Keith Ewing & John Hendy Letter On EU Employment Rights

John Hendy QC

Letter To Morning Star

In reply to Kevan Nelson’s letter in the Star on 26th February, no-one is advocating that the judgments of the EU court which are adverse to workers’ and trade union rights should be preserved to inhibit the incoming Labour Government. There are a good number of such adverse decisions. But there are some judgments which fortify workers’ rights.

We had hoped that when we used the phrase ‘no regression on workers’ rights’ it

Professor Keith Ewing

was clear that we meant that there should be a legal requirement that workers’ and trade union rights in the UK after Brexit should be no less favourable than those applicable in the EU. Under a Labour government, it goes without saying that workers’ and trade union rights in the UK will be more favourable than those in the EU and that we will be freed of CJEU decisions such as Alemo-Herron, Viking and Laval.

But for the moment it is necessary to protect against the Conservative government watering down important UK workers’ rights granted (or to be improved) by EU Directives or CJEU decisions. What is required (and what the Tories will not agree) is:

  1. A guarantee after Brexit that every worker in the UK shall enjoy rights in relation to work which are no less favourable than those enjoyed by a comparable worker in the EU. (‘Worker’ to be defined as in EU law (since it is a wider definition) and applicable to those seeking or who have recently left work.)
  2. Any question of whether a UK worker has less favourable rights to those of her EU comparator shall be determined by the UK courts. (The Tories want a vote on a government motion to decide.)
  3. In determining whether a UK worker has less favourable rights than those of her EU comparator the domestic courts will be required to have regard to any relevant jurisprudence of the CJEU. (So the courts will have to give effect to a CJEU decision giving more favourable rights but ignoring one which diminishes ri)
  4. The guarantee shall be enforced by the UK courts on the application of any worker in the UK claiming to be affected.
  5. The guarantee shall be written into the Treaty for leaving the EU.

Prof Keith Ewing and John Hendy QC, Published March 4th

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Unison Response To May’s Brexit – Workers Rights Proposals

Commenting on the government’s announcement about workers’ rights, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: Any guarantees about protecting existing and ensuring future employment rights must be in the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement.

“Anything less, and the promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

“European laws have made working in the UK safer and better. Brexit mustn’t mean UK employees become the cheapest to hire and the easiest to fire.

“No-one should be hoodwinked into thinking that this is a good deal for workers. It isn’t.”

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GMB Response To May’s Brexit – Workers Rights Proposals

Tim Roache General Secretary of the GMB

GMB, Britain’s general union, has responded to the Government’s ‘meaningless’ workers’ rights assurances.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “No one should be under any illusion – support for the Prime Minister’s bad Brexit deal means swapping strong legal protections on workers’ rights for legally unenforceable tweaks that are not worth the paper they are written on.

“As a trade union we know that assurances on ‘non-regression’ are meaningless if there is no way to enforce them.  These promises would fail to ensure working people’s rights in the UK keep pace with those in our neighbouring countries.

“The crux of this announcement seems to be that Parliament can make new laws if it wants – it can already do that, that’s not a headline, and Ministers on the Government benches have been more interested in removing worker’s rights than protecting them.

“The Government’s deal would see the existing backstop on workers’ rights pulled from beneath people’s feet, with employment protections we all rely on being left to the mercy of whichever hard line Tory takes the reins next.

“History will not be kind to those who risk our rights on a few nods and winks from a lame duck Prime Minister.”

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Unite Response To May’s Brexit – Workers Rights Proposals

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Government workers’ rights plans fall woefully short, says Unite

Government proposals to protect workers’ rights after the UK leaves the European Union will do little to stop the mistreatment of workers at the hands of ‘greedy bosses’, the leader of Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite said today (Wednesday 6 March).

Responding to the government’s plans, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “After all the talk and media briefing preceding this announcement, it is deeply disappointing that the government appears not to have listened to any of the concerns expressed by trade unions.

“Workers needed assurances but unfortunately all that is on offer is reheated leftover announcements. The mistreatment of workers at the hands of greedy bosses is set to continue.

“The fact remains that workers in the UK have among the poorest protections in Europe, thanks to ‘opt outs’ by successive Westminster governments. This announcement changes that woeful situation not one jot.”

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TUC Response To May’s Brexit – Workers Rights Proposals

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

TUC dismisses government’s “flimsy” workers’ rights proposals

Commenting on new government proposals on employment rights announced today (Tuesday), TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The prime minister has made a mockery of her own claim that Britain is leading the way on workers’ rights.

”These are flimsy procedural tweaks. They come nowhere close to ensuring existing rights are protected. And they won’t stop workers’ rights in the UK from falling behind those in the rest of Europe.

“What’s more, there’s nothing to stop a future right-wing government tearing up this legislation altogether.

“MPs must not be taken in by this blatant window dressing. Our hard-won rights are still under threat.”

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Update On Strike In Matamoros, Mexico

27 January 2019

At 2 p.m. Friday, 30,000 workers in 41 factories represented by the Union of Laborers and Industrial Workers of the Maquiladora Industry (SJOIIM) in Matamoros went on strike.

The workers are demanding a wage increase of 20% and åa bonus of 32,000 ($1600) which is roughly equivalent to the 100% minimum wage increase implemented by the federal government. Many of the union contracts have language that requires any increase in the minimum wage to be applied to the entire pay scale (not just those at the bottom). The contracts also contain a daily productivity bonus which was negotiated in 2015 in place of a wage increase. The union rejected an offer of 10% and 10,000 pesos ($500) on Thursday.

One group of workers is being supported by Los Mineros, who represent two plants in Matamoros. A video of a meeting between Javier Zuñiga, the Mineros representative in Matamoros, and the the CTM union leader, Juan Villafuerte, shows the pressure by workers on the CTM union to reject the employers’ demands. Another group is being advised by Susana Prieto, a labor lawyer from Ciudad Juárez.

The Tamaulipas Labor Board ruled that it had no jurisdiction over 13 companies that produce for the automotive industry, which is subject to federal labor jurisdiction (Trico Componentes, Electromicanicos Bac, Olson Internacional, Key Safety Systems de México, Key Automotive Accesories, Inteva México, Dura de México, Decofinmex, Candados Universales de México, Autoliv México East, Auto Industrial de Partes, ATD de México and Aptiv Contract Services de México). The other 32 plants are under state jurisdiction.

Federal Labor Secretary Luisa Alcalde made a public request for dialogue, and the Federal Under-Secretary of Labor, Alfredo Dominguez, is now involved in the discussions. On Friday morning the union rejected his request for a 10 day extension of the negotiations.

So far at least 13 companies (NP México, A.F.X Industries, Puertas y Vidrios de Matamoros, Core Composites I & II, CTS Electro de Matamoros, Polytech Netting Industries, Inteva México I, II & III, Tidi, Fypon, Edemsa, Stillman, Dura, and Autoliv) have accepted the union demands. Others have threatened to close down, and local media have reported that Albea Cepillos, Keafford, and Signal Processing have announced that they will close.

Media report that in some plants (Trico, Inteva, Albea Cepillos de Matamoros, ATD) management ordered security guards to block the doors to prevent workers from leaving at the end of their shift. At Parker Hannifin and Candados Universales, workers blocked attempts by management to remove machinery, and groups of workers formed outside other factories to prevent any similar attempts.

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North American trade deal: labour rules should be legally enforceable

By Noe Torres

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Labour provisions in a new North American trade deal should be enforceable in Mexico, the head of the country’s Senate labour committee says, adding that lawmakers could pass new national labour rules in the next two months.

Senator Napoleon Gomez Urrutia told Reuters in an interview he would push for the stronger labor protections in the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement that replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be made “obligatory.”

The deal, known as USMCA, must be approved by the U.S. Congress and Canadian and Mexican legislators before becoming law. U.S. Democrat lawmakers may also push for making the deal’s labor rules, which include minimum wages for some auto production, enforceable.

Gomez Urrutia said the current language of the text, which was signed by the presidents of the three countries on November 30th, made the labor chapter virtually voluntary. In the existing NAFTA, labor rules are not enforceable.

“I have insisted in hearings with the negotiators of this free trade agreement that they make the chapter on labor right obligatory, that it is not a recommendation, because otherwise, there will not be a major change,” he said.

The senator, a veteran of Mexico’s labor movement, also said the country’s new labor law, aimed at increasing union democracy and possibly making it harder for companies to “outsource” workers to third parties, could be passed in late February or March.

Previously the new government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which took office on December 1st, had aimed to pass the law by January.

Gomez Urrutia, who also heads a miners union and is a member of the Senate’s mining committee, told Reuters that he would also push for tighter regulation of mining concessions and fewer restrictions on canceling them, as well as a review of mining taxes.

Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Michael O’Boyle and Jonathan Oatis

Thanks to Ben Davis of the USW.

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USA: Unions Did Great Things For The Working Class

Strengthening Unions could blunt inequality and wage stagnation.

By Noah Smith 13th June 2018 From: Bloomberg Opinion

Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys, but they often leave the working class fragmented and divided – between different companies, between union and non-union workers, and even between different ethnic groups.

Economists, too, have long puzzled about how to think about unions. They don’t fit easily into the standard paradigm of modern economic theory in which atomistic individuals and companies abide by rules overseen by an all-powerful government. Some economists see unions as a cartel, protecting insiders at the expense of outsiders. According to this theory, unions raise wages but also drive up unemployment. This is the interpretation of unions taught in many introductory courses and textbooks.

If this were really what unions did, it might be worth it to simply let them slip into oblivion, as private-sector unions have been doing in the U.S.:

 It’s Been a While Since the Union Made Us Strong

But there are many reasons to think that this theory of unions isn’t right – or, at least, is woefully incomplete.

First, even back in the 1970s, some economists realized that unions do a lot more than just push up wages. In a 1979 paper entitled “The Two Faces of Unionism,” economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff argued that “by providing workers with a voice both at the workplace and in the political arena, unions can and do affect positively the functioning of the economic and social systems.”

Freeman and Medoff cite data showing that unions reduced turnover, which lowers costs associated with constantly finding and training new workers. They also show that unions engaged in political activity that benefitted the working class more broadly, rather than just union members. And they showed that contrary to popular belief, unions actually decreased racial wage disparities. Finally, Freeman and Medoff argue that by defining standard wage rates within industries, unions actually reduced wage inequality overall, despite the cartel-like effect emphasized in econ textbooks.

But the world didn’t listen to Freeman and Medoff, and private-sectors unions declined into near-insignificance. Now, four decades later, economists are again starting to suspect that unions were a better deal than the textbooks made them out to be. A recent paper by economists Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu concludes that unions were an important force reducing inequality in the U.S.

Since past data tends to be patchy, Farber et al. combine a huge number of different data sources to get a detailed picture of unionization rates going all the way back to 1936, the year after Congress passed a law letting private-sector employees form unions. The authors find that as unionization rises, inequality tends to fall, and vice versa. Nor is this effect driven by greater skills and education on the part of union workers; during the era from 1940 through 1970, when unionization rose and inequality fell, union workers tended to be less educated than others. In other words, unions lifted the workers at the bottom of the distribution. Black workers, and other non-white workers, tended to benefit the most from the union boost.

Now, however, private-sector unions are mostly a faded memory and their power to raise wages has waned — Farber et al. find that although there’s still a union wage premium, it’s now much more due to the fact that higher-skilled workers tended to be the ones who stayed unionized. A 2004 paper by economists John DiNardo and David Lee found that by 1984-1999, unions had lost much of their ability to force wages higher.

Given the contrast between the golden age of 1940-1970 and the current age of spiraling inequality, wouldn’t it make sense to bring unions back? Perhaps. The key question is why private-sector unions mostly died out. Policy changes – right-to-work laws, and the appointment of anti-union regulators, probably played a key role in reducing unionization. But globalization may have also played a big part. Competition from companies in countries like Germany – where unions often bargain to hold down wages in order to increase their companies’ competitiveness — might have made the old American model of unionization unsustainable. Now, with even stiffer competition from China, the challenge of re-unionizing the U.S. might be an insurmountable one.

But it might be worth it to try. Other than massive government redistribution of income and wealth, there’s really no other obvious way to address the country’s rising inequality. Also, there’s the chance that unions might be an effective remedy for the problem of increasing corporate market power – evidence suggests that when unionization rates are high, industry concentration is less effective at suppressing wages. Repealing right-to-work laws and appointing more pro-union regulators could be just the medicine the economy needs.

So supporters of free markets should rethink their antipathy to unions. As socialism gains support among the young, both economists and free-market thinkers should consider the possibility that unions – that odd hybrid of free-market bargaining and government intervention – were the vaccine that allowed the U.S. and other rich nations to largely escape the disasters of communism in the 20th century.

It looks like it’s time for a booster shot.

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GMB ‘Hit Trick’ Of Wins Against Uber

December 19th, 2018

GMB Union celebrates ‘early Christmas present’ as Court upholds ruling that Uber drivers entitled to employment rights

GMB, hailed a ‘hat trick’ of legal wins for Uber drivers after the Court of Appeal upheld upheld a ruling that they should be classified as workers.

In October 2016, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled in GMB’s favour – determining that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but ARE workers entitled to workers’ rights including holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.

Instead of accepting the judgement of the courts, Uber took their case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) last year, which ruled against the ride-sharing company.

The Court of Appeal judgement is Uber’s third legal defeat on this issue in as many years.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said:

“We’re now at a hat trick of judgements against Uber, they keep appealing and keep losing. Uber should just accept the verdict and stop trying to find loopholes that deprive people of their hard won rights and hard earned pay.

“This is the perfect early Christmas present for GMB’s Uber members, but this case is about the wider ‘gig economy’ too.

“Employers are on notice that they can’t just run rough shod over working people to put more on the bottom line for shareholders.”

Nigel Mackay, partner in Leigh Day’s employment team, said:

“We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has again upheld the Employment Tribunal’s findings that Uber drivers are workers of Uber. 

“This is the third time that the drivers have been victorious in their fight for workers’ rights but Uber has yet to give their drivers what three legal decisions have ruled they are entitled to – holiday pay and to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

“We hope that Uber now faces up to its responsibilities instead of spending time and money in the courts attempting to deny its drivers these rights.”

Official GMB Press release

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Help Fight The Hungarian ‘Slave Labour’ Law

On December 12th the Hungarian Parliament adopted the “Slave Law” which could require workers to do overtime work up to 400 hours a year. Further, the reference period is increased to 36 months. The law was passed without proper consultation with social partners, through misuse of the Parliamentary procedures.

The changes would create a significantly worse situation for workers, practically introducing a 6 day working week. Although it would be linked to the agreement of the parties concerned, the power relation in the world of work is not an equal partnership of employer and worker.

An employee is always in a vulnerable position, very often not in position to contradict to employers’ requirements. The extension of the working time reference period to three years means the employee may be obliged to work overtime for a long period, while waiting for the compensation for years. This legislation is contrary to the 2003/88/EC working time directive fixing the reference period for a maximum of 12 months.

Hungarian trade unions oppose these steps which are against fair and decent employment conditions. Over the past days strong protest actions have brought large masses to the streets.

The Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ) demands the withdrawal of the law and has appealed to the President of Hungary not to sign it and refer it back to the Parliament. MASZSZ call for meaningful, proper consultation with social partners.

Click here to sign a letter to the President on the Slave Law!

For more information click here.

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