The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom was established in 2013 following a merger of the Liaison Committee For The Defence Of Trade Unions and the United Campaign To Repeal The Anti Trade Union Laws. The CTUF is a campaigning organisation fighting to defend and enhance trade unionism, oppose all anti-union laws as well as promoting and defending collective bargaining across UK, Europe and the World.

PCS’s latest ballot result shows that e-voting is long overdue

By Lynn Anderson, PCS National Officer for Scotland and Ireland.

James didn’t vote. Let me call him James, although he could be John, Robert or Paul. He told me that he has been a union member for 27 years and this was the first time he hasn’t voted in a national union ballot.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) national ballot was in response to the government’s pay remit for civil servants.Unlike all other parts of the public sector, the British government plans once again to cap the pay of its own workforce at 1 per cent.A further 0.5 per cent can be made available by departments but only at the expense of cutting jobs and services.

Our union’s national pay claim is for 5 per cent for all civil servants. It is a modest and realistic demand to begin a journey of pay restoration for civil servants like James.

As a low-paid Job Centre worker in a rural part of Scotland, James’s salary has not really increased by more than a few hundred pounds a year since he joined the Civil Service.
Once he reached the top of the progression scale, James has depended for years on the rate for the job increases negotiated by his union.

Over the past decade, this has been frozen and capped by successive governments to below-inflation levels.

James, like hundreds of thousands of civil servants, has been robbed of thousands of pounds of potential take-home pay.

Under the new Tory anti-union law — the Trade Union Act that came into force last year — James was denied participation in the important ballot on industrial action to fight for the future of his pay.

This is because the Act insists that statutory trade union ballots can only be returned by post. In the super-connected electronic age, the deliberate restriction on trade union members’ democratic participation is an ideologically driven denial of trade union freedoms.

From June 18th to July 23rd, the PCS national ballot on pay asked members whether they were prepared to take industrial action to force the government to consider our 5 per cent pay claim.

This was the biggest trade union ballot under the new Act. Over 120,000 PCS members in more than 600 workplaces throughout the UK were balloted.

Over the five-week campaign we trained hundreds of reps in Saturday schools, leafleted almost every workplace, held countless car park meetings.

The current British government is a hostile employer. Our reps therefore had restricted access to the workplace.

They were denied desk-dropping of ballot materials or displaying posters. Email correspondence from official government addresses could not contain the words “ballot,” “strike” or “vote.”

Our only real widespread access to members then was through personal email and phone calls. We phone banked over 50,000 members to encourage them to vote. That’s how I encountered James.

When he answered my call, James said he was pleased to speak to someone from the union, as he wanted to report that he could not vote.

James had received numerous emails, text reminders and phone blast recordings from Mark Serwotka, our general secretary.

I was the first person to speak to him about the ballot. James lives alone in the countryside, with no near family or neighbours. He received his ballot paper in the post. It was sat in the pile of correspondence to be dealt with on his kitchen table. But then he was taken to hospital, and with no visitors, he had no access to his ballot paper. James was apologising to me that he couldn’t vote.

James’s story has stayed with me. He wanted to vote Yes, but was denied because of the restriction to postal voting. James’s vote, along with all other non-voters under the Trade Union Act therefore count as an effective No vote.

The Act requires a minimum of 50 per cent of eligible members participating in a statutory ballot before it can be valid.

The PCS ballot returned the largest percentage vote for industrial action in a statutory ballot in the union’s history, the turnout at 41.6 per cent. It clearly shows the level of anger among PCS members about their treatment by the Cabinet Office and Treasury over pay.

It is also a tribute to the commitment and dedication of PCS reps in our workplaces across the UK.

However, the turnout figure failed to meet the 50 per cent threshold that the Trade Union Act requires for the ballot result does not provide a legal basis for strike action.

It is a huge disappointment for the tens of thousands of PCS members who voted to fight for higher pay this year.

Despite the ballot result, the issue of pay remains vital to our members and our NEC has vowed to continue the campaign in 2018 and 2019. With 85.6 per cent of our members voting for strikes over pay, we are conveying this to the Cabinet Office as a show of strength and demanding urgent talks.

Huge amounts of data have been collected throughout the ballot, from members, branches and groups. We have a rich source of data on which to concentrate our organising and agitational resources.

While the ballot result means that we cannot take industrial action across our public-sector members, at delegated level our industrial departmental groups may consider taking strike action over departmental pay negotiations, where agreement is not reached.
PCS has received tremendous solidarity and support from across the trade union movement following this ballot result.

During the passage of the Trade Union Act 2016 the government agreed to a review of the use of electronic balloting in trade union ballots for industrial action.
On March 1 2017, when the government introduced the ballot threshold, it announced that Sir Ken Knight would lead a review into the use of electronic balloting.

This review reported on December 18 2017 and recommended that electronic balloting pilots take place. The government has taken no further action in relation to these recommendations.

The PCS ballot clearly shows that the use of electronic balloting can be effective in increasing turnouts in ballots.
Since the government proposed the introduction of ballot thresholds, PCS, alongside a number of other unions, called for the introduction of both electronic and secure workplace balloting.

In the October 2017 PCS consultative ballot, 50 per cent of members voted online.
Anecdotal evidence from phone-banking and leafletting demonstrated that a large number of PCS members expected to vote online.

It is clear to me that if online voting (and secure workplace balloting) had been available, the PCS turnout would have been above 50 per cent.

Workers like James have been denied a vote that he could easily have participated in electronically. I am certain that we would have smashed the 50 per cent threshold if our members weren’t restricted to postal voting.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on July 31st.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Biggest Attack On Workers In Austria For Decades

Austrian unions are mobilising against an attempt by the the governing coalition of ÖVP and FPÖ to impose longer working hours and flexible working  having quietly submitted a motion in Parliament on 14th June to extend existing maximum working time regulations. Regular working hours in Austria involve an eight-hour working day (within a 24-hour period) and a 40-hour working week (working hours from Monday to Sunday).

Federal Government has proposed ‘flexible working time’ bringing the working day to 12 hours and introducing a 60-hour work week for many workers as ‘standard’, depending on the employer’s decision without the involvement of works councils and social partnership agreement.

The extension of weekly working time in Austria is possible under specific conditions. On request for more overtime, the work week can go up to 60 hours, and daily working time up to 12 hours provided that it is not more than 24 weeks a year.

If working time is extended on that basis, for eight consecutive weeks, any such overtime shall be inadmissible for the next two weeks. The working time extensions have to be permitted by the Labour Inspectorate and agreed in a plant-level agreement with the works council and the individual employer.

Under the Government’s plans, it will now be possible for employers to demand 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week, at any time and without conditions. The overtime payments will be decreased while, in the case of flextime, they will even be completely cut. As these extensions of working time will no longer be regulated in a company-level agreement with the involvement of works councils, benefits for employees such as higher bonuses or extra compensatory free time can no longer be negotiated. The governing parties argue that the individual worker may retain the right to refuse the proposed overtime.

When the Government was faced with the criticism that the initiative for extending working time is unfounded and was not agreed with the social partners, they referred to the social partner paper from 2017 which included long-standing employers´ demands for working time flexibilisation. To this day, trade unions have rejected this paper.

The proposed change constitutes the biggest attack on workers, their health and income for decades and cannot go ahead. IndustriAll Europe stands alongside its Austrian affiliate PRO-GE in refuting the proposal.

The Austrian act on organising working time is actually a law to protect workers. Now it has been converted by the government into an exploitative law to increase the profits of companies and it was decided upon in a fast-track manner without proper assessment,” Rainer Wimmer, Chairman of industriAll Europe affiliate PRO-GE, explained and continued: “About a hundred years ago, the 8-hour day was introduced. Now it’s supposed to be 12 hours a day in the 21st century. That’s a betrayal of our workers.

General Secretary of industriAll Europe, Luc Triangle, commented; “The decision of the new Austrian government to impose the extension of working time without prior negotiations with the work Council is a major attack on workers’ and trade union’ rights. We all know that it is impossible for individual workers to refuse to work overtime without the protection of collective guarantees. This will lead to more mental and physical illness and increase the risk of accident at work.

A mobilisation against the planned deterioration of working time is in full swing in Austria. The Austrian Trade Union Federation with all its 7 affiliates (PRO-GE included) took part in an 80,000 strong mass demonstration on 30th June. The information campaign in companies has already started with more than 100 staff meetings nationwide.

Thanks to Marlene Roth and Wolfgang Lemb of IG Metall in Germany.

Martina Schneller writes: Thanks for publishing our article. We are fighting against the implementation of 12 Hours daily working time by our rightwing government in Austria.

The law was adopted on 5th july by the rightwing partiesˋ majority.

The Austrian Trade Union movement has responede with mass mobilisation, we had a mass demonstration in Vienna at the End of June (See the picture) and 2000 assemblies in companies to inform about the conséquences of the law and get the opinion of our workers to continue the resistance against anti workers legislation in Austria and dismantlement of social insurance and health system in Austria.

Such attacks are unprecedented in Austrian history since 1945.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TiSA Trade Deal – A Serious Threat To Workers Rights

By Rosa Crawford, Policy Officer, TUC EU and International Relations

Rosa Crawford of the TUC.

The trade in service agreement (TiSA) might sound like something technical but don’t be fooled, it poses serious threats to workers’ rights, our public services and sovereignty.

TiSA is a trade agreement that is being negotiated between 50 countries including all those countries in the EU.

The UK has been one of the major cheerleaders for the deal while in the EU and the government white paper released in July made clear that the UK was eager to sign up to TiSA after Brexit.

In fact trade minister Liam Fox is so keen on TiSA, he’s said it should set the model for other trade deals in services.

This is worrying news for workers – and a little strange for someone so insistent that he wants to bring sovereignty back to the UK.

TiSA would impose serious restrictions on government’s ability to pass laws and regulations, particularly on workers’ rights and other social regulations.

That’s because, unlike traditional trade agreements that only cover trade in goods (like cars) TiSA covers trade in services (eg. a pharmaceutical company doing business in another country). TiSA aims to make this trade in services easier by removing obstacles that might get in companies’ way.

However, because of the way TiSA is drawn up, the kind of ‘obstacles’ it could strike down include national minimum wage laws, requirements to respect collective bargaining and freedom of association or laws for environmental protection.

TiSA will also restrict government’s ability to run public services for the public good. That’s because the majority of the UK’s health, education, transport and other public services are included in TiSA which means the regulations for these services – such as drug safety rules or agreements on pay for nurses – could be challenged as ‘obstacles’ to trade (in this case their ability to win contracts to run privatised parts of our public services).

TiSA also contains what is known as a ‘ratchet’ clause that prevents privatised parts of the public sector being renationalised.

So it isn’t just Liam Fox’s great friend Donald Trump that poses a threat to our health services but TiSA – and all trade in services deals like it that he has recently was talking up at his recent visit to Washington.

Workers are also under threat through TiSA as it fails to recognise workers as people with fundamental rights.

Instead TiSA regards workers in service sectors as ‘service providers’, merely factors of production, without any reference in the deal to International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards or means for workers to claim these rights through TiSA. As services make up the overriding majority of the UK economy – and TiSA and the WTO are vague on the definition of jobs in the service sector – the number of workers that could be affected is huge.

The scope for exploitation is huge, particularly for migrant workers brought in through TiSA who are particularly liable to be paid less and forced into poor conditions by unscrupulous employers. Such undercutting of course lowers conditions and pay for all workers.

Trade unions in the UK and across the world are clear: TiSA and all deals like it that seek to liberalise trade in services without guarantees for workers’ rights, social and environmental regulations or deliver quality public services must be dropped.

If services are included in trade deals there must be legally enforceable guarantees workers can claim their rights, social regulations will be upheld and governments have the ability to provide quality public services that are in public control. The single market is the only trade deal in services in the world to provide these guarantees which is why the TUC is campaigning for single market membership for any Brexit deal.


Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, International Employment Rights, New Generation Of Trade Agreements, UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment

New Spanish President To Repeal Anti Union Picketing Laws

Spanish President & Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez

From John Hendy QC

Published below is Communiqué of the International Commission in Defense of the 300 prosecuted in Defense of the 300 workers prosecuted for going on strike in Spain, and for the repeal of Article 315.3 of the Spanish Penal Code, afterPedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish Government, announced to the Congress of Deputies the repeal of the art. 315.3.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, International Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Tribunal finds that Ritzy union reps were unfairly dismissed

Living Wage campaigners at the Ritzy Cinema celebrate the tribunals’ finding that Picturehouse acted unlawfully when the company dismissed union reps in June 2017. Photo: Agata Wanda

The Employment Tribunals have ruled that union representatives at Picturehouse’s Ritzy cinema were unfairly dismissed in June 2017.

The unanimous finding of unfair dismissal, which applies to two of the three applicants, vindicates the decision to bring the complaints which are set within the context of the long-running industrial dispute over Picturehouse’s failure to pay the Living Wage.

The cases were heard at the Employment Tribunals in Croydon, South London, in March this year.

Two of the applicants had sufficient length of service to bring a claim of unfair dismissal; the third representative was employed for less than two years and was therefore unable to bring this claim.

 Victimisation for trade union activities

On a majority decision, the tribunal ruled against the three representatives’ claim that their dismissals were automatically unfair due to the employer’s victimisation of them for their trade union activities. One member of the tribunal panel disagreed with that finding.

A third complaint of detriment due to suspension was unanimously dismissed by the tribunal panel.

Commenting on the rulings, which were released to the parties in June, Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU, said:

“We’re obviously satisfied that the tribunals have found that our members were right to bring the complaint of unfair dismissal. The judgment is clear that Picturehouse management showed a lack of neutrality and assumed the guilt of our representatives.

“We are very disappointed, however, by the tribunals finding that our representatives’ trade union activity was not central to Picturehouse’s decision to dismiss. We find this hard to accept given the leading role which Ritzy representatives have played in our long-running dispute with the company. We believe that the company took advantage of the circumstances to dismiss BECTU activists.”

The issues which gave rise to the dismissals last year concern an email sent in April 2017 to all BECTU members at the Ritzy summing up discussions at an earlier union meeting; the email included the statement “we are also going to start pushing cyber-pickets”.

Cyber-picketing is potentially unlawful activity and when union officials became aware of the email, all members were officially advised of the serious nature of such activity should it be undertaken.

The charge pursued by the employer through the disciplinary procedure was that representatives had failed to alert management to the contents of the email and to take any steps to prevent such activity and that in addition they had not been open or transparent up to the point of dishonesty during the investigation. Six Ritzy representatives were investigated in a process which led to three dismissals in June 2017. A fourth representative was dismissed later and a further tribunal hearing is pending.

 ‘Lack of neutrality’

Explaining the unanimous decision to find for two claimants in respect of unfair dismissal, the tribunal’s judgment reads:

“In substance, however, the notes of the meetings show a lack of neutrality at the investigation and disciplinary stages. There was an assumption of guilt on the part of the claimants and, expressly during the disciplinary meeting, Mr O’Connor [Picturehouse Regional Manager] stated that the onus was on them to prove in effect their innocence.”

 ‘Failure at all stages of the process .. to properly engage with the claimants defence’

Further on the judgement reads: “ There was a failure, however, at all stages of the process for the respondent to properly engage with the nature of the claimants defence.”

“Further, we conclude that the penalties applied to both claimants were outside the band of reasonable responses”.

The tribunal panel concludes “Accordingly, in a number of respects the dismissals were unfair.”

 ‘All members of the tribunal agree that the background union activities of the claimants played a part in the decision-making of the respondent.’

In a key part of the judgment referring to the complaint of victimisation for trade union activity the tribunal members write:

“All members of the tribunal agree that the background union activities of the claimants played a part in the decision-making of the respondent. The majority accepts however on the balance of probabilities that the principal reason the claimants were dismissed was what Mr O’Connor and Mr Jones [Vice-President of Operations, UK & Ireland, Cineworld Cinemas Ltd] regarded as their misconduct rather than their union activities, the reason advanced by the respondent.”

Commenting on the decision, Vicky Phillips, head of employment rights at Thompsons’ Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to have assisted BECTU to secure victory for two of their members dismissed by Picturehouse. The case stands as a warning for employers who close their minds to what employees say in their own defence. We are pleased that a minority of the panel thought that trade union reasons were the reason for dismissal. This case once again shows how difficult it is for such claims to succeed.”

A leading representative from the Picturehouse workers said: “If anyone should be fired for dishonesty it is Picturehouse and Cineworld bosses. It’s now proven by the tribunal that they were biased from the beginning. Also since the sackings last year many striking sites have been chronically understaffed which puts huge strain on remaining staff members.”

A date for a further hearing to determine the compensation due to the two BECTU representatives has yet to be agreed.

The dispute with Picturehouse, which runs 23 venues across the UK and is owned by cinema giant Cineworld, continues. Support for workers at the Ritzy and at Picturehouses in Crouch End, Central London, East Dulwich and Hackney continues to grow.


Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Mexico: The Labor Challenges

Arturro Alcalde Justiniani, La Jornada, July 7th 2018

The new composition of the Congress of the Union creates and  opportunity to have better laws in all areas and issues of the pending agenda. One of them, which is fundamental for the country, is the labor reform.

Recall that in February 2017 a profound constitutional reform was carried out in this area. Considering its explanatory statement, it was considered the most important in the last 100 years, because it implies a radical change in the justice system.

For example, it requires the abolition of the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, assigning their functions to the federal and local judicial powers; creates new institutions to promote conciliation; establishes a set of democratic rules is established, especially aimed at rescuing collective bargaining from the current practices of simulation and corruption to turn it into a space for social and productive agreement, as in the most developed countries of the world. The authentic representation of the workers in these processes will be able to overcome the current policy of wage containment and this would generate a very positive effect in the change of economic model that the population demands.

In order to comply with the constitutional mandate and achieve a successful labor reform, two conditions must be met: first, to achieve legislative agreement on changes in the labor procedure and the role of new judges, creating rules that can be met promptly in both individual and collective cases for the benefit and legal certainty of employers and workers; second,  to efect an adequate transition from the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards to the new labor courts. Little has been said about this transition, but it has great practical and budgetary importance. The starting point is to recognize that this labor reform is a fundamental line of social policy that the new government must promote.

According to the constitutional reform, the implementing laws should have been passed within one year. It was also mandated that the cases, files and documents (about about 1 million nationwide) be transferred to the new labor courts. None of this has been done within the prescribed period.

This transition has faced the fact that the judicial powers lack the conditions to receive so many cases and, on the other hand, within the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards themselves a dangerous process has been generated that prevents overcoming this long-standing problem, which governments have seized on to reverse course and even go so far as to block the implementation  of  the reforms.

Entering into the details of the transition, one encounters a set of difficulties that must be overcome. With regard to the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board, the outlook is frankly bleak, a product partly of the budgetary neglect which increased in the last three governments. The policies of the governments and their finance ministries have focused on reducing jobs and practically stifling the delivery of labor justice. These restrictions increase bottlenecks to increase extend the time required to conclude cases.  The piles of files grow day by day, the procedures routinely last up to five years, with another five years to give legal effect to the decision, not counting the time to execute the judgement.

For 17 years, a criminal freeze has been maintained by the fiscal authorities. In some Boards  30,000 cases are assigned to a single actuary who earns around 8 thousand pesos per month. We are speaking of a key official in the procedure, who has been deprived of the basic support to carry out his or her work. The government’s abandonment of the labor tribunals is part of a policy of segregation, as opposed to the priority given to other branches of law.

This precarious situation is not limited to the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board:  the difficulties are aggravated by the policy of the public employment entities, among them, the Mexican Institute of Social Security, which generates most of the cases and hinders their resolution. In social security cases, which reach a quarter of a million, there is also a great lentitude, which causes incalculable damage to the beneficiaries and the labor authority itself. In the bureaucratic environment there is the same policy of closing one’s eyes to reality and letting the damage accumulate – suffice to say that some districts of  Mexico City have labor debts in the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunal greater than their entire annual budget. And meanwhile, back wages accumulate and justice does not arrive.

Beyond the mandatory legal reforms, it is urgent that we turn our eyes to the drama that labor justice is experiencing in our country today.

Thanks to Ben Davis of the Unirted Steelworkers.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News | Leave a comment

Legal Attack On Belgium Union ABVV

Rally in support of Belgium Union Officials of ABVV

From IndustriALL Europe

A recent ruling by a court in Antwerp, Belgium against regional leaders of the Belgian Trade Union FGTB/ABVV is now part of a wider tendency to criminalise trade union action. This is a worrying trend that threatens the protection of workers’ rights and the important and necessary work done by trade unions.

The court decision in Belgium follows numerous other cases in other European countries, such as in Greece (Skaramanga Shipyard), Spain (Airbus Getafe) and in France where trade unions shop stewards and leaders were brought to court to face legal action.

Legal intervention against trade unions has become more frequent in recent years.

This is detrimental to the work of trade unions in advocating for, protecting and upholding fair working conditions and ensuring access to information and consultation as well as many other workers’ rights. It is unacceptable that employers and governments try to limit trade union actions by involving the courts and thus criminalising trade union action and demonstrations, which are directly linked to the fundamental right to strike.

The correctional court in Antwerp recently declared the chairman of ABVV-Antwerp, guilty of “malicious obstruction of traffic”, in response to a national trade union action that took place on 24th June 2016 near the port of Antwerp.

The court’s motivation was scant, with the denial of European and international treaties on labour law in this respect. For trade unions across Europe, this is an outright blow because it makes future actions as good as impossible, now that any action risks criminal conviction.

In their press release, FGTB/ABVV said; “We cannot accept that the only weapon we have at our disposal (the right to strike and raise strike pickets) is also being taken away from us and that courageous fighters like our deputies are being criminalised. … This is going too far!”

IndustriAll Europe stands with its affiliate in response to this verdict.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe said; “IndustriAll Europe condemns this continuous attack on trade union rights. The condemnation of a Belgian trade union leader is unacceptable and an attack on the right to strike. This is a case that concerns all European workers. We will jointly fight back to ensure workers rights are upheld across Europe.”

Thanks to Luc Triangle, General Secretary of IndustriALL Europe.


Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Aussie Unions Campaign For A Living Wage

CTUF’s Australian Correspondent Barry Camfield sent us this from Australian Congress of Trade Union’s Secretary Sally McManus.

“I’m just back from the Fair Work Commission, where they decide whether 2.3 million Australians will get a pay rise, and if so, how much.

On 1st July 2018 the minimum wage will increase by 3.5 per cent (or $24.30 per week) to $719.20 for full-time work. The new hourly rate will be $18.93. All award wages will also increase by 3.5 per cent.

This is the biggest percentage increase the Fair Work Commission has awarded and it has only happened because union members fought hard for it.

It means 2.3 million workers will get a pay rise next month.

But working people need more – we need a living wage.

The minimum wage should be pegged at 60% of the median wage. This is the international poverty line benchmark. Even with today’s increase we are still below that mark.

Working full-time should be enough keep you out of poverty. We need a living wage in Australia to make sure that’s what happens.

It is union members who fight for and win wage rises. We are changing the rules in Australia so that all working people can have better pay.

Join the movement for change and help make our movement stronger.

Share this with your networks and help spread the word that it is union members who won today’s minimum wage rise and we’ll keep fighting to win more.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, International Employment Rights | Leave a comment

UK Government Forced To Revise Union Membership Figures After 20 Years Of Miscalculation

The UK Government Forced To Revise National Statistics On Trade Union Membership In Response to Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods Research.

Rhys Davies reveals how official figures have under-estimated the presence of trade unions within UK workplaces over many years.

This morning, May 31st the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its latest estimates for trade union membership in the UK based upon data from the Labour Force Survey.

Today’s figures reveal that 6.2 million employees were members of trade unions during 2017. Whilst overall levels of membership within the UK have increased slightly since 2016, they remain well below the peak of 13.2 million that was observed in 1979.

The headline figure for trade union membership is ‘union density’ which measures the proportion of employees in employment who are union members.

Today’s results reveal that just 23% of employees in the UK were members of trade unions during 2017. Twenty years ago, union density was over 30%.

The influence of trade unions at the workplace however extends beyond those who are members.

Official statistics produced by BEIS therefore also estimate the proportion of employees who are employed at workplaces where trade unions are present, referred to as union presence.

These figures are also derived from interview data collected by the Labour Force Survey.  Between 1996 and 2016, official estimates of trade union presence also declined from 50% to 41%.

Research undertaken by Rhys Davies at WISERD has revealed that official statistics of trade union presence have been incorrectly estimated over the last 20 years.

Government statisticians have mistakenly treated those who did not respond to the question on trade union presence as if they had said that nobody at their place of work were union members.

Normal practice would be to exclude such people from the calculations.

In light of these findings, statisticians at BEIS have revised their methodology for estimating trade union presence.

Today’s publication reveals that 49% of employees are employed at workplaces where trade unions are present.

The effect of the change has been to increase the rate of union presence by 8 percentage points, roughly equivalent to 2 million employees.

Rhys Davies comments: “Declining levels of trade union membership is often cited as evidence that trade unions have become less relevant within the modern UK economy.  Whilst the downward trend in union membership is not open to debate, today there are many more workers employed at workplaces where trade unions are present than was previously thought. By implication this suggests that the workplace influence of trade unions in the UK has been significantly underestimated for many years.” 

 For more information about this research, please see the WISERD Blog Measuring Trade Union Membership: Harder than it may seem? More detailed analysis is available from the Research Note Making Sense of Official Estimates of Trade Union Membership. 

Rhys Davies is a Research Fellow at WISERD and Associate Director of the Wales Administrative Data Research Centre, based at Cardiff University. Well done Rhys – a fine piece of research!


Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment

Posting Of Workers: EU Takes Final Vote On Equal Pay and Working Conditions

By Tony Burke, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The controversial ‘Posted Workers Directive’ which was used by employers and contractors to undermine national pay agreements and exploit workers has been amended by the European Parliament.

In a recent blog for CTUF, MEP Jude Kirton Darling outlined the changes that were being discussed. A vote on May 29th has now made the changes that were discussed and agreed in the European Parliament. The revised rules revised rules voted by Parliament on May 29th. They were approved by 456 votes to 147, with 49 abstentions.

Under the current arrangements employers are not obliged to pay posted workers more than the minimum wage set by the host country, they usually earn less than local workers for the same job.

According to the Commission, posted workers can earn up to 50% less in some cases.

Loopholes in the current legislation have led as well to an increase of fraudulent practices such as companies existng on paper only or fake sub-contracting, that involve the exploitation of posted workers. In the UK it lead to walkouts and disputes with employers using the directive to import workers and exploit them as cheap labour and paying less than nationally or locally agreed rates of pay provided for under collective agreement.

The definition (according to the EU) of a ‘posted worker’ is an employee who is sent by his or her employer to perform a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. In 2016, there were 2.3 million posted workers in the EU. Posting increased by 69% between 2010 and 2016.

Most posted workers (82.3%) get sent to EU countries in Western Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium receiving about 50% of all posted workers.

The countries that send out the most posted workers are Poland, Germany and Slovenia. Workers are usually posted in neighbouring countries.

Workers ‘posted’ to work on other EU countries will now get equal pay for equal work and will be better protected against exploitation and fraud.

In a revision of the Directive a host country’s remuneration rules to apply to all posted workers; a posting can last up to 12 months, with a possible extension of 6 months and the EU says posted workers “will now be better protected against fraud and exploitation”.

Under the proposed new rules posted workers are subject to the rules on remuneration in the country they have been set to. This could either be set by law or by certain collective agreements. Employers would have to pay for travel, food and acommodation instead of deducting these costs from workers’ salaries.

The maximum posting period would be capped at 12 months, with a possible extension of six months. After that working conditions will be subject to the labour rules of the country they are working in. Co-operation between EU countries to tackle fraud would also be boosted.

In addition temporary work agencies would have to guarantee posted workers the same conditions that apply to other temporary workers hired in the country they have been sent to.

Ensuring fair pay: Under the agreed text, all of the host country’s remuneration rules must apply to posted workers. In addition to legal provisions, member states may apply large, representative regional or sectoral collective agreements. So far, this has been done only in the construction sector.

Improving workers’ conditions: Travel, board and accommodation costs will have to be paid by the employer and not deducted from workers’ salaries. Employers will also have to ensure that the accommodation conditions for posted workers are decent, and in line with national rules.

Protection against fraud: In the event of a fraudulent posting, e.g. by a letterbox company, member states should cooperate to ensure that posted workers are protected, at least, by the conditions of the Posting of Workers Directive.

 International road transport: The new elements of the revised directive will apply to the transport sector once the sector-specific legislation, included in the Mobility Package, enters into force.

Until then, the 1996 version of the directive remains applicable.

New rules to apply within two years: Member states will have two years to transpose the rules into their national laws, and must put them into effect by the end of this period.

Also read: The EU has just passed a law that could end the problems with free movement which led to Brexit in the first place


Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Pinterest Email
Posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, European Employment Rights, UK Employment Rights | Leave a comment