Highly Respected Trade Unionist ‘Sacked’ From EHRC Board

Sarah Veale – ‘sacked’ by Greening

Sarah Veale, a highly respected trade unionist has been effectively dismissed by the Minister of Women and Equalities Justine Greening from her position on the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Sarah Veale, who was awarded a CBE in 2006 for services to diversity is the former head of the TUC’s Equality and Employment Rights Department.

She has been a member of the Commission since January 2013 and was set to be re-appointed this year at the request of EHRC chair David Isaac, who said he was “very impressed” with her contribution.

Sarah received a letter from Ms. Greening, praising her at length for her work on the Commission, but the sting in the tail was that her “term had expired” and she would not be reappointed.

The EHRC is governed by a Board of Commissioners, who are publicly recruited and appointed.

The EHRC is the UK body that has responsibility for overseeing the law as it relates to unlawful discrimination and human rights. It advises the government and others, for example employers, on how the law works and what organisations and individuals should do to avoid unlawful discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion.

It has legal powers to intervene in court proceedings and to set up formal inquiries if it has evidence that there is systemic discrimination occurring.

For example, the EHRC recently intervened in support of UNISON in their successful court case to abolish fees for Employment Tribunals; it also conducted an investigation into discrimination against migrant workers in the meat processing industry

Appointments to the board were carried out with independent scrutiny but recently that changed, giving ministers far more control over the process – enabling them to override the recommendations of the recruitment panel.

The Commissioners currently consist of a partner at a law firm, a former director of Human Resources at BT, a diplomat and prison governor, a business consultant, a former fire chief, a law professor, a consultant psychiatrist and a Conservative peer.

The decision of not reappointing Sarah leaves no trade unionist on the Commission for the first time.

Commenting on the decision Sarah said: “There was no reason given for not appointing me. Could it be political? It is hard so see any other reason and it follows a spate of similar decisions. If so, it is not good for our democracy and, if continues, means that public bodies will lose important knowledge and experience and, essentially, the authentic voice of working people.

“My particular contributions to the EHRC have included direct involvement in the important statutory role that the Commission has to monitor the various UN conventions and treaties, to which the UK is a signatory, and to produce reports on how and whether the UK government has fulfilled its obligations.

“These relate to the treatment of disabled, BAME and LGBT people and to women, as well as human rights obligations. The Commission has been critical of some of the current and past governments’ failures, for example, as a result of their austerity programme.

“I have also been involved in the very successful investigation into discrimination against pregnant women at work and ensured that the TUC and unions were directly involved too.

“Although Board members are not able to become involved directly in employment matters within the Commission, throughout the recent dispute between the Commission and the recognised unions I did keep in contact with the unions and ensured that their concerns were heard on the Board”.

A number of trade unionists are taking the view that not only is Sarah’s dismissal ‘political’ – it is another an attempt by the Conservative party to take out trade unionists from public bodies when ever they can.

The Health & Safety Commission (HSE) has reduced number of worker representatives and appointed an employer to one of the places and the Central Arbitration Commmittee (CAC) ignored recommendations of people to join the Committee – and the recruitment panel and took over a year to make appointments.

It is also being seen as revenge for the Unison – Employment Tribunals Fee win in the High Court which caused the Tories massive embarrassment.

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Brexit: The EU Thinks We Have A “Cunning Plan”

Baldrick Means Baldrick:  “I have a cunning plan Mr. B”

Reports from the EU say some of the EU 27 think that the UK has hatched a cunning plan behind the shambles currently afflicting the Government and our UK negotiating team! This helpful little guide was posted by an “anonymous commenter” on twitter and referenced by David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) in the FT and his excellent blog.

Well worth reading and reminding ourselves of the damage the Government is doing as the clock runs down to March 2019.

“Here’s a list of negotiating ploys that the UK has toyed with since the referendum, all of which have failed, either in the sense that they have been discarded or that they have failed to move either Brussels or the 27 other EU member states:

  • that feelers or even negotiations could begin prior to Article 50 notification
  • that feelers or even negotiations could be opened with individual EU member states, so bypassing or weakening Brussels
  • that the UK could divide individual member states to its advantage
  • that the UK could cherry pick benefits (floated by Boris Johnson, specifically dismissed with respect to the single market in Mrs May’s Article 50 letter)
  • that the UK could brandish effectively a threat to diminish or even to cease security cooperation
  • that the UK would owe nothing once it left the EU
  • that the UK would be content to crash out of the EU without any agreement whatsoever
  • that discussions on the ‘divorce proceedings’ (the Irish land border, post-Brexit citizens’ rights and the divorce bill) could be conducted in parallel with discussions on the future trade relationship
  • that the ECJ’s role would, for the UK, cease from 29 March 2019.to which one might add:
  • that the EU would be moved by the ‘strong and stable government’ that was to emerge from the June 2017 election.”

This is not even a complete list.

  • there was the attempt to deploy the Duchess of Cambridge on a new royal yacht,
  • an implicit threat of military action over Gibraltar,
  • and the suggestion of making the UK a new low-tax no-regulation Singapore.

And worth adding to this list is their boneheaded response to the voice of manufacturing and unions on the dangers of:

  • being outside of the single market, outside of a customs union, no formal access to skills, key EU bodies such as EASA, Medicines and other regulatory bodies plus the uncertainity being caused by confusion and the damage to investment and jobs;
  • stunts and foreign trips to pretend the UK can do trade deals with the USA (and Trump), Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey and others to replace an EU trade agreement –
  • plus the lack of any discussions or real input by trade unions, who represent millions of members who will suffer from their studpidty.


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Mr. Fox Goes To Washington – Why?

UK trade secretary Liam Fox MP is visted Washington, D.C. on Monday, 24th July for talks with the US administration on a future UK-US trade deal. As representatives of working people on both sides of the Atlantic, we want to know what exactly he is after except air miles and a publicity stunt.

Mr Fox has claimed that Britain’s tremendous trade with the European Union can be replaced – and even improved upon – by enhanced trade with the USA and other countries.

For the UK, that’s a dangerous pipe dream, because despite the enormous trade flows between our two countries, it’s unlikely that the USA could come close to replacing a significant proportion of the UK’s current trade with the rest of Europe, which is half of all UK trade.

And for the USA, trade with the rest of the EU is far greater than trade with the UK, and much more likely to grow.

Trade agreements on their own are not the best way to increase trade between developed economies like ours – and certainly not the best way to create growth. Our respective governments would be better off devoting time and energy to boosting demand through infrastructure investment and raising pay.

Nevertheless, properly managed, trade can create good, secure, well-paid jobs. And it can mean more choice for shoppers and lower household costs for working people who are, of course, also consumers.

But if it isn’t properly managed, bad trade deals can destroy jobs, suppress wages and harm our industries and public services, as well as raising prices and lowering quality.

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, Britain’s workers have a vital interest in the future relationship between the UK and the EU. And that really needs to be settled before we arrange a trade deal between the UK and the US – if one is eventually needed at all, which would not be the case if the UK were to stay in the EU Customs Union.

Negotiations between the UK and the EU have only just started, and won’t get around to the future trading relationship for months if not years. US workers will need to know the shape of the future UK-EU relationship before working out what’s in their best interests.

The TUC and our colleagues in the European Trade Union Confederation have called for the future relationship to include frictionless, barrier-free access between the UK and the rest of Europe, with continuing protections for workplace rights to prevent undercutting and exploitation.

UK and US trade unions, with our long experience of trade deals around the world, know that these issues – and the protection of public services like Britain’s NHS – are vital if trade is to benefit ordinary people, rather than the top 1%.

We also know that trade deals negotiated behind closed doors, with only the politicians and their trade experts present – or with the voice of business present but no role for workers – are bad deals. It is why American workers’ top priority is reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

We’d have more confidence in Mr Fox’s trade strategy if he was more open to trade union concerns and voices. But the fact that neither of our trade union movements have been consulted about this trip suggests it’s not a real trade mission at all. Business organisations that we regularly engage with know nothing more than we do. And that really does imply that this visit is more of a public relations stunt than serious trade talks.

The first thing any government needs to do before preparing trade negotiations is to find out what is wanted by business, workers and civil society. Until then, we must remain deeply sceptical and a little suspicious of what Mr Fox and his friends in the US administration are up to.

Frances O’Grady is general secretary of the TUC
Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO

More on Mr. Fox and his trip to the USA soon…..

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Electric Vehicle Market sparks into life as ICE age comes to end?

Nissan Leaf, EV, made in the UK in Sunderland.

Professor David Bailey on the boom in electric vehicles

 It seems that electric vehicles (EVs) are finally coming of age as barriers to take up start to fall, costs decline, and range and performance improves.

Last December Morgan Stanley upped its forecast for EV penetration to potentially 10 to 15 per cent by 2025, as car makers accelerate plans to build EVs (think of the Jaguar E-Pace) and as tightening rules on traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) cars make them uncompetitive more quickly than expected.

Now, a research report by the from Dutch investment bank ING says that the European car market could be fully electric by 2035. It states that battery electric vehicles are on the way to a “breakthrough” by 2024 as barriers to their adoption – think charging infrastructure, range anxiety and pricing – fall, especially as electric batteries become cheaper and better.

The authors of the report believe that current developments in technology could set EVs on a growth path to a 100% share of new passenger car sales in Europe by 2035, posing a “threat to the automotive industry as we know it”.

Not surprisingly, though, the report highlights barriers to take up of EVs (something I’ve been researching with colleagues at Coventry University): limits to charging infrastructure (20%), limits to range on one charge (28%) and the high price of electric cars (40%) all being reasons cited by consumers in the report for not buying EVs.

Nevertheless, the report suggests that by 2024, the cost of ownership of a long-range EV is expected to match that of a similar ICE car in Europe’s largest market, Germany.

The ING report also points to future improvements in battery cell density, meaning more energy per cell, thereby increasing range and reducing battery pack weight and cost. It also notes that battery manufacturers are working on other chemistries, such as solid state batteries, to increase energy density “by a factor of 2 to 3”.

The forecast seems in line with projections by Bloomberg Energy Finance earlier this year. It noted that EVs will cost up to a quarter more to manufacture than equivalent ICE vehicles until 2020 but that battery prices are falling rapidly.

Bloomberg noted last year that Lithium-ion battery costs have dropped by 65% since 2010, reaching $350 per kWh in 2015. When the cost of battery packs falls below $200 per kWh, EVs are likely to achieve cost parity with equivalent ICE cars, suggesting a ‘tipping point’ in the mid-2020s . Analysts expect EV battery costs to be well below $120 per kWh by 2030, and to fall further after that as new chemistries come into play.

But while costs are falling, there remains a need for ongoing policy support to incentivise consumers in the short to medium term (such via as subsidies to run an EV, tax breaks and so on). Withdrawing support too quickly could still stall a nascent technology.

Longer term, the travel of direction seems clear. Last week, France stated that it will end sales of ICE cars by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

On the one hand that 2040 deadline seems rather pointless given the technological developments taking place (rather like saying France won’t be selling horses-and-carts by 2040 one analyst suggested) but equally the timescale involved is sufficiently long term enough to be taken seriously. And if enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers and could accelerate a transition to EVs.

Meanwhile Norway, which has the highest penetration of electric cars in the world, has set a tentative target of only allowing sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. Other countries have floated the idea of banning ICE cars to meet air quality and climate change goals, but have not yet passed concrete targets.

Also last week, Volvo said it would have pure EVs or hybrids across its entire range by the mid-2020s. Its sister company, the soon-to-be rebranded London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also unveiled the TX electric taxi last week, to be built at its new Ansty plant near Coventry. Commercial vehicles may follow.

The Volvo move in particular was indicative of the firm anticipating a shift toward electric cars over the next decade in a big way; it wants to be at the forefront of that push. It’s another signal that huge disruption and transformation is coming to the industry.

After years of false dawns, it seems that the EV market is finally sparking into life. That will offer new opportunities which our region’s auto industry – and our policy makers – need to grasp.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School in Birmingham.

This blog was first published in the Birmingham Post July 19th.

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Brexit Chickens Coming Home To Roost

“The Brexit chickens are coming home to roost”  a prominant person in the automotive industry told me during a discussion about the announcement by Michel Barnier that the UK would not benefit one jot from being outside of the single market and customs union.

Not only did Barnier warn that agricultural products would be checked – every single time – at the border, but key manufacturers such as  Airbus would be equally affected.

Recently in a meeting where the supply chain for a well known household product was outlined – it was pointed out it crossed the channel five times in its manufacture and sales – that’s the size of the problem we have if the UK fails to scure a customs union deal with the EU.

Unite has been warning for over 12 months that this event would eventually happen.

But Theresa May, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davies have paid little heed to the voice of 100,000’s of skilled manufacturing workers who are now looking at their jobs being hit by stupidity and boneheadedness on the part of the Prime Minster and her Brexit team.

They have taken no notice of industry and unions who have all been clear on single market access, a customs union deal, key investment decisions, the need for a robust industrial strategy, defending decent employment rights and access to skills.

No doubt the right wing UK media who are now waking upto the fact we can’t really have ‘our cake and eat it‘ but will once again describe Barnier and Junker as ‘Euro bullies’, and advise Mrs. May to tell them where to stick it.

Will the horrors of lorries backed up to Watford on the M25, waiting to cross the channel while our ‘just in time’ supply chain structure – on which manufacturing depends – is laid to waste – even with the promised ‘special IT system’ (which the French probably won’t have) – finally cause industry to stand upto the hard Brextremists, who are hell bent on a policy that will eventually destroy manufacturing and tell ministers to get real.

I was asked in an interview were manufacturing employers ‘sabre rattling’ on investment and potential threats to jobs. The answer was no – and pointed to the warnings our union, Unite, has been outlining for over 12 months on the single market, customs union, skills etc.

The daunting task is now dawning on the Government. At a recent meeting with officials in a key department on the implications of Brexit on trade – one senior official bemoaned they could now see the “breadth of the problem”.

You can now feel the real concern among manufacturers and our members. Meanwhile Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsome look for scapegoats – blaming the BBC and media for not being pro-Brexit and ‘unpatriotic‘ – always a clear sign of unrest in the ranks.

This weekend Government ministers are meeting some employers bodies including the CBI, IOD, Chambers Of Commerce, the EEF, Federation of Small Businesses and some individual companies.

There are notable absences including a number of key trade associations and of course the voice of the workforce – the trade unions.

As one key player told me ‘they don’t speak for our industry’.

I am told that the select meeting at Chevening is called by the Government to listen to what industry is saying – and some employers have said “its a start”. But it is clear the Government needs to listen to the real voice of industry and the unions.

Time is not on our side.

Barnier and the EU 27 have got their ducks in a row, their negotiating strategy is understood and agreed by the 27 – so no chance of pealing them away one by one as had been a proposed tactic.

May’s threat to throw her teddy out of the pram and walk away will be reponsed to by a shrug of the shoulders – and the clock will keep ticking.

The blogger Jack of Kent put it succintly recently in his “Three things about Brexit” blog of 2nd July 2017:

“Since the referendum vote last summer for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, three things have become apparent.

  • First, Brexit will be complex, not simple.
  • Second, the UK government is not (or is not currently) equal to the task of Brexit.
  • Third, regardless of the difficulties, the UK government is in any case making it worse for itself, to the extent it seems almost that it is self-sabotaging the whole process.

I do not claim any originality for these three insights; I just wanted to jot them down here, in one place”.

I would add a fourth item: Listen to the voice of those who make the country tick, who create the wealth, who employ 100,000s of workers in decent jobs if you fail – you do this at your peril.


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Macron Hopes To Use French Summer Holidays To Drive Through Labour Reforms

The new French President Emmanuel Macron has said he intends to reform France’s labour laws before the end of this summer after meeting unions and telling them he ‘intends to act swiftly’.

Macron warned during his presidential campaign that he planned to ‘fast-track’ legislation through use of ‘executive decrees’.

Unions had urged the government to take more time to discuss reforms which are aimed at reducing employment rights and giving France more neo-liberal labour laws which will reduce France’s strong workers protection.

Workers are protected under a powerful labour code and although only around 7% of workers are union members, unions play a powwerful role in employment relations and companies and are normally able to mobilise mass demonstrations and strikes which are widely supported by workers.

But Macron’s prime minister says they intend to pass the reforms during the long French summer holidays when factories shutdown and many workers disperse to take upto three weeks off work.

Macron is aiming to use the break to undermine the unions ability to organise against the legislation.

Strikes and a rebellion in parliament were two factors that stopped the previous government’s attempts to introduce similar reforms.

Macron was a minister in that government between 2014 and 2016 before he quit to launch his presidential bid.

In a document released on Tuesday, the government broadly stuck to measures contained in Macron’s campaign manifesto including the capping of compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases.

Two of the biggest union federations appeared willing to engage in talks with the government. “I don’t think the unions will want to make a snap judgment since we only just got this letter from the government,” Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union said on French TV. The smaller FO union said the reform plan contained both positive and negative points.

But the more powerful left wing CGT union which includes metalworkers and many manufacturing workers and who take the lead in mobilzastion said it disagreed with the reforms and called on workers to protest over the coming days and weeks.

A key issue is pensions where Macron has said he wants to merge 37 pension systems into one, including the workers pensions at the state-owned EDF utility or SNCF railway company.


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United Steelworkers Slams Trump Paris Decision.

USW International President Leo Gerard slams Trump on Paris decision.

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard released the following statement after President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is an inexcusable blow to the U.S. economy. The agreement is ambitious, nonbinding and transparent, and it stands as a landmark global achievement in the fight against climate change.

“For many years, the United States has been a leader in innovation and technology to combat climate change. Withdrawing from this non-binding agreement further cedes our strength in this sector to China, and signals to domestic innovators and manufacturers that the United States will not support them.

“Our union, through our partnerships in the BlueGreen Alliance, has been a leader in ensuring that jobs are good for workers and good for the environment. Today’s announcement is a threat to innovative, green jobs in the United States. Americans do not have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. The USW has long believed that America can have both. Most American industries already meet the requirements of previous international climate agreements.

“Climate change is a critical concern across the globe. The diplomatic and trade impacts of withdrawing will be felt for many years, as the United States joins the only two other countries who are not part of the agreement—Syria and Nicaragua.

“The Administration made this choice despite the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change and the near universal support for the agreement by labor, environmental, and business leaders.

“President Trump should immediately reverse his decision to protect the planet and jobs for workers in the United States.”

USW International Vice President Jon Geenen posted on Facebook:

Here is how Trump joining only Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the global climate accord will play out. Our trade deficit will grow as the world comes to perceive our manufacturing processes in the US as harmful to the planet.

The perception will be that buying a car, a roll of paper, pulp or anything else from the US will bring more harm to the planet than buying it from ANYWHERE else. In fact people will pay a premium for products as global awareness increases. Even companies that have made huge strides in sustainability here will be viewed as guilty by association. In fact, this idea will be the center of an anti-US goods marketing strategy in some places.

Even China understood this and it is why they are spending almost a trillion dollars on carbon mitigation to show the world they are changing. When that becomes the global consensus the first victims of this will be American workers and American companies. We will all pay a high price for this.

And our children will pay the most…..(Incidentaly Nicaragua didnt support the accord only because it hinged on voluntary pledges and would not punish those who failed to meet them–so it is really only the US and Syria)

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Morning Star to publish General Election Special edition

Britain’s only socialist daily newspaper is producing a special bumper election edition to be handed out free at supermarkets June 1st (Thursday).

175,000 copies of the Morning Star – featuring exclusive election stories and interviews with Jeremy Corbyn and celebrity figures – will be distributed at transport hubs as well as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Asda and the Co-op.

The paper, which was the only national daily to back Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 Labour leadership campaign, is co-operatively owned by its readers – in contrast to the billionaire-owned Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Sun, Times and Daily Star.

Morning Star editor Ben Chacko said the decision to print the June 1 free edition was sparked by the appointment of George Osborne to edit the Evening Standard.

“London’s most widely read free sheet is now being edited by one of the most destructive Conservative chancellors in history,” he said. “Newspapers owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires are not, as they like to imagine, objective watchdogs of our liberties, holding power to account. More often, they offer just a shrill blast of establishment propaganda. The overwhelming Tory bias of the press is familiar from past elections, but the vicious invective directed at Jeremy Corbyn is in a different league. With this special free edition, we are offering the British public a mass-market alternative to this daily barrage.”

The June 1 edition features exclusive interviews with actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, film directors Ken Loach and W.I.Z. and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. As well as a host of exclusive news stories, the paper will include election perspectives from three rank-and-file workers – a nurse, a train guard and a postman.

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Unite warns voters ‘Tories are no friends of the North’

The Conservative Party is ‘no friend of the North’ but instead the party of the ‘leafy shires and the lucky few’, Unite the country’s largest union is warning.

Billboards carrying that message will appear across the North of England today until the polls open on Thursday 8th June as Unite continues to campaign to turn out every possible vote for Labour.

With the Conservatives targeting Labour’s northern heartlands, the union’s intervention signals its determination to hammer home the Tories’ record to voters, and remind them that the party’s plans will make life tougher for working people and their families.

Launching the billboard advertisements, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Tories are not and never will be the friends of the North.
“When the Tories are in power, our great northern cities and communities endure misery and neglect. Just look at what happened to Redcar recently – a top class industrial facility was allowed to go to the wall by the Tory government with thousands put out of work.
“This is what a Conservative government does. It does not govern for the nation but rewards only the privileged, the leafy shires and the lucky few.
“That is why we are urging voters to think very carefully ahead of the poll on 8 June. Judge the Tories by their record – record debt, falling wages, appalling zero hours work, our children’s schools begging for help, police cuts, and our NHS on its knees. These leopards have not changed their spots and are not worthy of your vote.
“A vote for Labour is the only option to give our communities the strong future they deserve.”
The Unite billboards can be seen in Leeds, Newcastle and Salford. They will be joined by ad vans that will tour London plus towns and cities in the north east and north west to contrast the different offers before voters – continuing Tory cuts and falling living standards, or the sensible Labour plan to renew working class communities.

This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that Unite members have been putting through letterboxes in recent weeks and distributing in workplaces, as well as a major Facebook campaign to ensure voters understand the real change that Labour offers.

Unite will also be campaigning in manufacturing workplaces to hammer home the message that a Tory Brexit would be very bad news for UK jobs and investment.

To see the artwork for the billboards and ad vans click here

Unite’s poster ads can be seen at the following sites:
Leeds: Leeds Central, Wellington St A58M, LS1 1RF
Salford: Regent Road Towers (out), M5 4QH
Salford: Regent Road Towers (In) M5 4QH
Newcastle: On the A184, Leam Lane, Fellgate NE10 8YD
Sunderland: On the  A19, Sunderland SR5 3JL

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Only Labour Backs UK Manufacturing.

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