Ten Reasons We’re Against Unions!

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Posted in Employment Rights, European Trade Unions, International Trade Unions, Labour Party, Media, Politics, Solidarity, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union, Workers Uniting | Leave a comment

Reality check on Osborne’s ‘recovery’

Reality check for George!

Reality check for George!

According to much of the media this week – the worst is over, the recession is yesterday’s mashed potatoes and according to Danny Alexander the economy is in the ‘fast lane’. The media swallowed the Tory-LibDem spin hook, line and sinker.

However, amidst the euphoria, there are some wiser commentators and economists issuing cautionary warnings that all is not what it seems.

Certainly working families who are now told, it was all worth it, we are on the way up, we are better off will know different.

So what has really happened?

The economy expanded by 0.8% in the second quarter of 2014 taking the value of goods and services produced in the UK between April and June to a total of £393 billion. The last time quarterly GDP output was at that level was in the first quarter of 2008, before the global meltdown.

But in the Independent 0n July 27th Ben Chu (@BenChu_) demolished Osborne and Alexander’s conclusions, saying they were premature.

In a nutshell Ben Chu argues a number of points that Unite has been arguing for sometime – namely the re-balancing of the economy in favour of manufacturing is not happening - hence the need for an interventionist industrial strategy; wages are being squeezed – those at the top are doing well but working families are struggling; UK productivity is low; new jobs created can be categorised as “self employed” or low quality, precarious employment (and easily disposable under the UKs employment rights regime) and household debt is on the rise again.

On the latter point a number of economists have pointed out that even if Mark Carney gently increases interests rates towards Christmas, the increases may tip some families over the edge.

Here is what Ben Chu said this weekend – and it is worthwhile repeating here:

GDP per capita still weak: The economy is now very slightly bigger than it was six years ago. But the population is considerably larger than it was in 2008.

The result is that even though GDP might have returned to its peak, GDP per capita, which is a better measure of national wellbeing, still languishes. The latest official figures for this metric only go up to the first quarter of the year.

But assuming the population grew at a similar rate in the second quarter, GDP per capita would still be 4 per cent below where it was in the first quarter of 2008.

And as Labour pointed out today, GDP per capita is not likely to get back to where it was for three more years yet, even if the economy continues to expand at the present decent pace.

Lack of rebalancing: Hopes that manufacturing and construction would drive the recovery and rebalance the economy have so far been dashed. Most of the work has been done by the services sector. Year-on-year GDP growth in the second quarter of the year was 3.1 per cent. Of this around 80 per cent was accounted for by an increase in services output.

Services output is now 3 per cent above its 2008 peak but manufacturing output is still more than 7 per cent below its level of six years ago, and construction remains a full 11 per cent shy. Exports and business investment have also consistently fallen short of expectations.

The wage squeeze: Most people would associate a recovery with rising pay and living standards. But wages are still considerably lower than they were in 2008. The average total weekly pay packet in May was £478. That’s 9 per cent lower than six years ago, when adjusted for Consumer Price Index inflation.

And despite the GDP recovery and the fall in inflation to below the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target, wage growth is still extremely weak. In the three months to May, average pay increased in cash terms by just 0.3 per cent year on year.

Hidden unemployment: Employment has held up surprisingly well since 2008 and unemployment has now fallen to 6.5 per cent. More than 1.1 million new jobs have been created over the past six years, despite the weakness of the wider economy.

Yet around two thirds of these have been self-employed positions and the quality of these new jobs is unclear. Some economists suspect they could be disguised unemployment.

Official survey evidence certainly suggests considerable underemployment in the economy, with people saying they wish to work more hours than they currently have.Another reason for caution on the recovery is productivity. Outputper worker and per hour remains well down on its 2008 level. Unless productivity eventually picks up, wages and living standards cannot rise.

Debt is rising: Household debt levels as a share of total household incomes have come down since the recession. But the ratio, at around 140 per cent of GDP, remains high by international standards. And the Office for Budget Responsibility expects the ratio to start rising again back up to pre-crisis levels over the coming years.

This is mainly a result of the expectation that people will start borrowing heavily again to buy expensive houses. The danger here is that people could once more panic about their personal debt levels and stop spending, which would, in turn, plunge the economy into recession.

Higher debt could also stretch the personal finances of some households when the Bank of England starts to put up interest rates from their present record lows of 0.5 percent, which is expected to happen around the turn of the year.

As an antidote to Tory and LibDem spin @D_Blanchflower is well worth following on Twitter. His tweet that: “Best analogy for the UK economy is it is like a NASCAR race for G7 where 5/7 lapped us 3 times and we just put in fastest lap but still 6th” says it all.

And just as I was ready to press the publish button I got sent this gem written by Asa Bennett in the Huffington Post.  

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GDP Figures: Working Still People Paying The Price And £40 A Week Worse Off

The restoration of the economy to the position it was in 2008 is a sign of progress, but there remain serious causes for concern according to Unite.

The latest GDP figures show that the economy has grown by 0.8% returning the size of the economy to 2008 levels in headline terms. It comes after lost years of stagnation resulting from the government’s austerity policies, leaving greater numbers working harder but getting poorer.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, warned the government against crowing that its stewardship of the economy has been a success: “Working people are doing the heavy lifting in our economy. They are working harder but getting poorer so if the economy is growing, it is not them feeling the benefit.

Let’s be clear: there has been no economic miracle performed here. Quite simply, as our population grows more people are working but they are working for lower wages with zero-hour, insecure jobs at epidemic level and an historic collapse in living standards not seen since Victoria was on the throne.

“As debt charities have consistently warned, many families are one or two pay cheques away from despair. The 1224 automotive workers who found themselves dumped onto the dole queue yesterday remind us that decent jobs are still being shed, to be replaced no doubt by low-waged, low-skilled employment.

Two features of this so-called recovery ought to be ringing alarm bells in Number 10: at the moment we have a wage siege combined with an investment freeze. Basically, working people’s graft is not being rewarded in their wage packets but banked by businesses which are hoarding millions”.

“So let’s not have any complacency today from government. What is needed is some action to get businesses to invest in their workforce. People want secure work and money in their pockets – and until they are delivered we cannot claim to be out of the woods.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The economy may finally be back to where it was in early 2008 but pre-crash living standards are a long way off. Workers are still, on average, around £40 a week worse off.

“Despite stronger growth the government’s plan for further sharp spending cuts means that the scaling back of vital public services, from library closures to the squeeze on NHS spending, is now looking permanent.

“The government is overseeing economic growth driven by low-pay and low-productivity. This is the wrong kind of recovery and won’t deliver the higher living standards and sustainable growth that Britain needs.”

And in another stark warning the authoritative Resolution Foundation analysis  this week has warned that the years of cheap interest rates will begin to rebound as interest rates move upward – even at a gentle pace to the extent that double the number of households will face some form of repayment problem by 2018.

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Remploy finally to be sold to “investors”

_76434205_76434200Like many union officials who have represented members employed by Remploy I was gutted to hear the news that Remploy is to be finally sold off to “investors”.

As DGS of the GPMU I was one time a member of the TU Consortium of unions who were ably lead over the years by officials such as Len McCluskey; Phil Davies of the GMB; Bill Freeman, Ann Field, Pete Ellis, Kevin Hepworth of Sogat/GPMU; Rachael Maskell of Amicus, Joe Mann of the NLBD/Community and many others.

The unions, back in the day, were proud to represent workers many with severe disabilities.

Many were workers who went to work at factory where they were cared for, workers knew they were part of a family of friends – and in days gone by – managed by people who understood the problems workers with disabilities faced day in day out.

I visited many Remploy sites especially those linked with bookbinding and packaging and saw the wonderful skills the workers had and saw at first hand people with severe disabilities who worked with dignity and were treated with dignity from their fellow workers.

We are all proud when Labour MPs like Terry Rooney and others set up Friends Of Remploy to campaign to keep Remploy going.

Some of its sites had, admittedly seen better days, but they were a safe haven and Government investment with a long term plan would have helped them survive.

Today was a sad day. The minister Esther Mcvey, didn’t even go to the House to make the statement, instead we had to suffice with a written statement which said: “a significant stake” would be offered for sale to investors. The result would be a joint venture with employees also holding “an interest” in the company”.

Oh yeah?

Worse still was Remploy CEO Beth Carruthers all chirpy on 5Live this evening on how wonderful all this was and how it would help thousands of people with disabilities.

We shall see!

Lets see who the “investors” are; lets see how many former Remploy workers have a say in the business; lets see if former Remploy workers are destined to live their lives on benefits; lets see how many get into decent jobs rather than being shunted off into short term, unsuitable jobs in unsuitable environments.

Ok, it has been coming for some time since the 2013 closures – but it is still a very sad day for the former Remploy workforce.

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Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund Essay Competition

RPMF ad2014The Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund was established to commemorate the life of one of the GPMU’s best known rank and file members. Ross was also well known throughout the trade union and Labour movement. 

Each year the trustees of the fund run an essay competition, aimed at young trade unionists, with a prize of £750. Maximum 1,000 words.

Closing date Saturday 18 October 2014

Click here to visit the Facebook page

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UAW Sets Up Local At Volkswagen, Chatanooga

The United Auto Workers union say they have reached  a “consensus” with Volkswagen and expect the German automaker to recognise the union if they sign up enough workers at a new local for the company’s assembly plant in Chatanooga, Tennessee.

The union in February suffered a setback in its effort to organise its first foreign-owned plant in the South when workers at the Chattanooga plant rejected UAW representation by a 712-626 vote after heavy right wing political pressure and an anti union campaign lead by local Republican’s.

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, said the creation of Local 42 will avoid the need for another election that could involve the sort of “third-party interference” the union blames for losing the earlier vote. He stressed that no employee will be required to join, and that no dues would be collected until after a collective bargaining agreement is reached.

“We have a consensus,” Casteel said. “This is not something the UAW is doing unilaterally, it’s been thoroughly discussed with VW over an extended period of time.”

Casteel said the union is confident Volkswagen will recognize the union if the local signs up a “meaningful portion” of Volkswagen’s work force in Chattanooga, though he did not elaborate on what the threshold would be.

Volkswagen wants to introduce a German-style works council at the plant to represent both salaried and blue-collar workers, but the company’s has said it can’t do so without the involvement of an independent union.

Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker’s plant on June 12, 2013, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The United Auto Workers unions announced on Thursday, July 10, 2014, that it is forming a local chapter in Chattanooga, and that it expects Volkswagen to recognize it once it signs up a “substantial” number of workers at the plant.

Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga in 2013.

Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson issued a statement saying that the company has “no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter.”

“Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned,” according to the company.

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Derek Install – Former GPMU Industrial Officer

2004 Derek Install (EC Report to BDC)Former GPMU comrades will be sad to report the death of Derek Install former Industrial Officer of the GPMU who died recently.

I first met Derek in the mid 1970s when he had just been elected the SLADE & PW’s officer for the Midlands. (SLADE was the union which organised artists, designers, engravers etc.

He attended a meeting with the North West SLADE officer at the Stockport Express, where I was the FOC, over an inter union dispute over who could use Letraset – between NGA compositors and SLADE artists. (Its true, deadly serious and I still know the deal!).

Derek became Regional Secretary of the Midlands region of NGA after SLADE merged with NGA in 1982. We became good friends when I was elected an NGA EC member and eventually elected Regional Secretary of the NGA in the North West.

When the GPMU was formed by a merger of SOGAT and NGA in 1982 Derek became an Industrial Officer.

Importantly Derek was also one of the first TUC Organizing Academy coaches, (along with Peter Ellis), responsible for the development of trainee organisers in the union and we worked together in the GPMU when I was DGS to develop the strategy both in the union and within the TUC.

Derek lead the way with the GPMU’s organising strategy, training young people to work as dedicated organisers, handling CAC cases and negotiations with employers.

Derek was also chair of the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee in the early 1990s.

He was a great trade unionist, who believed in the power of union organising workers into a union, especially young people.

The details of the funeral are as follows:

Venue: Counties Crematorium, Northampton, Towcester Road, Milton Malsor, Northampton NN4 9RN

Time & date: 2.45pm on Monday 14th July and afterwards at the nearby Holiday Inn.

Please pass this email onto any friends or colleagues that knew Derek. Derek’s widow has requested that those hoping to attend, should please notify Peter Ellis as soon as possible, by email, on pjp.ellis@gmail.com, so that she can have an idea how many to cater for at the Holiday Inn.

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Unite Is Happy! Filmed Outside Our Unite Office In London!

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Pensioners arrested in campaign to defend free rail travel

Please watch the above video to two retired Unite Community members being violently arrested for participating in a peaceful action as part of a campaign to stop cuts to free rail travel for disabled people and pensioners.

Two other pensioners were knocked to the ground, and another pensioner and a blind disabled wheelchair user were hospitalised. It was a totally unacceptable use of force by the transport police on peaceful protesters.

There will be a demonstration outside Sheffield Crown Court on Monday 7th July at 9.15am to support Unite community members, George Arthur and Tony Nuttall who will be in court following their arrests.

A local journalist from the Sheffield Star had his camera taken by the police, erased and he was threatened with anti-Terrorism laws.

The campaign started in February after the South Yorkshire Transport Authority voted, without any consultation, to scrap free train travel for all disabled people and pensioners affecting 268,000 travel pass holders. OAPs and disabled led a campaign of direct action and organised Freedom Rides where organised groups travelled on trains refusing to pay.

These actions were good natured, peaceful and the campaign received a partial success when the authorities reinstated free train travel for disabled and half-price travel for pensioners.

The protesters, however, decided to continue with the campaign to try and win back free travel for pensioners as well.

Please email messages of support by clicking here.

Donations welcome : Cheques made payable to: Barnsley Retired Action Group c/o 7 Church St, Jump, Barnsley, S74 OHZ.

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Letter From Ann Field In Morning Star On Wapping Dispute

Wapping_strike_0001The following letter from Ann Field, former GPMU-Amicus National Officer was published by the Morning Star in response to recent articles on the News International (Wapping) Dispute.

“Saturday’s (14th June) leading article managed a mention, but Peter Frost (16th June) omitted entirely the two root causes of The Sun’s position as chief rat in the Fleet Street sewer.

In a monumental conspiracy involving the company and the right-wing leadership of the electricians’ union, supported by the Tory government, the police and the anti-union laws, almost the entire workforce was sacked within minutes of beginning a strike to defend their jobs, conditions and trade union rights.

5500 printworkers lost their jobs in January 1986 and suffered hugely, losing their livelihoods, their community and bearing physical attacks by mounted and riot police week after week at Wapping until February 1987.

The second root cause is the ability of a company or individual to amass huge portions of press and media in the UK. Murdoch’s domination has resulted in enormous and malign influence over politicians and opinion.

Irrespective of the advancing years of the man himself, News Corp is a trans-national company extending its commercial power into education as well as newspapers, media, sport and film. Murdoch’s News Corp is not the only company monopolizing the media, but is certainly among the most malign.

A management that was prepared to stop at nothing to destroy its own workforce and union organization would use any means to achieve its objectives whether it’s maligning people in their death throes or phone hacking, These two points should have been mentioned.

For more details see: www.wapping-dispute.org.uk or click here.

Ann Field

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