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.

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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Blueprint To Tackle Bandit Capitalism And Stop Carillion-Style Collapse

Unite, has launched a blueprint to tackle bandit capitalism in the UK economy and stop future Carillion-style collapses. The document’s publication is especially timely given the growing fears that outsourcing giant Interserve could suffer a Carillion-style collapse.

The document Ending Bandit Capitalism : Learning The Lessons Following Carillion’s Collapse contains a package of measures designed to introduce better regulations and stricter rules to prevent companies being able to embellish their accounts and provide an entirely false trading position, which had disastrous consequences for Carillion and its workforce.

The comprehensive report for the first time details the sorry saga and circumstances of Carillion’s collapse and the role played by the directors, the government and its auditors, in the company’s demise. There are further chapters which examine the outsourcing of public sector contracts and how the construction industry is organised, which were both major contributory factors in Carillion’s demise.

The document also studies the circumstances which resulted in Carillion’s pension fund being bailed out by the pension protection fund and the legal consequences as a result of the company entering compulsory liquidation, making it particularly challenging for the thousands of workers who lost their jobs to seek compensation.

The recommendations in the 36 page document include:
• Requiring directors to focus on the long-term welfare of the company rather than short-term profits
• New rules which bar companies from prioritising dividends, bonuses and director’s pay over reducing pension deficits
• The government should not award contracts to companies in financial difficulties
• If a major company collapses government support for sub-contractors and its supply chain should be for the long-term
• The entire financial regulatory system requires radical reform with the number of regulators being reduced and those that remain being given real power and teeth
• The current outsourcing culture must be ended with contracts being brought back in-house at the earliest opportunity
• A transformation of employment laws to ensure unions have access to workforces to organise workers and prevent exploitation
• The number of legal hurdles that must be cleared before cases taken for workers, who were employed by a company in compulsory liquidation can go forward, must be reduced.

Since Carillion’s collapse Unite, which had over 1,000 members at the company, has led the way in calling for action to be taken to bring those responsible for the company’s collapse to justice. Unite has called for a public inquiry into Carillion’s collapse and an immediate criminal investigation into those responsible.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This document is designed to set out the many factors that led to Carillion’s collapse and to ensure that the bandits are chased out of UK plc.

“What is too often forgotten when company’s collapse is that thousands of workers both directly employed by the company and in their supply chain lose their jobs, through absolutely no fault of their own. The untold human misery of being dumped out of work without warning must be tackled once and for all.

“The reforms that Unite has set out provide a clear blueprint of what is needed to begin tackling the worst excesses of the financial and corporate culture which currently exists.

“With the revelations that Interserve which has a very similar structure to Carillion, is also in severe financial difficulties these reforms cannot be introduced a minute too soon.

“It is a damning indictment that nearly a year after Carillion’s collapse no one has been charged with doing anything wrong, yet thousands of workers lost their jobs and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on clearing up the mess.

“Perhaps the most worrying factor concerning Carillion’s collapse is that the government is still acting as though it is business as normal, which is potentially exposing thousands more workers to a Carillion style meltdown.”

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New Workers Rights – Unions Say It’s A Missed Opportunity

The UK government has introduced what it claims to be “the biggest package of workplace reforms for 20 years” – but unions have described it as “a failure to shift the balance of power away from bad bosses and a missed opportunity”.

Legislation will increase fines for bosses who have deliberately victimised their staff and legislation will be introduced to give workers details of their rights from the first day in a job, such as eligibility for sick leave, pay levels, maternity and paternity leave.

The reforms, outlined by the Tory business secretary Greg Clark, plan to stop the misuse use of the ‘Swedish Derogation’ for agency workers (pay between assignments) which allows businesses to opt out of equal pay arrangements for agency employees.

Measures will also be taken to ensure that seasonal workers get the paid time off they are entitled to.

The reforms, covered in a report called the ‘Good Work Plan’, are based on the recommendations made by Matthew Taylor.

The maximum employment tribunal fines for employers demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight will increase from £5,000 to £20,000.

One of the most controversial aspects of the changes is that the reforms would not ban zero-hours contracts, (which Taylor had recommended), because that would “negatively impact” more people than it helped.

 Unite’s Len McCluskey said: “People on zero hour contracts and workers in the insecure economy need much more than a weak right to request a contract and more predictable hours.  No matter how many times the government re-announces the same offer, unless and until this country takes a leaf out of New Zealand’s book by banning the use of zero hours altogether, working people will continue to be exploited and work will never be the route out of poverty.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the government had missed an opportunity to bolster the rights of zero-hours workers. “These reforms as a whole won’t shift the balance of power in the gig economy. Unless unions get the right to organise and bargain for workers in places like Uber and Amazon, too many working people will continue to be treated like disposable labour. The right to request guaranteed working hours is no right at all. Zero-hours contract workers will have no more leverage than Oliver Twist,” she said.

Labour shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said the reforms will do little to combat the government’s attacks on workers’ rights such as an increase in employment tribunal fees, the Trade Union Act and low wage growth. “These proposals do nothing to tackle the growing number of people on precarious zero-hours contracts and with their botched Brexit deal threatening jobs and rights they’ll have to do a lot more than this to reassure workers,” she said.

Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB union published a full blog in the Huffington Post. Read it here.

More soon…..

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Shrewsbury 24: Court Gives Green Light For Pickets To Challenge Criminal Case Review Commission

On Friday 9th November 2018 the Shrewsbury pickets won an important victory in their long struggle to overturn their convictions. In the Administrative Court in Birmingham, Mr Justice Jay gave permission for the pickets’ application for judicial review to proceed to a full hearing.

The CCRC opposed our application for Judicial Review and a single judge reviewed the papers in March and decided not to give permission for our application to go forwards to a full court hearing. This was a tremendous setback to us, and not one that had been anticipated due to the strength of our case. We were determined not to give up. With the support of trade unions we raised funds to challenge this decision at an oral hearing in open court. That application was heard in Birmingham on Friday 9th November before a different judge, Mr Justice Jay.

The judge, after listening to the submissions of the pickets’ counsel, Danny Friedman QC, granted permission for the case to proceed to a full judicial review hearing. This is excellent news. The full merits hearing of the judicial review application will be listed for two days and is likely to be heard in late spring 2019 before two judges.

The two grounds of the application that the judges will consider are:

that the destruction of original witness statements by the police, which was concealed from the defence and court by the prosecution, amounted to an abuse of process; the broadcasting of the Red under the Bed documentary by ITV halfway through the trial was highly prejudicial to the pickets and should have led to the halting of the trial.

It is the first time that the case of the Shrewsbury pickets has been before a court since 1974 and the first time that they have achieved a success. Campaign Secretary and Researcher, Eileen Turnbull said, “Our case should have been referred back to the Court of Appeal at least three years ago. The CCRC has dragged its feet for over five years and then failed to apply the relevant law to the fresh evidence that we provided. We look forward to the full hearing in the spring as we are confident that we will succeed.”

The pickets are particularly incensed at the attitude of the CCRC not to refer the pickets’ convictions back to the Court of Appeal when its outgoing Chairperson, Richard Foster, said in his farewell speech in October 2018: “I drew attention 5 years ago in my 2012/13 annual report to disclosure failures as the continuing biggest single cause of miscarriages of justice.  I repeated those concerns in subsequent Annual Reports.”

Terry Renshaw, speaking on behalf of the pickets, welcomed the decision, “It is a momentous victory for the Campaign. When we left the court we were delighted with the decision and felt a great sense of achievement after campaigning for the past twelve years to overturn this miscarriage of justice. We are nearly there.”

Campaign Chairperson Harry Chadwick appealed for continuing support, “I want to thank our trade union and Labour Party supporters for the unwavering backing that they have given to us as we would not have got this far without it. The fight is not over yet. We need your continued support to raise funds for the forthcoming hearing. We ask branches, trades councils and CLPs to affiliate to us for 2019 and donate to our legal fund.”

 From the Official Shrewsbury 24 Campaign Website – click here.

December 3rd, 2018 The fight goes on for justice for the pickets.

Eileen Turnbull Secretary and Researcher, Harry Chadwick Campaign Chairperson

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Frances O’Grady: May’s Brexit Deal Doesn’t Come Close To Protecting Workers’ Rights

These rights were won by trade unionists through the EU, and we’ve been clear that leaving the EU must not put them at risk. And building on that, working people need a long-term, binding guarantee that rights in the UK will keep pace with those across Europe.

But the government’s deal doesn’t come close to meeting this test.

In both the proposals for the transition period and for our future relationship with the EU – and whether we end up with the backstop or a free trade agreement – our rights are under real threat.

First, while the Tory right is up in arms about a transition where they say everything will stay the same, the reality is that on employment rights UK workers will lose out. Under the government’s plans, new EU rights that come into force after the transition won’t apply to UK workers.

Second, after the transition, the rights of British workers look set to fall far behind those of workers across Europe. And it’s not clear how any agreement on rights between the EU and UK will be enforced.

Third, and worst of all, the only employment rights commitments that cover our future relationship with the EU are in the draft Political Declaration. Unfortunately, this section of the agreement is non-binding: it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

A future government of Tory Brexiteers could easily ignore its intention and try to negotiate a free trade agreement that undermines our hard-won workplace protections.

We know that there’s appetite in the Conservative Party for a bonfire of workers’ rights. Plenty of Tory MPs and cabinet ministers are on-the-record opponents of, for example, the Working Time Directive, which stops bad bosses from forcing their staff to work dangerously long hours.

Already, we’ve seen that Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and other Brexiteers in cabinet are pressuring the prime minister to renegotiate the bits of the deal they don’t like. And Jacob Rees-Mogg and his friends in the ERG are piling on the pressure as well.

If someone like Rees-Mogg, or even Sajid Javid, were to get the keys to Number 10 – and they might – there would be nothing to stop them ripping the Political Declaration up. And working people would pay the price.

The government knows this deal is bad for jobs, as its own impact assessments show. But we now know it would also be a disaster for rights at work.

In short, the government has failed to achieve a deal that delivers for working people. Trade unions can’t support it, and we don’t think MPs should either.

And we won’t stand for the country being held to ransom. “My deal or no deal” is not a real choice. The prime minister must not bully MPs into backing a deal they know will hit their constituents’ jobs, rights and livelihoods.

Ultimately, the millionaires on the Tory benches aren’t the ones who’ll pay the price if we get Brexit wrong. It’s working families’ futures that are at stake. And the government is failing them.

So the country needs to come together to find a real alternative. One way or another, the people must have the final say on the deal. And that means we need a general election or a popular vote now.

Frances O’Grady is general secretary of the TUC

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Mexican Union Wins Battle Against Imposed Company Union

In a sign that things are beginning to change for trade unions in Mexico following the election of a left wing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador the Mexican mining and steelworkers’ union Los Mineros has won an important election victory at the El Boleo Mine in Santa Rosalia in the State of Baja California Sur.

By a vote of 280-238, the workers at El Boleo voted for Los Mineros over an imposed company union that was installed by the labor contractor, Servicios y Desarrollos Meseta Central SA de CV, without consulting the workers.

The mine is controlled by Korea Resources Corporation (KORES), which is owned by the government of South Korea.

“This victory shows that the workers’ courage and determination can overcome corporate repression and government collusion,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard. “But it also underscores the fundamental unfairness of Mexico’s repressive labor law system that condems its workers to poverty level wages while threatening the jobs of Canadian and U.S. workers. Mexico’s new government must move quickly to reform its labor laws and end the practice of company-dominated unions, and the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) must include effective enforcement provisions to prevent and punish violations of workers’ rights.”

On April 20th, 2016, the workers at the mine went on strike to demand the removal of the company union and free elections.

The strike was broken by a large force of police on May 5th, and a month later the company fired 130 Los Mineros supporters.  The federal labour authorities then blocked the Mineros’ demand for an election for over two years in an attempt to discourage the workers.

Workers reported various problems including low wages, unpaid overtime, and poor health and safety conditions including lack of proper lighting and ventilation in underground work areas and lack of adequate safety equipment.  Workers say many accidents go unreported.

Three workers were injured in a cave-in on April 2nd, 2016,  and two were dismissed.  There are no medical facilities at the mine, and the nearest hospital is in Guerrero Negro, 200 kilometers to the north.  Female workers accuse management of tolerating sexual harassment.

Click here and here for more information on how companies collude with yellow unions in Mexico.

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Further Outrage In Turkey As Court Jails Renault Workers

Renault workers who take part in demonstration jailed.

Workers fired from the Turkish automotive manufacturer Oyak-Renault have been handed prisons sentences for joining a march to protest against their dismissal, Turkish news site Evrensel reported on Friday.

Police detained the 15 workers in 2016 during a demonstration held by thousands of workers outside the factory. The gathering was called after 10 workers were dismissed amid a dispute with their employers over their right to choose to be represented by a new union, Birleşik Metal-İş.

Their employer, however, took the stiff police opposition to the protest as an encouraging sign, and later fired a further 130 workers for their membership of Birleşik Metal-İş, Evrensel reported.

The case was taken to court in Bursa, northwest Turkey, where a judge ruled in favour of the dismissed workers seeking compensation and their jobs back.

However, the court has found the workers who were detained at the protest guilty of joining an unlawful demonstration and sentenced them to five months in prison. Turkish authorities say the workers attacked police at the demonstration.

Birleşik Metal-İş issued a statement after the court’s decision was announced, saying verdict had sent a message to employers that they can fire or put pressure on workers for their union membership and have them sent to prison if they protest.

The union said the verdict had gone against precedents set by Turkey’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Court, and the European Court of Human Rights on workers’ rights to stage demonstrations.

More soon………

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