The Brexit transition deadline will not be extended, says Gove. Can’t wait for the “Oven ready ambitious trade deal” they promised!

Michael Gove said yesterday that he informed his EU counterparts that the UK is not planning to extend the Brexit transition period beyond January 1st, the current date at which the UK must formally stop acting under EU trade and immigration regulations.

So between now and the end of December, the we can look forward to the Government negotiating a trade agreement with the EU (these are their words) which is “ambitious, broad, deep and a flexible partnership”. 

An “oven ready” deal with an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership” that would entail “no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors”.

The Government also said their deal would safeguard “workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protection”, including “effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement.”

And they committed to negotiating a “broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership” underpinned by “long-standing commitments to the fundamental rights of individuals, including continued adherence and giving effect to the ECHR, and adequate protection of personal data”.

They promised this to the British people at the General Election – they own it, they will be held to account! 

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Posted in Employment Rights, European Trade Unions, International Trade Unions, Labour Party, Media, Politics, The Digital Economy and Unions, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union, Workers Uniting | Leave a comment

McCluskey: MPs correct to denounce British Airways as a ‘national disgrace’

A group of MPs from all sides of the Commons is absolutely correct in its denunciation of British Airways’ treatment of its staff, the leader of the UK’s most influential trade union has said today (Saturday 13th June).

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was responding to the publication of the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the aviation sector’s reaction to the Covid-19 crisis in which it singles out BA for fierce and unique criticism.

The damning report concludes that the airline’s current consultation on staffing changes “is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees”. 

In a further reflection of the committee’s fury, it condemns BA’s behaviour, and that of its parent company IAG, towards its employees as “a national disgrace” adding that “it falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis.”

The committee’s report is just the latest in a long and growing chorus of criticism, ranging from the chancellor and the aviation minister to public figures like Piers Morgan and Ricky Gervais, who have variously expressed shock at the company’s misuse of the furlough scheme and Bank of England loans to fund the business while it `fires and rehires’ every one of its 42,000 workers, and horror at the mistreatment of a loyal and dedicated workforce.

Such is the anger at the company’s conduct, calls are mounting for the government to strip BA of some of its slots, particularly at Heathrow airport, a call made by Unite in response to the airline’s `industrial thuggery’, arguing that a much-reduced and socially irresponsible company should not be rewarded with lucrative flight times and routes.

The union has also condemned the airline for singling out the UK arm of IAG – which contributes 66 per cent of the group’s profit – for savage attacks on jobs and pay while the terms for workers across the rest of the group are left intact.  The assault on UK jobs comes while the group seeks to purchase another airline, Air Europa, at a cost of one billion euros. Further, no other airline has approached the crisis in such a brutal fashion; Ryanair’s CEO has taken a pay cut and has said that staff wage cuts will be reversed at the earliest opportunity.

Unite’s Len McCluskey

Commenting, Len McCluskey said: “The transport committee’s report pulls no punches and is absolutely correct to denounce British Airway’s conduct in such unique and unequivocal terms. 

“Outside of the BA boardroom bunker, it is hard to find one, single defender of the actions and supporter of the airline’s plans.  Once again, BA has shown that if there is a wrong way to go about things, then that is the reckless path that it will choose.

“The case the company makes for sacking 12,000 and trashing the wages of those who stay on the workforce is full of holes because it is a transparent effort to generate profits out of a crisis.  BA is fooling nobody.  The parent company easily has the cash and assets to weather this storm, and if it did not then it would not contemplate for one moment the one billion pound purchase of another airline.

“BA has infuriated MPs because it is using taxpayers’ money and the chancellor’s well-intentioned jobs retention scheme to keep cash in the business while destroying tens of thousands of UK jobs, ruining people’s lives and destabilising the whole of UK aviation into the bargain.

“Never before has the country witnessed such wholesale mistreatment of a UK workforce and such brutal industrial thuggery.  MPs are totally right to say that this must be stopped, and that if the company refuses to behave responsibly towards the workers and the nation that makes its profits, then it is correct that it loses its lucrative Heathrow slots to an airline that will invest in the people and businesses of this country.

“We welcome the committee’s calls too for BA to set aside its weapon – its programme of mass sackings – so that proper discussions about an acceptable way out of this short-term crisis can be held.  

“BA’s board is in a terrible hole but it is entirely of their own making; my advice would be, stop digging.  Work with us on a way back while there is still a sliver of possibility for discussion.  I repeat, my phone is always on and my door is always open.”

In respect of BA, the Transport select committee’s report states:

  • That British Airways’ current consultation on staffing changes is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees.
  • “The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company towards its employees is a national disgrace. It falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis.”
  • British Airways should “extend its consultation period to allow meaningful consultation to take place as per its legal requirements, and without pre-conditions, so that all parties can consider the proposed staffing changes in the context of the Government’s plans to help the aviation sector restart and recover.”
  • It also urges all UK-based aviation employers “not to proceed hastily with large scale redundancies or restructuring to terms or conditions of employees until the Job Retention Scheme ends in October 2020 and they have had the opportunity to consider the government’s plans to help the sector restart and recover.”
  • That the government “revise the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to prevent, or strongly penalise, companies for making large-scale redundancies, while in receipt of funds from the taxpayer.”
  • That it notes “calls from parliamentarians for the Government to strip British Airways from some of its slots, especially from Heathrow Airport where it is the dominant airline”.
  • Asks the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority to “explore every avenue available to ensure that recent changes and their impact on the availability and distribution of airport slots do not unfairly impact passengers”.
  • That this should include referring “the whole aviation industry to the Competition and Markets Authority for a market study and possible investigation on slot allocations”.
  • The committee also asks the government to publish a strategy for the restart and recovery of the aviation sector including “work on an international basis to re-examine the airport slot allocation process to ensure it encourages competition and connectivity.”

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Unite video demolishes BA’s ‘fire & rehire’ claims

A Unite video explaining BA’s finances ‘demolishes’ the airline’s claim that it must fire its workforce and rehire those that survive on inferior contracts. 

The in-depth analysis of British Airways’ financial position reveals the true extent of BA’s plan to use the health crisis as cover to slash jobs, pay and conditions in order to transfer ever greater sums of money to its Spanish parent company IAG and its shareholders.

The union will be meeting IAG financial analysts in the coming days to explain why IAG can afford to see out this crisis without such drastic cuts.

 Quite incredibly, while the airline is claiming poverty, its parent company IAG is ploughing ahead with the purchase of the airline Air Europa, for over 1 billion euros.

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “British Airways is claiming to be in financial difficulties while its parent company IAG is still planning to spend close to one billion euros to buy Air Europa. Workers in Britain who made two thirds of IAG’s profits are being sacrificed for the benefit of shareholders.

“BA is using the health crisis to axe workers’ jobs, pay and conditions. We have asked BA repeatedly to remove the dismissal notices. No other company is firing and rehiring its workforce in this way.

“Our analysis of BA’s finances show why British Airways and its owners IAG can afford to see out this crisis without such drastic cuts. This is a company with a lot of cash, strong assets and sustainable debt. There can be little doubt that BA is viable. The company controls some of the most profitable routes in the world and is backed by the Qatar Royal Family.”

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Labour Members – Speak Out to Stop Annexation

With the new Government in Israel threatening further annexation of occupied Palestinian land, now is the time for Labour members to speak up and support the global call from Palestine for “effective measures” to stop annexation.

We must stand firmly against such an act of aggression and – as an internationalist party – Labour must give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people.

In line with Conference policy, Labour must recognise that any just peace must be based on self-determination for Palestine, with equality and human rights for all.

This means opposing Trump’s one-sided so-called ‘deal of the century,’ and annexation. It means continuing to commit to immediate recognition of the state of Palestine and an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements.

Background – Why We Must Oppose Annexation

The new Israeli Government has said that it intends to annex large swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank, starting in July, land which was militarily occupied in 1967. This would be the culmination of years of appropriation of land – through the forced displacement of Palestinians, settlement and the annexation of East Jerusalem. Annexation, illegal under international law, is the forcible and unilateral acquisition of territory over which it has no recognised sovereignty and to make it an integral part of the state.

Palestinian civil society has made a global call for ‘effective measures’ to be taken to stop this annexation happening. If the measures are to be effective, this means the UK should now, at the very least, be adhering to an ethical policy on all the UK’s trade with Israel , in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.

In the midst of the Covid pandemic a number of organisations are cooperating to try to respond to the call from Palestine by making Annexation a live issue on the current political agenda. Israel’s timetable is to annex land quickly with Trump’s support – this means we cannot wait.

If you agree with this and want to support the Palestinian call for action, please indicate your agreement with the following statement.

Speak Out – Sign this Statement:

I am speaking out now in order to stop the threatened annexation of Palestinian land by Israel in July and I call on the UK Government and all UK political parties to support the call of Palestinian civil society organisations for Effective Measures by all States to Stop Israel’s Illegal Annexation of the Occupied West Bank.

Would you like to stay in touch with Labour & Palestine?

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ONLINE EVENT: Venezuela: Exposing UK complicity in Trump’s regime change plan Monday June 8th, 7.00pm.

  • Register here

  • Facebook RSVP, share & invite here – retweet here to spread the word!

With guests from Venezuela, investigative journalist John McEvoy, Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Susan Grey (VSC), Colin Burgon of Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America & Chair Tony Burke (Unite.)

Recent revelations of a ‘Venezuela reconstruction unit’ are just the latest in a long line of signals the British Government is working to Donald Trump’s agenda for regime change.

From hosting coup-plottter Juan Guaido to the Bank of England’s refusal to return gold held by the Venezuelan Government, Britain is again playing the role of the US’s chief ally in pushing for intervention against a sovereign country in breach of international law.

This meeting will hear from journalists, campaigners and others based in Britain and Venezuela on exactly how far Britain has gone in promoting regime change, and what we can do to build opposition to illegal intevention.

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TUC Statement on the murder of George Floyd, Trump and the US Crisis

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Murdoch closes regional and local titles – Microsoft replaces journalists with robots.

The mantra that post Covid19 “the world will never be the same again” has been repeated a million times. This last week we saw the effects, not just of the virus pandemic but a move away from printing of local newspapers, closures and permanent on-line editions along with the introduction robots to produced news content. The impact seems small but it will prove to be a watershed moment for those of us who have a long history of working in the newspaper and media industries.

Australia’s largest media group, News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch announced it is no longer going to print over 100 local and regional titles.

Never one to miss an opportunity Murdoch blames the collapse of his regional newspaper business on a collapse advertising, advertisers switching to online editions – made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

News Corp, had already announced it was was stopping printing of around 60 community titles ‘temporarily’.

The decision will see the loss of hundreds of jobs. 76 titles are moving online-only by the end of June. The other 35 titles are closing down permanently.

New sCorp says it hopes to keep on 375 journalists who will “continue covering community and regional news”.

About 1,200 people are believed to be employed in News Corp’s Australia’s regional and community division.

The media wire service Australian Associated Press (AAP) announced in March that it will be closing down unless a last minute buyer turns up to save it from closing its doors.

“After 85 years of operation, AAP is set to close on June 26th with about 500 people out of work as a result. While most news consumers might not be greatly aware of AAP, they would be amazed to know that great chunks of the news they read and listen to originates from AAP stories.”

News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller said the permanent changes has been: “Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which had impacted the sustainability of local publishing.The drop in print advertising spending, which contributes the majority of our revenues, has accelerated its decline. Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving.”

In another blow, dozens of journalists have been sacked after Microsoft decided to replace them with artificial intelligence software.

Staff who maintain the news webpages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs.

Around 27 journalists employed by the Press Association Media were told that they would lose their jobs after Microsoft decided to stop employing journalists to select, edit news articles on its homepages.

Employees were told Microsoft’s decision to end the contract with PA Media was taken at short notice as part of a global shift away from “humans in favour of automated updates for news”.

One staff member who worked on the team said: “I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI is going to take all our jobs, and here I am – AI has taken my job. The decision to replace humans with software was risky, as the existing staff were careful to stick to “very strict editorial guidelines” which ensured that users were not presented with violent or inappropriate content when opening their browser, of particular importance for younger users”.

According to The Guardian journailsits working on the Microsoft site did not report original stories but still exercised editorial control, selecting stories produced by other news organisations – including the Guardian – and editing content and headlines where appropriate to fit the format.

The articles were then hosted on Microsoft’s website, with the tech company sharing advertising revenue with the original publishers.

Some of the journalists now facing redundancy had longstanding experience in the industry, while for others it offered a foot in the door and a job in the media industry. They now face a tough challenge to get jobs elsewhere when the whole industry is looking to cut costs. Other teams around the world are expected to be affected by Microsoft’s decision to automate the curation of its news sites.

In common with other news organisations, PA Media is facing hard financial challenges and has had to furlough some staff and ask other to take cuts in pay. The company recently expanded outside its traditional news agency business, recently buying stock image business Alamy shortly before the pandemic devastated the media industry.

A spokesperson for the PA said: “We are in the process of winding down the Microsoft team working at PA, and we are doing everything we can to support the individuals concerned. We are proud of the work we have done with Microsoft and know we delivered a high-quality service.”

Many tech companies are now experimenting with uses for Artificial Intelligence in journalism, with the likes of Google spending on research “to understand its uses”, although efforts to automate the writing of articles have not been adopted widely.

Click here to see the list of the Top Ten media companies in the world.

Click here to get your copy of ‘It’s The Media Stupid, the 2019 Election And The Aftermath’ (paperback)

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Review of ‘It’s The Media Stupid…..”

Download  the review of “It’s The Media Stupid….” published in ‘Cold Type ‘by clicking on the link.




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Chris Stephens SNP MP says Governments have turned a blind eye to what’s happening in Turkey

Chris Stephens, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow South West, supporter of both Freedom For Ocalan Campaign and Peace In Kurdistan interviewed by journalist Erem Kansoy. Chris Stephens highlights the importance of Öcalan’s freedom for peace in Turkey and the Middle East.

He talks about the situation of political prisoners and the recent law enacted by the AKP-MHP under which murderers, rapists, drug dealers were released, but journalists, academics and political prisoners kept imprisoned. Stephens says he does not consider Turkey a democratic country. He insists that arms trade to Turkey should be stopped and that the economic sanctions should be imposed.

Chris Stephens sent his support and solidarity greetings to the HDP!


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Unions call for Covid-19 risk checks by Keighley firms

Keighley News 15thMay 2020

By David Knights

NOBODY should return to work without a Covid-19 risk assessment agreed with the workforce or union, say campaigners.

Keighley Trades Union Council has warned that workers could become victims of Government policies being made “on the hoof”.

It called for risk assessments to be done for all workers and workplaces, and all public transport, schools, colleges and nurseries.

TUC president Steve Davison said: “We all know the consequences of failure to do so – tragic deaths amongst transport workers, in hospitals and care homes.

“New arrangements have been agreed between the trade unions and employers, but most workers are unaware of the details.”

Mr Davison spoke after a meeting of Keighley TUC to discuss last week’s call by the Government for people in many industries to return to work.

Mr Davison said employers were already had a legal duty of care, but Covid-19 meant a need for special assessments for at-risk groups of workers such as the young, pregnant, disabled, manual workers, and Black and Minority Ethnic.

He added: “There needs to be specific guidance for every economic sector. Every employer can now get guidance of how to produce risk assessments specific to their workplace rather than rip generic RAs from the web.

“The best way to produce satisfactory outcomes is to use the best expertise, the workers, who have years of practical experience of work and working practices.

“This is especially true in the trade union-organised workplace with the presence of Safety Representatives who legally the employers must consult, and secure their support for health and safety measures.”

Mr Davison said trade unions had argued employers should publish their risk assessments. They had also succeeded in demanding extra funding for the Health and Safety Executive.

“As a last resort workers need to know their legal right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions where they are in ‘serious and imminent danger’. This right has been in existence since 1993.

“All workers are under enormous economic, physical and mental pressures as a result of the virus. This will not change quickly and may even worsen. There has never been a better opportunity for workplaces to consider better ways of working.”

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