprint for a fair, social and environmentally-friendly trade policy and will shape globalisation in the interest of workers and ordinary citizens.

A yes to Ceta would also allegedly send a strong message of support for a rules-based trading system, which is at stake under US president Donald Trump.

But it is precisely Ceta’s rules that are the problem.

They will further shape globalisation in the interest of corporations, without providing any effective protection for workers or the environment. They will also significantly limit democracy.

Special privileges for foreign investors

These grant Canadian investors the exclusive right to bypass European courts by suing the EU and member states before international tribunals.

Since CETA includes largely the same investor rights as existing trade and investment deals corporations will be able to claim compensation if a certain policy – say health or environmental protection – threatens their investments.

Governments could even be ordered to compensate corporations for lost hypothetical future profits. Past cases have seen billion dollar payouts, primarily to large corporations such as Siemens, ExxonMobil and Deutsche Bank.

Under Ceta, investor-state tribunals would be transparent and publicly appointed. But lucrative daily rates of $3,000 for the arbitrators would remain a strong incentive to rule in favour of investors.

Moreover, the risk of being sued under Ceta would be even greater than with existing agreements. It would, for instance, be easier for investors to challenge banking regulations than under Nafta.

Ceta’s explicit protection of investors’ legitimate expectations grants them a powerful weapon to fight democratic policies.

And due to the strong integration of the Canadian and the US economy, many US companies will be able to sue too.

Giant corporations like Chevron are rubbing their hands over what is effectively TTIP through the back door and this may well apply to some of Trump’s businesses as well.

Liberalising services

For the first time in an EU treaty, Ceta’s services chapter will follow a negative list approach pushed by corporate lobby groups.

What this means is that all services – unless explicitly excluded – will be deregulated, but the exceptions are patchy. Most worryingly, there is no exception which shields public services from investor-state lawsuits.

Regulations in sectors such as healthcare or water could potentially be attacked by expensive compensation claims.

This already happened to Estonia, facing a €90 million investor lawsuit because public authorities refused to increase water prices.

Ordered to pay €22 million in damages after the government required health insurers to operate on a not-for-profit basis. Not

It has already happened to Slovakia, hing in Ceta prevents such investor attacks on decisions in the public interest.

These examples illustrate the anti-democratic nature of Ceta and other trade agreements like TTIP, a draft EU-US deal, and the EU-Japan deal; they lock in existing property and economic relations by enshrining them in international law, severely restricting space for democratic policy to change them.

Canadian political scientist Stephen Gill calls this the “new constitutionalism”, a global neoliberal constitution that renders the transition to a more just socially and ecologically just society impossible.

But what is missing from Ceta is revealing, for instance, effectively enforceable labour rights, or a sanction mechanism to implement Ceta’s environmental standards or obligations for corporations.

Economist Thomas Piketty suggested there should be no more trade liberalisation without sanctionable minimum rates for corporate taxes and emission reductions. Unsurprisingly, Piketty considers Ceta “a treaty which belongs to another age” that should be rejected.

Trump’s agenda at home, on the other hand, fits neatly with the basic thrust of Ceta.

He has initiated a new era of deregulation, demolishing feeble advances on financial regulation and retreating from obligations on climate action.

To please big business he has also just vowed to remove a staggering 75 percent of existing regulations. He has even hinted at shutting down the key institution supporting environmental regulation entirely.

At a time of looming climate catastrophe, a widening gap between the rich and the poor and the rise of the far right in many places, it is downright cynical to call Ceta “a deal that brings fairer trade for all”.

Ceta includes many provisions that risk exacerbating the exact same social problems fuelling the inhumane politics of Trump, Le Pen and Co: social inequality, political exclusion and a crisis of democracy brought about by the neoliberal doctrine of “no alternative”.

What we need is a paradigm shift towards an inclusive trade policy that is founded on the needs of people and our planet. Ratifying Ceta will take us yet further away from this.

Pia Eberhardt works with Brussels-based lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory

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