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.

ILO Conventions 87 & 98 Mexico – A New Dawn For Independent Unions?

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Australia: Big union merger will shift Labor to the left

By Ben Schneiders,  Sydney Morning Herald

November 9, 2019 

Thanks to Ben Davis of the USW.

The two unions that have been most active in bringing attention to the epidemic of wage theft in Australia will merge on Monday to form one of the country’s largest unions, and in doing so, potentially shift the Labor Party to the left.

The merger of the National Union of Workers and United Voice will be a bid to “rebuild worker power” in Australia and “change democracy”, according to the new union’s national secretary Tim Kennedy.

“It is a radical proposal to rebuild worker power in this country where it’s really needed,” Mr Kennedy told union delegates last month. “To help rebuild the power of workers not just of our union but of organised labour in this country.”

The merged union will be called the United Workers Union. Its creation as a left-wing union will give that faction of Labor a possible national conference majority for the first time in decades, with the old NUW delegates shifting from the right faction to the left.

The union movement has been in steady decline since the 1980s and in the private sector barely one in 10 workers are now a member.

Among the reasons for the decline are legal and other changes in recent decades that have shifted power to employers. The United Workers Union promises an aggressive industrial approach which could mean more strikes, which are at historic lows.

“The crisis has many parents,” Mr Kennedy said in an interview with The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald.

“The reality is progressive politics in this country has not been winning debates about collective responses to issues for a long time,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said by winning industrial battles, the UWU could give millions of workers a sense of power and put them “back in the centre of the political contest in this country” and “change the nature of democracy in this country”.

He describes inequality as a “cancer” in Australia that diminishes the lives of many and stops them from living “full lives”. Redistribution of wealth “is a key impact we want to have”.

The merged unions have both been heavily involved in campaigning against wage theft in industries such as hospitality, farms and cleaning. Many of the new union’s members are low paid and in insecure work. About a third come from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The underpayment of wages has become a major national issue after a string of scandals at big companies such as Woolworths, Bunnings, the ABC, at high-end restaurants and among labourers on farms.

The Morrison government is moving to toughen penalties for employers and is considering an ACTU proposal to make it easier for underpaid workers to make claims at the Fair Work Commission.

However, unions have struggled to transform widespread public angst around slow wages growth and unlawful wage underpayment into greater membership numbers. The surprise defeat of Bill Shorten’s Labor at this year’s election dashed union hopes of more worker-friendly laws.

The new union has also ditched more than a 100 years of union practice in Australia, abolishing the structures of state and federal branches, as part of a radical overhaul.

“That’s not the system we are in any more, employers are national, they’re global,” said Jo-anne Schofield, who is the new union’s national president. “It did require a root-and-branch review of what a union for the future might look like.”

Instead of the old structure, the UWU will set up around industries and as a single national union, Ms Schofield said. Its core industry areas include aged care, farms, food and supermarket supply chains.

Ms Schofield said the scale of the new union and its new structure would allow it to pursue a positive agenda to grow. “We’ve been in too many fights, too many defensive fights.”

The union movement went through a series of mega-mergers in the 1990s, few of which were successful. Ms Schofield said her old union, the former United Voice, had merged and amalgamated more than 60 times in its history.

RMIT professor of workplace law, Anthony Forsyth, said the merger was “really significant” as it involved “two of the best unions in the country joining together”.

They had been innovative in recruiting migrant and young workers, areas where many other unions had struggled to have a presence.

“You could view it as a last roll of the dice, if their approach and the innovations they’ve been using can’t make it work, there’s not much hope for unions.”

Nonetheless, Professor Forsyth said he had “quite a lot of confidence” it would be a success.

Mr Kennedy said the UWU, which has two-thirds of its members in the private sector, has set ambitious targets for growth. It wants to grow from about 150,000 to 200,000 members within five years.

There are up to two million workers eligible to join the union as it has the right, under workplace laws, to represent workers in such a large number of industries. That potential growth has implications for Labor nationally, where the factional numbers are currently finely balanced between left and right factions.

“The new union will be part of the left,” Mr Kennedy said. “It’s not a big deal, (the union) will form views based on what’s important to its members and prosecute them in party forums, whether that’s right, left or indifferent doesn’t matter to us.”

In the byzantine world of Labor factional politics, the move threatens to destabilise delicate power arrangements. It could tip the balance of power in the party to the left at next year’s national conference for the first time since 1979, according to senior left and right Labor sources.

In Victoria, senior Labor right sources said the contingent of seven NUW-linked MPs will remain in the right. Over time that may change as senior MPs such as minister Martin Pakula and Treasurer Tim Pallas retire and are replaced.

One senior Labor right source was confident little would change and said the NUW contingent in the Victorian parliament were “independent of thought”.

He couldn’t see them “volunteering to be a new asset of Left faction leader Kim Carr”.

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Support McDonald’s Workers On Strike!

McDonald’s workers are going on strike! On Tuesday workers from six south London stores are striking for £15 an hour, guaranteed hours and a union.

The McStrikers will deliver an open letter for party leaders to No. 10 Downing Street demanding a New Deal for McDonald’s Workers. They are taking action to demand basic respect at work and an end to poverty pay.

Add your name to show them you’ve got their backs.

McDonald’s workers around the world are standing up to the second largest private employer in the world. McDonald’s is global but so is our movement. Fast food workers around the world will be standing up for their rights at work on the same day.

McDonald’s has deep pockets, but we have people power and justice on our side. McDonald’s workers are showing that they are not afraid. They are demanding that McDonald’s treats them with the respect that we all deserve.

Add your voice and show them that you stand with them.

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Don’t Be Fooled – Workers’ Rights Will Suffer Outside The EU

By Nicola Countouris and Keith Ewing

First published on the UK Labour Law Blog, 28th October 2019, and is available at https://wordpress.com/view/uklabourlawblog.com.

In a remarkable article – Don’t be fooled – the EU is no defender of workers’ rights – The Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliot trashed as ‘complete nonsense’ the ‘idea’ that British workers need to be aligned to the EU. This is a view embraced by a small, but – in the current climate of fractious Parliamentary alliances and tactics – crucially important part of British society. That being the case, it is not clear where the proponents of this view have been for the last forty years to produce something so conspicuously ill-informed and myopic.

Where to begin? First, the Guardian article gives an incomplete account of our laws and the influence of the EU. Reference is made in to equal pay and health and safety at work. In fact, with the exception of the home grown statutory minimum hourly rate (it is neither a minimum wage nor a living wage and we should stop to referring to it as such); the failed trade union recognition legislation; and the restrictive legislation on the right to strike, there is little in the labour law playbook that has not been influenced and enriched by EU membership.

It is true, as the Guardian’s article maintains, that the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 were minted in London rather than Brussels. But it is also true that these provisions would be even more risibly ineffective but for the input of EU law in various guises. There would be no equal pay for work of equal value, we would still be stuck with the narrowest notion of ‘comparator’ in equal pay claims, there would be no application of the Equal Pay Act to pensions, and there would still be a cap on compensation for discrimination claims.

That apart, the article makes no reference to paid holidays, redundancy consultation, TUPE, data protection, or European Works Councils. None of this is likely to have been introduced unprompted by the monetarist, neo-liberal and austerity driven governments of the last forty years. While many of these measures are less effective than they should be, the weakness of the law is a matter for which successive British governments have been largely responsible, as they first tried to block important social initiatives until they were over-ruled, and then tried generally to wriggle free when implementing their obligations.

Overall, however, UK labour standards generally tend to be more or less on a par with European standards (and on some occasions even more robust) in those areas presided over by EU labour law instruments. But on the contrary, UK labour standards tend to fall well below European standards in areas such as unfair dismissal where, as noted in 2011 by the very strongly deregulatory driven Beecroft Report  commissioned by Cameron when he was Prime Minister ‘[t]here is no EU concept of “unfair” non-discriminatory dismissal, so there are no other EU constraints on what the UK can do in this area’.

Secondly, the Guardianarticle runs with the old trope about the EU being a source of restriction on workers’ rights because EU law has enshrined four basic freedoms for business in the EU Constitution. Three at least of these freedoms are not something that the Left can begin to defend. But it would take a remarkable leap of faith to believe that the EU Constitution does not simply express in writing the underlying values of successive British governments, and the direction of British social, economic and political policy since the industrial revolution.

The article predictably trots out the Viking case in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The author seems to confuse this case with the separate CJEU decision in Laval: Viking did not post workers from Estonia, but reflagged its vessels there. But we should not hold that against him, as the point of substance remains the same and the oversight does not affect the argument made. Nor is there any doubt that both Viking and Lavalwere bad decisions (which indeed may well have contributed to Brexit), as we have frequently argued, and now explain more fully in our booklet on Brexit and Workers’ Rights by published by the Institute of Employment Rights.

But as we also point out, leaving the EU will not relieve us of all the restrictions that were created in Viking.   So far as they apply to secondary action, these latter extend to the EU restrictions introduced in British domestic law in 1990, retained by Labour governments (with the fairly recent approval of the European Court of Human Rights), despite Blair’s criticisms of the measures when they were first adopted by Thatcher. Although the Vikingcase had serious effects, the fact is that when Britain leaves the EU secondary action of the kind taken by the ITF in that case is still likely to be actionable.

Properly contextualised, Vikingwould be a poor reason to support Leave. Which is not to dissent from the call in the Guardianarticle for a Labour government fully committed to workers’ rights and collective bargaining, as we have also advocated elsewhere. But the future is not a binary choice between the EU and a Labour government. It is for both. Assuming Corbyn is elected to replace Johnson, history suggests that Labour won’t be there forever, and that at some time there will be a continuing need for the inderogable framework of rights we have had for the last forty years. This is not pessimism. It is common-sense.

The role of Labour will be not only to expand the domestic agenda but also to work in solidarity with progressive forces in the EU to change the direction of travel there as well (and an argument could be made about the British Left having a duty to do just that, after four decades of British governments acting as a brake on Social Europe). Post-Brexit, Labour will continue to have a responsibility to ensure that there will be no regression from European standards, while also protecting us from a future relationship with the EU based on a deregulatory free trade agreement whereby the UK gradually cuts itself adrift.

Finally, and perhaps more important than the controversial Guardianarticle, is the leak from inside government on the following day to the Financial Timesabout the withdrawal negotiations. This revealed a deliberate manoeuvre on the part of Johnson’s team to secure maximum opportunities to degrade labour standards, a point we had elaborated on in a recent IER Briefingcomparing Johnson’s deal with the terms of the previous ‘deal’. If the Guardian article is right about workers’ rights, why would a Johnson government apparently ideologically – if not otherwise – aligned to the EU need scope for creative regression?

Let’s hope that the most vulnerable amongst us are never in a position to find out. And let’s hope too that the people in our view misrepresenting the role of the EU in the protection of workers’ rights are never required to account for their folly. They would have fooled and failed us all.

Nicola Countouris is Professor of Labour Law and European Law at UCL Faculty of Laws and a member of the Executive Committee of the Institute of Employment Rights. His main research interests are in Labour Law, UK, international, and comparative EU Law, Social Security Law, and Public Law.

Keith Ewing is Professor of Public Law in The School of Law, King’s College London and is the President of the Institute of Employment Rights and the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom. His research interests are in labour law and constitutional reform, with special reference to the relationship between social rights and constitutional law.

This blog by Nicola Countouris and Keith Ewing ‘Don’t be fooled – workers’ rights will suffer outside the EU,’ was first published on the UK Labour Law Blog, 28th October 2019, and is available at https://wordpress.com/view/uklabourlawblog.com 

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McDonald’s workers announce ‘biggest ever’ strike – how you can help!

McDonald’s workers have warned bosses that they are planning to launch the biggest wave of fast food strikes the UK has ever seen.

It is reported that six London branches of McDonald’s had been given notice by members of the bakers’ union, BFAWU, of action beginning on Tuesday 12th November.

Workers will call for a £15 an hour wage, guaranteed hours and four-week’s notice of shift patterns, the right to be treated with respect by management, an end to the use of ‘youth rates’, and union recognition.

The strike is expected to close branches in Balham, Catford, Crayford, Deptford, Downham and Wandsworth and is being held as part of an international day of action by the International Union of Food Workers.

Fast food workers in New Zealand, Brazil, Chile and France are also expected to demonstrate on the day.

“I need £15 an hour so I can show my son that poverty is not the only option,” one worker, Melissa Evans, told the Morning Star.

“We are tired of being exploited, but together we are powerful. We will win a new deal for McDonald’s workers,” she explained.

McStrike Mass Video Call – how you can help.

McDonald’s workers are fighting back against zero-hours contracts and unsafe workplaces. They’re demanding £15 an hour, guaranteed hours and union recognition.

Join journalist Owen Jones, War on Want and McDonald’s workers to hear the plan to win – and how you can be a part of it.

We need to show McDonald’s and the workers going on strike that our whole movement is behind them.

The video call will take place using a simple to use and free app/website called Zoom.

All you need is an internet connection and computer or smartphone to join.

Sign up here and you’ll be emailed the link!

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Brexit and Workers’ Rights – Free Download

By Professors Nicola Countouris & Keith Ewing

Now, on the brink of the third deadline for a Brexit deal, two leading UK academics consider the possible implications of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ for UK workers’ rights. They conclude that the process and the post-Brexit architecture will be owned and determined by the political party in power at the time of Brexit and they pose two alternative scenarios. Fr

Download a copy for free here.

About the book

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to remain in or leave the European Union. The result was 51.9% of voters voting to leave. Two things were immediately clear. First, the negotiations would be a very complex, technical, and politically charged affair. Second, the UK would face tough choices and would not be allowed to ‘cherry-pick’ the terms of the Brexit arrangements.

Now, on the brink of the third deadline for a Brexit deal, two leading UK academics consider the possible implications of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ for UK workers’ rights. They conclude that the process and the post-Brexit architecture will be owned and determined by the political party in power at the time of Brexit and they pose two alternative scenarios.

Either the future could deliver a relentless process of ossification, stagnation and erosion of UK labour rights led by politicians traditionally hostile to workers’ rights. Or, the UK could not only protect those UK rights already on the statute book but could resist the tendencies of the European Commission to decentralise collective bargaining arrangements and deregulate employment protection legislation.

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European Collective Bargaining – IndustriALL Europe’s Campaign

IndustriAll Europe’s collective bargaining campaign is  focussing on the stories of ordinary workers and the concrete successes that are achieved through collective bargaining.

Targeted information campaigns will be organised by affiliated unions featuring videos and data-based information material to highlight specific advantages of workers who are covered by a collective agreement.

The benefits of collective bargaining are well-documented across Europe. Companies with collective agreements have better conditions in terms of wages, bonuses, working time etc.

Collective bargaining promotes equality and decent employment. It produces positive effects everywhere. Whilst unions seek to ensure that no-one is left behind there is also a sizable trade union premium: union members often enjoy better conditions than non-unionized workers.

Here are some examples from selected countries in different parts of Europe:

The Czech Republic:

    • Trade union members of OS KOVO in the metal sector earn 15% more because of their collective agreement (this means 200 euro extra/month thanks to collective bargaining). This wage difference would after three years accumulate to around 6,700 euro which is enough to buy a small car.
    • The gender pay gap is narrower in companies with collective agreements. In 2018, the wage difference between women and men was 26.0% in companies with collective agreement, and 23.1% in companies without collective agreement.
    • Working time is also 55 hours shorter per year, a difference which accounts for seven shifts. Between 2016 and 2018, an employee with collective agreement worked 154.8 hours less, which represents 20.5 shifts, i.e. almost an entire calendar month.

Denmark:

    • Trade union members of CO-industri have 25% more benefits which consist of wage difference, shorter hours and other advantages in companies with collective agreements.

Germany:

    • Data from IG Metall shows that in companies without collective agreements, wages are 24% lower on average.
    • For unskilled workers, the difference is even 32% lower for those without a collective agreement.
    • Working hours are also 14% longer for those not covered by an agreement.

The UK:

    • UNITE trade union members earn, on average, 10% more than non-members

“Workers are better off by joining a union and negotiating collectively. Only together can we win better pay and conditions for the benefit of all” states Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe. “Raising workers’ awareness about the benefits of collective bargaining, boosting union membership and strengthening trade unions are therefore principle objectives of our campaign. “

About the campaign
The objective of industriAll Europe’s collective bargaining campaign is to demonstrate the positive impact of collective bargaining, underpinned by strong unions, in delivering a better life for workers. It consists of 7 targeted campaigns, each lasting one month. The ‘Workers Campaign’ runs from 14th October – 15th November.

Visit www.togetheratwork.eu for more information.

See the campaign coverage here.

Watch the campaign video.

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CWU members cheer as 97.1% strike vote announced

From the Communication Workers Union

Hundreds of CWU reps waved their union flags and cheered as the “historic” Royal Mail ballot result was announced after a national reps’ briefing in central London earlier today.

In one of the largest ‘Yes’ votes and biggest turnouts for many years, CWU members in Royal Mail Group, not including Parcelforce members, voted by 97.1 per cent for strike action.

For legal reasons, our Parcelforce members were balloted separately in two separate ballots – one on the controversial ‘TUPE’ proposals and the other on the rest of the issues in dispute.

And both of these returned massive ‘Yes’ votes as well – 94.7 per cent and 95 per cent.

As the details of the balloting were read out by the union’s president Jane Loftus, loud cheering erupted, echoing loudly around the main hall of Euston’s Friends Meeting House.

Members of the press, who had been invited in to hear the announcement, immediately sent the news reverberating around the nation.

And in their eager questions to our general secretary Dave Ward and deputy general secretary postal (DGSP) Terry Pullinger, reporters all wanted to know when strike action could take place.

Media speculation had been building that Christmas or even November’s ‘Black Friday’ could be impacted by potential walkouts, but both Terry and Dave made clear that this would be entirely up to the Royal Mail leadership.

In his initial reaction to the announcement, our DGSP reminded the audience that “just over one year ago, the Royal Mail Group Board and the CWU agreed a blueprint agreement for the future, an agreement that included an historic pension solution, a mutual-interest-driven relationship and a joint vision for a successful postal service with social aims.”

But the new leadership of the company was now, he continued, “breaking that agreement”.

“Our members take honour seriously and have voted to fight for that agreement against those who now seek to break up the Great British Postal service in the interest of fast-track profit and greed.

“Integrity and pride still matter and we will not stand aside and see what we have spent our working lives building destroyed,” Terry insisted.

General secretary Dave Ward said that the result had been “historic” and warned the company leadership that they “cannot face away” from it.

“The workforce has completely rejected the company’s plans to set up a separate parcels business and allow UK postal services and thousands upon thousands of jobs to wither on the vine,” Dave added, highlighting other issues of grievance, such as increased workload pressure on members, driven by technology.

“This dispute goes to the heart of everything that is wrong in today’s world of work,” the general secretary continued, vowing to “fight the board’s asset-stripping plans, not just through strike action, but by speaking directly to major shareholders, politicians and the public.

“We will build a coalition for change and deliver an exciting and innovative future for Royal Mail, with an expanded role for postal workers in supporting local communities and growing the economy.”

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Employment Law Specialists Thompsons Solicitors Respond To The Government’s Revised Brexit Proposals

“The Conservative Government Has Completely Whitewashed Workers’ Rights From Its Revised Stance On Brexit.

“This isn’t a case of protection for workers being pushed to the bottom of the pile – it’s a case of them being ignored altogether.

“In reading government’s revised proposals we note there is no mention of workers’ rights whatsoever. Even the meaningless and already-inadequate protections featured in Annex 4 to Theresa May’s original Northern Ireland Protocol have been expressly deleted – showing how little value this government places on the rights of working citizens.

“This so-called ‘deal’ will be as bad for workers’ rights as the threatened no-deal Brexit, and is a troubling sign of things to come under Johnson’s premiership.”

Read more of why we believe a ‘no deal’ would be the worst possible outcome for workers’ rights here.

 

 

 

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IndustriALL Europe Launch European Campaign For Collective Bargaining.

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

The giant European trade union federation IndustriAll Europe, which covers seven million manufacturing,  mining and energy workers has today launched a campaign which aims to demonstrate the positive impact of collective bargaining in delivering a better life for working people.

The campaign is seen as a major step for European trade unions in co-ordination and co-operating on the issue of collective bargaining.

The campaign will run under the slogan ‘Together At Work’ through to March 2020 and is aimed at all workers with a focus on women, young people and workers in precarious employment.

Amongst the reasons for the campaign, are the fact that collective bargaining is under attack by employers and some governments in Europe. IndustriALL Europe says that collective bargaining is a key to higher pay and better working conditions.

 Luc Triangle, IndustriAll Europe’s General Secretary told a media launch on September 26th : “Over the past decades, collective bargaining has been eroded throughout Europe. Following the 2008 crisis collective bargaining was attacked by both national governments and European institutions, as a means to lower wages and restore profitability.

The increase in individual contracts has left many workers unable to stand up for themselves and led to a rise in precarious work and in-work poverty.  This has led to a vicious cycle where lower bargaining coverage undermines the power to act collectively and to improve conditions for all workers in society. This also erodes social cohesion and now threatens the future of our social security systems, as workers can no longer afford, and employers no longer have to, contribute sufficient to ensure adequate protection.”

 “Our campaign will clearly demonstrate the advantages for workers, employers and society of a model of workplace relations with collective bargaining at its heart. This means strong trade unions and employers willing to sit around the table. Together at Work will show the way forward and identify the measures needed to support collective bargaining.”

Unite in the UK is backing the campaign.

The fact is that collective bargaining has been under attack by employers and the UK government for four decades. Back in 1979 71% of UK workers were covered by collective agreements including national sectoral agreements and company wide agreements covering pay, working hours, holidays, overtime and shift arrangements, apprentices pay and many other issues. 11% of workers were also covered by wages councils which protected some of our lowest paid workers in sectors such as agriculture and box making.

UK Government statistics today suggest that collective bargaining has been pushed back and that just 26% of UK workers are covered by collective agreements with only 14.7% of workers in the private sector covered by collective bargaining, with 58.9% of the public sector now covered by collective bargaining.

 This has been bad news for UK workers. There is massive inequity in terms of pay and conditions between the wealthy and ordinary working people, zero hours contracts have taken hold, low pay is endemic with people having to work two or three jobs just to make a living.

However, the Labour Party’s announcement of its  plans to roll out sectoral collective bargaining and ban zero hours contracts when it takes office is good news.

Shadow Minister for Employment Laura Pidcock MP announced  to both the TUC and Labour Party conferences in September an ambitious programme of minimum and legally binding pay, terms and conditions for every employers and every work in a sector.

Each month, IndustriALL Europe will focus on a different set of messages aimed at workers, employers, women, young people and others, telling real stories about working people, their struggles and their jobs and highlighting the concrete benefits that trade unions bring through collective negotiations with employers through a combination of video and printed material for use in the workplace and social media.

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