Len McCluskey On Why Unite Supports EU Remain

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Uber Recognises New York Drivers – But Not Full Unionisation.

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi signUber the platform based ride hailing – taxi company announced an agreement with International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to create an association for drivers in New York that would establish a forum for regular dialogue and afford them some limited benefits and protections — but that would stop short of unionisation.

The association, will be known as the Independent Drivers Guild and will be affiliated with a regional branch of Machinists union, and is the first of its kind that Uber has officially blessed, although Uber drivers have formed a number of unsanctioned groups in cities across the country.

“We’re happy to announce that we’ve successfully come to agreement with Uber to represent the 35,000 drivers using Uber in New York City to enhance their earning ability and benefits,” said James Conigliaro Jr., the ‘guild’ founder and assistant director and general counsel at the International Association of Machinists District 15, which represents workers in the Northeast.

The agreement is Uber’s latest attempt to assuage mounting concerns from regulators and drivers’ groups about the company’s labour model, which treats drivers as independent contractors. That model helps Uber keep its labour costs low, but it excludes drivers from coverage by most labour and employment laws, such as those that require a minimum wage and overtime.

That has spurred public disagreements, and many drivers have organized in unofficial unions to gain more rights. The prospect of unionisation has loomed at times; lawmakers in Seattle voted last year to approve a bill allowing drivers for Uber and other ride-hailing apps to form unions.

In response, Uber, which is based in San Francisco, has been striking deals to tamp down the problems — with the proviso that the company be able to continue classifying its drivers as contractors and stop short of allowing drivers to unionize.

Last month, Uber reached a settlement in a prominent class-action lawsuit with drivers who had contested their contractor status. Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay as much as $100 million and put less pressure on drivers to a

Uber faces other labour-related hurdles. Along with Lyft, a competing ride-hailing service, the company this week withdrew operations from Austin, Tex., after losing a battle with the City Council over the nature of its background checks for drivers.

Under the terms of the deal in New York, which will be in effect for five years, a group of drivers who are guild members will hold monthly meetings with Uber management in the city, where they can raise issues of concern.

The drivers will be able to appeal decisions by Uber to bar them from its platform, and can have guild officials represent them in their appeals. In addition, they will be able to buy discounted legal services, discounted life and disability insurance and discounted roadside help for problems they encounter while driving.

Yet unlike a traditional union, which contractors typically cannot form, guild members will not be able to bargain over a contract with the company that would stipulate fares, benefits and protections. Uber will continue to determine most of these elements unilaterally, albeit with more input from drivers.

The Machinists union has also indicated that for the duration of the five-year agreement, it will refrain from trying to unionise drivers, from encouraging them to strike and from waging campaigns to have them recognized as employees rather than independent contractors.

“It’s important to have immediate assistance in the industry and this is the structure that provides that,” said Mr. Conigliaro.

He emphasized, however, that drivers did not waive any labor rights by joining the guild, and that if Uber drivers were found to be employees at any point during the agreement, the union could try to unionize the drivers at their request.

Uber said the agreement would help smooth relationships with drivers, whose frustrations have grown with recent fare cuts and policy changes .

“Communication is important,” said David Plouffe, Uber’s chief adviser. “On price cuts, we haven’t always had the best forum to discuss and share data — how price cuts work, what we see afterward.”

Mr. Plouffe said that as a result of discussions with drivers in certain parts of the country, Uber had adopted a number of changes, like a pilot program to charge riders when a driver has to wait for more than two minutes.

With the agreement, Uber also wins an ally in its effort to change the New York State law that levies a nearly 9 percent tax on black car rides but that does not apply to taxis. (There is a 50-cent surcharge on yellow taxi trips.) Uber says the law unfairly singles out parts of its service. Under the terms of the deal, the machinists union will help Uber lobby the State Legislature to treat all hired vehicles equally.

Mr. Plouffe said the money likely to be saved from changing the law would flow to drivers’ bottom lines, and some of it would be used to help set up a benefits fund that the guild would administer and whose scope it would determine. Among the potential new benefits is paid time off for drivers.

Uber was not seeking to replicate the guild idea outside New York, which differs from other cities in that a much higher fraction of Uber drivers use the platform full time or close to full time, Mr. Plouffe added.

Also , Uber said the Freelancers Union, which supports independent workers, will advise the company on how to create portable benefits for its drivers and other gig economy workers.

Sara Horowitz, the group’s founder and executive director, praised the agreement as a bold step that would become “part of a larger strategy for this new work force.”

The agreement drew a mixed reaction from drivers. Eric Grant, a veteran Uber driver who recently served on a panel in Seattle that heard appeals from fellow drivers who had been deactivated — part of a special pilot program in that city — said Uber’s new appeals program was a much-needed change.

“One of the issues they have had in the past is that they deactivate people willy-nilly, without any appeals process,” Mr. Grant said.

Others, particularly those involved in competing attempts to organize Uber drivers in New York, were skeptical. Abdoul Diallo, who helped found an association of drivers in New York, which is called the Uber Drivers Network and claims about 5,000 members, said that the new organization sounded “bogus” and that the guild was no substitute for an actual union.

Mr. Diallo said deactivation was relatively far down the list of concerns for most drivers in his organization. “First and foremost, price cuts and commissions matter most to drivers,” he said.

The machinists union said no topic was off the table in the guild’s discussions with Uber, including fares and commissions.

Mr. Diallo’s group, meanwhile, is encouraging drivers to sign cards that will allow the Amalgamated Transit Union to represent them; more than 5,000 drivers have signed.

Edited from NY Times article.

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Brexit is not the answer to the new generation of free trade agreements


By Adrian Weir

The cat is out of the bag – the publication last week of the LSE report on the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions within the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) commissioned by the Government has concluded that there’s nothing in for the UK.

To quote from the report: “we conclude that an EU-US investment treaty that does contain ISDS is likely to have few or no benefits to the UK, while having meaningful economic and political costs.”

In their conclusion the LSE authors make four clear points:

  • there is little reason to think that an EU-US investment chapter will provide the UK with significant economic benefits
  • there is little reason to think that an EU-US investment chapter will provide the UK with significant political benefits
  • there is some reason to expect an EU-US investment chapter will impose meaningful economic costs on the UK
  • there is some reason to expect an EU-US investment chapter will impose meaningful political costs on the UK

But which side, if any, of the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ argument does the report bolster?

Those who advocate ‘Leave’ often cite the ‘free trade’ treaties currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the EU and Canada, the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA), as reasons to leave. Specifically, the threat to public services posed by TTIP is often cited as the reason to go.

And yet in a recent Guardian article, Will Straw, of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, attempted to rebut former Gang of Four member David Owen’s assertion that the NHS was at threat from TTIP: “Lord Owen’s claims about the proposed trade deal with the US are utterly untrue. The UK government … and the EU are crystal clear that there are specific protections to ensure that the NHS would be unaffected by TTIP, which has the potential to increase jobs and growth in Britain.”

On the same day Rachel Reeves MP claimed on Labour List that “… anyone who studies both the detail and political intention of this deal [TTIP] can see that it poses no threat at all to our health service.”

“Anyone” clearly doesn’t extend to Michael Bowsher QC; acting for the campaign group The People’s NHS who has stated that: “Our conclusion is that TTIP poses a real and serious risk to future UKG [UK Government] decision-making in respect of the NHS”.

Both Straw and Reeves are wrong. It is not the case that the Conservative Government has made the NHS ‘safe’ should the TTIP treaty ever be ratified. Nor have the European Commission’s negotiators made any special provision or protection for the NHS.

Essentially, TTIP is an issue that transcends ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ not least because TTIP is just one part of a network of new generation deregulatory free market/free trade deals being negotiated around the globe. For example, the treaty with Canada, CETA, may be signed very soon and would be equally as dangerous as TTIP, the ratification of which appears to be some way off.

President Obama’s assertion during his visit last month that the UK would be at “the back of the queue” for a free trade deal with the US if it left may be taken as not so subtle American support for the ‘Remain’ side as was the intervention of Lt-Gen Frederick ‘Ben’ Hodges, head of the US Army in Europe, who concluded that Brexit would apparently leave Europe weaker in the face of Russian expansionism.

The public views of Obama and Hodges are for a political purpose and not based on what will really happen.

Should Britain vote ‘Leave,’ Cameron, or whoever is leading the Government at that point, will attempt to open negotiations with the US on a separate bi-lateral trade treaty which will be equally as bad, if not worse, than the likely impact of TTIP on public services, health and safety, food and environmental standards and labour rights.

Campaigners have exposed the fact that the TTIP and CETA treaties contain these special legal provisions – ISDS – enabling multinational corporations to sue nation states in secret quasi-courts if the nation tilts the terms of trade away from the interests of business in favour of its citizens.

These corporate courts operate to protect the interests of foreign investors, making both governments and public bodies risk averse when it comes to public provision of services or a return to public ownership of those parts of the NHS the Tories have already privatised.

Again, referring back to the report: “… the impact of an EU-US investment treaty on UK policy space can be understood as the extent to which the treaty prevents the government of the day from adopting policies that the government would have preferred to adopt in the absence of the treaty.”

The anti TTIP campaigning has got the European Commission worried, particularly public disquiet with ISDS. Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is urgently promoting her so-called reform of ISDS – the Investor Court System (ICS), with open courts, appointed judges and an appeal mechanism.

We should not be taken in by the proposed reform, the ICS will still give rights to corporations not enjoyed by citizens; it would still make governments risk adverse about regulation in favour of workers and citizens that may be at the expense of the corporations.

We should also not be led to believe that a vote to ‘Leave’ is a vote against this new generation of free trade treaties, that a ‘Leave’ vote would be a vote against TTIP – which it will not be.

TTIP and CETA transcend ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ which is probably why the LSE report has not been seized upon by either side (campaigning group 38 Degrees has given the report publicity but not in a ‘Remain or ‘Leave’ context).

We will need to maintain the campaign against TTIP and CETA if the Referendum outcome is ‘Remain’; we will need to campaign against new UK bilateral investment treaties (BITs) if it’s to ‘Leave’.

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Manufacturing is essential to the UK’s economy — and it depends on EU membership

BMW2The Brexiters’ alternative is a zero-hours, low-skill, low-paid economy

Economics professor Patrick Minford, who supports the Brexit campaign, said recently that ‘if we left the EU, it seems that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing.’

Minford – who was a major proponent of Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies in the 1980s – says this wholesale elimination of manufacturing post-Brexit ‘shouldn’t scare us’. In fact, he said we should welcome it. He also went onto say that new imported BMWs and brie would be cheaper too.

But what if the Brexit Prof is right? What would happen if UK manufacturing eventually disappeared?

Firstly 2.6m jobs would be gone. Manufacturing accounts for nearly half of all our exports at 44 per cent. Business research and development in the UK would take a massive hit, as 69 per cent of R&D is spent on manufacturing. We would say goodbye to our position on global league table – we now stand seventh in the world in terms of manufacturing output.

Although the services industry dominates the present UK economy, manufacturing still represents 10 per cent of our GDP and is a major contributing factor in driving productivity – a key measure in the long-term health of the economy and working people’s living standards.

Unlike services, which Minford said we should embrace as we give up on the business of making things, manufacturing provides well-paid, highly skilled jobs. Average annual wages in manufacturing stand at nearly £31,000, compared to only £26,500 in services.

But the future health of manufacturing in the UK is, in Unite’s view, very much dependent on the UK’s continued membership in the European Union.

The Engineering Employers Federation, which represents the UK’s manufacturers, notes that the EU accounts for 18 per cent of global output – and the UK sells 50 per cent of all its exports to the EU. The EU is also a major driver of innovation in the UK – it invests £11bn each year on innovation programmes, of which 15 per cent is invested in the UK.

What’s more, the leading destination for foreign investment in the EU is the UK.

The future of the UK’s exports and imports of manufactured goods is inextricably linked to continued membership in the EU. In 2012, the value of imports of manufactured goods from the EU to the UK stood at £158bn, while the value of exports from the UK to the EU stood at £104bn.

Manufacturers are united in their belief that the UK is better off remaining in the EU.

A recent EEF survey says that 84 per cent of UK manufacturers believe being part of the EU is a positive aspect of the UK business environment.

The survey also showed that an astounding 50 per cent of manufacturing companies would be less likely to increase investment if the UK were to leave the EU.

Other important manufacturing trade bodies including the Society of Motor Manufacturers; the Chemical Industries Association; ADS – the body which represents the aerospace, defence, security and space industries; the Ceramic Federation of Great Britain and others support the remain campaign.

A some of the UK’s top manufacturing companies employing thousands of trade union members including Airbus, Siemens, Nissan, Ford, Rolls-Royce, Cummins Engineering,  BAE Systems, Unilever, Astra Zenca, BMW, JLR, BP, Pearson Publishing, GE, GKN among others, have publicly stated it is in the UK’s interest to remain in the EU.

An open letter signed by some of the UK’s top engineering companies said:

“British engineering is deeply integrated with global markets and companies. If Britain votes to leave the EU, the period of uncertainty about the terms on which access to these markets would be granted would be a threat to the sector. Brexit would be a loss of automatic access to the EU market.”

The UK’s main manufacturing unions, Unite, GMB, Community and USDAW have all come out in favour of remaining in the EU.

Of course Brexit supporters have dismissed this overwhelming support arguing we can go it alone and other countries would beat a path to our door. What nonsense. They say we can negotiate our own trade arrangements with EU countries, the USA and the rest of the world. This is naïve at best.

Big trade deals take years to negotiate. What do we do in those five or more years before new trade deals are agreed? Investment dries up, tarrfifs get imposed – chaos looms.

President Obama made it clear, much to the chagrin of the Brexit brigade that the UK would be at the back of the queue in any trade negotiations the with the USA if we were to leave the EU.

Outside of the EU, we won’t have the power of being in a market of 500 million people, we will be in a market of only 60 million. What do the Brexiters think the US and EU countries will do if they want a trade deal with us? It won’t be a negotiation – they will probably send a fax saying ‘sign here’.

No modern, developed country can exist without having a strong manufacturing base. What would happen is that the UK would have a perpetual zero-hours, low-skill, low-paid economy with a race to the bottom.

Once high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs are gone, they will not come back come back and those UK workers looking for good jobs will move overseas and they’d take their skills with them – we would lose the best and the brightest.

The decision to stay in or leave the EU will have monumental consequences for the future shape of our economy. Do we want a world with better jobs for our children and protection in the workplace? Or one in which we’re in free fall in a race to the bottom? The latter is the Brexit option.

Tony Burke is Assistant General Secretary at Unite

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Steel Crisis: A Good First Step, But Government Must Steel Itself For Further Action

imagesBy Professor David Bailey

It’s great news that the government seems to at last ‘get it’ and is ready to part-nationalise Tata’s UK steel assets and offer debt financing if a private buyer can be found.

The business secretary, Sajid Javid, had previously said that the government was prepared to “co-invest” in British steel, having been caught on the hop by Tata announcing it was selling its UK operations.

Javid reminds me somewhat of the hapless former DTI Secretary Stephen Byers who was asleep at the wheel when BMW offloaded Rover back in 2000. Maybe the EU referendum has focused minds now, in that the government doesn’t want thousands of lay-offs if the steel industry goes down.

Of course, it’s better late than never… but it’s still not enough. Progress on the ‘5 Asks’ outlined in earlier blogs is still very much needed.

The government has said that it is prepared to take a minority equity stake of up to 25% in the steel plants, including Port Talbot in south Wales, in what is effectively part-nationalisation.

State Aid rules will have to be complied with, as Anna Soubry, the business minister said recently.  But let’s note that European governments have intervened in a range of ways to support their steel industries, including via part nationalisation, energy compensation schemes, part-time wage subsidies, solidarity compacts and more. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Government sources are already being cited saying that this was a commercial offer in the event of a sale and did not amount to ‘part-nationalisation’.

Fine; let’s avoid the loaded ‘N word’ if need be – especially as Javid had, of course, ruled it out a few weeks ago before backtracking under pressure and saying that all options were still on the table. The intervention may in fact be closer to our ‘conservatorship’ idea floated in Birmingham Post blogs a few weeks ago.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it would tailor its offer to a buyer’s needs. Much of the support could come through debt financing, but options include an equity stake or convertible debt.

As well as being ready to take a minority stake, the UK and Welsh governments said they would consider other support, for example to support R&D, training, the development of power plant infrastructure, energy efficiency and environmental protection measures. The government also said it was working with the pension scheme trustees of Tata Steel and British Steel to minimise any pension impact on a buyer.

Let’s be clear; this is a very welcome move.  As we have noted before in blogs, over the medium-term UK steel industry is commercially viable and over the longer-term it is economically essential.

But for any steel sector short term intervention to be successful, the government also needs to make progress on ‘5 Asks’ that we have highlighted at the Midlands Steel Task Group in recent months:  energy costs; emissions policy; business rates; procurement; and temporary trade defence. Removing large pension liabilities may also indeed be needed.

On energy costs, current UK energy policy is more ambitious in pursuing carbon-neutral aspirations than is the current practice in the EU.  As a result, high intensity users in the UK are paying considerably more than similar producers in Germany.  This places the manufacturing sector at a disadvantage not only to global competitors but also its EU partners.

While higher carbon prices and hence energy prices may well be required to meet global environmental needs, better forms of compensation for energy intensive industries like steel is required, as happens in Germany and Sweden for example.

On trade protection, Chinese firms have been accused of deliberately “dumping” steel on European markets, by selling at a loss to undercut prices. It is estimated China’s top state owned steelmakers are losing US$34 a tonne on crude steel. This comes on top of losing US$11 billion in the first ten months of 2015 alone.

All of this makes the UK government’s recent decision to block proposals to scrap “the lesser duty rate” that would have allowed the EU to significantly raise tariffs on imported Chinese steel, somewhat puzzling.

It is also fair to say the current EU tariffs and anti-dumping measures (tariffs of between 9% and 13% on imports of Chinese steel) lack the force of those imposed by the United States, which recently introduced tariffs of up to 266% on imported Chinese steel, to support its own steel producers.

In deciding to block proposals to scrap the “lesser duty rate” and impose higher tariffs, business secretary Sajid Javid emphasised the knock-on impact such tariffs would have on UK users of steel, who would then face higher steel prices.  But his fears are largely misplaced as we have noted before as prices are artifically low at present and anyway tariffs would affect steel users across Europe and not just in the UK.

In summary, not only should part-nationalisation be actively considered, it needs coupling with action on the ‘5 Asks’ if the UK steel industry is to be given the opportunity to recover.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School


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USA: Uber Settlement Designates Drivers As Contractors

ubercar42316_0First the good news: Uber the ‘ride sharing’ company has announced this week it had settled two class action lawsuits iand agreed to pay up to $100 million to workers in California and Massachusetts. The bad news: Uber gets to continue to classify its drivers as ‘independent contractors’

USA Today described the settlement which affects 385,000 workers in California and Massachusetts as “a big win for a company whose business model depends on keeping costs low by merely serving as a conduit between drivers and riders, rather than being an employer.”

As Uber drivers are classified as ‘independent contractors (described in the USA as 1099 workers) they do not qualify for health benefits, Social Security, unemployment or injury compensation, sick pay, holidays and holiday pay – or any other safety net benefits.”

Former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich says the designation means Uber drivers are “outside the labour laws – the most significant legal trend in the American workforce – contributing directly to low pay, irregular hours, and job insecurity”.

What makes them “independent contractors” is that Uber and other ‘ride’ companies say they work for say they are independent contractors who get their work via the Uber platform.  Companies such as Uber do no have any costs  of having full-time employees.

The settlement includes $84 million to the plaintiffs, and allows drivers to put signs in their cars saying ‘tips are not included’ in the price of a journey and would be appreciated”. There will be a second payment of $16 million if Uber goes public and the company valuation increases one and a half times from our December 2015 financing valuation within the first year of an IPO.

The Wall Street Journal described the amount as “a small concession relative to the larger triumph of preserving the high-margin business of connecting passengers to freelance drivers.”

However, as the Washington Post noted, “The settlement does not set any legal precedent and the company still faces other suits that remain unresolved.”

511kiLg3xQL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Earlier his month, Uber also released its first-ever transparency report which showed “that in the second half of 2015 alone, the ride-sharing app handed over information affecting more than 12 million riders and drivers to a number of U.S. regulators, and shared data about more than 400 users with federal and state law enforcement agencies.”

The Uberization of the economy ploughs on, wiping out decent jobs and underming employment rights. This issue will be a major issue for trade unions in the USA, the EU and the UK.

For more on Uberization and the digital revolution click on the book cover.

For more on the digital economy and its effect on trade unions click on the following links:

Trade Unions And The Coming Digital Revolution

Labour Needs To Get To Grips With The Digital Economy

Big Union Row Over Airbandb

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UPDATED: USA: Big Row Over Union Discussions With Airbandb

bnb_billboard_02-2000x1125-1Discussions between the US union SEIU (Service Employees) and the web based short term home rental – accomodation platform Airbnb have created a major row in the US trade union movement.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is said to be working to reach an agreement with Airbandb which would see housekeepers be represented by the union.

If the deal is successful, it would mark the first-ever formal arrangment  between a major company in the new ‘gig economy’ and a trade union.

Critics of the deal say that concerned that Airbnb has exacerbated housing crises in cities across the US, including in San Francisco, where Airbnb is headquartered.

The Washington Post has published documents that set out the terms of a possible agreement which would include Airbnb endorsing a $15-an-hour minimum wage a deal ensuring cleaners are paid at least $15 an hour and are trained and certified in providing “green home cleaning services”.

The agreement is said to be modeled on an agreement between Airbnb and Cooperative Cleaning, a worker owned cleaning agency in New York. The Washington Post described the deal as one that “allows the Airbnb to make the claim that it is creating good jobs for local residents”.

The backlash has come from the Unite Here union which organises hotel and hospitality workers and community and housing groups.

“We are appalled by reports that SEIU is partnering with Airbnb, a company that has destroyed communities by driving up housing costs and killing good hotel jobs in urban markets across North America,” said Annemarie Strassel, of Unite Here.

“Airbnb has shown a blatant disregard for city and state laws, has refused to cooperate with government agencies, and turns a blind eye to the fact that its business model exacerbates the affordable housing crisis.” She added: “A partnership with SEIU does little more than give political cover to Airbnb.”

“We have been engaged in conversations with organizations and community leaders about how to best help working families find solutions to economic inequality, including creating specific ways we could leverage the Airbnb platform to help create quality union jobs that pay a livable wage,” Christopher McNulty of the company has said.

The SEIU said: “We actively and regularly engage in conversations with companies who are committed to doing right by their workforce by paying better wages and giving them a voice at work through their union. Airbnb is one such company, however, there is no formal relationship or agreement between SEIU and Airbnb.”

New York politicians lead by the Manhattan borough president, Gale Brewer have sent a letter to the SEIU expressing concern with the deal. “We find it troubling that SEIU is exploring entering into an agreement with Airbnb – a company whose business model displaces the very people you are seeking to represent and protect from their homes and communities,” the letter states. “Such a partnership would lend credence to Airbnb’s illegal manipulation of the housing market, and give the worst actors a legitimate platform to conduct their illegitimate and harmful business activities.”

Airbnb is part of the fast growing digital economy sometimes described as ‘Uberization’, companies working from a web based platform who employ directly few workers such taxi companies Uber and Lyft who consider their drivers as self employed  and have vigorously opposed unionisation. Delivery companies in the USA such as DoorDash and Postmates say their workers are self employed or contractors – with few employment rights.

Opposition to Airbnb goes back to 2014 when the company approached New York local of Unite Here, to try to agree a similar deal but the union descibed the company as advertising ‘illegal hotels’.

The union said that they refused to work with Airbnb because it allows people to illegally turn their homes into hotels, taking permanent housing off the market and worsens affordable housing shortages.

There is animosity between Unite Here and Airbnb as the union said the company told them they intended to ‘remove them from the field’ – something the company deny.

Unite Here says that if SEIU signs a contract with Airbnb they will be providing cover for the company afor a few members going against trade union principles.

Opponents of the deal also say that Airbnb, which is worth an estimated $25.5bn, do not pay their fair share of taxes and groups in San Francisco are pres restrictions on Airbnb users in the company’s home city.

To add fuel to the fire it has also emerged that SEIU former president Andy Stern, now a consultant, is representing Airbnb in the negotiations.

UPDATE: Airbandb talks with SEIU collapse.

In a statement SEIU has now said it does not have an agreement or deal with Airbnb and that it plans to work with Unite Here, the US union that represents hotel workers.

“Representatives from SEIU and Unite Here met and have agreed to find a common approach to protect and expand the stock of affordable housing in all communities across the country and to protect and preserve standards for workers in residential and hotel cleaning while also growing opportunities for these cleaners to improve their lives,” SEIU’s statement said.

Unite Here welcomed SEIU’s decision to back away from a deal with Airbnb. “It is our clear understanding that SEIU will not have a deal with Airbnb to represent housekeeping services,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel.

Strassel continued: “Unite Here will continue to vigorously oppose any efforts by Airbnb to expand and push for commonsense laws to mitigate the devastating impact this company has had on our communities.”

For more on the digtial economy read the following:

Labour Needs To get To Grips With The Digial Economy

Trade Unions And The Coming Digital Revolution

We Need To Be Ready For The Next Revolution



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No To Coup In Brazil

Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff

Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff

Letter in The Guardian

We are extremely concerned about the sustained efforts by sections of Brazil’s right wing opposition in Brazil to destabilise – and ultimately overthrow – its constitutional and elected government, including through attempting to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. This campaign has involved demonstrations for “regime change” through the ousting of the president before the end of her term. These have even included overt calls for the military to carry out a coup d’état.

There is also a crude campaign aimed at discrediting former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whom Dilma is seeking to appoint as a minister in her government. The aim here seems to be not only to oust Dilma but also legally bar Lula as a potential presidential candidate in 2018.

Meanwhile, trade unions and social movements have denounced examples of physical aggression against government supporters. We oppose this golpista attempt, echo the support for Brazil being given by the Union of South American Nations, and defend Brazilian democracy.

Brian Eno
Michael Mansfield QC
Dr Francisco Dominguez Head of Latin American and Brazilian studies research group, Middlesex University
Grahame Morris MP
Kelvin Hopkins MP
Roger Godsiff MP
Jeff Cuthbert AM Welsh national assembly member
Manuel Cortes General secretary, TSSA
Doug Nicholls General secretary, GFTU
Mick Cash General secretary, RMT
Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, National Union of Teachers
Tony Burke Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union
Dr Derek Wall International coordinator, Green party of England and Wales
Salma Yaqoob
Martin Mayer Labour party national executive committee member
Dr Julia Buxton Central European University
Oscar Guardiola-Rivera Birkbeck, University of London
Francisco Panizza Professor in Latin American and comparative politics, LSE
Dr Peter Hallward Professor, Kingston University

See also:
TUC Backs Brazilian Unions – Click Here.
Workers Uniting Opposes Brazil Coup – Click Here

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Labour Needs To Get To Grips With The Digital Economy

blog-digital-workerAs the digital revolution gathers at a rapidly increasing pace so is the growth of new forms of employment. One of these is ‘gig workers’ – for ‘one size fits all’ buzzword for anything from service workers to technology professionals – workers who take on work and tasks which are mainly advertised on various web platforms.

The term ‘gig’ is of course well know to most people nowadays having become common vernacular among musicians and music fans to describe a show, event or performance.

But the new adaption of the term is now being used describe a work schedule consisting of short-term employment where workers are contracted for a specific project or task.

In the neo-liberal world this is of course nothing new. It is a simple extension of outsourcing, sub-contracting, franchises, zero hours, agency work and as we saw with the collapse of City Link in 2014 workers being employed as independent contractors.

Debate surrounding the ‘gig economy’ or the ‘Uberfication’ of work (named after the controversial Uber taxi service) – is growing. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has recently expressed concerns over what this trend could mean for workers and one right wing Republican – Govenor John Kasich of Ohio is calling for the US Government apparatus to be ‘Uberized’.

At present research by PwC, says ‘gig work’ makes up just 2% of the total recruitment market. Hilary Clinton is right to be concerned. A recent study in the USA predicted that by 2020, 40% of US workers could be ‘independent contractors’ with a forecast that ‘gig working’ will be worth nearly $63 billion globally – and £2 billion in the UK alone.

As I recently blogged on this site that digital dispruption is underway. (Unions And The Coming Digital Revolution). The new digital age will mean that parts of the general workforce will become mobile and their work will be performed done from anywhere, with the job location and the type of work are decoupled.

That means that ‘gig workers’ (ironically previously called as ‘freelancers’) can select temporary work and projects from around the world, while employers can select the individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than that available in any local location using online web based platforms such as TaskRabbit and PeoplePerHour.

The term also stretches to include ‘portfolio working’ – workers who work on a number of different projects for different organisations, and sometimes combining such activity with other employment.

Alex Swarbrick, senior consultant at leadership institute Roffey Park, says ‘gig employment’ tends to consist of two tiers with radically different working conditions. “You can characterise the workforce in this model like an hourglass. So the people at the top comprise highly-skilled workers who are relatively well paid and will work flexibly. Workers at the bottom end of the hourglass, however, are likely to be on temporary, fixed-term, zero-hour contracts and have a number of insecure, low-paid work.”

In other words, for those at the top of the hourglass it will remain an employee’s market, and at the bottom, it will become an employer’s market.

David Knight, associate partner at KPMG’s people and change practice says: “Rolling the clock forward over the next two or three years, I anticipate a groundswell of interest from employers, driven by demand from old and young alike.”

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD is more cautious. “Most forecasts tend to be over-optimistic in the short-term as change is often much slower to catch on than people expect,” he says. “But gig working may also be difficult to pick up in the statistics, especially if people are just doing a few hours here and there, so we may not see it coming for a while.”

The digital revolution has already contributed to a decrease in jobs as software replaces some types of work and means that others take much less time. Other influences include businesses taking the opportunity declare further staff reductions.

Also the entrance of ‘millennials’, (the ‘Net Generation’) – young workers who reached working age around turn of the 21st century will mean there is a pool of labour who may be willing to accept ‘gig working’  – not just because they enjoy the flexibilty and control over their careers – as some argue  – but as there is little other choice.

All of this poses problems for trade unions and how we deal with the digital revolution. With the massive growth on zero-hours working, these new forms of working such as ‘gig workers’ have no employment rights, no guaranteed income, with jobs based on bidding for work in a web platform will not be in control of their pay and working conditions and many will take on the whole business risk.

Gig-workers-organize-nowIn California, law makers are already looking at the right for ‘gig workers’ and ‘on-demand’ workers to self organise with the proposed 1099 Self-Organizing Act.

Click on the above link for more information – it is an interesting idea.

Meanwhile the Tory Government say they are embracing the digital revolution – witness George Osborne’s wheeze to announce the trial soon of driverless vehicles on UK roads (probably lost in the budget debacle!).

But they are not addressing the consequences of the rapid change in employment the digital age will bring.

Labour are now looking to develop an industrial strategy through the National Policy Forums in the run up to the 2020 election.

Any new Labour strategy for industry must now include a plan on how we will deal with the question of employment and income protection before the tsunami of technology washes over us.

Labour needs to be saying ‘gig workers’ like all others – are working for an employer on conditions and pay set by the employer – even if work is found via an app or a web platform. Labour needs to be saying that they will develop a set of minimum decent employment rights that all workers are entitled to including basic guaranteed standards and a decent guaranteed wage as well unemployment benefit, sick pay, paid leave guaranteed minimum working hours and conditions rather face than a race to the bottom – an economic free-for-all which the neo-liberal economy and its supporters really want.

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Say No To The Trade Union Bill – Produced by Unite Scotland

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