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:

Thanks to Barry Camfield for sending this item

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Aussie Employers ‘Pleading’ To Stop Union Merger

Australian employers are pleading with the Australian Fair Work Commission to stop the merger tbetween the country’s construction and maritime unions over fears about its combined financial clout of almost 150 million Australian dollars a year – which would be able withstand fines for unlawful industrial conduct. (See CTUF report from August 2017 here)

The combined revenue would allow the unions to easily match the significant jump in penalties for unlawful industrial action introduced by the right wing Turnbull government’s building laws at the start of last year.

The financial power of the new union emerged in evidence filed by the Australian Mines and Metals Association and Master Builders Association in the Fair Work Commission over concerns the merger would threaten the viability of the resources and construction industries.

But the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Michael O’Connor made “no apology” for the merger and accused the employer groups of seeking to undermine workers’ bargaining strength and efforts to boost flat wages.

In an affidavit, AMMA workplace consultant and ex-Rio Tinto manager, Peter Cook, calculated that the amalgamated union would have $310 million in combined assets, $146 million in annual revenue and some 144,000 members.

The CFMEU has accrued more than $12 million in ‘penalties’ for unlawful industrial conduct over the past six years. However, it has yet to be hit with the higher penalties under the new building laws.

“AMMA and its affected members are extremely concerned that the proposed amalgamation presents a significant threat to the proper and efficient function of the resources sector, which in turn, may threaten the viability of many businesses in Australia,” Mr Cook said in the affidavit.

He said AMMA members, including resource giants Chevron, Roy Hill and Woodside Energy, feared new union would “attempt to strangle the industry through non-genuine negotiations and with high stakes threats of industry-wide industrial action”.

The Fair Work Commission is set to assess the proposed merger at a hearing on February 2nd following a successful ballot of union members last year.

However, employer groups are facing an uphill battle given the federal government’s laws to prohibit such mergers  will not be up for a Senate vote until after the hearing.

Labour leader Bill Shorten, whose Labor Right faction in Victoria is negotiating with the CFMEU to support it for safe federal seats, has opposed the legislation along with the Greens and Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm.

In its evidence, the AMMA sought to use the union’s words against it by referring to CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker’s comments that the merger will “significantly” affect employers.

In the Maritime Union’s Radio Stingray Podcast aired mid-last year, Mr Parker said that “the fact we can take workers from the maritime industry, we can have wharfies and seamen as well as construction and building workers standing side by side, this is gonna be one of the greatest mergers in trade union history”.

On the merger’s effect on employers, he said “you’re absolutely right – it does affect them significantly and they’re gonna be put under scrutiny”.

An MUA representative also told the podcast the unions would “continue to demonstrate that we are proud of our militancy, proud of our willingness to take on governments, to take on employers and to take on anyone who stands before us and seeks to take away or diminish our rights”.

Peter Cook argued that “based on the statements of the unions in the media, it is AMMA’s opinion that the CFMEU and MUA clearly intend to use the proposed amalgamation to significantly strengthen the co-ordinated action, including industrial action, they are able to take against employers, including AMMA members”.

“This is a concern because the unions have exhibited ‘militant and lawless conduct’ over many years.”

The merger will not allow the MUA to take protected industrial action on behalf of the CFMEU given laws against secondary boycotts.

However, the Master Builders Association said the MUA in the new super union could exert “industrial pressure” at a port, though go-slows or other tactics, to disrupt delivery of building products without the CFMEU having to take industrial action.

MBA workplace director Shaun Schmitke said the penalties on employers for such delays could be more than $100,000 a day.

Mr O’Connor said the CFMEU made “no apology for acting to build a stronger union that can strengthen the bargaining power of our members”.

“The biggest threat to the Australian economy isn’t stronger unions fighting for members’ interests, it’s the impact of stagnating wages and growing inequality.

“Every economist in the country – right up to the head of the Reserve Bank – has warned that flat-lining wages are taking a substantial toll on economic growth.

“Rather than offer a solution, the self-interested lobbying of the business community continues to push to undermine the bargaining position of workers.”

He said “anyone who wants to see a stronger and more equal economy and society should be welcoming this amalgamation”.

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EAT : v. Denby

Section 137 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act (TULRCA) 1992 makes it illegal for an employer to refuse someone a job because they are a trade union member. In Ltd v Denby the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the reference to “membership” could include “activities” relating to that membership. 

Basic facts : Mr Denby started working for as a pilot in 2005. In 2008 he was elected to sit on the company’s Flight Deck Crew Council and shortly afterwards became the chairman and pilot representative for the Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports. He became increasingly involved with BALPA but when he informed the company’s executive chairman, Mr Meeson, in 2009 that the pilots wanted to be represented by the union he was told in no uncertain terms that the company would do everything within its power to resist.

After leaving in 2011 to work for another airline, Mr Denby reapplied to the company in 2014 but despite passing all stages of the selection process, his application was rejected. He tried again the next year, but was once again unsuccessful.

Mr Denby brought a claim under section 137 of TULRCA that he had been refused employment because of his trade union membership. argued that the reason his application had failed was because prior to leaving the company in 2011, he had tried to unsettle other colleagues by talking about his increased remuneration package. This was considered to be unhelpful to the company’s attempts to retain its “valued pilots”.

Tribunal decision: The tribunal was not persuaded by the company’s explanation of why employment had been refused to Mr Denby. It also took a broad approach to the term “trade union membership” in section 137(1) of TULRCA that was consistent not only with the decision of the EAT in Harrison v Kent County Council, but also with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The tribunal concluded that Mr Meeson refused to re-employ Mr Denby because he had taken an active role in promoting BALPA to represent the pilots for the purposes of collective bargaining. As such, he carried a “continuing animus” towards him because of his past advocacy, an activity that was related to his trade union membership.

EAT decision : The EAT rejected the company’s appeal against that decision, holding that the tribunal was correct to adopt a broad, purposive approach and that it was open to it to find an employer’s objection to an applicant’s participation in activities incidental to trade union membership is an objection to their status as a trade union member.

It was also irrelevant that Mr Denby was not a BALPA member when he applied to be re-employed in 2015 as the refusal related to his activities at a time when he was a member.

Comment: This is a very welcome judgement. The tribunal makes clear that constructing trade union membership narrowly would leave the protection afforded by the provision lacking any real substance. The EAT also emphasised that a narrow construction would run contrary to a trade union member’s rights pursuant to Article 11 that provides for Freedom of Association.

From Labour & European Law Review Weekly issue 552 10th January 2018 . Submitted by Tommy Campbell.

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Steelworkers Statement On South Korea Trade Deal And Union Busting

The United Steelworkers released the following statement in January 4th as the United States and South Korea prepare to meet to discuss the renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“The United Steelworkers condemns the recent anti-worker actions by the South Korean government both at home and abroad.

“In October, workers at the Macon, Ga., factory of Kumho Tire – a multinational company that is effectively owned and controlled by the South Korean government – attempted to exercise their rights as American citizens to join a union, the USW.

“The company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on union-busting consultants and committed multiple U.S. labor law violations, including a coordinated onslaught of threats of plant closure and job loss should the employees select union representation. Union supporter Mario Smith was unlawfully fired on October 17, 2017, because of his union activity.

“The USW is alarmed that a company controlled by the Korean government has chosen to violate the rights of U.S. workers at the same time that government is renegotiating its trade agreement with the U.S.

“We are also alarmed by the Korean government’s detention and arrest of leaders of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which represents the workers of Kumho Tire in Korea.  KCTU President Han Sang-gyun is currently imprisoned for organizing peaceful demonstrations, and last week the union federation’s General Secretary Lee Young-joo was also arrested. These actions have been condemned by respected human rights organizations and by the global trade union movement.

“We urge the U.S. negotiators to deliver a strong message to the South Korean government that its union-busting actions in Korea and the U.S., in violation of international law and the KORUS agreement, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Suppression and abuse of workers’ rights under the KORUS agreement by Korean companies and their government has injured workers in both countries. The trade deficit continues to mount, which is lining the pockets of multinational companies while workers get shafted.  The Trump administration has proclaimed its intention to reform our nation’s trade policies to advance the interests of working people: Addressing Korea’s actions, and that of its leading companies, has to be at the top of the agenda.

“The implications of this matter are significant not only for the future of the KORUS agreement but also for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that is underway. Workers here in the U.S. expect that their interests will be advanced, not undermined by turning a blind eye to abuses of workers’ rights. Organized labor is watching carefully what the administration does on these matters, the single most important trade issue.”

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Employment tribunal cases rise following the ending of unlawful fees

Sir Brendan Barber, Chair of ACAS.

From the Morning Star, January 2nd, 2018

The number of employment tribunal claims shot up in the months after fees were declared unlawful, the head of the conciliation service has revealed.

Sir Brendan Barber, chairman of ACAS, said demand for its early conciliation service rose by 20 per cent over the two months after July’s Supreme Court decision.

There was a 60 per cent jump in tribunal claims compared with the same period a year earlier.

Sir Brendan said the court ruling had proved a “significant outcome” for those who argued that tribunal fees were a barrier to accessing justice.

The Supreme Court upheld a challenge by Unison that the charges were discriminatory.

Sir Brendan predicted there could be “challenging disputes” in the public sector in 2018 because of continuing tensions over pay not keeping up with inflation.

He said pay will be high on the agenda this year as all large employers will have to publish the differences between men and women’s pay in April.

In a new year blog, he said: “Right across the economy, living standards are facing a squeeze.

“As was recognised in the new industrial strategy recently, improving the UK’s productivity is the key challenge that can deliver higher living standards.

“Next month will see the end of the consultation period on the Financial Reporting Council’s new corporate governance code, which includes guidance around how companies can ensure workers have a greater voice in boardrooms.

“This could herald a new recognition of the importance of workplace relations in our economic performance.”

Tribunal fees of up to ÂŁ1,200 were introduced by then lord chancellor Chris Grayling in 2013. In January last year official figures showed that the number of claims had fallen by a staggering 70 per cent.

Unison twice fought unsuccessfully for a judicial review and lost an appeal before the Supreme Court finally ruled in its favour.

In their ruling, the judges suggested that ministers had infringed Magna Carta, which did not prohibit court fees but offered “a guarantee of access to courts which administer justice promptly and fairly.”

By Conrad Landin and Alan Jones

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Samsung & McDonald’s among multinationals that flout human rights

The right to join a trade union and the right to collective bargaining are basic, human rights recognised by the UN International Labour Organisation.

Yet many well-known multi-national companies do not recognise trade unions, and do not negotiate with trade unions on pay and working conditions.

The International and European Trade Union Confederations (ITUC and ETUC) are joining forces for Human Rights Day (December 10) to name and shame two multi-national brands and household names that refuse to negotiate with trade unions.

The ITUC & ETUC is naming and shaming:

Samsung – has a no-union policy in its factories and workplaces, and intervenes to prevent the formation of unions at its suppliers. Samsung accumulates billions in profits at the expense of its workers. It has a well‐documented history of labour abuses in its supply chain – from union busting, poverty wages, insecure and unsafe work, to forced overtime, informal work and modern slavery.

Workers are working in such distressed circumstances that in some countries the company has had to remodel its dormitories to prevent employees from committing suicide. It is time for the Giant Tech to ‘End Corporate Greed’ and guarantee a fair living wage and trade union participation and representation for its workers.

McDonald’s – the fast food giant does not bargain with a trade union over working conditions for workers in the UK – but it does in Denmark, France and Germany. In Denmark and Germany the collective agreements cover franchised stores as well as well as McDonald’s own corporate stores.

With the European Commission, International Monetary Fund, and other institutions increasingly recognising the need for wage increases to drive economic growth, and tackle inequality, the right to collective bargain is vital not only for working people, but for the economy and social justice.

“There should be no place in a modern economy for companies that do not negotiate with trade unions” said Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC. “Collective bargaining between employers and trade unions is the best way to get sensible pay rises that benefit workers, company productivity and the economy as a whole.”

“Samsung and McDonald’s like to promote themselves as modern, family-friendly brands, but their attitude to trade unions is strictly 19th century” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “We will not rest until workers get a fair deal in these companies.”

Thanks to Barry Camfield.

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SNP MP Challenges Taylor Report & Zero Hours Contracts

SNP MP and CTUF supporter Chris Stephens is to make a bid to outlaw zero hours contracts in the New Year.

The Glasgow South West MP told CTUF earlier this week that he is to introduce a bill in the House Of Commons in 2018 aimed at protecting employment rights especially in in the hospitality industry and particularly young workers, as well as those employed in the gig economy.

His bill will state that a worker could only be employed on zero hour terms where there was a specific agreement with their trade union.

Stephens said the plan would outlaw the use of such contracts which lets firms hire staff with no obligation to guarantee any minimum hours.

Employers would also become legally responsible, under the bill, to ensure a worker is paid if their sub-contractor goes bust or absconds.

Chris also told CTUF he will challenge the Government’s Taylor report which has been criticised by unions.  He said his bill would ensure that “anyone doing paid work is treated as an employee with full rights to holiday pay and other benefits”.

He said the bill is aimed at energising trade unions, especially young workers who are organising in sectors where union density is low.

“It’s a direct response to, and a challenge to, the Taylor report findings and it demonstrates that there is a better way of delivering workplace protection” says Chris.

“This bill will drive up living standards and pay in sectors of the economy where the minimum wage is dominant.”


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