Keith Ewing: Where Do We Go Now?

timthumb-1.phpTrade unions face a crisis like no other as 5 years of Tory rule beckon. We need a new vision — and we need it now, by Keith Ewing.

 Shortly after the general election in 2010, I wrote in these columns that David Cameron would win the 2015 general election (Morning Star June 18 2010).

The reason for this was largely historical. In this country Tory governments typically get at least two terms.

Indeed since the end of the second world war only one Tory government — that elected in 1970 — has failed to do so.

But history was not the only factor that led me to this pessimistic view. The concern I expressed then was that the 2015 election would be fought on territory chosen by the Tories and the right-wing press.

This was an agenda that would be misinformed by selective memories of the deficit in 2010 and claims about Labour’s alleged economic mismanagement.

What I did not anticipate of course was the eruption in Scotland, which provides an opportunity for a different explanation of the defeat.

Nobody could have anticipated Labour’s grave mistake in swallowing the Cameron agenda during the independence referendum.

It may have won the referendum vote, but Scottish Labour died on September 18 2014.

Nor could anyone have foreseen the impact of the Scottish Question on the English electorate.

Terror stalked the land about the danger of Scottish influence in a British government, stoked by voices since curiously mute about the fact that a Tory Party now governs Scotland with only one MP at Westminster. The Scots, it seems, just have to put up with it.

Trade unions will now pay a heavy price for Labour’s defeat. Tory plans are set out clearly enough in their election manifesto, including the much-trumpeted proposals for yet more restrictions on strike ballots, most notably a requirement that strikes in certain sectors will need the support of 40 per cent of those eligible to vote, as well as a majority of those voting.

As has been said many times before, this is a requirement that offends democratic principle, and it has been rightly condemned.

At the 2015 general election the Tories won about 37 per cent of the vote nationally, representing only about 25 per cent of those eligible to vote.

The legitimacy of the Tory mandate will of course make no difference — but the hypocrisy is clear and complete.

Nor will a lack of legitimacy stop the proposed attack on trade union facility time or the use of the check-off to collect trade union dues.

The attack spearheaded by the coalition against PCS seems about to go viral. Nor will the lack of legitimacy stop the proposed attack on the trade union political levy and the right of unions to an effective political voice.

Yet it will get worse — much worse — before it ever gets better, if only because of the European Question.

Whatever happens in the forthcoming EU referendum, the referendum will split the movement.

Just as importantly, whether we are in or out, it will lead to further erosion of employment rights — paid holidays, Tupe and redundancy consultation.

For trade unions, this is a crisis like no other, and it is one that catches us ill-prepared.

Membership is in decline, leading to a loss of authority and income; collective bargaining coverage is at historically low levels, so that we are touching the lives of fewer and fewer workers; and we are about to have zero political influence, as civil war breaks out in the Labour Party.

Yet my fear now is that the present government is embedded for another 10 years and that we will have at least a three or four-term Tory hegemony, as in 1951-64 and 1979-97.

Labour will not be ready for government in 2020 and in any event there are about to be boundary changes and fewer MPs, handing another 20 parliamentary seats to the Tories in the process.

But even if Labour is ready for government, Scotland will almost certainly not be ready for Labour.

The corpse of Scottish Labour will still be decomposing in 2020. Indeed, Scotland may be a sovereign state by then. At least for now, the SNP — and some of its impressive candidates who speak about workers’ rights — are the authentic voice of the working class, whether sceptics like it or not.

In this bleak political landscape, the challenge for trade unionism is huge, now facing a challenge of leadership, a challenge of purpose and a challenge for survival.

How are trade unions to deal with the ideological onslaught about to overwhelm their members and their organisations? And how are we to deal with the fresh legal onslaught that is about to hit us?

The movement is about to be tested like never before. It would be a serious mistake to baton down the hatches until the next general election and hope for a Labour government.

We need a new, clear vision to lead the movement not for the next five years but for the next generation — a vision that questions organisational activity, as well as industrial and political strategies.

We will need it soon.

  • Keith Ewing is professor of public law at King’s College London and president of the Institute of Employment Rights.
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Support Unite Engineers At Finnish Company Kone – On Strike Next Week

images300 Unite engineering staff employed by the Finnish company Kone across the UK will be taking strike action over the next two week. Unite engineers at Kone service lifts, doors and escalators across the UK, including at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

The dispute is related to the use of a ‘spy in the cab’ tracker system known as VAMS which Unite members say is an unreliable method for measuring workloads.

Unite argues that VAMS should not be used to verify time sheets, and site arrival and leaving times as it is unreliable – for example, one driver was alleged have driven 1,000 miles in one day without refuelling. Unite is not against the principle of VAMS when used for health and safety purposes.

Unite has put forward proposals to resolve the dispute via Acas but talks broke down after 10 hours when the Kone UK based management walked out.

The strike action commencing is due to start at 06:00 hours on Wednesday May 27th and ending at 06:00 hours on Tuesday 9th June.

Unite National Officer for general engineering Linda McCulloch said: “The Acas talks with the UK management of Kone have proved to be fruitless, after they walked out after 10 hours. Due to this unreasonable behaviour, Unite is calling on the top executives of this Finnish-owned company to intervene and sort out the intransigent stance of their local UK management.

“Evidence has shown the mileage recorded by VAMS for business or private use is not accurate and exaggerates the amount of mileage being completed. It is ‘a spy in the cab’ that does not function properly, so it is understandable that our members are angry. “Unite members by 81 per cent for strike action and by 91 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.

The main Kone sites are at Chertsey, Gateshead, Glasgow, Keighley in Yorkshire and Warrington.

Please send messages of support to our members in dispute via Linda McCulloch.

All messages of support are appreciated.

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Turkish Car Industry Hit By Stoppages

n_82576_1A wave of stoppages across the Turkish car industry is taking place as workers demand better pay and conditions – as well as demanding to join a union of their choice and elect their own union reps.

Over 7,000 workers are taking part in strikes and demonstrations against poor working conditions and are abandoning the ‘yellow’ trade union known as the Metal Workers Trade Union of Turkey (Türk Metal) a union many workers were forced to join and be registered with. Türk Metal is seen as a stooge union.

The protest started last week at Turkey’s largest car factory, a plant in the northwestern city of Bursa run by Oyak Renault. The factory is a joint venture between France’s Renault and the Turkish army pension fund.

On Friday last the stoppages had spread to the neighboring Tofaş plant. Tofaş, owned by Italy’s Fiat and local conglomerate Koç Holding, said it had halted production until the dispute was resolved.

Workers are outraged by failures of the Türk Metal union to negotiate decent pay rises and represent workers properly.

In response to major strikes at the Renault and Tofaş plants, workers at the Mako, Coşkunöz and Delphi auto factories followed suit and the Ford Otosan plant was stopped. Ford said this was the temporary stoppage due to a lack of parts caused by the strikes at other firms.

Each day that workers are absent from their factories means a decline in the number of cars produced. Renault was expected to suffer a decline of 5,220 units on the sixth day of the strike, while the loss in production estimated for the Tofaş plant was 3,248.

Together the two automakers, Tofaş and Renault, account for more than 40 percent of Turkey’s annual car output, according to industry data.

The protests highlight the problems in Turkey’s economy. Rapid growth has not been accompanied by improvements in pay and working conditions. Around 40% of Turkish employees still work 50 plus hours a week and the Türk Metal union has done little to persue workers demands on pay and working conditions.

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June 4th : Rally For Venezuela


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Analysis of the impact of and policy response to MG Rover in Birmingham

Well worth reading. An interesting paper produced by David Bailey, Gill Bentley, Alex de Ruyter and Stephen Hall.

Click here to download the pdf.

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Manufacturing in the balance?

philip-pearsonBy Philip Pearson of the TUC

At the very time when manufacturing should be expanding its share of UK GDP, its contribution is now lower than in 2010. Evidence suggests that our ‘foundation industries’, the industrial heartland of UK manufacturing, are facing a steeper decline than manufacturing as a whole.


Our ‘foundation industries’ – iron and steel making, chemicals, petroleum products, pulp and paper, ceramics, brick, glass, cement, basic and precious metals and related products – are shedding jobs and business capacity at a disturbing rate, with a net loss of over 1,000 enterprises and 36,000 jobs (one in seven of their workforce) between 2008-2013.

EIIs-enterprisesThe UK’s Foundation Industries currently comprise a group of over 5,000 businesses with 210,000 employees across the UK – and more than four times this number in their extensive national supply chains.There appears to be an emerging consensus that ‘unprotected’ government departments face major cuts in the new Parliament.

But this is exactly at the time when a new era of government-led investment should be driving investment in low carbon technologies. In March 2015, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills published eight sector ‘Roadmaps to 2050′ for energy intensive industries. They show that a multibillion technology investment programme is required for their transition to a low carbon economy. Three issues for government stand out:  support for industrial carbon capture & storage; innovation clusters focussed on energy efficiency and recovering heat from industrial processes, not wasting it; and where industries have technology and investment needs in common, creating new regional strategies in our industrial heartlands.

Foundation industries in 2013:

  • Employed 210,000 people in 5,100 enterprises.
  • Provided high skill, high wage employment: £7.8 billion in wages, salaries and other employment costs in 2013.
  • Generated average employment costs of £37,000 per employee, 15% above the £32K manufacturing average.
  • Generated £102 billion of combined turnover in 2013 – one-fifth (19.5%) of manufacturing’s gross output.
  • Produced £16.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2013, or about 10.4% of the value of goods and services produced by UK manufacturing.
  • Spent £78 billion in sustaining their supply chains through the purchase of goods, materials and services in 2013, or one-fifth (21.8%) of all supply chains purchases in the UK manufacturing sector.

Our energy intensive industries have been at a sustained competitive disadvantage due to the relatively high cost of the UK’s energy and its climate change policies compared with our EU and non-EU competitors. In Walking the carbon tightrope, the TUC suggested that ‘the government has not struck the right balance’ between industrial competitiveness and energy policies. The loss of jobs and manufacturing capacity among our foundation industries is slipping towards a new phase of industrial decline which will require a new vision for manufacturing in a low carbon world in order to be reversed.

Between 2008-2013:

  • Over 1,000 foundation sector manufacturers closed down (16.5%).
  • Manufacturing as a whole lost 3,876 enterprises (2.9%) over the same period.
  • A quarter of the net loss of UK manufacturers (26%) were energy intensive industries.The UK’s manufacturing workforce fell by 10% (a loss of 283,000 jobs).
  • The foundation industries workforce fell by 14.6% (36,000 jobs) over the same period.
  • Net capital expenditure by energy intensive firms fell by £343 million (14.1%).Gross output fell by £7.9 billion (7.2%), with the steepest declines in the basic chemicals and iron and steel sectors.

As we argued in ‘Building our low carbon industries’, it remains the case that an ambitious government-led strategy is required, combining green innovation with measures to support these industries’ commitments to decarbonisation in the transition to a low carbon economy.

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USW Chemical Solutions Number 2

ChemsDownload at the link below the excellent United Steelworkers Newsletter for Chemical Workers : Chemical Solutions Issue 2 with articles on Health & Safety, Dow, BSAF etc

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Union organising In Kenya: Support ITF Campaign

The International Transport Federation are requesting support in a serious disputeconcerning their affiliate the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers’ Union and Agility Logistics.

The company says it will recognise the union in Kenya if it gains 50%+1 of the workforce. However at local management level seem to be determined to ensure the union does not reach this level.

An ITF Monitoring Team, has been sent to Kenya and have noted a planned and concerted attack on union organising.

The local company management has so far:

  •         Pressured workers to resign from the union
  •         Ended contracts of casual workers who join the union
  •         Penalised union activists with short notice transfers
  •         Initiated company loyalty pledges
  •         Interfered with union recruitment efforts
  •         Blamed the union for the delayed payment of wages
  •         Placed armed police in the cabs next to drivers against possible strike action
  •         Used the police to bar workers from the workplace

On 1st April, the ITF Team met with the top management of Agility Kenya, led by its CEO, Ali Saibaba Kola who was accompanied by his HR, transport operations and finance managers. Regrettably, however, the ITF’s offer to assist developing productive industrial relations which did not involve both parties becoming embroiled in a series of court cases was not taken up, and a constructive way forward was not found.

They insisted that the union must reach the threshold of recruiting 50%+1 of the employees as prescribed in Kenyan labour law.

It is clear that as the union is getting close to the 50%+1 mark, the company is becoming more desperate in their attempts to prevent this level being reached.

Recent reports say that truck drivers in Kenya working for Agility global integrated logistics were beaten, abducted at gunpoint and forced to drive their trucks to a company workshop. One driver stated: “I knew they wanted us dead”.

This police brutality follows protests by some 80 Kenyan truckers forced to work shifts of up to 24 hours in Maungu, near Voi and Mai Mahiu. The truckers’ strike action has paralysed Kenya’s northern corridor. All they want is for Agility to recognise their union and treat them with respect.

ITF affiliates (including Unite in the UK) are supporting the campaign and was part of the ITF team who visited Kenya. Belgian ITF affiliate BTB is sending a delegation to Kenya during the last week of April.

Please support the ITF and the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers’ Union and the workers in Agility, as they seek to establish union recognition, collective bargaining and decent working conditions in the industry.

Join the LabourStart campaign by clicking here and send your protest messages to the management.


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50 Leading UK Trade Unionists Show Solidarity With Venezuela

headerOn March 9th US President Obama signed an executive order declaring  “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela” and imposed a further round of sanctions on the country. This has been condemned by major regional bodies in Latin America and the Caribbean, governments all over the world and much of global civil society, including the ITUC and numerous other trade union bodies.

We the undersigned – representatives of trade unions and working people in the UK – stand in solidarity with Venezuela’s unions of Railway workers, Urban and transport workers, Oil and electric workers, Education, Public Sector and Health workers, and Construction Workers who have organised mobilisations over the last month saying ‘Venezuela is not a Threat – We are Hope’ and ‘Obama – Repeal the Executive Order.’

Venezuela is not a threat to the U.S or any other country – instead it offers hope, including through some of the most advanced legislation regarding trade union and labour rights in the world.

We support the international ‘Obama – Repeal the Executive Order’ campaign and will continue to both support the advances in social progress and workers’ rights that have taken place in Venezuela in recent years, and oppose US sanctions against Venezuela.

1. Len McCuskey,General Secretary, Unite the Union

2. Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Vice-Chair

3. Doug Nicholls,General Secretary,General Federation of Trade Union & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign EC

4. Billy Hayes,General Secretary,Communciation Workers Union

5. Mick Cash,General Secretary,Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers Union (RMT)

6. Manuel Cortes,General Secretary,Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA)

7. Mick Whelan,General Secretary,ASLEF

8. John Smith,General Secretary, Musicians Union

9. Owen Tudor, Head of European Union and International Relations, Trade Union Congress (TUC)

10. Roger McKenzie,Assistant General Secretary, UNISON

11. Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary,National Union of Teachers

12. Gail Cartmail,Assistant General Secretary,Unite the Union

13. Steve Turner,Assistant General Secretary,Unite the Union

14. Andy Kerr,Deputy General Secretary,Communication Workers Union

15.Hugh Scullion,General Secretary, CSEU (Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions)

16. Dave Green, National Officer, Fire Brigades Union

17. Tom Jones,,Thompsons Solicitors & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign EC

18. Moz Greenshields, TUC Joint Consultative Committee

19. Joe Gluza, NEC Member, University & College Union (UCU)

20. Terry Hoad, University & College Union (UCU) NEC Member & Former President,

21. Mark Lyon, Chair, International Committee & EC Member, Unite the Union

22. Seán McGovern, Co-Chair, Trade Union Congress Disabled Members Committee & Unite Executive Council Member (Disabled Workers Representative)

23. Ged Dempsey, Executive Council Member, Unite the Union

24. Andy Green, Executive Council Member, Unite the Union

25. Tommy Murphy, Executive Council Member, Unite the Union & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign EC

26. Maggie Ryan, Executive Council Member, Unite the Union

27. Simon Dubbins, Director of International, Unite the Union

28. Siobhan Endean, National Officer for Equalities, Unite the Union

29. Adrian Weir, Assistant Chief of Staff, Unite the Union

30. Martin Mayer, Chair,  United Left in Unite the Union

31. Jane Carolan, NEC Member, UNISON

32. Stephen Kennedy, NEC Member, UNISON & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign EC

33. Max Watson, NEC Member, UNISON

34. Carl Maden, Communciation Workers Union NEC member

35. Peter Pinkney, President, RMT (Rail Maritime and Transport Union)

36. Karen Mitchell, Legal Officer & Solicitor, Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers Union (RMT)

37. Andy Bain, Treasurer, TSSA

38. Marie Taylor, Chair,Community & Youth Workers Section, Unite the Union

39. Enrico Tortolano, Research & Policy Officer, PCS & Tribune Latin America Correspondent

40. Denis Doody, UCATT Regional Secretary, Northern Region

41. Bernard Regan, Chair,South East Region Trade Union Congress International Committee & Cuba Solidarity Campaign National Secretary

42. Jayne Fisher,Vice Chair, South East Region Trade Union Congress International Committee

43. Kevan Nelson,Regional Secetary, North West Region,UNISON

44. Dominic MacAskill, Head of Local Government,Wales/Cyrmu UNISON

45. Phil Thompson, Secretary of International Committee, UNISON Greater London Region

46. Kev Terry, Chair, South West Region, Unite the Union

47. Mike Hedges, Vice Chair, Passenger National Industrial Sector Committee, Unite the Union

48. Jim Buckley,Regional Officer,Unite the Union

49 Dave Lovelidge, National Industrial Sector Committee & Regional Industrial Sector Committee (South East), GPMIT Sector

50. Phil McGarry, Political Officer,Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers Union (RMT),  Scotland

Left Futures is supporting the Rally for Venezuela – End the US Sanctions, No More Interventions! organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Facebook event at and register by clicking here.

Tweet your support using the hashtag: #venezuelaisnotathreat #obamarepealtheexecutiveorder

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Labour’s Manifesto For Britain’s Workplaces

imagesHere is an edited version of Labour’s ‘A Better Plan For Britain’s Workplaces’, produced by Unite.

The central task for the next Labour government is to build an economy that creates better and more secure jobs and stop the Tory race to the bottom. This race to the bottom is the key factor behind the UK’s low level of investment, training and productivity relative to other advanced economies. Working people are suffering from reduced wages; low pay and insecurity are in turn driving higher government spending on social security to top up wages and reduced income from tax receipts.

  1. Addressing insecurity and unfairness in the workplace
  • More than half of employees are worried about insecure work
  • There are more than 1.8 million zero hours contracts in the economy
  • Britain cannot succeed when working people feel insecure.

Labour will crack down on the worst abuses in our labour market and the first Queen’s Speech will include:

  • A stronger minimum wage
  • Banning exploitative zero hours working. If you work regular hours you will get the right to a regular contract with contractual hours averaged over 12 weeks
  • A review of this to ensure action is taken to stop employers using short hours contracts instead of zero hours
  • Legal rights to workers not to be forced to be available at all hours
  • Legal rights not to have shifts cancelled at short notice without compensation
  • Making it illegal to use agency workers to undercut wages of permanent workers, and illegal for employers to only recruit from overseas
  1. Tackling low pay

In the last five years working people have experienced the biggest fall in wages of any Parliament since the 1870s.

  • Average wages have fallen by £1,600 a year since 2010
  • Half of all new jobs since 2010 have been in low paid sectors
  • One in five workers is low paid and more than a quarter of a million people are estimated to earn less than the legal minimum wage

Labour plan for Britain’s workplaces is to:

  • Set a national goal to halve the number of people in low pay by 2025, lifting over two million people out of low pay
  • Raise the National minimum wage to more than £8 before 2020
  • Introduce new 10p starting rate of tax
  • Use procurement to promote a living wage
  • Extend free childcare for working parents and double paternity leave to four weeks
  • Increase paternity pay so fathers receive the equivalent of a full week’s work paid at the National Minimum Wage for the four weeks of leave
  1. Justice at work

Labour will:

  • Ensure proper access to justice in the workplace by abolishing the Government’s employment tribunal fee system
  • Tackle bogus self-employment in construction and elsewhere
  • Set up a full inquiry that is transparent and public to examine the issue of blacklisting
  • Recognising historic cases, release all papers concerning the ‘Shrewsbury 24’ trials
  1. Supporting working families
  • Stagnated wages and rising insecurity have fuelled a cost of living crisis.
  • Full time workers in UK work some of the longest hours in Europe with a long-hours culture long-hours culture in many professions
  • A shortage of well-paid part time jobs, lack of affordable childcare and an outdated parental leave system cause further difficulties for families

Labour will:

  • Double the amount of paid paternity leave to four weeks
  • Expand free child care provision from 15 to 25 hours
  • Introduce a legal guarantee to wraparound care from 8am to 6pm at local primary schools
  1. Promoting partnership and productivity at work

In the long term, economic success will be rooted in high skill, high investment strategies. And Labour recognises that Trade Unions are an essential force for a decent society and as guarantors of jobs and wages.

  • Nearly three-fifths of senior business leaders judge short-termism to be a major impediment to growth
  • A chief executive in the FTSE 100 earn on average over 130 times their average employee
  • Just 27 percent of employees feel that they have a say over how their work is organised

Labour will:

  • Put employee representatives on remuneration committees
  • Reduce short-term pressure to turn a quick profit
  • Improve the link between pay and performance and ensure executive pay packages are transparent by publishing the ratio of the total pay of their top earner compared to their average employees
  • Where recognised, ensure Unions play a role in facilitating elections, as well as supporting the training of employee representatives
  • Give investors a duty to act in the interests of ordinary savers and prioritise the long-term growth of companies
  • Change takeover rules by restricting voting to investors who already hold shares
  • Require investment and pension fund managers to disclose how they vote and introduce binding votes on remuneration packages
  • Review implementation and operation of information and consultation regulations
  • Reverse the Department for International Development’s decision to withdraw funding from the ILO
  • Tackle short-termism by reforming takeover rules
  1. Supporting young people into work
  • Young people’s wages have fallen by over 8 per cent since 2010
  • Just one in ten employers in England provide apprenticeships
  • Proportion of apprenticeships taken up by young people has fallen significantly from 82 per cent of all apprenticeships in 2010 to 63 per cent last year.
  • A quarter of apprentices aged 19-24 receive no training at all.

Labour will:

  • Introduce a new apprenticeship Guarantee so that all those that get the grades at 18 are able to access a new high quality apprenticeship
  • Ensure that every firm that gets a large government contract to offer apprenticeships
  • Require large firms recruiting skilled workers from outside the Europe Union to invest in apprenticeships in the UK.
  • Make sure that apprenticeships can lead to higher level qualifications
  • Improve technical training for young people
  • Ensure the government creates thousands more apprenticeships in the public sector
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