Wal-Mart Trying To Stop Workers From Using Oransing App

imagesThe anti union US retailer Wal-Mart is trying to stop its workers downloading a smartphone app designed by OUR Wal-mart, an organisation that is campaigning for higher pay and better working conditions for non unionised workers. It marks another development in the use of social media in union organising campaigns. Wal-Mart is the USA’s largest private employer.

The app released on Android phones allows Wal-Mart workers to chat among themselves and receive advice on workplace policies and legal rights, said leaders from OUR Walmart who have not divulged the numbers of workers are using the app. It was tested on 200 users.

Wal-Mart said that OUR Wal-Mart was trying to get ‘associates’ to turn over personal information by using ‘deceptive and slick looking social media and mobile apps’.

OUR Walmart has staged Black Friday protests at Wal-Mart locations. This year it plans to encourage workers to download the new app over the holiday shopping weekend.

The app, called WorkIt, invites users to register by providing a name, email, telephone number and ZIP Code. Users can also share their job title and Wal-Mart store number. The app doesn’t access a user’s location or smartphone contacts, and lets users opt out of photo access.

Wal-Mart has a long history of fighting unions – but it recently increased the starting wage of its 1.3 million U.S. employees to $9 per hour last year.

While other activist groups and unions have created apps to broadcast news, the WorkIt app allows users to chat with each other and solicit personal workplace advice.

“This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the workers,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. In the future “human resource management will be on people’s telephones.”

Employers and unions are increasingly using social media and mobile devices to contact workers directly. Employers are launching mobile work scheduling apps and finding ways to push ‘human resource messages’ out through social media or digital advertising.

Wal-Mart is testing of its own mobile app to communicate with workers, as a way to quickly give employees access to their work schedules.

There is already a Facebook group for Wal-Mart workers with more than 20,000 members. However, the conversations can be disorganised or inaccurate, driving the need for an app with curated responses, said OUR Walmart leaders.

OUR Walmart developed the WorkIt app with Quadrant 2, a New York City-based software development company that has designed products for companies and activist organisations including the American Civil Liberties Union.

The app uses International Business Machines Corp’s Watson artificial-intelligence technology to build a set of answers to employee questions over time, said Jason Van Anden, founder of Quadrant 2. If Watson is stumped “there is a peer network of experts that will interact with the users,” said Mr. Van Anden.


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Russian Revolution Centenary Celebrations

13095779_578081632366227_7069513163726163669_n7th November 2016 (25th October in the old-style Julian calendar) marks the 99th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, famously dubbed by US journalist John Reed as “ten days that shook the world.”

The Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in St Petersburg (later Leningrad), seat of the Provisional Government which had toppled Tsar Nicolas II in March that year (February in the Julian calendar) but had failed to end the slaughter of the First World War or feed a hungry people.

The Soviet revolution inspired those of China, Cuba, Vietnam and many other nations over the next eight decades. After defeating Nazi Germany in the Second World War the Soviet Union supported the great wave of colonial liberation struggles, including that of South Africa against the apartheid regime.

The history of the Russian Revolution and its leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is interwoven with that of Britain from the turn of the 20th century until the 1920s.

The Marx Memorial Library, which opened in 1933, occupies the same building where the exiled Lenin had his office from 1902 to 1903, publishing 17 editions of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) newspaper Iskra (Spark) from there.

The fateful 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, where the split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks occurred, was held on Tottenham Court Road in 1903 after Belgian police forced delegates to leave Brussels, the original venue.

When Britain joined France, the USA, Japan and ten other countries in their invasion of the young Soviet Union – to “strangle the Bolshevik baby in its cradle” as future prime minister Winston Churchill put it – British dockworkers refused to load arms onto ships bound for the front.

It was Lenin who urged British socialists to found the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920 (succeeded by the Communist Party of Britain) and publish a newspaper, which was launched in 1930 as the Daily Worker, still published today as the Morning Star.

Historians, trade unionists and socialists will gather on Monday 7 November at London’s historic Marx Memorial Library (MML) to launch a year of activities commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution, an event that changed history irrevocably.

The Russian Revolution Centenary Committee (RRCC) invites the media and all those whose interest in socialism has been reignited by recent events to attend.

The year of events across Britain – including meetings, lectures, film showings, choral performances, theatre plays and exhibitions – will culminate in a conference at the Trade Union Congress’ (TUC) 500-seat Congress House in London’s West End on 4th November 2017.

Next year’s centenary conference will focus on the historical significance of the revolution, its impact on the British labour movement and around the world, the important role of the arts in the Soviet Union and the continued relevance of the revolution to contemporary society.

It will address how the revolution sparked workers’ uprisings in Germany and Hungary in its aftermath, led to the formation of the Third International and aided the movements for colonial freedom and other communist revolutions in countries such as China, Cuba and Vietnam.

Speakers at the 7th November 2016 launch include Cuban Ambassador to the United Kingdom Teresita de Jesus Vicente Sotolongo, a representative from rail union ASLEF and Professor Mary Davis, trustee of the MML.

Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School, 37a Clerkenwell Green, Marx Memorial Library, London, EC1R 0DU, United Kingdom

For more information please click here.


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Len McCluskey On Brexit & Immigration

Len McCluskeyBritain’s exit from the European Union must deliver a migration policy that changes the UK from a ‘race-to-the bottom to a rate-for the-job country’, Len McCluskey of Unite will say today.

Addressing the conference of the Class think tank he is expected to warn that the ‘fatal attraction’ of access to cheap labour offered by the expanded European Union had caused working people to break faith with the project.

He will say that the concerns of working people that labour movement has hit jobs and pay can no longer be ignored and call for guaranteed safeguards on jobs, rights and wages to take precedent in the development of the UK’s emerging immigration changes.

He will call for employers seeking to recruit workers from abroad to prove that a trade union will be active in the workplace to defend the terms and conditions of all employees saying:

“There is no doubt that concerns about the impact of the free movement of Labour in Europe played a large part in the referendum result, particularly in working-class communities. It is those same communities – traditionally Labour-supporting – where the Labour Party is now struggling.

“As long ago as 2009 Unite’s private surveys of membership opinion were showing that even then our members were more concerned about immigration than any other political issue, so we are past the point where working people can be convinced that the free movement of labour has worked for them, their families, their industries and their communities.

“That is why we need a new approach, to move away from talk of “freedom of movement” on the one hand and “controls” on the other and instead to speak of safeguards.

“Safeguards for communities, safeguards for workers, and safeguards for industries needing labour. At the core of this must be the reassertion of collective bargaining and strong trade unions. Any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad should only be able to do so if they are either covered by a proper trade union agreement, or by sectoral collective bargaining. Put together with trade unions’ own organising efforts this would change the race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate-for-the-job society.

“It would end the fatal attraction of ever cheaper workers for employers, and slash demand for immigrant labour, without the requirement for formal quotas or restrictions.”

Arguing that the over-supply of cheap labour has set worker against worker, McCluskey will urge the labour movement not to shy away from the issue but instead to take the lead in brokering the urgently needed fresh approach to immigration:

“The problem is not cheap labour in Britain – it’s cheap labour anywhere. Anyone who has had to negotiate for workers, in manufacturing in particular, knows the huge difficulties that have been caused by the ability of capital to move production around the world in search of far lower labour costs and higher profits. Supply and demand affects the sale of labour too, pitting worker against worker.

“But while it would be easy to simply say ‘let’s pull up the drawbridge’, that’s impractical in today’s world. Instead we must do everything necessary to organise all workers here into trade unions, wherever they may have been born and whatever their history, and fight for decent pay, proper working conditions and full rights at work.

“This country – the sixth richest in the world – is more than capable of providing every worker, wherever they are from, with a decent job and every family with a decent home.”

Calling for migration management to be fair and reasonable, not just to workers and industry in the UK, but to those countries supplying workers too he will say:

“Let’s not pretend that free movement is a straightforward benefit to the countries workers are leaving behind, being denuded of young people and skilled labour. We need to create a system that works for everyone, wherever they are born.

“The free movement of Labour is the price for keeping access to the single market, which is essential for so many British jobs. That problem needs to be frankly acknowledged – fixed barriers to free movement will hardly be acceptable to the European Union if access to the single market is to be retained.

“But with the safeguards I call for, taken alongside Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to fair rules and reasonable management of migration, as well as Labour’s pledge to restore the Migrant Impact Fund for communities suddenly affected by large-scale migration, there is the basis for giving real reassurance to working people in towns and cities abandoned by globalisation.

“Never forget what unites all of us: anger at the government’s disgraceful treatment of refugees, who deserve safety and protection; shame at the Tory attempts to use EU citizens already living and working here as a sort of negotiating card – they must have the right to remain; and a determination to resist the rise in racist attacks and invective which has blighted our society past-referendum.

“However, we can no longer sit like the three wise monkeys, seeing no problem, hearing no problem and speaking of no problem.

“We must listen and respond to working people’s concerns because that is the only way to earn their support, consigning today’s opinion polls to the dustbin, convincing working people that the labour movement is their best protection in an uncertain present and their best hope for a prosperous future.”


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Great News For Construction Workers As UCATT Vote To Join Unite

construction-workers-gettyConstruction workers in the UK will now have one powerful union voice on their side fighting for them from 1 January 2017, as members of the construction union Ucatt voted by 85.5 per cent to merge with Britain’s largest union, Unite which already has a 40,000 strong construction sector.

The landmark move sees Ucatt and Unite’s construction membership combining to form one union for the construction industry. Heralding the move, both unions put bad bosses on notice, saying their combined resources and expertise would zero in on ending bogus self-employment and stopping firms indulging in a race to the bottom by undercutting pay, terms and conditions.

With major infrastructure projects either coming on stream or in the pipeline, such as Hinkley, HS2 and Heathrow the unions said the move would also give construction workers a powerful voice in pressing for a joined up industrial strategy, securing good quality jobs and dramatically boosting the number of proper apprenticeships.

Over the coming weeks Unite and Ucatt will be finalising details ahead of Ucatt’s formal transfer to Unite on 1st January 2017.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is a historic moment for the construction industry and the men and women who work in it. From January 2017, construction workers will for the first time have one united powerful union on their side at work. 

“Bad bosses and construction firms employing sharp practices should beware. Our new combined industrial voice will be used to defend the rights of construction workers across the UK and to campaign for secure decent jobs which pay the rate for the job. 

“I look forward to working with our new colleagues and welcoming Ucatt members into the Unite family. Together we will be strong progressive voice for Britain’s construction workers and their industry.”

Ucatt acting general secretary Brian Rye said: “By joining with Unite, the industrial muscle of all construction workers will double overnight, which is good news for all members.

“Employers are going to have to get used to dealing with one voice and one union. They need to understand that shoddy and underhand practices including; dismissing workers without warning, exploiting workers by paying them via agencies or umbrella companies and ignoring key safety laws will not be tolerated and will be exposed.”

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Unite seeks Brexit assurances for UK car industry and manufacturing

http-com-ft-imagepublish-prod-s3-amazonawsBritain’s largest union, Unite said it would be seeking similar government assurances for the UK’s car industry and manufacturing sector which may have been made to Nissan to cover the potential impact of Brexit.

Today’s (Saturday 29 October) move by Unite which represents over half a million manufacturing workers follows Nissan’s welcome decision earlier in the week to invest in its Sunderland plant.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The announcement by Nissan of investment at Sunderland to produce the new Qashqai model and the X-trail is very welcome.

“Hopefully it will secure the futures and continuing employment not just for Nissan workers at the OEM but also for many companies and workers in the Nissan supply chain.

“At this stage details of any arrangements that may have been made or assurances have not been divulged by the government and Nissan.

“Unite has been campaigning to secure the future of manufacturing workers and UK manufacturing in any Brexit arrangements across the UK, including our successful automotive industry.

“Unite and our members in the manufacturing sector support continued tariff free access to the single market, with no triggering of Article 50 until we see the potential shape of future trade deals and what the risks are.

“It is understandable that many Unite members are asking if similar arrangements that may have been made with Nissan will be available to other manufacturers.

“That doesn’t just apply to the automotive sector, where we have a timetable for decisions to be made on new models, but also in other important and sensitive manufacturing sectors, such as aerospace and defence, the science industries, engineering, metals and steel.

“Unite and manufacturing workers across the UK will be seeking similar assurances to cover the potential impact of Brexit that may have been made to Nissan.

“Our members at car and other manufacturing plants across the country rightly are looking for the same job security that appears to have been secured at Nissan though government intervention and investment guarantees.

“We need similar arrangement across the manufacturing sector to protect workers and secure these crucial high skill, decently paid jobs.”

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‘Monumental Victory’ In Uber Case


This is the official GMB press release:

Similar contracts masquerading as bogus self employment will all be reviewed says GMB

GMB, the union for professional drivers, has won their case against Uber as the London Employment Tribunal has determined that Uber has acted unlawfully by not providing drivers with basic workers’ rights. (see notes to editors for previous press releases)

GMB brought two test cases to the Central London Employment Tribunal on 20 July 2016 and it has decided that Uber drivers are entitled to receive holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks. The Tribunal decision will have major implications for over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for workers in other occupations.

GMB found last year that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August after costs and fees were taken into account, significantly below the national minimum wage of £7.20. Lawyers for the drivers also argued that Uber acts unlawfully by frequently deducting sums from drivers’ pay, often without informing the drivers in advance, including when customers make complaints.

Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director, said:

“This is a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife.

Uber drivers and other directed workers do have legal rights at work. The question for them now is how those rights are enforced in practice. The clear answer is that the workforce must combine into the GMB union to force the company to recognise these rights and to negotiate fair terms and conditions for the drivers.

This loophole that has allowed unscrupulous employers to avoid employment rights, sick pay and minimum wage for their staff and costing the government millions in lost tax revenue will now be closed.

Uber drivers and thousands of others caught in the bogus self-employment trap will now enjoy the same rights as employees. This outcome will be good for passengers too. Properly rewarded drivers are the same side of the coin as drivers who are properly licensed and driving well maintained and insured vehicles.

GMB will be getting on with the business of campaigning and recruiting at Uber to ensure our members’ rights are respected.

GMB will give evidence to the new Taylor review on terms and conditions within the sectors of the economy offering precarious employment. We will make the case that average hours worked over the past 12 weeks should be deemed to be the contracted hours of work for those on zero hours as it already is for maximum hours of work under the Working Time Directive.

GMB puts employers on notice that we are reviewing similar contracts masquerading as bogus self employment, particularly prevalent in the so called ‘gig economy’. This is old fashioned exploitation under newfangled jargon, but the law will force you to pay GMB members what they are rightfully due.”

Nigel Mackay, Leigh Day employment lawyer, said:

 “We are delighted that the Employment Tribunal has found in favour of our clients.

“This judgment acknowledges the central contribution that Uber’s drivers have made to Uber’s success by confirming that its drivers are not self-employed but that they work for Uber as part of the company’s business.

“Uber drivers often work very long hours just to earn enough to cover their basic living costs. It is the work carried out by these drivers that has allowed Uber to become the multi-billion-dollar global corporation it is.

“We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the National Minimum Wage and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them.

“This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.”

TUC General Secretary France O’Grady blog on the The Guardian website – click here

Campaign For Trade Union Freedom comment: click here

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Unite will not stand by and see good jobs scrapped amid Brexit

BMW2This week Unite will set out its strategy on manufacturing and Brexit.

Called Brexit On Our Terms, Unite has consulted and listened to our shop stewards and reps in manufacturing, the Trades Union Congress, MPs and employers bodies representing companies in engineering, aerospace, defence, automotives, the chemical and science industries, petroleum, oil and ceramics.

We have found there is considerable agreement on a number of key issues on both sides of industry.

These include: continued access to a tariff-free single market; no triggering of Article 50 until we see what exit from the EU will look like and what the alternatives are; a seat at the table for manufacturers and unions – and the continuation and protection of employment rights gained through membership of the European Union.

Also under discussion were the key issues of continuing infrastructure investment, access to skills and the development of an industrial strategy in a post-Brexit UK.

Unite’s document sets out a case study on the effects of Brexit on our world class automotive industry. At the recent Paris auto show, UK car companies made it clear it is a red line to maintain a tariff-free single market. It will also carry a case on Brexit and its effect on research and development, in our science and chemicals industries – it is not good reading.

The report also examines the alternatives to EU membership, in terms of trade, with a case study on potential trade deal with Canada produced in consultation with our Workers Uniting partners in the United Steelworkers.

The Government is in a mess. Ministers who are supposedly in charge send out different signals almost daily, ranging from suggestions there will be a smooth transition in joining the European Economic Area – staying in the single market and trying to find fudge on free movement – to clutching at straws on potential trade deals with Australia, Mexico and South Korea.

They have been completely wrong-footed twice by the US with a firm rejection of the UK getting any trade deal with them anytime soon. Now we have Hard Brexit looming – relying on WTO rules. Liam Fox recently spoke of a “golden era of trade” in Manchester as Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn warned the Government it would seek compensation if there was a Hard Brexit which imposed tariffs and cast the doubts on further investment in their plant in Sunderland. Only days later Ralf Speth, boss of Jaguar Land Rover, warned on future investment should Brexit impose tariffs on the UK automotive industy.

This weekend the CBI used an open letter to warn of the dangers of not being in the single market, early triggering of article 50, and relying on WTO rules (Hard Brexit). Similar warnings have been issued by the Engineering Employers Federation, the Chemical Industry Association and others. Yet the Government’s Brexit team seem oblivious to manufacturing – content to offer vague and highly improbable answers.

The Prime Minister says she alone will trigger Article 50 at a time of her choosing, and says she will not take the matter to parliament. Given one of the reasons for leaving the EU was to regain the sovereignty of parliament, this is outrageous. There must be Parliamentary scrutiny and agreement before triggering Article 50 – to do anything else will cause further uncertainty for industry.

And on the issue of employment rights many employers in manufacturing have told Unite they don’t believe there is any need – nor do they want to meddle with current employment rights gained through the EU.

Other key issues we highlight include investment; access to skills; re-shoring; procurement and the appalling attacks on foreign workers in recent months.

Just how the Government is going to handle these complex negotiations, led by the three “Brexiteers” minus the army of experienced trade negotiators and experts that are going to be needed, is highly questionable.

The future of manufacturing and decent jobs hangs in the balance. Unite will not stand by and allow jobs, pay and conditions to be attacked by employers claiming Brexit as an excuse, nor will we stand back and watch the Government trade off decent jobs and investment in UK manufacturing through incompetence and dogma.

Kier Starmer, who will lead for Labour on Brexit, should now seize this opportunity to highlight the confusion and lack of planning and understanding at the heart of government and the major damage ministers will do to our key industries if they continue to fumble and mishandle the negotiations.

Unite’s document on manufacturing Brexit On Our Terms will be available on the Unite website this week.

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Norway Oil Workers On Strike

n_146710350 oil workers all members of the Industri Energi union, are on strike after wage talks broke down with the Norwegian Oil Industry Association.

“We are on strike because the Norwegian Oil Industry Association did not show any willingness to meet us at our moderate demands,” said Industri Energi’s  Ommund Stokka.

Norwegian oil workers at  Schlumberger Norway; Baker Hughes Norway; Halliburton Norway; Oceaneering and Oceaneering Asset Integrity are on strike.

Environmental management of drilling waste will be stopped as will drilling operations offshore to prevent discharge into the sea. Industri Energi also stated that it will remove computer engineers who work with well monitoring and people that control unmanned underwater vehicles.

In a warning to the Norwegian Oil Industry Association, Industri Energi stated that a there would be an escalation of the strike.

Mediation between the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association and Industry Energi took place this week..

Commenting on the effect of the strike, the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association said that the walkouts could call a halt to some drilling operations, but would not immediately affect oil and gas production on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

Norway currently produces around two million barrels of oil, condensate and natural gas liquids (NGL) per day. The country’s output of natural gas currently stands at around 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalents.


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Early Reflections on Labour Conference 2016

p01lckhfThe portents were not good a few weeks ago – the conference was expected to expose a giant chasm and split the party; Ian McNichol was for the chop; they were struggling to find a new security company and the conference might have to be abandoned; the exhibition area was predicted to be down to a few stalls selling mugs and TShirts and delegates would be flitting down to another gig down the road. None of this happened of course.

Peace broke out and the plea by the Leader to ‘end the trench warfare’ did not fall on deaf ears. There is some way to go and no doubt there will irksome veering off message notablt with stupid things said on social media. But it was good to speak to ex-shadow team members prepared to comeback, roll their sleeves up and get stuck back in.

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was relaxed, well crafted, measured and polished – lasting 60 minutes with some excellent policies – which will have to be fleshed out – but the promise to scrap the Trade Union Act and zero hours contracts, the fight against Grammer schools and John McDonnell’s proposal to introduce sectoral collective bargaining and develop an interventionist industrial and manufacturing strategy were music to my ears.

The party now has some fast rising stars: Angie Rayner at Education and MP for Ashton Under Lyne – she was born and bred in Stockport, had a tough upbringing but speaks like an ordinary person – she will be a major asset to the party. Becky Long Bailey, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and another Northern MP, born in Old Trafford she represents Salford and Eccles and like Angie speaks like an ordinary person and will be a real asset to the in the media. Clive Lewis has mastered his defense brief and not just in his speech from the podium but also an the International policy seminar where he impressed me with answers on a range of defence issues: Successor subs, procurement, accountable defense spending, helicopters and ship building. Being ex-military he will be more than a match for Tory defense spokesperson’s on the telly.

Sadiq Kahn is another major asset to the party – he over egged the pudding a little in his speech but there can be no doubting he is at the centre of the a shift of power to the regions. Andy Burnham put on a great display (miles better than his run at the leadership) and looks another prime asset when he becomes Manchester Metro Mayor as will Steve Rotherham in Merseyside.

Burnham made it clear they will hold the Tories to their promises on the Northern Powerhouse (I thought it was a complete Tory gimmick) in a effort to bring prosperity to the North after years of de-indstrialisation and service, go no where, zero hours jobs.

Ian Lavery’s ‘Workplace 2020’ will also be a winner – hitting the road, meeting ordinary workers across the country to talk about jobs, workplace rights and peoples expectations in the workplace.

Brexit will be the major issue for the next few years and there was a clear understanding of the urgent need to get a firm Labour line on key issues such as a tariff free single market, article 50, employment rights, access to skills, investment etc. The policy seminars on International and the EU I attended reflected these arguments – with Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner leading well on Brexit but they need a bigger team to ‘man for man’ mark the Three Stooges haplessly running the Brexit negotiations – on this we can take them apart. Perhaps some of the returning ‘big hitters’ would fit the bill.

Hardest workers to get people to fringe meetings? Gibraltar team – including Unite members – pressing their case on Brexit lead by First Minister Fabian Picardo.

Best delegation? Unite the Union. Disciplined, good speakers (we hardly ever over run speaking time) plus a barnstorming speech by Len McCluskey putting Industrial Strategy at the heart of the Labour programme.


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Speech at EU Life Long Learning Project Final Conference – London, 23rd September 2016

union-learning-reps-ulrs_1Unite is the biggest manufacturing union in the UK and we also have a unique relationship with our fellow trade unionists and workers in the EU. 

Unite’s elected workplace representatives represent members in some of the biggest manufacturing companies in the EU and around world, and we collaborate with workers across borders through strategically important European Works Councils.

 Unite is pleased to be involved in this project.  It gave us the opportunity for further collaboration and to share best practice on how to develop effective workplace learning strategies.

 Firstly, I would like to thank our Unite reps for participating in this TUC, European funded project.  And, of course, the reps from the five other partner countries.

I know that the study visits were a great success and through the exchange of information that took place we were able to create a useful toolkit for union reps which will help develop workplace learning strategies which are needed for our sector to thrive.

 I am always delighted to discuss skills and workplace learning.

 High quality skills are vital to ensuring that our crucial manufacturing sector can prosper in the future, meaning people will have access to good quality, sustainable employment.

 Given the challenges that we face over the next couple of decades, it’s important that key stakeholders come together and identify skills strategies which will ensure that the workforce is equipped with the tools which will enable the sector to grow, providing good quality sustainable employment for millions of people.

In the UK we face a unique set of problems.

 Let me turn to Brexit

 Brexit is a hot topic in the UK.  Unite is developing a strategic response in manufacturing We are calling for:

 No trigger of Article 50 until we know what deals are possible.

There must be a union seat at the negotiating table.

Existing employment protections derived from EU law must be grandfathere

Workers should not lose their employment protections.

Access to the single market, tariff free.

Companies must not use Brexit as an excuse to declare job losses and closures.

Alongside these key steps, there should be continuing investment into infrastructure and investment in skills.

 A skill strategy is a key plank of an industrial strategy which will ensure that our manufacturing sector can thrive in the post Brexit environment.

 What are the potential impacts of Brexit?

 The UK manufacturing sector relies heavily on skilled labour from the EU and the rest of the globe.  1 in 8 manufacturing workers were not born in the UK.  A report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that there are 5,000 vacancies which cannot be filled due to skills shortages.  Unite and other manufacturing organisations believe we need to attract workers from the EU and elsewhere.

 Unite agrees with EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation that the UK cannot have a “one size fits all” approach to reducing migration from the EU.  Ministers have to recognise that for the manufacturing sector, EU workers make an essential, valuable contribution and bring much needed skills to the sector, which are unlikely to be met by the UK labour market alone.

 Unite is calling for the UK government to safeguard the continuance of existing EU funding and tools which helps improve the mobility of workers and provide common standards for the quality of vocational education.

 We want to make sure that programme such as ERASMUS, EQF and EQAVET continue.  Protection of these training programmes should be included in Brexit negotiations.

Automation and wider challenges

Manufacturing faces wider challenges, notably from the speed of the digital revolution including robotics, cobots and automation.

 Interesting fact: Germany has 176,000 industrial robots compared to the UK with just 17,000 in use.  Therefore the likely increase in the use of robots, cobots, connectivity and digitalisation means that workers will need a very different skill set in the future.

The Bank of England has warned that up to 11 million jobs could lost through automation in the near future.

 Unite is now developing strategies for how we handle “industry 4.0”.  Whilst these changes will affect the whole of the economy through platforms and apps such as “Uber” but automation will have a significant impact in the manufacturing sector.  Whilst this change won’t happen overnight, as a union we have to ask the important question “What is the long term future for the next generation that will be looking for the jobs that have always been there?”

 What sort of skills will be needed in the future?  We believe that the workforce will need a more diverse skill set; skills which enable the workforce to service and maintain robots and cobots as well as the skills to manufacture the goods that companies sell.  We’ve already seen apprenticeships in this sector become a lot more diverse.

 In many companies apprentices are having to develop high level ICT skills along with electrical and engineering skills.

 New qualifications will have to be developed which reflect the changing needs of industries.  Unite is calling on the UK government to work with unions, employers and the education sector to ensure we develop a robust industrial strategy underpinned by relevant, high quality skills.

 The Apprenticeship Levy

Significantly, the UK is introducing an apprenticeship levy from April 2017.  Employers with a paybill over £3m per yearwill have to make a monthly payment of 0.5% of their total payroll costs.

 Unite and the TUC has been calling for a training levy in some sectors for decades.

 Over the past two decades employer investment in training has been in free fall and the volume of training undertaken by the workforce has declined by roughly 50%.

 Unite is familiar with the existing levy in the construction sector.  It works well and is understood by employees and employers alike.  Recent guidance has been published by the government which has provided clarification on how the levy will operate.

 It is particularly welcome that employers will be able to allocate 10% of their levy funds to employers in their supply chains, to fund apprenticeships, which will give the entire sector a boost.

 Unite is supportive of apprenticeship growth, where it provides quality opportunities for the workforce.

 We want to negotiate gold standard apprenticeships with employers, including good pay for apprentices, quality training including high level skills and apprenticeships which last a minimum of three years.  We were pleased to help the ETUC develop its recent European Quality Framework for Apprentices.

 As the levy is focussed on funding apprenticeships, there are inevitable consequences for wider training and skills in the sector.

 We are concerned about some employers are offering high quality apprenticeships will be unable to recoup all of their levy contributions to fund apprenticeships, due to technicalities in the new system.

 In addition to this there is no statutory position for unions on the newly formed Institute of Apprenticeships which will be responsible for quality assurance in apprenticeships.

 This is a big mistake as we bring experience from industry and manufacturing and we can feed through the views of our members and union reps to help make things work.

 So there is work still to be done to ensure the new system delivers high quality apprenticeships.

 The role of trade unions

Union involvement in developing skills strategies is essential.  Unions can help identify the skills needs of the workforce and also play an essential role in making sure skills programmes are high quality.

 Unite have been at the forefront of negotiating good quality skills and training opportunities for the manufacturing workforce.  We’ve worked with Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and BAE Aerospace and in the science industries to develop gold standard apprenticeship programmes.  We’ve worked with the Sector Skills Councils, SEMTA and Cogent to develop high quality sector standards for training and skills.

 Unite is leading the way on making sure that underrepresented groups have equality of access to training.  We provide guidance to union reps on how to take practical steps to ensure that training programmes are inclusive and many of our young apprentice members are ambassadors in our Unite into Schools programmes.

 Finally, unionlearn and the Union Learning Fund has helped to establish a network of union learning representatives, learning centres and useful tools which help our branches;

 To negotiate with employers to offer good quality training

To identify the future needs of the business and workforce

And to provide support and gain commitment from the workforce    to complete their training.

 This useful toolkit which was published is an additional useful resource which our reps can use to develop workplace learning strategies.

 I hope you have a productive conference and that we can equip our union reps with the tools to develop effective learning strategies.

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