Global Union Warns Volkswagen To Stop Union Busting

volkswagen-chattanooga-plantFor the first time in its history, IndustriALL Global Union (consisting of unions – including Unite – worldwide in manufacturing, energy and mining) has warned a transnational company that its relationship and a Global Framework Agreement they hold with an employer are in grave peril.

At a May 26th meeting of the IndustriALL Executive Committee, representatives of VW workers from around the world voted unanimously to hold Volkswagen to account for flouting the terms of its own social charter.

At the meeting, IG Metall (the giant German union) President Jörg Hofmann clearly stated: “It is not acceptable that companies abide by the law in Germany but disregard it in other countries. Workers’ rights should be respected worldwide – particularly by companies headquartered in Germany.”

By ignoring its legal responsibility to sit down and reach a working agreement with maintenance workers at its Chattanooga, USA plant – as confirmed and ordered by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board – Volkswagen violates its own Global Framework Agreement. Chattanooga workers voted overwhelmingly for the UAW in a vote held in December 2015.  Volkswagen managers have already damaged the company’s profitability by concealing the diesel scandal, and they now seem determined to defy their legal responsibility to abide by the ruling of the U.S. labour court.

IndustriALL denounced Volkswagen’s “stall and delay” tactics, as often coached by anti-union consultants in the U.S., and demanded that Volkswagen “immediately” begin negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW).

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel warned trade union leaders: “There is a cartel of capitalists in the South of the USA working in cohesion with right wing groups and antiunion lawyers. The tricks and tactics in the south of the US won’t remain there – they will be coming to you soon.”

IndustriALL affiliates decided that if the company does not agree to talks by the June 22nd Annual General Meeting of Volkswagen, the Global Union will initiate actions under its “Charter of Solidarity in Confronting Corporate Violations of Fundamental Rights.”

The Charter prescribes a series of actions in response to companies that refuse to recognize basic labor standards in their global plants.

Should the Charter be invoked, IndustriALL cautioned, the organization will “initiate further actions which could lead to the eventual revocation of the Global Framework Agreement between IndustriALL and Volkswagen.”

A timeline of the Chattanooga dispute can be found by clicking here

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James O’Brien On The Murder Of Jo Cox MP

5763fb261500002a0073b236 James O’Brien of LBC (the guy who nailed Nigel Farage) on the murder of Jo Cox perfectly captures the state of debate in Britain today

The LBC presenter James O’Brien gave a monologue on his radio show this morning, perfectly capturing the sentiments of many across the nation.

 He said:

 If I was to be reading my newspaper every single morning and being told my very existence was under seige, by people I’ve never met and never seen but keep getting told are coming here in their hordes.

If I was to open my newspaper or turn on my radio or telivision set, and told that every body who is coming here is a rapist and they’ve got their eyes on our women and we’ve got no chance whatsoever of protecting ourselves, and unless we do this or do that, or treat them like this or treat them like that, then we’re all doomed, we are all going to hell in a handcart.

If I was told it’s time to reclaim our country every time I got out of bed in the morning, I would begin to believe it I think… if I didn’t have the knowledge or the insights and the education to know that it is not true.

We want our country back from whom?

 We want our country back from when?

We want our country back, how?

….Convince me if you can, that political debate in Britain in the last couple of years has NOT created an environment in which we find it easy to believe… or possible to believe, that this sort of violence, that this sort of terrorism, could unfold on our streets.

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Unite to fight ‘buy American’ procurement policy

planes 303732164_Page_2Defence secretary Michael Fallon has serious questions to answer about the UK’s secretive procurement policy – the latest controversy being the decision to buy nine maritime patrol aircraft from America.

See Mail On Sunday June 7th article

The deal to purchase the nine Boeing Poseidon P-8A  patrol aircraft, estimated to be worth $3.2bn, without competitive tendering, is expected to be signed at next month’s Farnborough air show which takes place between 11th -17th July.

Unite, the country’s largest union with about 70,000 members across the aerospace, defence, and shipbuilding industries, is raising serious concerns about the lack of ‘offset agreements’ in the proposed Boeing deal, work that could be earmarked for British defence firms to safeguard skilled jobs.

This flies in the face of chancellor George Osborne’s commitment to “unashamedly back … a British success story … like aerospace”.

The current imbroglio comes as a result of the coalition government’s ‘rash and short-sighted’ decision to scrap the Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft, as part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) at a cost of £4bn to the taxpayer and the loss of 1,400 skilled jobs.

This left the UK as the only major maritime nation without the capability to patrol its own waters with modern reconnaissance aircraft.

The threat to the UK defence industry is further compounded by media reports that Boeing is in line to receive the order for 50 much-needed Apache helicopters, rather than Yeovil-based Agusta Westland, with the potential loss of 600 West Country jobs.

Unite said that Michael Fallon has major questions to answer about the massive tilt in procurement policy, which analysts say, could amount to £2.5bn of the annual Ministry of Defence equipment budget of £8bn being spent with US companies, with minimal UK content, by 2020.

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Tony Burke said: “At a time of increased international tension and security concerns, defence secretary Michael Fallon needs to come clean with the British public on the secretive nature of the UK’s arms procurement policy.
 
“As a first step, the government needs to ensure that a substantial amount of P-8A production work is undertaken in the UK, with all the support work to maintain these aircraft in the years ahead. Apparently, the P-8A will not be using UK weapons, which is a disgrace.
 
“The UK defence and aerospace sector is critical to maintaining thousands of skilled jobs in the UK and the economic prosperity of the communities where the factories are based.
 
“This proud tradition of manufacturing is critical in any renaissance of overall UK manufacturing in the decade ahead. It can’t just be squandered by the easy option of buying ‘off the shelf’ from America.
 
“The decision to scrap the new generation Nimrod aircraft as part of the SDSR has been shown to be rash and short-sighted.
 
“Michael Fallon needs to make a statement to MPs before any contracts are signed and before Parliament rises for the summer recess on 21 July on what is happening specifically with the replacement for Nimrod and also regarding the Apache helicopters’ order.
 
“More generally, the defence secretary has to outline a strategy that will maintain defence manufacturing in the UK, safeguarding British expertise and jobs, as well as the maintenance contracts that go hand-in-hand with such complex pieces of technology.
 
“Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘march of the makers’ should not begin at Boeing’s headquarters* in Seattle, but with well-respected British defence firms with deep roots across the UK.”

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Ross Pritchard Essay Competition

RossThe Annual Essay Competition, is open to all trade unionists, first prize £750, closing date Saturday 22nd September.

The RPMF was established to commemorate the life of one of the Graphical, Paper & Media Union’s best known rank and file members, Ross Pritchard.

The Trustees of the Fund invite entries to the annual essay competition on a subject dear to Ross’s heart, this year:

“Propose some short term responses to the immediate housing crisis”

1,000 words maximum

Essays should be submitted to  Megan Dobney by 22nd September 2016 and you must include your name, postal address and trade union (including your Branch or Region).

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Trade union members should vote to stay in the EU

Letter in The Guardian June 6thimages

As general secretaries who represent a large part of Britain’s trade union movement, we are writing to make our position clear and urge our collective membership, which reaches over 6 million people, to vote for Britain to remain in the European Union on 23 June.

After much debate and deliberation we believe that the social and cultural benefits of remaining in the EU far outweigh any advantages of leaving.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the British trade union movement worked in solidarity with our European partners and fought hard to secure valuable working rights legislation at EU level. To this day these rights – including maternity and paternity rights, equal treatment for full-time, part-time and agency workers, and the right to paid leave – continue to underpin and protect working rights for British people.

If Britain leaves the EU, we are in no doubt these protections would be under great threat. Despite words to the contrary from figures like Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, the Tories would negotiate our exit and, we believe, would negotiate away our rights. We simply do not trust this government if they are presented with an unrestricted, unchecked opportunity to attack our current working rights.

Europe needs to change – its political direction over the past few years has taken governments down a path of austerity and liberalisation – but we believe this direction is not irreversible, and will endeavour to work with our trade union colleagues to help shape a Europe with a renewed social agenda and a Europe that values investment in our public services.

The decision the British people must make on 23 June should not be taken lightly, but we urge our members to vote remain.
Len McCluskey Unite, Dave Prentis Unison, Tim Roache GMB, Manuel Cortes TSSA, John Smith Musicians’ Union, Dave Ward CWU, Matt Wrack FBU, John Hannett USDAW, Gerry Robinson Bectu, Roy Rickhuss Community

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ETUC General Secretary Says Scots Should Vote Remain

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation writes in the Scottish Daily Record, May 29th

The people of Scotland are no strangers to momentous decisions and on June 23rd they will be asked to make another.

As an Italian, I have no particular reason for getting involved, although there are enough people of Italian descent in Scotland.

But as the leader of Europe’s 45million trade unionists I do, and my strong view is that I hope Scotland will vote to remain in the European Union .

As a trade unionist, I value the role Britain’s trades unions have played and, I hope, will continue to play in the work of the European trade union movement.

We are an internationalist movement and know well that we are stronger when we are united in the face of bad bosses and free-market politicians.

I want Scottish trade unionists to continue to play a leading role in fighting for social justice, fairness and equality in Europe.

People will make up their minds on EU membership for a variety of reasons. But I would urge Scotland to consider three key issues…

  • Will the economy be stronger or weaker outside of the EU?
  • Will workers’ rights be better or worse?
  • And will children have a brighter future or fewer opportunities?

In each case, my experience as a trade unionist is that Scotland – as well as England, Northern Ireland and Wales – will be better off in Europe.

Scotland has been a trading nation for centuries and this trade creates jobs.

They are usually better paid and more skilled jobs than in the services sector. So losing access to a market that stretches as far as Cyprus, and EU trading agreements worldwide, hits the Scottish economy – especially decent jobs.

A third of a million jobs in Scotland are associated with trade with the rest of the EU. That’s one in six of all private sector jobs and more than 125,000 jobs in manufacturing.

No one would argue that all those jobs would be lost if the UK left the EU but many of them would be put at risk. Is that really “a price worth paying” as some Leave campaigners argue?

The economic impact on Scotland’s private sector would be mirrored in the public sector. Tax revenues would decline and the benefits bill would increase.

This pressure on public funds would be felt by public services such as the NHS.

Working people would also risk losing some rights at work. Scottish trade unionists have fought for better conditions for working people for generations. In recent years, they have been able to unite with powerful trade union movements in Scandinavia, Germany and across the EU to embed rights at work in EU laws.

JS91179534Tens of thousands of Scottish workers got paid holidays for the first time when the EU’s working time directive was introduced and many more got increased holiday pay.

More than 600,000 part-time workers and 60,000 temporary workers have secured rights to fair and equal treatment and pregnant workers and parents are protected from arbitrary treatment by their bosses.

If the UK left the EU, those rights would be at the mercy of the Tory Government in Westminster – who have demonstrated they are no friends of working people in Scotland or anywhere in the EU.

They have led the call for deregulation in the EU and attacked many of the rights not guaranteed by the EU, such as the cost of taking bosses to employment tribunals or protections for workers transferred into the public sector.

The European Trade Union Confederation that I lead believe Europe must do far more to protect workers against the chill winds of globalisation. And we believe the benefits of increased trade should be shared more fairly.

We need to plug the gaps in EU laws covering temporary agency workers and workers posted away from home. But when we make that progress, none of it will help workers in Scotland if it is not part of the European Union.

Finally, consider the future of the children of Scotland. Outside the EU, they would find their opportunities reduced, their life chances restricted.

As well as the impact on the economy – fewer good quality jobs, lower wages, higher prices – their freedom to travel for work or study would be curtailed.

Their future would be poorer – and the rest of Europe would be poorer from the loss of Scottish talent.

These are some of the choices that will be before the Scottish people on June 23rd. It is of course up to them how to use their votes. It’s not my place to tell them how.

But as a trade unionist and as a fellow European, I agree with the majority of trades unions in Scotland – and across the UK – that voting to leave is a risk not worth taking.

 

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No Coup In Brazil Campaign : Please Help

sx1u_132398815178114084285511710423195906845522n--1The campaign to oppose the coup in Brazil is gathering pace. Reports from Brazil say the initiators of the coup are beginning to crack as evidence of attempts to stop corruption investigations into the instigators of the coup unfold.

Please help by   adding your name here to the statement ublished in The Guardian  on Brazil published on May 27th .

The letter is from 20 parliamentarians arguing that Dilma Rousseff’s suspension is an insult to democracy in Brazil, which you can read the letter here.

You can add your name here and please share to encourage others to do the same on Twitter here and Facebook here

Remember to keep up-to-date with the latest news on the coup in Brazil on Facebook here and Twitter here.

No Coup in Brazil, is one of a number of organisations, publications and individuals supporting the campaign.

Please direct queries to brazilsolidaritystatement@hotmail.com

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Obituary: Ken Cameron

Ken Cameron : "A Socialist And Comrade"

Ken Cameron : “A Socialist And Comrade”

By Peta Steel

Ken Cameron, the stalwart socialist General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who has just died at the age of 75 was one of the most charismatic and effective figures in the trade union movement as it came under attack from the Tory Government during the 1980s.

Cameron was a constant supporter to the Mineworkers, print workers and ambulance workers as they faced action from Thatcher and her Ministers as they tried to dismantle the welfare system and strip workers of their rights.

Cameron was General Secretary of the Fire Brigades’ Union from 1980 to 2000, and during that time led the fight to stop the fire brigade from being privatised and to protect their pay and conditions. At the same time he did much to support other trade unionists and in particular the National Union of Mineworkers raising money to help them and liaise with other organisations.

Cameron was born in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands in 1941, his mother who was Irish worked in the local big houses as a cleaner taught him about socialism. He was to remain immensely proud of her and of his background for the rest of his life. His clear Highland’s accent though later tempered through years of living in England would demand immediate attention as he spoke.

Like many Scots he received an education that gave him a fundamental understanding of international relations and an abiding hatred of apartheid and injustice.

He left school determined to make a difference. A brief span training as a journalist on the Aberdeen Press and Journal came to an end when he was sacked after falling into a swimming pool whilst covering an international swimming competition.  Jobs in those days were less easy to come by as the exploration of the local oil fields was only just beginning.

Cameron who had also worked as a special constable moved to Birmingham where he trained to be a policeman, before joining the fire brigade service.

It was no surprise that he became increasingly involved with the Fire Brigade’s Union; gradually rising through its’ ranks, becoming one of its most progressive and charismatic leaders. He was to lead the protest following the strikes of 1977-78 as the fire brigade were threatened with cut backs under a Labour Government. In 1980 he became General Secretary of the FBU a role he was to hold for the next 20 years.

His appointment came as Thatcher with her hard views at taking on the trade unions and dismantling the nationalised industries was elected in to Government. He was one of the first to warn of the impending struggle and to try and unite the unions so that they could defend themselves.

But it was during the miners strike to protect jobs during 1984/1985 that Cameron came to the fore playing a leading part in raising money to help the union. Even travelling to the USA to raise funds; And at one time taking money from his own union’s funds to help them, the £20,000 was paid back six years later.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Cameron became a familiar face on the picket lines and at meetings constantly giving support. He was to do the same during the Ambulance Workers Strike. He never turned down calls for help and earned a reputation for being approachable and supportive.

He was also a champion of international causes giving strong support to the ANC and Mandela in the fight against apartheid, which was in those days being undermined by Thatcher who looked on Mandela as a terrorist and in raising awareness of the problems and the injustice suffered by the Palestinians.

He was to move the first pro Palestinian motion at Congress in 1982.   On his retirement he was to receive a personal letter from Nelson Mandela who by that time had become a friend, becoming an honorary member of the FBU in 1990.

He was both sanguine and pragmatic when Blair became leader of the Labour Party, resisting measures that would see the jettisoning of Clause Four. But on the day the motion to get rid of it passed, mourned its loss and made reference that Labour would come into government but would lose some of its soul in doing so.

On his retirement he served on the Central Arbitration Committee. He was chair of the PPPS management committee which runs the Morning Star for several years.

Paying tribute to him Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU said ‘Ken was a forward thinking, socialist union leader who devoted many years of his life to protect Fireworkers pay and conditions. Ken defended everything that was good about the work of firefighters.

Asked how he would describe himself Cameron said: ‘a socialist and a comrade’.

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Len McCluskey: Labour’s fresh thinking on investment will lead to a stronger economy

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Labour must put the brakes on the `Sports Direct economy’ caused by a discredited political dogma which has down-graded industrial strategy, rejected the investment that is vital to growth and has assisted the inequality now raging through the UK, the leader of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, said today (Saturday 21 May).

Len McCluskey was speaking at the Labour Party’s `State of the Economy’ conference in London, held as part of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s pledge to build a new consensus on economic policy.

Addressing the audience, Len McCluskey echoed the calls of Nobel-winner and McDonnell advisor Joseph Stiglitz who has called for action “rewrite the rules” of how our economy operates, saying:

“This is a very welcome initiative from John and his team.  This country urgently needs a Labour government that will chart a new course because this is no longer an issue of tinkering at the edges; it’s about rewriting the relationship between capital and the communities and people it is there to serve.
 
“The next Labour government will be one that understands that the economy must work for the people, not the other way round.
 
“That means rejecting outright the failed consensus of the past 40 years – the free market dogmas that crash-landed eight years ago – and walking away from the tired thinking that dominates today’s policy prescriptions.
 
“Our country needs an industrial strategy supported by long-term, public-led investment in our country’s infrastructure: in transport, energy, housing and communications. Without this infrastructure, industry cannot flourish.
 
“It requires a new approach to job-destroying takeovers which may work for big shareholders but damage everyone else.  It requires particular attention to those key sectors which underpin broader economic development, from steel to communications technology.  And yes, a successful industrial strategy requires us to ‘re-write the rules’ and restructure our economy, rebalancing it away from an over-reliance on financial services.
 
“That, of course, means investment supported by a reformed banking system oriented to helping build the real economy and away from the present day short-termism that inhibits investment.
 
“It’s not about central government making every decision – it is about government ensuring that the interests of the community and long-term development are put first.
 
“On the steel crisis, this Conservative government has had to be dragged to the table just to engage with stakeholders and workers in order to save one of our key foundation industries.  On the major economic decisions of our times, its only answer has been deepening austerity and further cuts to the public services and investment that would grow our economy.
 
Calling for Labour to submit its policies to an ‘equality audit’, Len McCluskey added:

“It seems that everyone is against widening inequality but no-one wants to do much about it.  I would suggest that if there is one single factor which propelled Jeremy and John to the leadership of the party last year, it was the desperate desire to see Labour get back to its roots in tackling rampant inequality.
 
“Let’s be clear, there is no free-market based answer to inequality. It is the out of control market that has caused incomes at the top and bottom to hurtle apart at warp speed and put many basics – like having your own home – out of reach for millions.
 
“We need to put the brakes on this race towards the Sports Direct economy.  Everything Labour proposes should have to face an “equality audit” – is this going to make society fairer, is it going to redistribute power and wealth?
 
“That means tackling low pay, liberating trade unions to do their job, and making employers compete on quality and service, not on cost-cutting at workers’ expense.”
 
Len McCluskey was speaking at Labour’s The State of the Economy conference, where he was part of a panel that included Professor Linda Yueh, Sue Himmelweit of the Women’s Budget Group, the author and broadcaster Paul Mason and the acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall.
 
The conference took place at London’s Imperial College university.

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Why The EU Must Not Grant China Market Economy Status

14.03-china-coils1The decision by the European Parliament recently to oppose granting Market Economic Status (MES) to China is very welome. It follows extensive lobbying by Unite and our global union with the US Steelworkers, Workers Uning (read statement) along with the Brtish TUC and the European TUC.

The decision is a blow to China and those governments who support granting China MES — the Tories in the UK so far have been prepared to accept MES for China  as part of their strategy to seemingly give everything they can to China in exchange for investment.

The EU vote was cast amid fears that market economic status for China would leave the UK and the rest of the European Union unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on steel and other products such as ceramics, paper and tyres to defend decent UK jobs and industry.

The EU Commission and the Tory Government will now be well advised to listen to the MEPs as would the Government in the UK.

Over the coming months the EU Commission is due to decide whether to grant MES to China. The move has been triggered by the fact provisions written into China’s protocol, when it acceded to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) 15 years ago, kick in on 11 December 2016.

Currently China is not considered a market economy in EU anti-dumping proceedings, meaning the EU uses data from another market economy to calculate anti-dumping duties when it imposes fines on China.

As a number of UK trade associations such as the British Ceramics Confederation have express total opposition pointing out that China does not even meet the and does not meet the five technical criteria for granting MES.

These are:

  • Decisions by firms regarding prices, costs and inputs are made in response to market signals, without significant state intervention.
  • There are no significant legacy distortions in the economy from the previous non-market period.
  • Firms in the economy operate under transparency, bankruptcy, property ownership and corporate governances.
  • Firms in the economy operate under a single set of accounting standards based on international norms, applied in all circumstances.
  • Exchange rate conversions are carried out at a market rate.

On all counts China does not meet the criteria.

Granting China market economic status would be the death knell for key industries including steel which are already fighting for survival in the face of the dumping of cheap imports.

It would leave the UK and Europe unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on cheap Chinese goods including car tyres, ceramics and paper –  and leave workers in the UK competing with both arms tied behind their backs.

If key industries like our steel industry are to have a future in the UK, government must drop its veto to the EU invoking the ‘lesser duty rule’ and allow higher tariffs on Chinese steel.

The Government should listen to the voices of MEPs and Labour who will I am sure echo the decision and once again make it clear that Labour’s policy is to oppose MES – no ifs or buts.

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