Speech VSC/CSC Fringe Labour Conference 2017

Thanks to everyone for attending today. Unfortunately I cannot stay for the whole of the meeting as I have to rush back to speak at Unite’s fringe on Brexit in thirty minutes.

Firstly, as the position of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign has been caricatured in much of the media, I’d like to draw your attention to our statement on recent events on your seats.

I also want to say that Unite has been a long time supporter of VSC. We are not fair-weather friends – neither are we uncritical friends.

This is a most difficult time for the people of Venezuela. With turmoil in the country and a pending ‘attack’ by the USA.

In terms of that topic of today’s event, alarm bells were ringing around the world recently when Donald Trump’s said he would not ‘rule out a military option’ when it comes to Venezuela.

He followed this up by introducing sanctions aimed at strangling the economy and articulating his support for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela.

Such US led ‘regime changes’ have been a disaster in other countries in recent years and there’s no reason to believe it would help the people of Venezuela.

Already food imports have been blocked due to these sanctions, which will hit all the people of Venezuela.

There is currently deep political polarisation in Venezuela, primarily driven by severe economic difficulties, fuelled by the collapse in oil prices, and undoubtedly worsened by some sections of right-wing opposition seeking to use their economic power to sabotage the economy for political ends.

Serious analysts agree that both the Government and the right-wing opposition maintain the support of millions of Venezuelans, as recent elections and an opposition-called plebiscite showed.

October’s regional elections – which both pro and anti-government parties are participating in – will probably confirm this analysis,

What is needed in such a situation is dialogue as a way for Venezuela to peacefully resolve it’s current difficulties, and the current talks in Dominica between the government and opposition have been widely welcomed internationally.

Dialogue has to be based on all forces renouncing violence as a way to achieve political ends, and the rights of the Venezuelan people being guaranteed.

Violence to overturn constitutional mandates – including that of the democratically elected President – should be opposed.

As Venezuela’s right-wing opposition becomes more emboldened through a series of recent attacks, we risk a return to the days of the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez.

In this context, a peaceful solution is the only option.

Governments internationally, including Britain and the EU, should do all they can to facilitate and support such a dialogue process and help peacefully resolve the country’s difficulties, constructively engaging with Venezuela.

Instead of such an approach, the Trump administration is introducing unilateral US sanctions and threats of military force against Venezuela. These will not facilitate dialogue, but exacerbate the country’s difficulties and divisions.

In light of the US’s history of intervention in Latin America, including backing the 2002 military coup against Hugo Chavez, it is hardly surprising that polling suggests the majority of both opposition and government supporters in Venezuela oppose the US widening economic sanctions.

However, this is not the position of the whole international community. Proposals for the EU to follow Trump with its own sanctions have met with some scepticism.

President Macron of France has indicated his support for dialogue in Venezuela, and it has been reported that the governments of Portugal and Greece do not believe sanctions are the best way forward to help improve the situation.

Those who actually want to help Venezuela out of the current crisis – rather than simply using it as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn, as the right-wing press do – should put their efforts into supporting peace and dialogue.

Message from the Venezuelan Ambassador to the Labour Party fringe meeting

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US Unions & Trump’s NAFTA Renegotiations

Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO

NAFTA is back in the spotlight 23 years after it became law. Donald Trump pledged to withdraw from it. Instead he’s seeking to renegotiate it (in secret). The first round of talks wrapped up August 20th. The AFL-CIO’s top trade policy expert, Celeste Drake explained to Don McIntosh of nwlaborpress.org US Unions’ opposition to NAFTA and

What’s wrong with NAFTA, from the AFL-CIO’s perspective?

Where to begin? I think it’s best summed up as the wrong set of rules. NAFTA imposes on the whole North American economy, not just the U.S. economy, a set of rules that benefit large global corporations at the expense of working people. In practice that sets up a race to the bottom. It has driven down wages. It has made it harder for working people to organize and negotiate. It fails to protect the environment. It says that corporations have effective and enforceable rules that protect them, while the rest of us are left with, at best, “guidelines” that fail to protect us. And it includes the odious “investor-to-state dispute settlement” system (ISDS), which provides private justice for foreign investors and leaves everybody else out.

How does that critique differ from President Trump’s narrative about NAFTA?

From what I can tell, he has not adopted our analysis. Rather than looking at the way the rules favor the largest corporations across all three countries, he seems to blame the other countries and the workers in the other countries. And he seems to blame U.S. negotiators for not doing a good job. That’s wrong. As much as I disagree with what the negotiators did, I think they did what they were asked to do. It wasn’t working people who demanded NAFTA. It was the big corporations. To highlight where the president’s analysis isn’t quite right … if NAFTA was so great for Mexico, if they were doing so well under it, you would have the working people of Mexico defending it.

But instead you saw during the negotiations last week a big march in Mexico City where Mexican workers themselves were saying NAFTA is a disaster. They fear that the renegotiation will be used by corporations to make NAFTA even worse.

What do we know about the negotiations that have taken place so far?

Not a lot. The first round concluded (August 20th). It did not really open up, in the way that we have suggested, to public participation, releasing documents to Congress and the press. We know that there were meetings on every chapter, even though text wasn’t put forth. We know Canada is going to be aggressive in looking for a strong commitment on labor.

During the campaign, Trump pledged to withdraw from NAFTA altogether. Are you in favor of withdrawal?

We strongly believe that the best way to protect workers is through having international agreements. There’s no way we can be isolated from the rest of the world. So our first choice is replacing NAFTA with a deal that really raises the standards of living for the workers of North America. If that can’t be done, then certainly withdrawal from NAFTA is an option and would be an improvement in a lot of ways from the status quo, because the status quo is driving a race to the bottom.

If it becomes clear that this is not in fact an opportunity for working people, and instead it’s going to be another tool whereby corporations gain additional leverage to push down our wages and working conditions, then we’ll get behind a repeal NAFTA campaign. But we have done so much work over the last few years about fast track and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), that we have an active and engaged electorate. We don’t think Americans will just take anybody’s word for it that NAFTA is great again. Because NAFTA never was great, and we know what to look for to determine any claim of success about whether NAFTA is getting better.

Does NAFTA have any role in increasing undocumented migration to the United States?

Certainly. Right after the signing of NAFTA there was a flood of agricultural exports from the U.S. to Mexico that really undercut a lot of the smaller farmers. And when they were no longer able to compete with U.S. agricultural products, the promised “good manufacturing jobs” in the cities just weren’t there. I’ve seen estimates as low as 1 million and as high as 3 million potential undocumented immigrants as a direct result of NAFTA, primarily from pushing folks off the land.

Is NAFTA’s impact exaggerated by critics? Offshoring manufacturing to Mexico was happening already, and in fact much more production has moved to China, a country we don’t have a NAFTA-style agreement with. Is NAFTA mainly a symbol for overall trade policies that aren’t benefiting working people?

Somewhat. Both of those things you said are true. However it’s easy to defend the status quo by saying NAFTA didn’t cause the manufacturing job losses, but its critics generally don’t claim that it that caused all of Americas manufacturing job losses. The bigger effect quite frankly is the wage impact. We can document 850,000 job losses based on opportunity costs lost because of the trade deficit.

But even more workers than that recognize that it’s harder to negotiate for better wages and benefits now. And NAFTA has a role in that. NAFTA was the first trade agreement of its kind. And you can trace a lot of the ideas of the WTO from NAFTA. So if we can get NAFTA to go ahead on a different model, that sends a huge signal that we need to start looking at our other trade policies and reforming them.


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French Labour Law Reform – Why The CGT Says “Non”

In 2016, the French government, led by PM Manuel Valls, forced a law through Parliament, the so-called “El-Khomri Labour Law” (after the name of the then-Labour Minister). There is an article in the French Constitution (article 49.3) that provides for a fast-track option, which means the adoption of a law by Parliament, without any possible debate in either houses. The law turns upside down the order of collective bargaining in France, i.e. bargaining on pay and leave to be carried out at company rather than national level, which would lead to disparities and hence further casualization of working conditions.

In May this year, following highly-disputed presidential and then general elections, the government appointed by President Emmanuel Macron, had both houses adopt an enabling Act, which allows it to pass laws by decrees. This means that parliamentary mechanisms are totally bypassed. In effect, it means that the government can take a decree which becomes immediately applicable. The decree is then submitted to both houses for ratification – without any opportunity for discussion or amendment. If both houses ratify it, it becomes a law. Otherwise, it remains a decree, but with the exact same applicability as a law. Given that the President’s party (“En marche”), has the overall majority in parliament, it is highly likely that the coming decrees will be ratified.

One of the first decisions taken by the government has been to draft a new labour reform, the so-called “extra-large labour law”, which will become applicable before the beginning of the autumn. It is a follow-up to, and an amplification of, last year’s law, with a further deterioration of working life and conditions.

This spring, the CGT and Force ouvrière (FO) lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO), regarding violations of conventions 87 (freedom of association), 98 (collective bargaining) and 158 (termination of employment) by the El-Khomri law. The purpose of the complaint is to secure disavowal of anti-union repression in 2016, of negotiations of derogatory agreements by employers and the creation – at their discretion – of a third ground for dismissal (on top of misconduct and economic lay-off).

Last year, polls showed that 70% of workers were opposed to the El-Khomri law. The same is true today, yet the government is moving fast and has worked through the summer period –July and August are inauspicious for mobilisation – to ensure that these decrees are ratified and become law.

The primary purpose of the new reform is to grant yet more room to company level bargaining on all aspects of work, to the detriment of national law, and hence turn upside down the standards that currently regulate labour relations. Company-agreements would even take precedence over the contract of employment which would lead to different regulation of work in different companies, and hence to greater competition between workers. To make sure that employers can secure company agreements, the government means to allow them to bargain without representative unions or through referenda that they would organise.

As a way of getting round workers’ representative bodies, the government decided to merge the three existing ones (staff representative, works’ council and health and safety committee). This merger will reduce the means available to their members, thus health and safety issues may well take second-rank in company issues.

Finally, the government advocates that these company agreements should be able to alter the contract of employment, casual contracts (short-term or temporary) should be developed, the use of operations contracts (or assignment contracts of limited duration) developed and that unfair and illegal dismissals by employers be protected by capping claims by workers instigating legal action.

The government is rather concerned as to the reaction of trade union organisations and workers. It has not, as yet, put forward its draft, but informed orally the unions of the probable major items of the reform. Individual meetings were held – 6 hours in all per union! – but these were neither for consultation nor negotiation, but merely for information. There is a total lack of transparency.

The government will publish its draft on 31 August. It will then be ratified by the Council of Ministers, for implementation before the beginning of the autumn.

This labour reform intensifies and worsens workers’ vulnerability and casualization: increasingly less rights for workers, less room for manoeuver for their representative organisations and more freedom for employers, including when they overstep legality.

The CGT will not accept this ambiguity. We mean to put the issue of “Work” at the top of the agenda, as part of a pluralist and democratic debate, as opposed to a law drafted on the sly with the employers’ assent. We feel it is unacceptable that unions were not clearly involved in negotiations in good faith with the government. That is why, without waiting for publication of the decree, the CGT has called French workers to mobilise for a national day of action on 12 September.

We hope for active solidarity from our friends worldwide.

Thanks to Patrick Correa, FTM-CGT, Montreuil, 20 August 2017

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Highly Respected Trade Unionist ‘Sacked’ From EHRC Board

Sarah Veale – ‘sacked’ by Greening

Sarah Veale, a highly respected trade unionist has been effectively dismissed by the Minister of Women and Equalities Justine Greening from her position on the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Sarah Veale, who was awarded a CBE in 2006 for services to diversity is the former head of the TUC’s Equality and Employment Rights Department.

She has been a member of the Commission since January 2013 and was set to be re-appointed this year at the request of EHRC chair David Isaac, who said he was “very impressed” with her contribution.

Sarah received a letter from Ms. Greening, praising her at length for her work on the Commission, but the sting in the tail was that her “term had expired” and she would not be reappointed.

The EHRC is governed by a Board of Commissioners, who are publicly recruited and appointed.

The EHRC is the UK body that has responsibility for overseeing the law as it relates to unlawful discrimination and human rights. It advises the government and others, for example employers, on how the law works and what organisations and individuals should do to avoid unlawful discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion.

It has legal powers to intervene in court proceedings and to set up formal inquiries if it has evidence that there is systemic discrimination occurring.

For example, the EHRC recently intervened in support of UNISON in their successful court case to abolish fees for Employment Tribunals; it also conducted an investigation into discrimination against migrant workers in the meat processing industry

Appointments to the board were carried out with independent scrutiny but recently that changed, giving ministers far more control over the process – enabling them to override the recommendations of the recruitment panel.

The Commissioners currently consist of a partner at a law firm, a former director of Human Resources at BT, a diplomat and prison governor, a business consultant, a former fire chief, a law professor, a consultant psychiatrist and a Conservative peer.

The decision of not reappointing Sarah leaves no trade unionist on the Commission for the first time.

Commenting on the decision Sarah said: “There was no reason given for not appointing me. Could it be political? It is hard so see any other reason and it follows a spate of similar decisions. If so, it is not good for our democracy and, if continues, means that public bodies will lose important knowledge and experience and, essentially, the authentic voice of working people.

“My particular contributions to the EHRC have included direct involvement in the important statutory role that the Commission has to monitor the various UN conventions and treaties, to which the UK is a signatory, and to produce reports on how and whether the UK government has fulfilled its obligations.

“These relate to the treatment of disabled, BAME and LGBT people and to women, as well as human rights obligations. The Commission has been critical of some of the current and past governments’ failures, for example, as a result of their austerity programme.

“I have also been involved in the very successful investigation into discrimination against pregnant women at work and ensured that the TUC and unions were directly involved too.

“Although Board members are not able to become involved directly in employment matters within the Commission, throughout the recent dispute between the Commission and the recognised unions I did keep in contact with the unions and ensured that their concerns were heard on the Board”.

A number of trade unionists are taking the view that not only is Sarah’s dismissal ‘political’ – it is another an attempt by the Conservative party to take out trade unionists from public bodies when ever they can.

The Health & Safety Commission (HSE) has reduced number of worker representatives and appointed an employer to one of the places and the Central Arbitration Commmittee (CAC) ignored recommendations of people to join the Committee – and the recruitment panel and took over a year to make appointments.

It is also being seen as revenge for the Unison – Employment Tribunals Fee win in the High Court which caused the Tories massive embarrassment.

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Brexit: The EU Thinks We Have A “Cunning Plan”

Baldrick Means Baldrick:  “I have a cunning plan Mr. B”

Reports from the EU say some of the EU 27 think that the UK has hatched a cunning plan behind the shambles currently afflicting the Government and our UK negotiating team! This helpful little guide was posted by an “anonymous commenter” on twitter and referenced by David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) in the FT and his excellent blog.

Well worth reading and reminding ourselves of the damage the Government is doing as the clock runs down to March 2019.

“Here’s a list of negotiating ploys that the UK has toyed with since the referendum, all of which have failed, either in the sense that they have been discarded or that they have failed to move either Brussels or the 27 other EU member states:

  • that feelers or even negotiations could begin prior to Article 50 notification
  • that feelers or even negotiations could be opened with individual EU member states, so bypassing or weakening Brussels
  • that the UK could divide individual member states to its advantage
  • that the UK could cherry pick benefits (floated by Boris Johnson, specifically dismissed with respect to the single market in Mrs May’s Article 50 letter)
  • that the UK could brandish effectively a threat to diminish or even to cease security cooperation
  • that the UK would owe nothing once it left the EU
  • that the UK would be content to crash out of the EU without any agreement whatsoever
  • that discussions on the ‘divorce proceedings’ (the Irish land border, post-Brexit citizens’ rights and the divorce bill) could be conducted in parallel with discussions on the future trade relationship
  • that the ECJ’s role would, for the UK, cease from 29 March 2019.to which one might add:
  • that the EU would be moved by the ‘strong and stable government’ that was to emerge from the June 2017 election.”

This is not even a complete list.

  • there was the attempt to deploy the Duchess of Cambridge on a new royal yacht,
  • an implicit threat of military action over Gibraltar,
  • and the suggestion of making the UK a new low-tax no-regulation Singapore.

And worth adding to this list is their boneheaded response to the voice of manufacturing and unions on the dangers of:

  • being outside of the single market, outside of a customs union, no formal access to skills, key EU bodies such as EASA, Medicines and other regulatory bodies plus the uncertainity being caused by confusion and the damage to investment and jobs;
  • stunts and foreign trips to pretend the UK can do trade deals with the USA (and Trump), Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey and others to replace an EU trade agreement –
  • plus the lack of any discussions or real input by trade unions, who represent millions of members who will suffer from their studpidty.


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Mr. Fox Goes To Washington – Why?

UK trade secretary Liam Fox MP is visted Washington, D.C. on Monday, 24th July for talks with the US administration on a future UK-US trade deal. As representatives of working people on both sides of the Atlantic, we want to know what exactly he is after except air miles and a publicity stunt.

Mr Fox has claimed that Britain’s tremendous trade with the European Union can be replaced – and even improved upon – by enhanced trade with the USA and other countries.

For the UK, that’s a dangerous pipe dream, because despite the enormous trade flows between our two countries, it’s unlikely that the USA could come close to replacing a significant proportion of the UK’s current trade with the rest of Europe, which is half of all UK trade.

And for the USA, trade with the rest of the EU is far greater than trade with the UK, and much more likely to grow.

Trade agreements on their own are not the best way to increase trade between developed economies like ours – and certainly not the best way to create growth. Our respective governments would be better off devoting time and energy to boosting demand through infrastructure investment and raising pay.

Nevertheless, properly managed, trade can create good, secure, well-paid jobs. And it can mean more choice for shoppers and lower household costs for working people who are, of course, also consumers.

But if it isn’t properly managed, bad trade deals can destroy jobs, suppress wages and harm our industries and public services, as well as raising prices and lowering quality.

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, Britain’s workers have a vital interest in the future relationship between the UK and the EU. And that really needs to be settled before we arrange a trade deal between the UK and the US – if one is eventually needed at all, which would not be the case if the UK were to stay in the EU Customs Union.

Negotiations between the UK and the EU have only just started, and won’t get around to the future trading relationship for months if not years. US workers will need to know the shape of the future UK-EU relationship before working out what’s in their best interests.

The TUC and our colleagues in the European Trade Union Confederation have called for the future relationship to include frictionless, barrier-free access between the UK and the rest of Europe, with continuing protections for workplace rights to prevent undercutting and exploitation.

UK and US trade unions, with our long experience of trade deals around the world, know that these issues – and the protection of public services like Britain’s NHS – are vital if trade is to benefit ordinary people, rather than the top 1%.

We also know that trade deals negotiated behind closed doors, with only the politicians and their trade experts present – or with the voice of business present but no role for workers – are bad deals. It is why American workers’ top priority is reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

We’d have more confidence in Mr Fox’s trade strategy if he was more open to trade union concerns and voices. But the fact that neither of our trade union movements have been consulted about this trip suggests it’s not a real trade mission at all. Business organisations that we regularly engage with know nothing more than we do. And that really does imply that this visit is more of a public relations stunt than serious trade talks.

The first thing any government needs to do before preparing trade negotiations is to find out what is wanted by business, workers and civil society. Until then, we must remain deeply sceptical and a little suspicious of what Mr Fox and his friends in the US administration are up to.

Frances O’Grady is general secretary of the TUC
Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO

More on Mr. Fox and his trip to the USA soon…..

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Electric Vehicle Market sparks into life as ICE age comes to end?

Nissan Leaf, EV, made in the UK in Sunderland.

Professor David Bailey on the boom in electric vehicles

 It seems that electric vehicles (EVs) are finally coming of age as barriers to take up start to fall, costs decline, and range and performance improves.

Last December Morgan Stanley upped its forecast for EV penetration to potentially 10 to 15 per cent by 2025, as car makers accelerate plans to build EVs (think of the Jaguar E-Pace) and as tightening rules on traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) cars make them uncompetitive more quickly than expected.

Now, a research report by the from Dutch investment bank ING says that the European car market could be fully electric by 2035. It states that battery electric vehicles are on the way to a “breakthrough” by 2024 as barriers to their adoption – think charging infrastructure, range anxiety and pricing – fall, especially as electric batteries become cheaper and better.

The authors of the report believe that current developments in technology could set EVs on a growth path to a 100% share of new passenger car sales in Europe by 2035, posing a “threat to the automotive industry as we know it”.

Not surprisingly, though, the report highlights barriers to take up of EVs (something I’ve been researching with colleagues at Coventry University): limits to charging infrastructure (20%), limits to range on one charge (28%) and the high price of electric cars (40%) all being reasons cited by consumers in the report for not buying EVs.

Nevertheless, the report suggests that by 2024, the cost of ownership of a long-range EV is expected to match that of a similar ICE car in Europe’s largest market, Germany.

The ING report also points to future improvements in battery cell density, meaning more energy per cell, thereby increasing range and reducing battery pack weight and cost. It also notes that battery manufacturers are working on other chemistries, such as solid state batteries, to increase energy density “by a factor of 2 to 3”.

The forecast seems in line with projections by Bloomberg Energy Finance earlier this year. It noted that EVs will cost up to a quarter more to manufacture than equivalent ICE vehicles until 2020 but that battery prices are falling rapidly.

Bloomberg noted last year that Lithium-ion battery costs have dropped by 65% since 2010, reaching $350 per kWh in 2015. When the cost of battery packs falls below $200 per kWh, EVs are likely to achieve cost parity with equivalent ICE cars, suggesting a ‘tipping point’ in the mid-2020s . Analysts expect EV battery costs to be well below $120 per kWh by 2030, and to fall further after that as new chemistries come into play.

But while costs are falling, there remains a need for ongoing policy support to incentivise consumers in the short to medium term (such via as subsidies to run an EV, tax breaks and so on). Withdrawing support too quickly could still stall a nascent technology.

Longer term, the travel of direction seems clear. Last week, France stated that it will end sales of ICE cars by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

On the one hand that 2040 deadline seems rather pointless given the technological developments taking place (rather like saying France won’t be selling horses-and-carts by 2040 one analyst suggested) but equally the timescale involved is sufficiently long term enough to be taken seriously. And if enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers and could accelerate a transition to EVs.

Meanwhile Norway, which has the highest penetration of electric cars in the world, has set a tentative target of only allowing sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. Other countries have floated the idea of banning ICE cars to meet air quality and climate change goals, but have not yet passed concrete targets.

Also last week, Volvo said it would have pure EVs or hybrids across its entire range by the mid-2020s. Its sister company, the soon-to-be rebranded London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) also unveiled the TX electric taxi last week, to be built at its new Ansty plant near Coventry. Commercial vehicles may follow.

The Volvo move in particular was indicative of the firm anticipating a shift toward electric cars over the next decade in a big way; it wants to be at the forefront of that push. It’s another signal that huge disruption and transformation is coming to the industry.

After years of false dawns, it seems that the EV market is finally sparking into life. That will offer new opportunities which our region’s auto industry – and our policy makers – need to grasp.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School in Birmingham.

This blog was first published in the Birmingham Post July 19th.

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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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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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