Labour Will Be On The Side Of Workers – Laura Pidcock MP

By Laura Pidcock Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights

“So many people’s working lives are dominated by low pay, insecurity and powerlessness. It is a sign of this broken system that many people – and not just the lowest earners – are forced to top up their monthly wage with debt, just to cover their living costs. 

As our economy has flatlined under the Tories, wages have stagnated. People are, on average, paid less that they were 10 years ago. This is a scandal that must end. The Labour Party is the only party that is committed to eradicating in-work poverty within the next Parliament.

People spend so much of their time at work and that time should not be characterised by worry and fear. As a government,  Labour will be on the side of workers the good employer and the trade unionist, while putting exploitative employers on notice. 

Labour’s transformative ransformative programme for workers would give them real power, real respect and dignity, while changing the culture of work in this nation. By breathing hope into workplaces across Britain, we can achieve real change.

Click on the links above to download Labour’s Workers Rights Manifesto.

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For A Europe With A Future – by Wolfgang Lemb

Excellent book edited by my comrade Wolfgang Lemb of the IG Metall trade union in Germany. Available on some book sellers sites.

“One thing is increasingly obvious since the European Elections of May 2019: The centrifugal forces within the EU are becoming stronger and stronger. Nationalism, far right populism, increasing inequality and democratic deficits all present the project of European integration with ever greater challenges. If Europe wants any future at all, it must be strong in solidarity, commit its full weight as a powerful global actor to the fight for a fairer version of globalisation, delineate social standards in the transformation now under way, stand up for a climate-neutral economy and society and improve people’s living and working conditions. But these challenges can be overcome. The authors – from the worlds of politics, research and the trade unions – show with their contributions published here in this anthology how this can and must happen.”

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The system is rigged against working people – this election we can put it right

The system is rigged against working people. This was shown very clearly recently when Asda threatened to sack workers who did not agree to a new contract.

The new contract would allow managers to change everything about their job – from their shift rotas to their job titles.

The rigged system was also shown when a high court judge granted an injunction against the Communication Workers Union for ‘infringing’ balloting rules.

Millions of workers are trapped in low pay, zero hours contracts, bogus self-employment and unending agency work.

Workers’ wages still haven’t recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and inequality is sky high.

This is no accident. It’s the result of deliberate choices by the current government and the previous Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to dismantle the employment rights that working people rely on for protection at work, to drive down wages and create a climate of insecurity in the workplace.

Over the last decade, these governments have doubled the qualifying period for unfair dismissal, passed the 2016 Trade Union Act to limit workers’ right to organise and join unions, and shamefully refused to ban zero-hours contracts.

The general election is a chance to put things right.

We know that when workers join together they can make their working lives better.

Workplaces with collective agreements negotiated by trade unions have higher pay, shorter working hours, better holiday and sick pay, more family-friendly measures, better policies to promote equality at work, and better health and safety.

Labour is proposing that workers will have the right to organise and win union rights at work. Workers will have the right to collectively bargain with their employers through trade unions to secure decent pay and better working conditions in their workplace and across industries; employment rights from day one and four new public holidays.

We desperately need new laws to end exploitation and to protect insecure workers from bogus self employment and a ban on zero-hours contracts as is being proposed by Labour’s manifesto.

Other countries such Ireland and New Zealand have banned zero hours contacts – so why not the UK?

And we don’t just need to fight for new rights. We need to defend the ones we still have including those derived from the European Union such as the working time regulations, protection for agency and temporary workers and workers whose jobs could be effected by takeovers and mergers, rights to information and consultation.

Trade unions have been clear that the Brexit deal Boris Johnson has negotiated – or a no-deal Brexit – would be a disaster for working people.

Leaked documents suggest the Johnson government is deliberately manoeuvring to downgrade UK workers’ rights in any post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

That could open the door to those politicians who want to turn the UK into a low wage, protection-free ‘Singapore on Thames’ style economy.

And it would allow bad bosses to slash workers’ rights that are currently protected by EU legislation such as paid holidays, work breaks, parental rights, protections for part-time and agency workers and protection for workers when companies are subject to take overs and mergers.

It’s time to stand up for what trade unionists believe in, to protect our hard-won rights at work and to fight for Labour’s new deal for workers, in Labour’s excellent manifesto.

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Len McCluskey At Trade Unions For Cuba Conference


2 November 2019

Good morning comrades and friends. I feel especially proud and privileged to be invited to speak here today.

Here at this conference marking:

  • the 60thanniversary of the Cuban Revolution Fand most particularly
  • the 80thanniversary of the founding of the Cuban trade union federation, the CTC.

But before I go on can I personally acknowledge the presence of:

Carmen Rosa López Rodríguez, the Deputy General Secretary of the CTC, and the rest of her delegation and

  • my great friend, Her Excellency Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, the Cuban Ambassador to the UK who sadly will be leaving us soon.

Can I also congratulate Rob Miller and his team at Cuba Solidarity Campaign in putting on today’s event? A truly great event as we’ve come to expect from CSC.

Of course I was a child in 1959 but I do remember reports of what had happened in Cuba and how many in the dock workers’ community where I was brought up welcomed the news.

Similar scenes were reported from mining districts when news of the Russian Revolution first reached Britain in 1917, miners on the streets crying tears of joy.

And what news it was to welcome.

A US backed fascist dictatorship, installed to protect US agricultural plantations and mafia run gambling and prostitution operations, had been toppled by a lightly armed, small in number, guerrilla army.

No one in the elite really believed it had happened; they took off for Florida expecting to come back to their mansions and plantations in a couple of months when the Revolution had blown over.

How wrong they were. Because the Cuban Revolution was not just one corrupt group swapping power with the previous corrupt group – the Cuban Revolution was a socialist revolution embarking on a course of national and international liberation.

That’s what made it different.

I’m sure you will hear here today details of the great social advances that have been made in Cuba since 1959:

  • literacy rates superior to many countries in the west
  • free education for all from nursery to university
  • free health care, low infant mortality and major advances in biosciences.
  • But the issue that most keenly matters to me is the development of labour rights in Cuba.

From trade union activists being tortured and executed under Batista today workers and their unions, organised by the CTC, have a special place in Cuban life.

Workers and their unions have to be fully consulted and involved in decision making at workplace level.

The CTC and its affiliates are included in the great economic decisions that have to be made by the government.

When the new labour code was being drafted, the CTC organised innumerable workplace meetings of union members who are articulated demands for change and, most importantly, amendment or rejection of the government’s proposals.

You may know that I have often given the government here advice on its labour laws but unfortunately I do not seem to enjoy the same sway with our government as the general secretary of the CTC does with his.

The setting a good example has not been welcomed by Cuba’s northern neighbour.

Since 1962 an illegal blockade of Cuba has been enforced by the US.

It is estimated that this blockade has cost the Cuban economy at least $922 billion

Money that could have been spent to further benefit the lives of Cuban workers and their families.

Although there was an apparent freeze under Obama the blockade remained in place and has been hardened under Trump causing real hardship to everyone in Cuba.

The blockade is of course an attempt at regime change, to bring back big US agrifood industry and the mafia, to return Cuba to the dark ages of Batista.

As socialists, our commitment to international solidarity demands that we stand by Cuban workers, their unions and their revolution.

Building on the unprecedented solidarity work for the Miami 5 by the unions here in Britain Unite was able to mobilise unions in the US to this cause.

Our campaigning work, reaching up to the highest levels of government and into the law courts, helped break the wall of silence and eventually led to freedom for the 5.

International solidarity is course reciprocal and in the past 60 years the Cubans have been to the forefront.

In 1988 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces halted the South African advance northwards into Angola at Cuito Cuanavale; an action remembered by Nelson Mandela:

The decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces in Angola destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor. The defeat of the apartheid army served as an inspiration to the struggling people of South Africa.

More recently Cuba’s international solidarity has taken a more peaceful turn.

Cuban medical brigades have been the first into places of natural disaster or serious epidemic – Pakistan, west Africa, Haiti and Ecuador.

Operation Miracle has restored the sight to 3.4 millionpeople in Latin America, including the Bolivian solider who executed Che Guevara.

Since 1959 Cuba has been a beacon to progressive forces in Latin America and the developing world.

In the early years of this century progressive governments came to power all across Latin America; most recently in Mexico, and down as far as Argentina, many acknowledging their Cuban inspiration.

Times have changed and much of that advance has been reversed by:

  • US led attempted regime change in Venezuela and Nicaragua
  • the jailing of Lula and electoral loses in Brazil and Ecuador
  • soft coup in Honduras and Paraguay.

But it’s not over by any means. In October this year:

  • the people of Ecuador defeated the IMF
  • 1 million people in Chile marched against neo-liberalism
  • Evo Morales was re-elected as president of Bolivia
  • the Left has won the presidency of Argentina

And Cuba stands firm in the face of unprecedented economic attack from the US.

In closing, I’d just like to share a short anecdote with you.

Some years ago, before the time of Evo Morales, a leader of the Bolivian trade unions came to visit our office. “What would you say is the most important task?” he was asked. “The defence of Cuba” was his reply.

Comrades, we can demand of ourselves nothing less than that.

Thanks for listening.

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Community Wealth Building Briefing From Unite

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Uni Finance Declaration of Support For Lula

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Thirteen unions urge UK government to condemn Turkey’s invasion of Syria – and act to avert ethnic cleansing and potential genocide

Trade unions representing millions of UK workers and their communities have demanded that prime minister Boris Johnson deploy the UK’s influence to prevent a humanitarian disaster as a result of the Turkish invasion of north and east Syria.

Thirteen trade unions and a leading law firm are warning that President Trump’s ‘appalling’ abandonment of the fragile region will see Turkey seek its own military and strategic advantage which will `undoubtedly lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kurds as well as a resurgence of ISIS’ in the region.

The move by the unions is a major display of solidarity with those forces fighting against repression in the region.  The unions say that the UK must show its clear and utter condemnation of Turkey’s invasion, calling for a no fly zone and international force deployment.

Having recently returned from the region, Simon Dubbins, Unite’s director of international, said: “We have been part of a parliamentary and union delegation to this region.  It is plain for all to see how extremely dangerous the situation is and the human misery that will unfold unless the international community comes together and stands as one against this appalling and unwarranted aggression.”

In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson the unions urge the UK government to condemn outright the Turkish aggression, reminding both  the UK government and the international community of the debt owed to the Syrian Democratic Forces for their `sacrifice in stopping and defeating ISIS’.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing in relation to last Sunday’s appalling announcement by President Trump that he intends to immediately withdraw US troops from Syria. This is a green-light to a Turkish military invasion of North and East Syria, which, as we have already seen in Afrin, will undoubtedly lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kurds as well as a resurgence of ISIS.

The international community owes the Syrian Democratic Forces a debt for their sacrifice instopping and defeating ISIS and building peace and stability in the region, they are our friends and allies.

We therefore call on the UK government to immediately condemn Turkey’s threats of invasion and to work with the international community to deploy an international force and enforce a No-Fly Zone to prevent the imminent catastrophe and protect civilian lives.

If the Turkish invasion is not stopped the SDF will be forced into a long and bitter war for survival against the second-largest NATO army. In the resulting chaos tens of thousands of

ISIS fighters will escape their current internment and resume their barbaric acts of terror across the globe.

We demand that the UK government take action to prevent an invasion of North and East Syria by Turkey and protect the very people who have protected us.

Given the gravity of the situation we would appreciate an immediate response.

Yours sincerely,

Len McCluskey – General Secretary, Unite the Union

Tim Roache – General Secretary, GMB union

Dave Ward – General Secretary, Communications Workers Union

Mark Serwotka – General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

Mick Whelan – General Secretary, Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen

Manuel Cortes – General Secretary, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association

Mary Bousted – Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Kevin Courtney – Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Paddy Lillis – General Sectary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

Mick Cash – General Secretary, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

Mike Clancy – General Secretary, Prospect

Ronnie Draper – General Secretary, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Larry Flanagan – General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

Doug Nicholls – General Secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions

Stephen Cavalier – Chief Executive, Thompsons Solicitors

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UK auto makers prepare to shut down again fearing No Deal Brexit disruption

By Professor David Bailey, Professor of Business Economics at Birmingham Business School at University of Birmingham, Visiting Professor at Centre for Brexit Studies and Senior Fellow at UK in a Changing Europe. Republished with permission from Centre For Brexit Studies and David Bailey.

Despite Michael Gove’s claims last week that the automotive industry was ready for a no deal Brexit, Jaguar Land Rover has become the latest firm to say that it will shut down its UK plants in November in an effort to mitigate potential disruption from a no-deal Brexit.

JLR’s Chief Exec Ralf Speth said the firm had no choice but to stop production lines at its four UK plants (Solihull, Castle Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Halewood), stating that “We cannot think about it, we just have to do it. I need 20 million parts a day and that means I have to make commitments to my suppliers. I have to have every and each part available and I have to have it just in time.”

The latter point illustrates again the vulnerability of automotive and manufacturing that rely on a ‘Just in Time’ (JIT) supply chains to a No Deal Brexit that could cause customs delays and supply chain disruption.

The JLR plants produce around a third of total UK car output and around half a million engines that go into those cars.

A long lag-time in ordering components from suppliers means the firm can’t reopen the plants at short notice if Brexit is delayed beyond October 31. “We will have to close. We cannot switch off and on again” said Speth.

Essentially, customs delays under a No-Deal Brexit would throw a big spanner in the works of JIT systems commonly used across UK and EU manufacturing.

JLR isn’t alone. Toyota has said it won’t build cars at its Burnaston plant on 1st November (sources tell me that it will review its position every three days given uncertainty over the flow of components). BMW will halt production at its Oxford plant on 31 October and 1 November and has said it may send home workers on unpaid leave. Peugeot-owned Vauxhall is also likely to shut its plants.

It’s the second time this year that car firms will have shut down because of Brexit uncertainty. Back in April much of the UK car industry was idled in anticipation of the original end of March Brexit deadline. Firms brought forward planned maintenance shutdowns and took extended breaks in an effort to mitigate the cost of disruption caused by Brexit. Output fell by 45% in April compared with a year earlier.

In recent days several national auto industry bodies, including the German car industry body the VDA, have said that Brexit would have a “seismic” impact on car makers on both sides of the channel.

In the UK, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reckon that car makers in Britain have spent hundreds of millions of pounds preparing for an exit, with some of that money spent in the weeks leading up to the end of March.

Responding to Gove’s claim that industry was ready for Brexit, the SMMT’s CEO Mike Hawes tweeted that “Auto has been consistent & clear: Spent over £1/2 bn on prep but can’t fully mitigate serious risks. Need deal & free & frictionless trade.”

An SMMT press release earlier this week stated that: “A ‘no deal’ Brexit would have an immediate and devastating impact on the industry, undermining competitiveness and causing irreversible and severe damage… (and) risks destroying this vital pillar of our economies.”

JLR has repeatedly stressed that No Deal would cost the firm £1.2bn and threaten a pipeline of tens of billions of pounds of investment in the UK. Before he was PM, Boris Johnson earlier this year dismissed Ralf Speth’s concerns in an LBC radio interview, suggesting that it was not certain that JLR’s Chief Exec knew more about the car industry than he did.

Another major issue in the event of No Deal would be tariff barriers for automotive of around 10%; this would push up import and export prices of cars, and impact on exports and hence production in the UK.

In our recent book Keeping the Wheel on the Road: UK Auto post Brexit, Ian Henry forecasts a short-term production hit from a No-Deal of at least 175,000 cars a year (that’s not including the Honda closure), which is over 10% of UK car output.

Longer term, there is a significant risk that some firms would consider shifting production activities outside of the UK such that the loss of output could be much higher. Honda and Ford have already announced plants closures in the UK for a variety of reasons; Brexit uncertainty being seen by many as one factor.

Other assemblers may follow in the event of a No Deal, especially when new model production is being planned. Peugeot has already stated bluntly that No Deal would mean no investment at Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port (the current Astra model is due to be replaced in 2021).

That’s before we get to Toyota, which began new Corolla production last year at its plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire (an investment decision which goes back before the 2016 Referendum). Like Honda, the plant has been operating below capacity in recent years, and there is a big question mark over its future when production of the current Corolla ends in 2024.

It’s worth noting that there is plenty of spare capacity in the European auto industry. Other countries would jump at the chance to attract such assembly activity, hoping that that they could also pull in significant (especially higher value) parts of the value chain. The employment effects of losing assembly operations could be significantly higher than just the jobs associated with major assemblers.

Exiting the EU in an orderly way with a Deal, minimal trade friction and a transition period remains vital for the British auto industry. No Deal would be very damaging to output, jobs and investment.

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IndustriALL Europe makes the case for collective bargaining in new campaign

The giant European trade union federation IndustriAll Europe, which covers 7m manufacturing, mining and energy workers has 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 26, “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,” he added. “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 is backing the campaign, and Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said, “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,” Burke explained.

“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 great news,” he added.

“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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UK Unions Warn: ‘This Is A No Deal Coup’

”The claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false.’’ Government statement to the Observer newspaper.’

British trade unions reacted furiously and condemned the Johnson government’s actions in suspending parliament yesterday as a ‘No Deal Brexit Coup’ which will damage jobs and working class communities while Johnson and his cronies will be ‘sitting pretty’.

Unite’s Len McCluskey accused prime minister Boris Johnson of a ‘no deal Brexit coup saying:“Johnson’s plan to shut parliament is nothing short of a no deal Brexit coup which imperils the livelihoods of millions of workers and the future prosperity of communities across our nations.

“With the future of places such as Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant hanging by a thread, wrapping the suspension of parliament up with empty promises on education, police and the NHS is an insult to voters desperate for decent public services and a reversal of austerity. 

“Johnson knows full well that a no deal Brexit will devastate our public finances and whole swathes of the economy. Have no doubt it will be Johnson and his friends in the wealthy elite who will be sitting pretty in the event of a catastrophic no deal Brexit, while working class communities pay the price.

McCluskey called for a General Election: “Whichever way people voted in the Brexit referendum, they did not vote for our democracy to be shut down and to lose their jobs. The prime minister should call a general election rather than silencing parliament to push through a disastrous no deal Brexit. I urge all sensible politicians from all parties to stand up and come together behind Jeremy Corbyn to block this no deal Brexit coup.”

Unison’s Dave Prentis said that the government actions smacked of a dictatorship with the government treating the UK’s future like a political plot: “This outrageous manoeuvre has been made to silence all opposition in the most dictatorial way. Our parliamentary democracy is the envy of the world, but it’s being stamped upon and disregarded by a Prime Minister who’s not gone near a public vote.

“Boris Johnson is treating the future of the UK like the plot of a far-fetched political TV drama. The country must be asked for its view on Brexit right now. That’s the only way.”

The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “This is a deliberate ploy by the prime minister to duck basic democratic scrutiny, at a time when people’s jobs and livelihoods are on the line. By denying parliament a voice, this government is treating the people with contempt.

“The effects of crashing out of the European Union without a deal would be felt for a generation. People and parliament together can stop this.

“We’ll support any democratic initiative to stop a disastrous no-deal whether through legislation, a general election or a popular vote.”

Train drivers union ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan warned of civil unrest: “Whatever your views on Brexit, the democratic process must underpin what is done in all our names — or civil unrest will be the result.

“It is disturbing that a Prime Minister, who only has a mandate from the Conservative Party and not from the electorate, is trying to undermine the foundations of our democracy.”

 

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