TUC says employment rights need “beefing up”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

5 million UK workers now employed by outsourced companies, franchises, recruitment agencies, umbrella companies & personal service companies.

The TUC has said employment rights need “beefing up” to protect the rights of workers employed by outsourcing companies pointing out that such workers cannot challenge the parent company over minimum wage or holiday pay abuses.

The TUC has called on the government to give subcontracted workers in the supply chain the right to challenge the end employer.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department says plans had been set out to ensure employees, including agency workers, “benefit from enhanced rights and protections”. But the TUC estimates that five million UK workers cannot enforce their basic rights with their “parent company”.

General Secretary Frances O’Grady said labour enforcement laws “urgently need beefing up” to deal with the problem.”

The TUC’s research has found 3.3 million workers were employed through ‘outsourced companies’, 615,000 by ‘franchise businesses’ and at one million by recruitment agencies, umbrella companies and personal service companies.

The TUC said in such cases the employer using the service had a “duty of care” to the workers in their supply chains.

“This is an issue that affects millions, from fast food workers to people working on building sites,” said Frances O’Grady.

“Joint liability must be extended to parent employers. Without it they can shrug their shoulders over minimum wage and holiday pay abuses.”

Further reading click here

Further reading click here

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Congratulations To Ged Kearney

Ged Kearney with Bill Shorten

From Barry Camfield in Australia : An example of a progressive woman trade unionist winning a parliamentary seat, in a seat called “Batman”, with a commitment to fight for unions and workers interests.

A by-election for the Australian House of Representatives seat of Batman took place on 17th March 2018.

To loud cheers and renditions of the union anthem ‘Solidarity Forever’, grinning Opposition Leader Bill Shorten welcomed his victorious by-election candidate Ged Kearney as “the hero of Batman”.

This was a big win for Labor. A morale boosting victory heading into a federal election in the next 12 months in a seat the Greens have been threatening, and promising, to win for years.

As big a win for the ALP this was a savage loss for the Greens. This was Alex Bhathal’s sixth attempt at Batman. Over her career she had successfully whittled away Labor’s lead in Batman in previous elections from a safe seat to falling agonisingly close in 2016 when the party fell less than 2,000 votes short.

Now the margin is out to 4 per cent and Labor is winning the primary race.

Statement by ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“On behalf of working people across the country and the Australian trade union movement I congratulate Ged Kearney on her win in Batman.

 “Ged has been a tireless advocate for working people for decades – in our hospitals, as the national leader of nurses and midwives, as ACTU president and now as the member for Batman.

 “As working people fight to change the rules so Australia is a fairer and better country, they will have an ally in Canberra in Ged Kearney.

 “Our democracy is richer for Ged’s election.” 


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TiSA: when everything is a service, a ‘Trade in Services Agreement’ affects everyone

From the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations

Since 2013, a conclave of governments calling themselves ‘The Really Good Friends of Services’, has been negotiating a secretive ‘Trade in Services Agreement’ (TiSA) that would set the rules for twentieth century capitalism and place these rules beyond the reach of government regulation, now and in the future.

A new report TiSA: Not our Future!  prepared for the IUF reveals the scope of the corporate power grab through a close examination of TiSA’s potential impact on workers across the IUF sectors and TiSA’s broader implications for the labour movement, society and democratic governance.

The report explains in plain language the meaning and context of TiSA’s complex rules and how they are designed to lock in the corporate agenda. Under current WTO rules, the products of IUF sectors like food processing and beverage manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries are treated as goods the moment they cross borders.

TiSA introduces another layer of rules, under which every current and future task performed by workers in these sectors can be treated as a discrete, stand-alone ‘service’ to be outsourced to a transnational ‘service provider’ who is liberated and protected by TiSA’s rules. In the IUF sectors already treated as services – hotels, restaurants, catering – TiSA gives new impetus and encouragement to the ongoing process of outsourcing and casualization.

‘E-commerce’ rules in TiSA are not about online shopping. They are about the control of the algorithms and data flows which are essential to the corporate-driven digitalization of everything, including work. TiSA would accelerate a process of digitalized automation potentially resulting in massive job destruction, while its rules would radically reduce the possibility for workers to negotiate the application and impact of these new technologies. At the same time, TiSA’s rules on financial services effectively preclude meaningful efforts to regulate the crisis-prone financial sector through new laws or regulations.

The volatile, speculative flow of money which increasingly drives food production and the global economy acquires even greater power to disrupt.

CLICK HERE to learn more and to download the report.

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Future Of US Unions Now In Supreme Court’s Hands


By Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO,

The U.S. Supreme Court soon will be the stage of one of the most consequential fights in the history of the American worker.

Anyone concerned with the future of middle-class jobs in our nation deserves to get the facts. Rather than sifting through the complexities of this legal battle, the goal of this article is to make clear to readers the real-life implications of this impending court decision.

The case is called Janus v. AFSCME, and it is scheduled to be heard by the court on Feb. 26. At its core, this case is a direct attack on collective bargaining rights and undermines the ability of all workers to join together and negotiate with their employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 10.7 percent in 2017, down from a peak of 33.4 percent in 1945. This might lead someone to ask: If union membership is such a small proportion of the workforce, why should anyone worry?

History however, makes it clear that as the percentage of union membership declines, so too does the percentage of income held by the middle class as a whole.

The refrain “United we stand, divided we fall” is a simple way of reminding people that the well-being of all working people is intertwined. When workers stick together, we maximize our voice on the job and gain the opportunity to earn a decent living. However, when workers are divided, none of us alone has the power to withstand attacks that can topple us one by one. The Janus case is only the latest example of the effort to pit workers against one another.

Unions create a level economic playing field that allows all workers to enjoy a better standard of living. But there are economic forces at work, and government policy plays a crucial role in our economy. To say that these policies have missed the mark is an understatement.

It’s not just the nation’s broken trade deals that have thrown workers under the bus. Reducing labor costs has become an art form among businesses and is a key driver of profit in the modern economy. Furthermore, anti-worker policies such as right-to-work, championed by corporate America, have become a tool to enrich businesses at the expense of working people.

In recent years no labor policy has gained as much traction as right-to-work, which has been adopted by 28 states, with the six most recent laws being passed between 2012 and 2017, as a result of groups such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation funded by the Koch brothers and America’s biggest corporations. Such a policy functions only to weaken unions under the guise of “protecting” individual liberty. Following the money makes it immediately clear where the intent of this policy lies.

So what does any of this have to do with the Janus case? The answer is pretty simple: Janus v. AFSCME is the judicial equivalent of right-to-work. One key difference is that rather than applying to a single state, this case would apply to every public-sector job across the nation. Of course, such a broad-based attack on workers would leave no group unscathed.

As tumultuous as it may seem, the Trump administration has a laser focus in its effort to enrich corporate America at the expense of working families. With President Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, he has once again stacked the deck against working families while claiming — as any good salesman would — that he has come to their rescue.

No matter the outcome of this case, working people have the power to set the course for the future. The formula is simple: When workers unite and come together in common purpose, we can achieve an economy that works for all.

This movement has already begun, and we invite all working families to join on Saturday, Feb. 24, as part of the national Working People’s Day of Action. Rallies will be held across the country to maximize our collective voice.

Visit itsaboutfreedom.org to find the location nearest you.

If ever there was a time for working people to stand up for their rights, that time is now.

 Charles Wowkanech is the President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, representing more than one-million union members and their families.

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Taylor Review: Government Holds Back From Full Reforms

John Hendy QC

By John Hendy QC, Vice President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

It might be hard to imagine that the tedious, barren worthlessness of Matthew Taylor’s Report on ‘Good Work’ could be surpassed. But it has been. The Government’s Response to it (also called ‘Good Work’) is yet more tedious, barren and worthless. Both proceed on the basis that ‘the UK has one of the most successful labour markets in the world.’ For that reason all that is needed is to note some troubling issues like low productivity, low pay and income insecurity and do nothing about them. All other issues, we are told, will be given further consideration and consultation. No real change is proposed to anything.

The government shares Taylor’s antipathy to unions. The government response is no more than a plea to their friends in business to be nicer to those whose work generates their wealth.

The real issues at work which need addressing and which neither the government or Taylor address are, from the workers’ perspective: precariousness of earnings, of hours and of employment, low pay, unfulfilling work, total democratic exclusion from workplace decision making, and gross imbalance of power.

From the employers’ perspective the real issues are: low productivity, lack of investment in R&D, competition on labour costs displacing competition on efficiency, and lack of consumer demand largely caused by low wages.

Modern research has shown that proper workers’ rights and, above all, trade union representation through collective bargaining ameliorate all these ills.

What is therefore required for the benefit of Britain’s workers, businesses and all its people is a radical new architecture of the law at work in which a simple, broad and universal employment relationship definition will be key, and in which the involvement of workers through their trade unions will be crucial. Only the Labour Party’s manifesto For the Many Not The Few really aims what Britain’s 31 million workers and hundreds of thousands of employers really need.

But a brief word about some of the government’s response follows:

Definition of the employment relationship

There are three categories of working relationship in UK law: ‘employment’, ‘limb (b) worker’ and ‘self-employed’ – though the last two overlap. The Taylor Report wants to preserve these absurd and unjustifiable historic accretions to UK law (though re-branding the last two). The flawed government Response seeks to retain, without any rational justification, the illogicality of these three categories. It is clear to anyone with any familiarity with labour law that a single universal definition of ‘worker’ is required to cover all those who perform work for another (other than those in business on their own account servicing clients and customers); the whole suite of employment rights should flow from this relationship. A proposed new EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions in the European Union (21 December 2017) proposes just this but the government does not mention it.

The proposed Directive also requires far more extensive information to be provided to workers about their employment status than at present in the UK – and far more than is proposed by Taylor or the government in its Response.


The government says all workers (including casual and zero-hours workers) are to be entitled to pay slips. This is a good thing, albeit peripheral. But it also shows that the government are determined to preserve zero-hours contracts where employers wish to minimise labour costs by imposing them on workers. This perpetuates ‘flexibility’ for the employer by imposing uncertainty and precariousness of income on workers.

Zero hours contacts etc

All workers (including agency and zero-hours workers) are to be given the right to request a more stable contract thus ’providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.’ And a task force is to be launched to promote awareness and take-up of the right to request flexible working. Quite how a right to make a request is likely to improve financial security is not explained. Surely, workers already have the right to make a request for ‘a more stable contract’ (or a pay rise or anything else)? If the employer is not obliged to accede to the request it is worthless. This proposal is no more than window dressing.

The Low Pay Commission is to be asked to consider higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero hours contracts. This completely misses the point. What is needed is a requirement that minimum hours are contractually stipulated and that a penal rate be required to be for hours beyond the minimum stipulated by the contract. This would go a long way to eliminate zero hours contracts.

Working time is to be defined ‘for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or on line so they know when they should be being paid.’ Again the point is missed. What these workers want is a law requiring them to be paid when they are on line or their app is open. Mere knowledge that the employer will not pay them is unlikely to give them much satisfaction.


The government promises to ‘crack down’ on sectors where unpaid interns are doing the job of a worker. This is a good thing but it is not clear what might be the mechanism of the crackdown.

 Enforcement of awards

It is known that about one third of tribunal awards are never paid by employers. The government response is to propose to name employers who fail to pay and allow workers to enforce claims using the claim form they used in the tribunal. This totally fails to address the problem that many workers who win an award which the employer does not pay cannot afford to enforce their rights in the County Court and simply give up. The government do not propose a mechanism by which such employers could be identified, let alone named. What is needed is plainly a Labour Inspectorate to enforce these and other rights on behalf of workers – and failure to pay a tribunal award should be made a criminal offence.

Fines and penalties

The government propose to quadruple ‘fines’ for employers showing ‘malice, spite or gross oversight’. This completely misses the point. What is required is to remove the statutory caps on compensation so that tribunals are free to award the full measure of compensation to reflect the loss caused to the worker by the employer’s unlawful conduct. The present puny level of awards is caused by the statutory caps – that is where the injustice lies. If compensation was awarded in the same way as damages in the courts, then it would be open to tribunals, subject to very well established criteria, to award aggravated and exemplary compensation for particularly bad conduct.

The proposal that increased penalties be imposed on employers who have previously lost similar cases would hardly be necessary if compensation was adequate. It is obvious that many hours and days of tribunal time will be devoted to arguing whether a previous case was or was not similar. Window dressing.

Agency workers

These are to have a ‘clear break down of who pays them and any costs of charges deducted from their wages.’ One might have thought that this would be covered by the proposal for pay slips for all but obviously not. It is welcome no doubt but it wholly misses the point that agency workers want rights against the end-user as well as the agency and, in particular, they want full equality of pay and conditions with those engaged by the end user on comparable work.

Worker voice

The government Response says at many points that workers’ voices should be heard in relation to the decisions which affect them at work. But, unsurprisingly, both Taylor and the government refuse to concede any rôle to trade unions to represent them. Yet without a collective voice through trade unions collectively bargaining on their behalf, workers can never have even the semblance of democracy at work.

Sector deals

The government proposes to agree new ‘sector deals’ with industry, encouraging employers to show how they are investing in their workforces to improve productivity. What a missed opportunity! Why doesn’t the government take a leaf from Labour’s book and require employers to agree new sector deals with representative unions to improve, not only productivity, but pay and conditions too. Such sector deals could prevent the undercutting of good employers by bad employers. The Labour Party calls this Sectoral Collective Bargaining and has promised to roll it out after the next election.


The government Response, like the Taylor Report, simply refuses to address the real problems of workers (or even those of employers). Wedded to neo-liberalism and the idea that trade unions and collective bargaining should be eliminated from a free market in labour limited only by the lowest wage at which humans will work, the government propose only window dressing. Its Report and Taylor are best ignored. What we need is a crushing victory for Labour at the next election and a radical new architecture of labour law based on sectoral collective bargaining.

9th February 2018

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Government response to Taylor Review not the leap needed to end insecure work for millions

Matthew Taylor Report: “Giving people on zero hours contracts the right to ask for guaranteed hours will not stop bad bosses from exploiting workers” – Len McCluskey

Responding to the government’s response to the Taylor Review on modern working practices, Unite general secretary Len McCuskey said: “This is a tiny step, but not the leap that is needed to ensure that millions of people in precarious work have the security of knowing from one week to the next whether they will be able to put food on the table and pay the bills.

“Giving people on zero hours contracts the right to ask for guaranteed hours will not stop bad bosses from exploiting workers. The government could and should take a leaf out New Zealand’s book by banning them altogether.

“It is clear that the government still needs to accept that the best protection against worker abuse is strong enforcement coupled with strong trade unions. Ministers need to stop making it harder for us to do our job and accept too that the super-charging of low-wage, insecure work can be directly traced to the destructive deregulatory approach of the last 40 years.

“A strong economy and stable communities are not possible with a hire and fire workforce too frightened to take time off work to see a doctor as we tragically saw this week, or the Carillion workers left in limbo who after years of service get an email telling them they are sacked.

“The world of work is changing rapidly. But its insecurity is heightened because of bad behaviour by some powerful vested interests. It is right that the government looks at how we can support workers through these changes, but we also need direct action to construct an economy that works for all.”

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EU Commissioner Malmström kills off talk of TTIP resumption

Celia Malmstrom – kills off speculation of restart of TTIP talks.

By Brett Fortnam, Inside U.S. Trade, February 1st, 2018

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström responded to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ optimism about resuming U.S.-EU trade talks by listing actions the U.S. has taken over the past year that she said would make it difficult to start again.

Ross, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24th, said it was no accident that the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership but not the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the EU – a point he has made before.

The TTIP talks have not progressed since EU member state trade ministers in September 2016 decided a deal could not be reached with the Obama administration. They have remained dormant since the Trump administration took office in January 2017.

In his remarks, Ross took shots at Europe by saying it was no longer appropriate for the U.S. to subsidize European countries and dismissing the notion that the EU’s economy was more open than the United States’.

But Malmström told reporters in Davos that after one year of the Trump administration there were “lots of trade irritants” between the U.S. and EU.

“I don’t think we can start TTIP where we left it a year ago,” she said. “We need to see — many parameters have changed. So we’ll see. The idea of having a free trade agreement between the EU and U.S. is still a great idea, which I support. But the parameters have changed and we need to sit down and see where we are on this.”

As an example, Malmström said the U.S. has tightened Buy America provisions on government procurement. In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that directed government agencies to examine waivers and exceptions to Buy American laws, with the intent of closing those “loopholes.” A report required by that order has not been released.
Public procurement market access was a key offensive issue for the EU in the TTIP negotiations and was a major sticking point in the talks. The EU saw the U.S. market access offer in that area as insufficient. The U.S. justified its offer by saying its procurement market was already more open than the EU’s, a contention heavily contested by the EU.
Malmström also said the EU was concerned with actions the Trump administration could announce as a result of its Section 232 investigation into the national security implications of steel imports.

The Commerce Department’s decision to levy duties on Spanish olives is another trade barrier of concern to the EU, Malmström said.

EU Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario told reporters on January 29th that the TTIP talks have “effectively stopped,” noting that the EU would have to complete an internal assessment before resuming the negotiations.

The EU must clarify if there’s a sufficient level of “shared ambition and common ground before deciding whether and how to proceed with new negotiations,” he said. “We are engaged with the United States to work together for a positive, ambitious and mutually beneficial trans-Atlantic trade agenda.”

Further imperiling the resumption of the TTIP talks, Malmström on January 25 said participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change was a necessary prerequisite for negotiating a trade agreement with the EU. President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal from the accord in June after decrying it throughout the presidential campaign.

When told had Ross suggested resuming TTIP, she replied, “Did he? He hasn’t contacted me.”

She also criticized a comment Ross made to reporters about sending U.S. trade troops to the “rampart.”

“To talk about ‘trade war’ and future — even increasing the troops or whatever you will — is not good for the world, is not good for the U.S., is not good for anybody else,” she said. “We need to sit down and try to address these issues and to talk about ‘trade war’ I think is irresponsible.”

Trump heightened the trade rhetoric over the weekend, telling Good Morning Britain on January 28th that he has “a lot of problems with the European Union” that “may morph into something very big” from “a trade standpoint,” according to media reports.

The EU Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, on January 29 said that if U.S. actions harmed EU exports, the EU would react.

“The European Union stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures from the United States,” he told reporters.

Thanks to Ben Davis at the United Steelworkers

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NHS Demo : Saturday February 18th

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Australia: Sydney train strike ruled out by Fair Work Commission

By Barry Camfield

In an outrageous move, the so-called ‘Fair Work Commission’ in Australia has effectively banned strike action in complete breach of ILO Convention 87.

C87 guarantees ‘Freedom of Association’, which provides for the right to strike. Indeed, the ILO’s Committee of Experts has previously stated that Freedom of Association without the right to strike is “meaningless”.

This decision must be opposed within Australia and internationally. Otherwise it sends a clear message to the worst regimes in the world that Government’s can ignore international standards and exploit their own peoples with impunity.

The planned train strike in Sydney cannot go ahead because it threatens to endanger the welfare of the population, the Fair Work Commission says.

Read the full news item from ABC News by clicking here.

More in this decision will follow on twitter @unionfreedom

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Russia: ITUC Denounces Court Decision To Dissolve Trade Union

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary

The International Trade Union Confederation has denounced the decision of a local court in St Petersburg, Russia to dissolve a trade union on the grounds that it engaged in political activities.

The decision to dissolve the Inter-regional Trade Union Workers’ Association (ITUWA) was based on the fact that the ITUWA supported truck drivers protesting against tax increases, and criticised the government’s socio-economic policies on its website.

The court also included the inter-sectoral nature of the union’s membership and activities as part of the reasons for its decision, along with the fact the ITUWA had held joint seminars with Global Union Federation IndustriALL in 2015 and 2016.  The prosecution even tried to claim that the union’s support for a public petition calling for indexation of salaries was illegal.

This decision is a clear violation of freedom of association, guaranteed under ILO Convention 87, which Russia has ratified.  It sets a very bad precedent for Russia, and indeed internationally.  We call on the Russian authorities to fulfil their responsibilities to protect this fundamental right, and to ensure that the deplorable decision is reversed so that the union’s members and potential future members can benefit from legitimate trade union activity,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Both main national trade union centres KTR, of which ITUWA is a member, and FNPR, have strongly condemned the ruling.

For more details, see: http://www.industriall-union.org/russia-court-rules-to-dissolve-ituwa

Thanks to Barry Camfield for sending this item

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