Clamour For Vote Of No Confidence In Tory Government.

Len McCluskey, leader of the biggest union in the UK and Ireland, Unite, said:

“Millions of people have lost all confidence in this government. Tory Brexit bungling on top of the agonies of austerity means it is well past the time for Theresa May and her team to go.

“Whether it is the right moment for Labour to move a parliamentary vote of no confidence is another matter – it is far from clear that the views of the country would be reflected in the votes of MPs.

“In particular, Jeremy Corbyn should not be bounced by those who have little or no interest in seeing Labour elected. They would be better placed using a censure motion and waiting for the right time to issue a vote of no confidence.”

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Mexican President Endorses Corbyn For PM

Jeremy Corbyn with Mexican President López Obrador

Mexican President López Obrador has declared his support for the leader of the Labour Party to become the next British prime minister.

He made the endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn, whom he described as “my eternal friend,” during a gathering of high-profile friends at López Obrador’s ranch in Palenque, Chiapas, yesterday.

López Obrador, who is being sworn in on December 1st, posted a video to social media in which he appears with Corbyn, Miguel Ángel Revilla, president of the Spanish autonomous community of Cantabria, and Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez.

“. . . We’re Hispanic but we have good relations with all the people and all the nations of the world and we especially have a very good relationship with the planet’s progressive movements,” the new president said.

“We have a very good relationship with the United Kingdom labor movement, we identify with each other because progressive governments, democratic governments respect migrants and respect the right that all human beings have to seek a [better] life, that’s the principle of human rights,” López Obrador continued.

The leftist political veteran also appeared to make a veiled attack on the hardline attitude of United States authorities towards the thousands of Central American migrants currently stranded on Mexico’s northern border.

“The United States is a country, a nation that became a power because of the work, effort and intelligence of migrants,” López Obrador said.

He then declared his unequivocal support for Corbyn to become the next leader of the United Kingdom.

“Those from Latin America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, are our brothers and now the English people will have the opportunity – I hope, I want it with all my heart, with all my soul – to have a prime minister like Corbyn,” López Obrador said.

“I don’t know what the laws are, I’m not yet formally the president of Mexico, I won’t be the constitutional president until tomorrow, that’s why I dare to say these things. From tomorrow I have to put a limit on myself but now I say what I think and I have always said what I think,” he added.

A United Kingdom Labour Party statement issued from London said that López Obrador “faces huge challenges in his mission of transforming Mexico, but Jeremy hopes his election will offer Mexico’s poor and powerless a real voice and a break with the failures and injustices of the past.”

It added that the new president “has shown that a progressive agenda for change can win power and take on the status quo.”

Jeremy Corbyn is married to Mexican lawyer and activist Laura Álvarez.

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Trade Unions Are Winning Victories In Mexico

In a sign that things are changing for trade unions in Mexico following the election of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) the independent Mexican mining and metalworkers’ union Los Mineros has won an important union victory at the El Boleo Mine in Santa Rosalia in the State of Baja California Sur.

This follows a long battle going back April 2016, when workers at the mine went on strike to demand the removal of a company appointed union and free elections.

The strike was broken by the police and a month later the company fired 130 Los Mineros supporters. The federal authorities then blocked the Los Mineros’ demand for an election for two years in an attempt break the union.

Workers reported various problems including low wages, unpaid overtime, poor health and safety (including lack of proper lighting and ventilation in underground work areas) and lack of adequate safety equipment.

By a vote of 280 – 238, the workers at El Boleo have voted for Los Mineros over an imposed company union that was installed by the labour contractor, Servicios y Desarrollos Meseta Central SA de CV, without consulting the workforce. The mine is controlled by Korea Resources Corporation (KORES), which is owned by the government of South Korea.

Not withstanding this victory there are still massive problems with Mexico’s current labour legislation which AMLO has vowed to change including measures to guarantee workers’ freedom of association, specifically in global manufacturing supply chains.

The Federal Labour Board has now scheduled a recognition election on this week at the Arneses y Accesorios de México plants in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila which produce wire harnesses for Ford and other US automotive companies.

The plants are owned by a Finnish company (who recognise unions in their home country) PKC, a subsidiary of Motherson Sumi Systems Ltd. (MSSL) which is part of the Samvardhana Motherson Group. Most workers make around $50 per week.

Los Mineros are challenging the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM – a ‘protection’ or yellow union) for representation. 6,000 PKC workers have been fighting to establish an independent union for over ten years.

In 2011, PKC signed a contract with the CTM without the knowledge or participation of the workers.  In 2012, Los Mineros lost a union recognition vote by 2509 – 2311 in an election marked by PKC’s interference and intimidation in the election and sacking union activists in retaliation for their union activities.

Los Mineros filed a legal demand for a new election in  2012 but the Federal Labour Board used procedural objections to delay the workers’ right to choose their representative for more than six years.

The company fired Los Mineros leaders in the plant, including the workers who had acted as union observers during the election.

Ten union leaders complained that they had been unjustly dismissed with the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board who ordered the re-instatement of four union officials in 2915. The company appealed, but the Board again issued a decision in 2016 ordering that the workers be reinstated.

The workers went to the plant entrance accompanied by an official from the Labour Board, but the company refused to allow them to return. In 2017, the Labour Board issued an order threatening to arrest the company’s legal representative if the workers were not reinstated. The Company ignored the order, and the Board took no action!

PKC has continued an aggressive anti-union campaign, aided by the media and the CTM union (which holds 55 protection contracts in automotive companies in the region).

The company has given complete access to the workplaces  to paid CTM “delegates”; excluded Los Mineros from the property; allowed distribution of anti-union materials; offered incentives to workers who oppose Los Mineros; backed a social media campaign “Save Arneses (the company) and Acuña (the town)” which repeats threats that the plants will close if the workers vote for Los Mineros.

PKC’s campaign violates the Federal Labour Law, which makes it illegal for an employer to “intervene in any form in the internal regime of the union, impede its formation of the development of union activity through implicitly or explicitly reprisals against the workers”.

The fact that the current government is calling elections at the last minute shows its determination to try to weaken independent unions before the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as President this weekend.

AMLO is already planning to establish independent labour courts, and to combat employer domination of unions by guaranteeing workers’ right to vote on their collective bargaining agreements as well as reforming procedures for union elections and stopping the collusion of employers, and government officials.

This is the only way to ensure independent unions such as Los Mineros and Mexican workers can win justice in the workplace – and it can’t come soon enough.

Los Mineros (Mexico) along with Unite the Union (UK & Ireland) and the United Steelworkers (USA & Canada) form the global trade union Workers Uniting.

This article appeared in the Morning Star, Latin America 2018 supplement on December 1st

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Labour Must Hold Their Nerve And Vote Down May’s Bad Brexit Deal

Unite’s Len McCluskey

“We can’t be bounced into a bad Brexit – the idea that the only choice is between this deal or no deal is preposterous and an insult to the country” says Unite’s Len McCluskey

“Last week, the Brexit drama became a full-blown crisis.

Anxiety is growing throughout industry over the continuing confusion and uncertainty over the terms of Brexit, and the possibility that Britain might end up leaving the European Union without a deal at all. Political posturing costs people’s jobs, including those of Unite members, who I am determined to protect above all.

But we must be clear – we can’t be bounced into a bad Brexit.  Theresa May’s plan addresses none of the concerns about Brexit and mitigates none of the risks.  It only answers the question as to how low a common denominator can go.

The idea that the only choice is between this bad deal or no deal is preposterous and an insult to the country.  It is an argument that appeals only to her ungovernable Party, which has dragged the country to the brink.

That is why, although 52 per cent of the public voted for Brexit in 2016, only 27 per cent back the Conservative deal on offer today, according to Survation.

The Prime Minister is disingenuous in saying she is carrying out the people’s wishes.  The 52 per cent who voted leave did so for two main reasons.  Firstly, a feeling of being left behind, forgotten in towns and cities blighted by a lack of investment.  Secondly, because greedy bosses have been allowed to abuse migrant workers and undercut pay and conditions creating a race to the bottom culture.

Her government has no answers on these issues and this deal offers nothing to the 48 per cent, also seeking long-term job security and investment and good and friendly relations with Europe.

If the Prime Minister would only stop listening to the hard-line rump on her own backbenches, she would realise that there is a different deal available.  That it is perfectly possible to secure a natural majority in parliament for leaving the European Union, as the British people mandated in June 2016 but in a way that unites the nation.

She needs to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn and forget about Jacob Rees-Mogg and her disloyal cabinet.  She needs to actually listen to trade union concerns, rather than pretending to do so. Jeremy Corbyn extended the possibility of agreement in his Party Conference speech in September. Now is the time to take up the offer.

In short, Mrs May needs to act as a national leader and not as a party manager. If she did, she could draw on the goodwill of all those who believe democratic votes must be respected and who understand her difficulties in trying  to negotiate with the EU while manacled to the madhouse that is the Conservative Party in parliament.

The deal that can fly means a permanent customs union – a move which would at a stroke allay many of the fears for jobs.

It means entrenching the workers’ rights mandated by the EU which would be at risk from the hard-right hatchet-men of the Tory fringe.

It would offer stable long-term guarantees to Northern Ireland over the border, protecting the historic Good Friday agreement that too many are irresponsibly prepared to play ducks-and-drakes with.  And it would secure our sovereignty and our right to set our own migration policy, most importantly, based on proper labour market protections for all workers.

This deal does none of those things.  A shambolic negotiation has resulted in a shambolic deal, which offers Britain no control over its laws, money or borders. At best it offers temporary commitments which mean nothing to those making long-term investment decisions.  Businesses sent out to bat for this deal now should understand that this is little more than 21 months more of peering over the cliff-edge.  It is not the certainty that you are being sold.

There are no protections for workers’ rights, no barrier-free market access guarantees. It leaves Britain locked into arrangements we cannot exit from except with the other parties’ permission, a circumstance none of us would accept in any area of our lives.

I doubt Mrs May will take up the path offered by Corbyn seeking what is right for our nations – MPs should, therefore, hold their nerve, act for the people and vote down her plan. She must, in such circumstances, recognise she has lost the authority to govern and resign.

Parliament would do well to then endorse Labour’s honourable and sensible Brexit plan which, I believe, the EU would also accept, although I fear that the destructive factionalism of the Tory Party will prevent this.

With a new Tory leader and prime minister there would be an moral imperative to have a real people’s vote in a General Election, when the British people could restore the credibility of government by electing Labour – the only party capable of delivering Brexit for both the 52 per cent and the 48 per cent.

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BREAKING: Unite Reps Briefing: Opposing Blindfold Brexit

Unite’s Len McCluskey

Issued to Unite the Union workplace reps November 16th

Unite Reps Briefing: Opposing Blindfold Brexit

Unite the Union is calling on MPs to reject the Government’s Withdrawal Deal if it is put before Parliament.

“Be in no doubt, limited in aim and vague in detail, this deal fails our tests. It is not in the interests of working people, it is only in the interest of Theresa May’s survival in front of a divided party.

“Unite utterly opposes the false choice of a bad deal versus no deal. We have an alternative which would respect the 2016 referendum, offer permanent security for jobs and working rights, and command the support of a Parliamentary majority.

“Rather than setting out a real vision for what the future EU-UK relationship should be, the Tory deal seeks to rush us out of the door with no agreement in place. The government are asking us to don the blindfold and take a leap of faith. That is unacceptable.

“We must not be blackmailed into supporting a bad deal. We must hold our nerve. This vote raises the prospect of the general election our country desperately needs. To that end Unite calls on Labour MPs to vote this deal down.”
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary

Summary:
Unite is calling on all MPs to oppose the Withdrawal Deal, which is in two parts.

The Withdrawal Agreement:

Fails to meet the red lines set by Unite, the Labour Party and the TUC.
Fails to deliver a permanent customs union, vital for investment and job security.
Fails to guarantee no hard border in Ireland on a permanent basis.

The future framework:

Is a vague, non-binding declaration. It is not a framework for a future trade deal.
It utterly omits protections for workers’ rights and barrier-free access to the Single Market two of the fundamental tests any deal must be judged against. (See Unite’s test below)
This blindfold Brexit is a leap into the unknown. It prolongs the job-threatening uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with Europe.

The false choice of a harmful Tory deal and no deal is a political trap. If the Government cannot table a deal which meets the tests our movement has adopted a General Election becomes a real prospect.

The Withdrawal Agreement:

Having failed to negotiate both a withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future UK-EU trading relationship, this Government’s ‘deal’ only covers the divorce proceedings, namely the so-called £39 billion divorce bill, citizens’ rights, the Northern Irish backstop and the transitional period.
A UK-wide backstop does not amount to the permanent customs union needed to defend thousands of jobs in industry and agriculture and prevent a hard border in Ireland.
Theresa May has said: “The point about the backstop is it may never be used. It only comes in if, for technical reasons, the agreed end-state customs arrangement has not been possible to put in place.”
A backstop which may never be used and fails to match the offer made by Jeremy Corbyn in the Leader’s speech at Labour Conference to support a deal which includes a full customs union.

What is Blindfold Brexit?

Rather than a full framework setting out the terms to be implemented the deal will be accompanied by a non-binding political declaration.
This is intended to buy May’s government time and defer the political decision about the future trade deal until after the UK has left the EU in March.
The withdrawal agreement and political declaration, taken together as the ‘deal,’ provides no answer to the issues raised by the 2016 referendum.

The Unite Tests:

In line with the principles supported by our 2018 policy conference Unite is clear that any Brexit deal must:

Deliver barrier-free access to the Single Market to ensure ongoing exchange of the goods and services which thousands of our members’ jobs rely on.
Secure a customs union with the European Union.
Enshrine and enhance working rights, social and environmental protections which are currently based in EU law. These must be transferred into UK law through primary legislation, open and democratically.
Not undermine the Good Friday Agreement or the economic integrity of the island of Ireland. There must be no hard border between the Republic and the north.
Grant the immediate and guaranteed right to remainfor European citizens in the UK and their dependents and secure the rights of UK citizens working in other EU countries.
Retain membership of beneficial European-level institutions or regulatory bodies which are vital to our industrial sectors such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ECHA (REACH) and Euratom.

Contact:
For more information from Unite on any of these issues contact:
Ben Norman, Unite Researcher, Unite the Union
E: brexitcheck@unitetheunion.org

Len McCluskey
Unite general secretary

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Brazilian Presidential Election: Unions Say The The Fight Goes On!

Official note from the Unified Workers’ Central [CUT] note on the outcome of the 2018 elections in Brazil

Posted: October 29, 2018 – 11h33 | Last modified: October 29, 2018 – 11:58

The Executive Directorate of the CUT, in view of the official outcome of the presidential elections, approved the following note, which should be widely disseminated to all workers on the basis of each of the affiliated unions.

The majority of Brazilian voters have just handed over the presidency of the Republic to someone who, during his political career, has always voted against the rights of the working class, opposed social policies, voted in favor of freezing investments in health and education, supported the delivery of the pre-salt and oil reserves to foreigners, offended and threatened left-wing activists, women, blacks and LGBT people. However, almost half of the population voted against the project that will lead Brazil backwards in terms of politics and civilization.

Throughout the campaign, the media were used daily to attack the popular candidacy. Bosses pressured their employees with all kinds of threats. The name of God was used in vain. The social networks were flooded with lies, in an articulated strategy paid by companies with the objective of defaming the Workers’ Party (PT) and its candidate, Fernando Haddad. The judicial system, in addition to arbitrarily blocking Lula’s candidacy, manifested weakness and connivance by not punishing those who openly threatened the institutions or committed electoral crimes. Impunity has contributed to the increase in acts of intimidation and violence against PT voters and to the growing climate of hatred that has divided the country.

Those who think they would destroy our capacity for resistance and struggle are deceived. The PT emerged stronger from this process as the main force of opposition to the neoliberal and neo-fascist government. The CUT and social movements have also strengthened. Lula and Haddad consolidated themselves as the great leaders in the popular-democratic field. The CUT will keep the working class together, preparing it for the struggle in the streets, in the workplaces, in the factories and in the countryside against the withdrawal of rights and in defense of democracy.

The government that will take office on January 1, 2019 will try to deepen the neoliberal program that has been under way since the coup against President Dilma: pension reform, withdrawal of more rights, continuation of privatizations, rising unemployment , wage cuts, rising costs of living, worsening education and health, increasing violence and insecurity. In addition, it will try to persecute and repress the trade union movement, social movements, as well as the democratic and popular sectors in general.

We have a huge challenge ahead of us. It is time for unity of the democratic-popular forces to resist. The CUT will continue its trajectory of struggle and call for its bases to remain mobilized and to resist any attack against rights and democracy.

Long live the Brazilian working class!

Free Lula!

Vagner Freitas – President of CUT

Spanish version – click here

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Canada Must Investigate Labour and Environmental Violations Committed by Candian Companies In Mexico

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Save Jobs At Cammell Lairds

Sign the petition to help save jobs in shipbuilding in the UK.

Cammell Lairds has just won £619million’s worth of contracts to build the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Ships, but in stead of reassuring their workforce, they have decided to propose 291 redundancies with the first taking place, just weeks before Christmas.

We need to be turning the tide on casualisation, we believe it is not acceptable that companies like Peel Ports who have a controlling stake in Cammell Lairds, can take such aggressive steps to maximize profits.

Please sign the petition – you can cut and paste the url.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-jobs-at-cammell-lairds?source=twitter-share-button

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Updated: Emphatic victory for Unite as union regulator declares no breach in union’s election

Unite’s Len McCluskey – emphatic victory on election complaints.

The Certification Officer, (the regulator for the UK’s trades unions), announced on 5th October that there was no breach of rules during the 2017 union-wide election for the post of General Secretary of Unite the union, (the UK’s biggest trade union) won by Len McCluskey.

The Certification Officer dismissed every charge brought against the union by Gerard Coyne former Regional Secretary of Unite in the West Midlands and a member of his campaign Richard Brooks.

The decision, on behalf of the Certification Officer, has been given by former high court judge Jeffrey Burke QC after a week-long hearing.

Responding on behalf of Unite the union to the decision Unite’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, (who acted as general secretary during the election), said:  “Today’s decision is the correct one.  Every charge brought against our union by Gerard Coyne and his campaign has been dismissed and shown to be misconceived, underscoring once again that our election was, as we have always said, conducted freely and fairly. 

“This is an emphatic ruling that ought to draw a line under matters once and for all, allowing this union to do what it does best, defend the interests of its members.

“This judgment is, however, also a damning indictment of the Coyne campaign.  Our union is particularly pleased that it has been vindicated over the Unite Herald, a disgraceful publication produced by the Gerard Coyne campaign, using the good name of this union to misinform and mislead our members.

“This publication defined the Coyne campaign; it was never about doing the best by our union and its members but was politically motivated, filing empty complaints designed to pollute opinion of our union. It is a matter of much regret that this diverted considerable union time and resources when our member face the unprecedented challenges of Brexit, automation and the rise of insecure work. 

“During the course of the hearing we also learned that Gerard Coyne had obtained access to the data of in excess of half a million Unite members, donated free of charge by a company called Black Swan, a calculated intrusion into the private details of our members. 

“This organised effort by external reactionary forces to interfere in Unite’s democracy has predictably failed.  Those who have attempted to smear this organisation for their own ends should hang their heads in shame. 

“Gerard Coyne and his supporters should reflect upon whether the manner in which they have conducted themselves reflects the values of our members and whether they have any place in our movement.”

Jeffrey Burke QC is expected to publish his full response to the 10 complaints publicly on Wednesday 10th October according to The Independent. The Guardian also reports: ‘The watchdog criticised aspects of Coyne’s campaign which it found included “misleading” information in some of the literature”.

Channel 4 reporter, journalist and broadcaster Michael Crick tweeted: “Len McCluskey tells me on Certification Officer’s dismissing of all Gerard Coyne’s complaints: “My phone has not stopped ringing. Texts & emails are flooding in. People were disgusted with the type of campaign that Coyne ran. That has now been confined to the dustbin of history.”

 

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Frances O’Grady’s Speech At The Jimmy Reid Foundation Memorial Lecture, 27th September 2018

Frances O’Grady, TUCs General Secretary

Frances O’Grady was introduced by Lynn Henderson, the vice-chair of the project board of the Foundation. Lynn is also this year’s STUC President and a longstanding national officer of the PCS union. Lynn was preceded by a welcome from the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander. The Jimmy Reid Foundation wishes to thank Glasgow City Council for facilitating the lecture in the Banqueting Hall in the City Chambers and to the numerous unions,  trade union solicitors and other progressive organisations for sponsoring the published programme of the lecture.

“A future after Brexit? Unions and the Scandinavian model of social democracy”

Lynn, Lord Provost, friends . . . comrades.

The phrase “working-class hero” has become something of a cliché. Used and, sometimes, abused.

But tonight, we remember someone worthy of the title.

Jimmy Reid was certainly working-class. He was born in Glasgow and left school at 14.

His father was in and out of work.

One of seven children, three of his siblings died in infancy.

And, as was the way for many of his generation, he was self-educated.

Once, when a somewhat pompous academic asked him which university he’d studied at, quick as a flash, Jimmy replied: “Govan library”.

And for millions of people, Jimmy was also a hero. Not least for the shipyard workers, whose livelihoods and communities he did so much to save.

An engineer by trade, Jimmy was a union organiser by vocation.

And his cause was human dignity: standing up for people facing everyday humiliations and petty tyrannies; borne of an economy rigged in favour of the few.

He was from the school of trades unionism that spoke the language of morality.

And he had faith in working people’s ability to shape our own future.

You could say that Jimmy was the trade union movement’s Steve Biko.

Raising consciousness. Instilling class pride. Building self belief.

For Jimmy, class struggle wasn’t just a matter for theoretical debate. It was about how we live our lives.

Fighting for our rights, yes. But also encouraging each other. Looking after each other. Friendship, love and compassion.

As a French socialist once said: the brain works on both sides of the body. But the heart – the heart –  beats only on the left.

The work-in was a case in point.

Jimmy Reid addresses workers at UCS during the work in.

A magnificent rebuke to the bosses’ age-old tactic of a lock-out.

And an industrial tactic of immense intelligence and imagination, for which, of course, Jimmy Airlie deserves great credit too.

But it was also about an appeal to fellow human feeling.

Solidarity.

And the world was watching.

During the dispute, the situation became so serious that Ted Heath’s press secretary urged him to abandon his yacht race and return to number ten, as he said, “at great inconvenience”.

In fact, he urged the Prime Minister to do so, and I quote, at great “demonstrable” inconvenience. An early example of political spin.

But the public was unimpressed by the grandiose sailor’s sacrifice.

On the contrary, the work-in inspired support for the shipyard workers, far and wide.

And from all walks of life.

At one point, a cheque for £5,000 arrived simply signed “Lennon”. One shop steward remarked: “It canna be Lenin – Vladimir’s dead”.

It was, of course, from John Lennon.

In the trade union movement, Jimmy’s life and times still inspire us.

And that’s why it’s a such huge honour to be here in George Square, in the presence of Jimmy’s family, to deliver this lecture.

And doubly so in a year when the TUC celebrates its 150th birthday.

So I’d like to thank the Jimmy Reid Foundation, for inviting me.

The City Council, for kindly hosting this event.

And all of you, for coming along tonight.

I’m hoping that, in Jimmy’s words, they’ll be no hooliganism or vandalism.

But perhaps, later on, we’ll enjoy some bevvying.

Tonight I want to talk about how we can draw on Jimmy’s spirit and insights to win justice for working people.

But I should warn you that this won’t be an exercise in nostalgia.

I believe that would be a disservice to the memory of a man who was so far sighted.

And to the new generation of workers who need unions to solve the problems of today, not yesterday.

Including, those brave strikers at McDonalds and TGI Fridays;

Those leading the brilliant Better than Zero campaign here in Scotland;

And the hundreds of low-paid young workers, helping the TUC to test out new digital models of organising across the UK.

Because, of course, capitalism has changed from the model of forty years ago; When huge swathes of the workforce were employed in heavy industries.

That means we must change too.

Just a decade ago, the Lehman Brothers crash exposed the neglect of the real economy and the consequences of the financialisation of capital.

But now it’s changed again.

Today, corporate wealth lists are dominated by tech giants like Amazon and Apple.

Multinational companies that respect no borders and salute no flags.

Accelerating the speed of globalisation.

Combining corporate, social and digital power on an unprecedented scale.

And heralding a period of major disruption – industrially, politically and at work.

Jimmy famously spoke of how we are not rats.

Perhaps today we need to assert that we are not robots.

Except that, in my experience as a trade unionist, robots get much better care and maintenance than many workers do.

So let’s say, we refuse to be slaves to an app.

Like Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders.

Or Amazon’s mechanical turks.

Not just alienated but atomised.

The ultimate flexible workforce.

Working tiny bits of time for tiny bits of pay.

….And, our challenge, brothers and sisters, is to organise them.

So, I want to focus on prospects for the new working class and the future of work.

But first I need to say something about the B- word. Brexit.

Because just over 180 days from now, Britain is due to leave the EU.

The greatest peacetime challenge we have ever faced.

And it’s one almighty mess.

While the TUC campaigned hard for a Remain vote, we respect the referendum result to leave the EU.

As always, now our task is to unite workers. And that’s true, whichever way they voted.

So the TUC has argued for a Brexit deal that puts working people first.

That secures the trade, investment and growth on which livelihoods depend.

That guarantees a level playing field on rights at work with our friends in Europe.

And one that safeguards peace and the Good Friday Agreement, that trade unionists on both sides of the Water, worked hard for together.

The TUC has looked at all the options and we believe that workers’ interests would be best served by what some call Norway plus the Customs Union.

Because, if we trade from outside, expensive red tape and tariffs will: hike prices, hit pay and hurt jobs.

Because it would avoid the current contortions over the border in Ireland.

And because, the safety net of rights we fought for, from consultation rights to holiday pay, can’t be unpicked by any Tory government, as long as we have to stick by single market rules.

If anyone’s got a better idea, then we’re open to ideas.

But, so far, we haven’t heard any.

And we reject the Hobson’s choice of a bad deal or no deal. If Mrs May’s proposals would hit working people hard; Boris Johnson’s no deal nonsense could break us.

And even if Brussels agreed Mrs May’s withdrawal proposals, it’s unclear whether Westminster will.

As we all know,  the governing party in Westminster is at war with itself.

Many Conservatives seem more interested in who’s going to get their own top job, than saving anyone else’s.

So it seems a little unfair for Mrs May to accuse Brussels of showing her no respect, when her own colleagues have made no secret of the fact that they’re busy collecting signatures to dump her.

Meanwhile, many people are watching this spectacle with dismay. They’re worried about their own livelihoods, and in particular, job prospects for their kids.

It’s little comfort that the Prime Minister finally understands what it’s like to be on a zero hours contract.

The hard Brexiteers on the back benches are ready to pounce.

The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg.

I confess that, in the past, I’ve likened them to Lord Snooty and his pals from The Beano.

But they are not just harmless English eccentrics.

What the hard Brexiteers really want is a low-tax, low-regulation, free-for all.

Carving up our NHS and weakening workers’ rights.

A dose of capitalist creative destruction.

Shock and awe.

All under the guise of shaking up an Establishment, of which they are the top brass.

These are dangerous times.

And the rise of right wing nationalism should worry all democrats.

Inspired by Trump in the West and Putin in the East, across Europe, the new far right is gaining traction.

President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon has set up office in Brussels.

And the far right’s campaign strategies are getting more sophisticated.

Their anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message mobilises thousands on the streets, but millions more online.

They have big money and are globally networked.

Grooming right-wing politicians in mainstream political parties.

Targeting blue collar workers who are rightly angry about an economic system that is failing them.

And using Brexit as an opportunity to destabilise a model that, while far from perfect, has kept the peace in Europe for nearly seventy years.

So as we count down to March next year, the stakes could not be higher.

Not least here in Scotland, where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to remain in the EU.

And where communities that are already struggling will pay the highest price.

Like the TUC, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has rightly called for an extension to Article 50.

To give us a chance to negotiate a deal on new terms. A deal that protects jobs, rights and peace in Ireland.

But the truth is most people don’t trust the Westminster government to get that deal.

And we’re running out of road.

So I have been taking the same message to all politicians.

This is not the time to keep your head down.

We need to hear more voices speaking up for working people, wherever they live.

I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will join me in putting the Prime Minister on notice.

And warn Mrs May that if we don’t get the terms working people need, we will mobilise for a popular vote on the final deal.

People deserve the final say.

After all, trade unionists are required to put the outcome of a negotiation to a ballot of members.

Why shouldn’t the Conservative government have to put the terms of their deal to the vote too.

But whatever happens with Brexit, we must all get to grips with the way he world of work is changing.

A capitalism which is more global, more mobile and more ruthless than ever before.

But also more digital too, reshaping power, politics and work in profound ways.

In the late twentieth century, finance capital called the shots.

Markets were deregulated. Banks began to gamble. Private equity, hedge funds and shadow banking became more powerful.

Trillions of pounds could be moved at the flick of a switch. Financial investments began to crowd out productive investment. And exotic new derivatives products were invented.

As workers’ bargaining power was attacked, cheap debt took the place of wages as a driver of growth. And the inevitable result was the meltdown of 2008.

But today’s capitalism is different.

The new masters of the universe make their money from information.

Data is the new oil.

And, by the way those companies are taking much of that data from us, for free.

The tech giants’ ambition is not just to drive down wages and drive up profits, but to redefine work itself.

As adept at sidestepping labour standards as they are at avoiding tax, they are uprooting the lives of millions of workers.

Reducing employment to a digital platform. Replacing jobs with gigs. And in the process, stripping out even our most basic rights.

Uber is a transport firm but owns no vehicles and employs no drivers.

Amazon likes to call its warehouses ‘fulfilment centres’. But it tags staff like cattle. To time and track workers too afraid to take sick leave, or even a toilet break.

And Deliveroo has ordained that its digital army of riders are self employed. So there’s no right to the minimum wage, no right to holiday pay and no right to be accompanied by a union rep.

Workers without a workplace. Hired and fired by smart phone. No boss to negotiate with. On the go for twelve hour shifts. Relying on food banks to feed their children and loan sharks to get through the week.

Britain today.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Artificial intelligence, automation and algorithms will transform work.

The Bank of England tells us that 15 million jobs could be vulnerable to new technology.

Not just the likes of cooking, cleaning and driving.

But white collar and professional jobs too.

And the Westminster government’s message?

Be grateful for having a job. Any job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to do things differently.

And forge a fair transition from the old world to the new.

Jimmy Reid famously challenged “the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable”.

And that must be our guiding principle now.

Of course, there are threats ahead.

Some jobs will go. Some will be created. Many more will change.

The idea that steel workers will move seamlessly into jobs as software engineers won’t wash.

But we could set ourselves a positive goal.

To replace mind numbing, monotonous, soul destroying work.

With better paid, more skilled, more satisfying jobs.

There is plenty of good work that society needs to be done, involving skills that can’t be replaced by tech.

Creativity and care are just two examples.

That’s why the TUC has argued for a commission on future of work, bringing governments, employers and unions to the table, to plan a fair transition.

Scotland could lead the way.

Looking at how to invest in and deploy the new technologies, so we upgrade firms and skills.

And, when it comes to the predicted multi-billion pound productivity gains: to figure out how workers – and our public services – get fair shares.

I contend that the promised gains from technological change should mean more time for ourselves and our families .

Something that feels all the more important in a week when we’ve learned that nearly a quarter of  young girls are harming themselves.

And that, every year, the same proportion of adults suffer from a mental health problem.

No doubt the causes are complex.

But the twenty-first century sickness of anxiety, stress and low self-esteem is spreading.

Families need more time together,

But with the cost of childcare rising three times faster than wages, many parents only manage by working back to back shifts.

When they get home, they’re exhausted.

Job intensity, impossible workloads, and the lack of any sense of a voice, or control over our working lives are all taking their toll.

At our 150th Congress, I said that if the big victory of the last century had been a two day weekend, then surely this century we should lift our sights to a four day week.

As Jimmy Reid argued (and I quote):

“If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession”.

How the tech revolution pans out in the future is all about the choices we make now.

We’ve got nothing to fear if it’s matched with a revolution in skills, workplace rights and social protections.

If we revitalise and spread collective bargaining, so the gains are not just grabbed by the greedy.

If we make sure that tech poor towns and communities are included.

If we agree to prioritise the common good.

Instead of enslavement, tech could be a force for liberation.

For better work and richer lives.

And this takes me onto our third priority.

And an alternative vision for the future.

The digital capitalists have got theirs.

The right-wing populists have got theirs.

It’s about time we spoke up for ours.

Now when I was invited to deliver this lecture, I was asked to talk about unions and Scandinavian social democracy.

And at a time when the hard Brexiteers want to drive us towards aping Trump’s America, there’s a compelling case for instead looking across the North Sea.

If the only choice we faced was between Trump-style populism or Nordic social democracy, then there’d be no contest.

It’s easy to see the attraction of Scandinavian social democracy.

In its different manifestations, it’s been more resilient than other models.

Sweden’s welfare state shows that with fair taxation you can deliver world-class childcare and social care.

Denmark guarantees a high minimum wage and more generous unemployment benefit, providing security for the low-paid and those without work.

And Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, built up from North Sea reserves, has become the world’s richest pension fund.

Contrast that with how Margaret Thatcher squandered our North Sea windfall paying for mass unemployment and tax cuts for the rich.

Not surprisingly, the Nordics are still near the top of the world rankings for happiness, openness, education and gender equality.

I remember many years ago when I was pregnant campaigning for the UK to sign up to the EU directive on better paid maternity leave.

I wore a badge carrying the slogan ‘I’d rather have a baby in Norway’.

Because women were granted nearly twelve months of paid maternity leave.

And whole cities were designed and planned around the needs of children.

Moreover, it was taken for granted that a good society needed active citizens.

And, that the great majority of working people should be protected by collective bargaining.

So yes, post-Brexit Britain could do a lot worse than go Scandinavian.

But we must recognise that the world has changed: and social democracy – even Scandinavian style – is under pressure.

Since the crash, many social democratic parties have tanked at the ballot box.

In France, the Socialists attracted just 6 per cent of voters in last year’s Presidential elections.

In Germany, the latest polls show the SPD is only one point behind the neo fascist AFD.

And in Denmark, it pains me to say that, on immigration, the social democrats’ rhetoric seems to be trying to outflank that of the right.

Blaming the victims of poverty for so-called ghettoes. Scapegoating migrants for society’s ills.

But as the Labour Party has shown, there is an alternative.

For all its difficulties, Labour has reinvented itself by moving decisively to the left.

Yes, didn’t win the 2017 general election. And yes, it has its work cut out to inspire the same confidence and hope in blue collar heartlands, that it has inspired among the young.

But having started the campaign with 27% support, by Election Day four in ten people cast their vote for a party with a red-blooded popular programme.

Can Labour get over the 45% line by appealing to blue collar aspirations, as well as middle-class insecurity? It won’t be easy but it can be done.

Now Jimmy Reid was a supporter of Scottish independence, and it’s not my intention to use this platform to wade into that debate. Nor is it my place.

Scotland’s future is a matter for the Scottish people.

Likewise the question about whether the SNP is a genuinely social democratic party.

And the broader issue of whether, whatever it’s political hue, a coalition based on nationalism can hold.

But I am a trade unionist.

And I still hold with Mick McGahey’s view that workers here in Scotland will always have more in common with workers in London, Durham or Sheffield, than with ‘Scottish barons or traitor landlords’.

Capitalism knows no borders, and neither should organised labour.

We need a new socialist politics, strong enough to reverse the obscene shift of wealth and power into ever fewer hands.

After all, workers create the wealth. And they deserve a fair share of it.

Economic justice is the only way to build a strong society.

More equal, more welcoming, more humane.

Investing in schools and hospitals, building council homes, strengthening pride in our communities.

Taking strategically important industries like our railways and the post back where they belong, into public ownership.

And making the rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.

(And, I might add, certainly not giving the likes of Amazon tax breaks, when they rip off workers and refuse to recognise a union.)

As Jimmy Reid rightly identified, alienation – “the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making” – remains one of our biggest challenges.

As he saw it, the untapped resources of the North Sea were nothing, compared to the untapped resources of people.

For Jimmy, political democracy had to be matched with industrial democracy. He argued that: “Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision making by the people for the people.”

And he was right.

In my view, democracy should not stop at the workplace door.

Every worker should have the right to a collective voice through a union.

Employers should have an obligation to collectively bargain with us.

And our voice should be heard at every level, up to and including the boardroom.

For inspiration, we should be guided by what drove Jimmy Reid throughout his life: human dignity.

The dignity of doing a good job, fairly rewarded. Of being respected at work and in society. Of having somewhere decent to live.

And of knowing that from cradle to grave, good public services will be there when you need them.

That’s the dignity that inspired Jimmy Reid, that inspires me, that continues to inspire millions of trade unionists today.

Jimmy’s political affiliations may have changed – from Communist Party to Labour to the SNP. But his values stayed true.

As the former Labour MP Brian Wilson wrote: “Few individuals in the political or trade union arena over the past century have raised so many spirits, challenged so many assumptions or offered more vivid glimpses of a different social order”.

The best way we can honour Jimmy’s memory is to fight for the future.

As the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in showed, we can achieve great things together.

It’s no coincidence that UCS came to stand for “unity creates strength.”

And whether it’s the rise of the right or the rise of the robots, we need that same sense of solidarity now.

A new class politics. A new shared identity. A new humane socialism.

Frances’ lecture was covered in the Morning Star

 

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Posted in Economics, European Trade Unions, Labour Party, Media, Politics, Solidarity, The Digital Economy and Unions, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union | 1 Comment