Brexit Chickens Coming Home To Roost

“The Brexit chickens are coming home to roost”  a prominant person in the automotive industry told me during a discussion about the announcement by Michel Barnier that the UK would not benefit one jot from being outside of the single market and customs union.

Not only did Barnier warn that agricultural products would be checked – every single time – at the border, but key manufacturers such as  Airbus would be equally affected.

Recently in a meeting where the supply chain for a well known household product was outlined – it was pointed out it crossed the channel five times in its manufacture and sales – that’s the size of the problem we have if the UK fails to scure a customs union deal with the EU.

Unite has been warning for over 12 months that this event would eventually happen.

But Theresa May, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davies have paid little heed to the voice of 100,000’s of skilled manufacturing workers who are now looking at their jobs being hit by stupidity and boneheadedness on the part of the Prime Minster and her Brexit team.

They have taken no notice of industry and unions who have all been clear on single market access, a customs union deal, key investment decisions, the need for a robust industrial strategy, defending decent employment rights and access to skills.

No doubt the right wing UK media who are now waking upto the fact we can’t really have ‘our cake and eat it‘ but will once again describe Barnier and Junker as ‘Euro bullies’, and advise Mrs. May to tell them where to stick it.

Will the horrors of lorries backed up to Watford on the M25, waiting to cross the channel while our ‘just in time’ supply chain structure – on which manufacturing depends – is laid to waste – even with the promised ‘special IT system’ (which the French probably won’t have) – finally cause industry to stand upto the hard Brextremists, who are hell bent on a policy that will eventually destroy manufacturing and tell ministers to get real.

I was asked in an interview were manufacturing employers ‘sabre rattling’ on investment and potential threats to jobs. The answer was no – and pointed to the warnings our union, Unite, has been outlining for over 12 months on the single market, customs union, skills etc.

The daunting task is now dawning on the Government. At a recent meeting with officials in a key department on the implications of Brexit on trade – one senior official bemoaned they could now see the “breadth of the problem”.

You can now feel the real concern among manufacturers and our members. Meanwhile Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsome look for scapegoats – blaming the BBC and media for not being pro-Brexit and ‘unpatriotic‘ – always a clear sign of unrest in the ranks.

This weekend Government ministers are meeting some employers bodies including the CBI, IOD, Chambers Of Commerce, the EEF, Federation of Small Businesses and some individual companies.

There are notable absences including a number of key trade associations and of course the voice of the workforce – the trade unions.

As one key player told me ‘they don’t speak for our industry’.

I am told that the select meeting at Chevening is called by the Government to listen to what industry is saying – and some employers have said “its a start”. But it is clear the Government needs to listen to the real voice of industry and the unions.

Time is not on our side.

Barnier and the EU 27 have got their ducks in a row, their negotiating strategy is understood and agreed by the 27 – so no chance of pealing them away one by one as had been a proposed tactic.

May’s threat to throw her teddy out of the pram and walk away will be reponsed to by a shrug of the shoulders – and the clock will keep ticking.

The blogger Jack of Kent put it succintly recently in his “Three things about Brexit” blog of 2nd July 2017:

“Since the referendum vote last summer for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, three things have become apparent.

  • First, Brexit will be complex, not simple.
  • Second, the UK government is not (or is not currently) equal to the task of Brexit.
  • Third, regardless of the difficulties, the UK government is in any case making it worse for itself, to the extent it seems almost that it is self-sabotaging the whole process.

I do not claim any originality for these three insights; I just wanted to jot them down here, in one place”.

I would add a fourth item: Listen to the voice of those who make the country tick, who create the wealth, who employ 100,000s of workers in decent jobs if you fail – you do this at your peril.


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Posted in Blogs, Economics, Employment Rights, European Trade Unions, Labour Party, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union, Workers Uniting | Leave a comment

Macron Hopes To Use French Summer Holidays To Drive Through Labour Reforms

The new French President Emmanuel Macron has said he intends to reform France’s labour laws before the end of this summer after meeting unions and telling them he ‘intends to act swiftly’.

Macron warned during his presidential campaign that he planned to ‘fast-track’ legislation through use of ‘executive decrees’.

Unions had urged the government to take more time to discuss reforms which are aimed at reducing employment rights and giving France more neo-liberal labour laws which will reduce France’s strong workers protection.

Workers are protected under a powerful labour code and although only around 7% of workers are union members, unions play a powwerful role in employment relations and companies and are normally able to mobilise mass demonstrations and strikes which are widely supported by workers.

But Macron’s prime minister says they intend to pass the reforms during the long French summer holidays when factories shutdown and many workers disperse to take upto three weeks off work.

Macron is aiming to use the break to undermine the unions ability to organise against the legislation.

Strikes and a rebellion in parliament were two factors that stopped the previous government’s attempts to introduce similar reforms.

Macron was a minister in that government between 2014 and 2016 before he quit to launch his presidential bid.

In a document released on Tuesday, the government broadly stuck to measures contained in Macron’s campaign manifesto including the capping of compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases.

Two of the biggest union federations appeared willing to engage in talks with the government. “I don’t think the unions will want to make a snap judgment since we only just got this letter from the government,” Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union said on French TV. The smaller FO union said the reform plan contained both positive and negative points.

But the more powerful left wing CGT union which includes metalworkers and many manufacturing workers and who take the lead in mobilzastion said it disagreed with the reforms and called on workers to protest over the coming days and weeks.

A key issue is pensions where Macron has said he wants to merge 37 pension systems into one, including the workers pensions at the state-owned EDF utility or SNCF railway company.


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United Steelworkers Slams Trump Paris Decision.

USW International President Leo Gerard slams Trump on Paris decision.

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard released the following statement after President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is an inexcusable blow to the U.S. economy. The agreement is ambitious, nonbinding and transparent, and it stands as a landmark global achievement in the fight against climate change.

“For many years, the United States has been a leader in innovation and technology to combat climate change. Withdrawing from this non-binding agreement further cedes our strength in this sector to China, and signals to domestic innovators and manufacturers that the United States will not support them.

“Our union, through our partnerships in the BlueGreen Alliance, has been a leader in ensuring that jobs are good for workers and good for the environment. Today’s announcement is a threat to innovative, green jobs in the United States. Americans do not have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. The USW has long believed that America can have both. Most American industries already meet the requirements of previous international climate agreements.

“Climate change is a critical concern across the globe. The diplomatic and trade impacts of withdrawing will be felt for many years, as the United States joins the only two other countries who are not part of the agreement—Syria and Nicaragua.

“The Administration made this choice despite the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change and the near universal support for the agreement by labor, environmental, and business leaders.

“President Trump should immediately reverse his decision to protect the planet and jobs for workers in the United States.”

USW International Vice President Jon Geenen posted on Facebook:

Here is how Trump joining only Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the global climate accord will play out. Our trade deficit will grow as the world comes to perceive our manufacturing processes in the US as harmful to the planet.

The perception will be that buying a car, a roll of paper, pulp or anything else from the US will bring more harm to the planet than buying it from ANYWHERE else. In fact people will pay a premium for products as global awareness increases. Even companies that have made huge strides in sustainability here will be viewed as guilty by association. In fact, this idea will be the center of an anti-US goods marketing strategy in some places.

Even China understood this and it is why they are spending almost a trillion dollars on carbon mitigation to show the world they are changing. When that becomes the global consensus the first victims of this will be American workers and American companies. We will all pay a high price for this.

And our children will pay the most…..(Incidentaly Nicaragua didnt support the accord only because it hinged on voluntary pledges and would not punish those who failed to meet them–so it is really only the US and Syria)

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Morning Star to publish General Election Special edition

Britain’s only socialist daily newspaper is producing a special bumper election edition to be handed out free at supermarkets June 1st (Thursday).

175,000 copies of the Morning Star – featuring exclusive election stories and interviews with Jeremy Corbyn and celebrity figures – will be distributed at transport hubs as well as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Asda and the Co-op.

The paper, which was the only national daily to back Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 Labour leadership campaign, is co-operatively owned by its readers – in contrast to the billionaire-owned Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Sun, Times and Daily Star.

Morning Star editor Ben Chacko said the decision to print the June 1 free edition was sparked by the appointment of George Osborne to edit the Evening Standard.

“London’s most widely read free sheet is now being edited by one of the most destructive Conservative chancellors in history,” he said. “Newspapers owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires are not, as they like to imagine, objective watchdogs of our liberties, holding power to account. More often, they offer just a shrill blast of establishment propaganda. The overwhelming Tory bias of the press is familiar from past elections, but the vicious invective directed at Jeremy Corbyn is in a different league. With this special free edition, we are offering the British public a mass-market alternative to this daily barrage.”

The June 1 edition features exclusive interviews with actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, film directors Ken Loach and W.I.Z. and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. As well as a host of exclusive news stories, the paper will include election perspectives from three rank-and-file workers – a nurse, a train guard and a postman.

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Unite warns voters ‘Tories are no friends of the North’

The Conservative Party is ‘no friend of the North’ but instead the party of the ‘leafy shires and the lucky few’, Unite the country’s largest union is warning.

Billboards carrying that message will appear across the North of England today until the polls open on Thursday 8th June as Unite continues to campaign to turn out every possible vote for Labour.

With the Conservatives targeting Labour’s northern heartlands, the union’s intervention signals its determination to hammer home the Tories’ record to voters, and remind them that the party’s plans will make life tougher for working people and their families.

Launching the billboard advertisements, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Tories are not and never will be the friends of the North.
“When the Tories are in power, our great northern cities and communities endure misery and neglect. Just look at what happened to Redcar recently – a top class industrial facility was allowed to go to the wall by the Tory government with thousands put out of work.
“This is what a Conservative government does. It does not govern for the nation but rewards only the privileged, the leafy shires and the lucky few.
“That is why we are urging voters to think very carefully ahead of the poll on 8 June. Judge the Tories by their record – record debt, falling wages, appalling zero hours work, our children’s schools begging for help, police cuts, and our NHS on its knees. These leopards have not changed their spots and are not worthy of your vote.
“A vote for Labour is the only option to give our communities the strong future they deserve.”
The Unite billboards can be seen in Leeds, Newcastle and Salford. They will be joined by ad vans that will tour London plus towns and cities in the north east and north west to contrast the different offers before voters – continuing Tory cuts and falling living standards, or the sensible Labour plan to renew working class communities.

This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that Unite members have been putting through letterboxes in recent weeks and distributing in workplaces, as well as a major Facebook campaign to ensure voters understand the real change that Labour offers.

Unite will also be campaigning in manufacturing workplaces to hammer home the message that a Tory Brexit would be very bad news for UK jobs and investment.

To see the artwork for the billboards and ad vans click here

Unite’s poster ads can be seen at the following sites:
Leeds: Leeds Central, Wellington St A58M, LS1 1RF
Salford: Regent Road Towers (out), M5 4QH
Salford: Regent Road Towers (In) M5 4QH
Newcastle: On the A184, Leam Lane, Fellgate NE10 8YD
Sunderland: On the  A19, Sunderland SR5 3JL

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Only Labour Backs UK Manufacturing.

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Finnish Unions Create New Industrial Union

Three Finnish trade unions have come together to create a new union – the Finnish Industrial Union.

The merger was initially repoerted on this site in December 2016.

The industrial and general union TEAM, the Metal Workers’ Union and the Woodworkers’ Union have joined together and created the new union.

The unions say the reason behind the merger is to ensure that the voice of manufacturing/industrial workers will continue to be heard.

Attacks on unions by the Government and employers in Finland have been growing and the unions see creating a powerful manufacturing/industrial union union as a way of fighting back.

The new union will represent 75 per cent of workers predominantly involved in Finland’s export sector – putting them stronger position when it comes to collective bargaining.

Union density in Finland is still high – but the three unions between them, have lost a total of 35,000 members since 2005. The focus of the new union will be organising work places and tackling the growth of digital technology.

A fourth union, the papermakers union Paperlitto who were initially involved in the talks withdrew. However, a senior Finnish union official to me it is expected they will join with the new union once it is established.

The new union will begin operating at the beginning of 2018. With 226,000 members it will be the second largest trade union in Finland.

Each of the unions currently has their own separate unemployment fund.

These will also merge and the new joint unemployment fund is set to commence in January 2018.

The Finnish Industrial Union will keep all the 33 collective agreements the three unions have now. Collective bargaining will be organised into four sectors: chemicals, technology, wood products and special branches.

The number of local branches in the new Union will be 715. In 2015 the three Unions collected a total of 47.8 million euro in union subscriptions.

The name of the new Union in Finnish is Teollisuusliitto and in Swedish Industrifacket.

The union will have two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Finland has a Swedish speaking minority of around five per cent of population.

The first joint Congress of the Finnish Industrial Union will take place at the end of November this year.

It will elect the 83 member union council, union president, three vice presidents and the union board.

The new president will be Riku Aalto, the President of the Metal Workers’ Union.

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What Is Really Happenning In Venezuela – Watch Here.

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Labour’s Workers Charter

At last a radical employment rights programme set out by the Labour Party – can anyone disagree with these proposals?


  • Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that all workers have the same rights and protections whatever kind of job they have.
  • Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week.
  • Ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another.
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining – because the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is through a trade union.
  • Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces – so that unions can speak to members and potential members.
  • Introduce four new Bank Holidays – we’ll bring our country together with new holidays to mark our four national patron saints’ days, so that workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries.
  • Raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – so that no one in work gets poverty pay.
  • End the public sector pay cap – because public sector wages have fallen and our public sector workers deserve a pay rise.
  • Amend the takeover code to ensure every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to protect workers and pensioners – because workers shouldn’t suffer when a company is sold.
  • Roll out maximum pay ratios – of 20:1 in the public sector and companies bidding for public contracts – because it cannot be right that wages at the top keep rising while everyone else’s stagnates.
  • Ban unpaid internships – because it’s not fair for some to get a leg up when others can’t afford to.
  • Enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work – so that all workers can be supported when negotiating with their employer.
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees – so that people have access to justice.
  • Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay – because fathers are parents too and deserve to spend more time with their new babies.
  • Strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy – because no one should be penalised for having children.
  • Hold a public inquiry into blacklisting – to ensure that blacklisting truly becomes and remains a thing of the past.
  • Give equalities reps statutory rights – so they have time to protect workers from discrimination.
  • Reinstate protection against third party harassment – because everyone deserves to be safe at work
  • Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions.
  • Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing– so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work.


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Support US Car Workers Fighting For Union Recogntion

United Auto Workers (the US car workers union) and their members  at Local 42 in Chattanooga, Tennessee have been locked in a battle with Volkswagen for the right to union recognition and collective bargaining.

Despite a December 2015 election victory – when skilled trades workers voted in favour of being represented by the UAW at Volkswagen – and a September 2016 NLRB ruling that ordered Volkswagen to the bargaining table, the company still refuses to negotiate with UAW.

Volkwagen recognise unions in Germany (the IG Metall), in the UK (Bentley in Crewe) and in many other countries.

For months, Volkswagen has used every stalling tactic available to avoid recognising US workers’ right to form a union and negotiate a contract.

Unite union reps from the automotive sector recently visted the Volkswagen site in Chatanooga as part of an international delegation aimed to forcing VW to recognise the UAW at the plant.

SumOfUs, a group of over 12 million people across the globe who are committed to ‘people over profits’ has a new petition calling on Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller to stop the stalling tactics and meet with UAW to negotiate a contract.

Unite is asking you to stand in solidarity with UAW members in Chattanooga and millions of supporters around the world.

Sign the petition now and tell Volkswagen to put an end to the stalling tactics.


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Posted in International Trade Unions, Unite The Union | 1 Comment