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By Marty Warren is United Steelworkers Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, representing 74,000 working people.
With all the publicity focused on the Beer Store in recent weeks, there is another beer story with profound implications that has received little media coverage.
Crown Metal Packaging employees in Toronto, who make cans for all the major beer companies and many craft brewers, have entered the 17th month of a forced strike.
These 120 workers have endured a level of hardship and malice from their employer that they could not have anticipated nearly two years ago as they prepared to negotiate a new collective agreement.
U.S. based Crown had just given its Toronto employees a corporate award for operating the most productive and safest plant in its North American manufacturing empire. Crown almost doubled its profits in 2012, results for which the corporation’s CEO enjoyed a $12-million annual compensation package — getting paid more for two days’ work than his highly productive Toronto employees were earning over an entire year.
There was every reason for the Toronto employees to expect contract negotiations would go smoothly when the parties headed to the bargaining table in 2013. Instead, Crown demanded massive, take-it-or-leave-it concessions, including up to 42-per-cent wage cuts for a new generation of workers.
Crown forced its award-winning employees, including many long-serving and second- and third-generation workers, onto the horns of a dilemma. They could continue working and accept Crown’s draconian demands, including a two-tier, low-wage workplace that would eradicate decent jobs for young people. Or, at great personal sacrifice, they could take to the picket line and stand up for the next generation.
The strike began in September 2013. More than 16 months later, the workers and their families are mired in a dispute that could impact the future of labour relations in Ontario for years to come.
Crown has attempted to break the strike by recruiting replacement workers to operate the Toronto plant. It has also made new, objectionable proposals to the striking employees, most notably replacing many of them even if a settlement is negotiated.
In other words, many of the workers would have to agree to give away their jobs as a condition to settle the labour dispute.
Aside from the Toronto families directly affected by this dispute, the outcome may have a profound impact throughout Ontario.
The Toronto workers would argue the provincial government, by virtually ignoring their plight, is tacitly condoning, if not encouraging employers to provoke strikes, recruit replacement workers to prolong the disputes and ultimately replace longstanding employees as a condition of settlement.
This approach has been used often by powerful corporations against workers in the United States. If U.S.-based Crown, one of the world’s largest can manufacturers, is bringing this agenda to Ontario, it appears not to faze Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Crown workers and more than 1,200 of their supporters sent letters to Wynne, looking for some kind of support, but the premier did not respond.
Political support and progressive policies from our elected leaders are needed to defend working families from U.S.-style attacks on decent jobs.
Meanwhile, the striking Toronto workers are receiving widespread public support in communities throughout Ontario and across Canada.
Thousands of consumers have joined a growing boycott of beer sold in cans that Crown continues to produce for the major brewers. The boycott received a tremendous response when it was launched in December with leafleting of beer and liquor stores across Ontario. Similar actions are planned in coming days and weeks, including on January 24th.
The Bottles Not Cans boycott, supported by the Ontario Federation of Labour, asks consumers to buy their beer in bottles, not in cans produced by Crown. The message is simple — to urge a profitable U.S. corporation to deal fairly with Toronto workers who contributed to that success.
By Eyup Ozer, Birleşik Metal-İş
Negotiations between Birleşik Metal-İş union and Metal Employers’ Association (MESS) during the “group collective bargaining agreement” (*) for 2014 – 2016 term broke down because of impositions of the employers organization.
This will result with an historic strike in the metal sector covering around 15,000 workers in 42 companies commencing on January 29th and will hit several multinationals such as Schneider, Alstom, Mahle, Aperam, ABB, BOSAL, BEKAERT, Delphi Automotive, Federal Mogul, Prysmian, Isuzu, Candy Group, S.C.M. (Sistemi Commandi Mechanici)
Birleşik Metal-İş, say their most important demands are improvements for low waged workers because in metal sector in Turkey, there is a huge gap between workers who are doing the same job. That’s why, the union asked for a general improvement for low waged workers.
But instead of doing this, MESS (Metal Employers’ Organization) widened this gap with the agreements signed with other unions. Also additional to this, they extended the duration of the collective bargaining agreement to 3 years from 2 years which will create more impoverishment for metal workers.
MESS imposed metal group collective bargaining agreements which determines starting wages for new workers only slightly above the statutory minimum wage. For example, with the agreements which were signed, the hourly net wage for a new starting worker will be 5,80 TLs for an hour, but on July the hourly minimum wage will be 5,66.
So for a worker who will start the work on July and became a union member then if you deduct the union membership fee, the net ammount which this worker will receive, will be even less then the statutory minimum wage.
Birlesik Metal Is union will not accept these. That’s why, our union organized a general assembly on January 10th with all the shop-stewards from these workplaces and the decision of that assembly was to go on strike in these companies starting by January 29th, 2015.
In Turkey, strikes have to go on until there is an agreement otherwise the union will loose its ‘competency’ so the strike will go on until there is an agreement.
It will start on January 29th January – nobody knows when it will end. It will be a tough process and two other metal unions already signed this agreement and it will make it more difficult and there is a difficult winter in Turkey, but Birlesik Metal Is members are determined to end this system of impositions and they will not accept the slavery conditions. But they will need international solidarity during their tough fight.
Please send your solidarity letters, messages, videos, photos etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have any questions you can contact us from 00905362059121
(* )In Turkey we have something called “group collective bargaining”, it is NOT a sectoral agreement it is a group of company agreements which are negotiated jointly for some number of workplaces between Metal Employers’ Union and unions in the sector.
Unite members who have been on strike at the famous jacket and clothing manufacturer J. Barbour & Sons in Gateshead will be returning to work after accepting a significantly improved offer following talks at Acas.
The dispute attracted media attention after a number of media personalities such as TV presenter Janet Street Porter and journalist/TV pundit Kevin Maguire published articles in support of the strikers.
Other national newspapers carried news item on the dispute highlighting the “unfriendly family policies” being forced onto the workforce.
The workforce were forced to take strike action following a company announcement that there would be forced changes to their contracts. Workers accepted a deal which sees substantial increases in pay and day shift working for those with family and caring responsibilities.
J Barbour and Son Ltd had given warehouse workers a ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum over changes that included the removal of the unsocial hours payment and the introduction of a requirement to work until 11 o’clock at night.
But after four days of strike action in December and one week into a four week stoppage, management agreed to talks at ACAS.
Commenting, Unite regional officer Fazia Huassain-Brown said: “A majority of members have accepted this improved offer which sees increases in pay and day shift working for those with family or caring responsibilities.
“This hard won outcome would not have been possible without the resolve of the workers who faced being sacked if they didn’t sign up to inferior contracts.
“They stood up in the face of an employer who sought to ride rough shod over their rights and won significant concessions.
“We trust that we can now move forward with the employer in a spirit of cooperation and ensure the Barbour brand continues to be a global success story.”
Unite branches and activists, along with overseas unions including the United Steelworkers and local Labour MPs rallied to support the workers sending messages of support and solidarity to the picket line.
The great dispute at News International newspapers in 1986-87 was one of the most dramatic industrial affairs of the last century and a turning point in the history of the British press.
Twenty-nine years later, St Bride Foundation is hosting an evening talk to discuss the events surrounding Murdoch’s actions and the impact it has had. St Bride Foundation was established in 1891, as the social, recreational and educational hub of the printing industry on Fleet Street. It is hence a fitting location for this event.
Greg Neale: Founding Editor of BBC History, Former historian for Newsnight, Centenary Fellow of Historical Association, former journalist for The Times, The Observer, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph.
Greg will be providing the audience with an overview of the dispute including its pre-history, the context in which it took place, as well as its controversial course. He will also discuss the multiple implications it had such as ‘the end of Fleet Street’ and press plurality, ultimately asking if Wapping was as revolutionary as its proponents thought.
Nicholas Jones: Journalist of over 40 years (inc. The Times, BBC Political and Union Affairs Correspondent), chronicling the news media’s relationship with politicians, trade unionists and other significant figures. Active campaigner for high journalistic standards and wide spread media ownership.
Nicholas will be discussing how Fleet Street became the next battle ground after the NUM’s defeat in the 1984/5 pit strike. More specifically, how the miners’ defeat paved the way for Murdoch, and how he was ready to seize the opportunity to take on the print unions.
This talk also coincides with The Wapping Dispute exhibition on at St Bride Foundation between 9th January and 13th February.
Tickets: Standard £10, Student £5, Friends of St Bride Foundation £5 Time: 7pm – 9pm
The majority of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are children and refugees living under siege. Access to fuel, water, energy and food is heavily restricted by the Occupation, and agricultural land is encroached by the Israeli free fire zones around the borders. Four in five people survive off humanitarian aid.But amid chronic levels of unemployment and hunger, agriculture in Gaza can provide a lifeline.
The Beit Lahia Plant Nursery was created to help the people of Gaza to increase their income and improve food security. The nursery was established through the MA’AN Development Center in Gaza with the proceeds of a previous TUC Aid appeal and financial support from APHEDA – a trade union solidarity support organisation in Australia.
Unfortunately, the Israeli aerial and naval bombardments and the land invasion caused extensive damage to the Beit Lahia plant nursery. Some 50,000 trees, saplings, and seedlings withered and died due to lack of irrigation during weeks of military offensive by the Israeli Army.
The losses include 1581 olive saplings, 869 poppy saplings, 44,300 tomatoes seedlings, and 12 citrus trees. On 21 July, the office of the MA’AN Development Centre was badly damaged when the Israeli military shelled and destroyed the residential apartment building opposite.
The TUC General Council deplored the attacks in their statement in July 2014.
A statement adopted at Congress in September committed the TUC to step up the campaign for a free Palestine.
How you can help the people in Gaza. Even if you can only give a little, it will still go a long way in bringing relief to them. For example,
- £10 would buy 10 pumpkin seedlings or 10 aubergine seedlings
- £15 would buy 10 olive saplings or 10 lemon saplings
- £20 would buy 10 tomato seedlings
- £30 would buy 10 melon seedlings
- The repairs to the offices would cost £4,500.
TUC Aid hopes to raise £15,000 through the appeal.
Donate online now at www.justgiving.com/TUC-Aid-gaza-nursery
Follow the links and you can pay via Paypal.
The warning came as the union announced that workers at J. Barbour and Son Ltd would be striking from Monday 5th January to Friday 30th January over forced changes to their contracts.
The changes include the removal of the unsocial hours payment and the introduction of a requirement to work until 11 o’clock at night.
The Gateshead company, which prides itself on ‘family values’, was accused by the union of being ‘anti-family’ with its sign or be sacked ultimatum.
Workers on less than the living wage, many with family and caring responsibilities, face being sacked if they don’t sign up to the new contracts by 30th January.
The three week strike follows a six day stoppage earlier in December and will see Unite members striking from 07:30 to 13:00 hours Monday to Friday from 5th January – 30th January.
Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: “Barbour’s sign or be sacked ultimatum is bullying and anti-family. Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage are the sole bread winner and have family or caring responsibilities.
“For a company that prides itself on ‘family values’ to seek to rail road through cuts and unsocial changes to their contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order.
“The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce nor the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies.
“Barbour management need to live up to the company’s ‘family friendly’ values and negotiate a fair deal for its workforce.”
Send messages of support and solidarity click here
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave workers a New Deal, raising wages and employment.
Earlier this month, in the sparsely populated Kentucky county that’s home to Bowling Green, officials voted to convert the place into a right-to-work (for less) sinkhole.
The county officials did it at the bidding of big corporations. They certainly didn’t do it for their Warren County constituents because employees in right-to-work (for less) states get smaller paychecks than those in states that support the right to unionize. They did it at the demand of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, both of which are corporate owned and operated.
They did it despite the fact that there’s no evidence they have any legal authority to create an anti-union bastion on the county level, which means they’ve subjected the residents of Warren County to substantial costs for a legal battle that Warren is likely to lose.
Moving right-to-work (for less) from the state to the county level is the latest tactic in the relentless campaign by CEOs and corporations to reverse gains made by workers in the 1930s New Deal. With laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress slightly moved toward workers the lopsided balance of power that heavily favors corporations.
Over the next several decades, the middle class thrived and income inequality decreased substantially. Now, however, income inequality is back up to the point where it was in the robber baron days because CEOs and corporations have stuck their fat thumbs back on the scale.
The FLSA created the 40-hour work week by mandating time-and-a-half pay beginning at the 41st hour worked. Before the law, managers could force employees to labor 50, 60 even 70 hours a week at no extra pay. During the Great Depression, bosses could fire those who dared complain and easily replace them. Corporations had all the power. FLSA gave a little of that muscle to workers by enabling them to demand extra pay for extra work. As a bonus, FLSA encouraged businesses to hire rather than pay overtime, which increased employment.
The NLRA provided workers with a pathway to unionize. It established standards for employees to form a union at a workplace and for employers to recognize that union as the collective bargaining agent for the workers. Before the NLRA, Pinkertons, police and national guardsmen all too frequently killed striking workers. After the NLRA, unions multiplied, and collective bargaining achieved better wages, benefits and pensions for workers.
But from the day these laws passed, corporations and lackey groups like ALEC and the Heritage Foundation fought to reverse them. They wanted all power and wealth to remain with the one percent.
They invented right-to-work (for less) laws to do that. When a majority of workers at a factory vote to be represented by a union, federal law requires the union to work for all of them, to negotiate agreements that cover all of them, to file grievances for any worker wronged by management. That costs money. And that’s what union dues pay for.
What right-to-work (for less) laws say is that workers who receive these benefits don’t have to pay for them. Federal law requires unions to continue representing workers who are freeloaders. Unions may even have to pay to hire lawyers to represent freeloaders in grievances. That handicaps the union and strengthens the corporation.
And it’s a big part of the reason that employees in right-to-work (for less) states earn less. They lack bargaining power.
In the case of Kentucky, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation and other anti-worker groups resorted to seeking anti-worker legislation from counties when they failed in November to secure a Republican majority in the House of Representatives to provide it on the state level. They’re pushing this new scheme even though federal law gives right-to-work (for less) legislative authority to states and territories, but not to counties.
The anti-worker groups formed a new organization to help persuade counties to pass the laws. It’s called Protect My Check. Its purpose is to defend the compensation of CEOs. Right-to-work (for less) legislation means fewer dollars in workers’ paychecks and more in CEOs’, so clearly the role Protect My Check is to pad CEO pay.
Similarly, CEOs are grabbing for themselves the overtime pay that workers once received. Workers are laboring more and more hours, and fewer and fewer of them are getting paid overtime. That’s because the level at which federal law requires overtime pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation.
It’s $23,660 a year. An employer who claims fry cooks are supervisors and sets salaries at one dollar more – $23,661 – doesn’t have to pay time and a half for 10, 20, even 30 hours worked above 40.
In 1975, Republican Gerald Ford raised the threshold significantly to account for inflation, making 65 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. Now, only 12 percent qualify. Studies by the Economic Policy Institute have shown that if the threshold had kept pace with inflation since then, it would be $50,440 a year – more than twice the current level.
In the meantime, corporate demands for overtime work have increased. A Gallup poll of workers in August found 60 percent laboring more than 45 hours a week. Sixteen percent said they worked more than 60 hours.
Last spring, President Obama proposed raising the wage under which corporations would have to pay overtime. Immediately, anti-worker groups protested. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said, for example, “If they push through something to make a certain class of workers more expensive, something will happen to adjust.” He suggested that would be pay cuts or layoffs.
A certain class of workers has grown extraordinarily more expensive. That is CEOs. The pay for the top 1 percent rose 31.4 percent in the three years from 2009 to 2012, according to research by Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Income for the bottom 99 percent of workers was stagnant, rising only 0.4 percent.
Cato’s Mitchell is right. A certain class of workers is more expensive, and the thing that happened is that 99 percent of workers are suffering for it.
President Obama is trying to rebalance this gross inequality by raising the overtime threshold. But to more permanently tip the scales closer toward equality for workers, he should take measures to support workers’ right to form unions and collectively bargain for a fair share of the profits derived from the sweat of their brows.
Re-blogged with permission of Leo Gerard.