Trade union members should vote to stay in the EU

Letter in The Guardian June 6thimages

As general secretaries who represent a large part of Britain’s trade union movement, we are writing to make our position clear and urge our collective membership, which reaches over 6 million people, to vote for Britain to remain in the European Union on 23 June.

After much debate and deliberation we believe that the social and cultural benefits of remaining in the EU far outweigh any advantages of leaving.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the British trade union movement worked in solidarity with our European partners and fought hard to secure valuable working rights legislation at EU level. To this day these rights – including maternity and paternity rights, equal treatment for full-time, part-time and agency workers, and the right to paid leave – continue to underpin and protect working rights for British people.

If Britain leaves the EU, we are in no doubt these protections would be under great threat. Despite words to the contrary from figures like Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, the Tories would negotiate our exit and, we believe, would negotiate away our rights. We simply do not trust this government if they are presented with an unrestricted, unchecked opportunity to attack our current working rights.

Europe needs to change – its political direction over the past few years has taken governments down a path of austerity and liberalisation – but we believe this direction is not irreversible, and will endeavour to work with our trade union colleagues to help shape a Europe with a renewed social agenda and a Europe that values investment in our public services.

The decision the British people must make on 23 June should not be taken lightly, but we urge our members to vote remain.
Len McCluskey Unite, Dave Prentis Unison, Tim Roache GMB, Manuel Cortes TSSA, John Smith Musicians’ Union, Dave Ward CWU, Matt Wrack FBU, John Hannett USDAW, Gerry Robinson Bectu, Roy Rickhuss Community

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ETUC General Secretary Says Scots Should Vote Remain

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation

Luca Visentini General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation writes in the Scottish Daily Record, May 29th

The people of Scotland are no strangers to momentous decisions and on June 23rd they will be asked to make another.

As an Italian, I have no particular reason for getting involved, although there are enough people of Italian descent in Scotland.

But as the leader of Europe’s 45million trade unionists I do, and my strong view is that I hope Scotland will vote to remain in the European Union .

As a trade unionist, I value the role Britain’s trades unions have played and, I hope, will continue to play in the work of the European trade union movement.

We are an internationalist movement and know well that we are stronger when we are united in the face of bad bosses and free-market politicians.

I want Scottish trade unionists to continue to play a leading role in fighting for social justice, fairness and equality in Europe.

People will make up their minds on EU membership for a variety of reasons. But I would urge Scotland to consider three key issues…

  • Will the economy be stronger or weaker outside of the EU?
  • Will workers’ rights be better or worse?
  • And will children have a brighter future or fewer opportunities?

In each case, my experience as a trade unionist is that Scotland – as well as England, Northern Ireland and Wales – will be better off in Europe.

Scotland has been a trading nation for centuries and this trade creates jobs.

They are usually better paid and more skilled jobs than in the services sector. So losing access to a market that stretches as far as Cyprus, and EU trading agreements worldwide, hits the Scottish economy – especially decent jobs.

A third of a million jobs in Scotland are associated with trade with the rest of the EU. That’s one in six of all private sector jobs and more than 125,000 jobs in manufacturing.

No one would argue that all those jobs would be lost if the UK left the EU but many of them would be put at risk. Is that really “a price worth paying” as some Leave campaigners argue?

The economic impact on Scotland’s private sector would be mirrored in the public sector. Tax revenues would decline and the benefits bill would increase.

This pressure on public funds would be felt by public services such as the NHS.

Working people would also risk losing some rights at work. Scottish trade unionists have fought for better conditions for working people for generations. In recent years, they have been able to unite with powerful trade union movements in Scandinavia, Germany and across the EU to embed rights at work in EU laws.

JS91179534Tens of thousands of Scottish workers got paid holidays for the first time when the EU’s working time directive was introduced and many more got increased holiday pay.

More than 600,000 part-time workers and 60,000 temporary workers have secured rights to fair and equal treatment and pregnant workers and parents are protected from arbitrary treatment by their bosses.

If the UK left the EU, those rights would be at the mercy of the Tory Government in Westminster – who have demonstrated they are no friends of working people in Scotland or anywhere in the EU.

They have led the call for deregulation in the EU and attacked many of the rights not guaranteed by the EU, such as the cost of taking bosses to employment tribunals or protections for workers transferred into the public sector.

The European Trade Union Confederation that I lead believe Europe must do far more to protect workers against the chill winds of globalisation. And we believe the benefits of increased trade should be shared more fairly.

We need to plug the gaps in EU laws covering temporary agency workers and workers posted away from home. But when we make that progress, none of it will help workers in Scotland if it is not part of the European Union.

Finally, consider the future of the children of Scotland. Outside the EU, they would find their opportunities reduced, their life chances restricted.

As well as the impact on the economy – fewer good quality jobs, lower wages, higher prices – their freedom to travel for work or study would be curtailed.

Their future would be poorer – and the rest of Europe would be poorer from the loss of Scottish talent.

These are some of the choices that will be before the Scottish people on June 23rd. It is of course up to them how to use their votes. It’s not my place to tell them how.

But as a trade unionist and as a fellow European, I agree with the majority of trades unions in Scotland – and across the UK – that voting to leave is a risk not worth taking.


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No Coup In Brazil Campaign : Please Help

sx1u_132398815178114084285511710423195906845522n--1The campaign to oppose the coup in Brazil is gathering pace. Reports from Brazil say the initiators of the coup are beginning to crack as evidence of attempts to stop corruption investigations into the instigators of the coup unfold.

Please help by   adding your name here to the statement ublished in The Guardian  on Brazil published on May 27th .

The letter is from 20 parliamentarians arguing that Dilma Rousseff’s suspension is an insult to democracy in Brazil, which you can read the letter here.

You can add your name here and please share to encourage others to do the same on Twitter here and Facebook here

Remember to keep up-to-date with the latest news on the coup in Brazil on Facebook here and Twitter here.

No Coup in Brazil, is one of a number of organisations, publications and individuals supporting the campaign.

Please direct queries to

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Obituary: Ken Cameron

Ken Cameron : "A Socialist And Comrade"

Ken Cameron : “A Socialist And Comrade”

By Peta Steel

Ken Cameron, the stalwart socialist General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who has just died at the age of 75 was one of the most charismatic and effective figures in the trade union movement as it came under attack from the Tory Government during the 1980s.

Cameron was a constant supporter to the Mineworkers, print workers and ambulance workers as they faced action from Thatcher and her Ministers as they tried to dismantle the welfare system and strip workers of their rights.

Cameron was General Secretary of the Fire Brigades’ Union from 1980 to 2000, and during that time led the fight to stop the fire brigade from being privatised and to protect their pay and conditions. At the same time he did much to support other trade unionists and in particular the National Union of Mineworkers raising money to help them and liaise with other organisations.

Cameron was born in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands in 1941, his mother who was Irish worked in the local big houses as a cleaner taught him about socialism. He was to remain immensely proud of her and of his background for the rest of his life. His clear Highland’s accent though later tempered through years of living in England would demand immediate attention as he spoke.

Like many Scots he received an education that gave him a fundamental understanding of international relations and an abiding hatred of apartheid and injustice.

He left school determined to make a difference. A brief span training as a journalist on the Aberdeen Press and Journal came to an end when he was sacked after falling into a swimming pool whilst covering an international swimming competition.  Jobs in those days were less easy to come by as the exploration of the local oil fields was only just beginning.

Cameron who had also worked as a special constable moved to Birmingham where he trained to be a policeman, before joining the fire brigade service.

It was no surprise that he became increasingly involved with the Fire Brigade’s Union; gradually rising through its’ ranks, becoming one of its most progressive and charismatic leaders. He was to lead the protest following the strikes of 1977-78 as the fire brigade were threatened with cut backs under a Labour Government. In 1980 he became General Secretary of the FBU a role he was to hold for the next 20 years.

His appointment came as Thatcher with her hard views at taking on the trade unions and dismantling the nationalised industries was elected in to Government. He was one of the first to warn of the impending struggle and to try and unite the unions so that they could defend themselves.

But it was during the miners strike to protect jobs during 1984/1985 that Cameron came to the fore playing a leading part in raising money to help the union. Even travelling to the USA to raise funds; And at one time taking money from his own union’s funds to help them, the £20,000 was paid back six years later.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Ken Cameron marching with his members in the FBU.

Cameron became a familiar face on the picket lines and at meetings constantly giving support. He was to do the same during the Ambulance Workers Strike. He never turned down calls for help and earned a reputation for being approachable and supportive.

He was also a champion of international causes giving strong support to the ANC and Mandela in the fight against apartheid, which was in those days being undermined by Thatcher who looked on Mandela as a terrorist and in raising awareness of the problems and the injustice suffered by the Palestinians.

He was to move the first pro Palestinian motion at Congress in 1982.   On his retirement he was to receive a personal letter from Nelson Mandela who by that time had become a friend, becoming an honorary member of the FBU in 1990.

He was both sanguine and pragmatic when Blair became leader of the Labour Party, resisting measures that would see the jettisoning of Clause Four. But on the day the motion to get rid of it passed, mourned its loss and made reference that Labour would come into government but would lose some of its soul in doing so.

On his retirement he served on the Central Arbitration Committee. He was chair of the PPPS management committee which runs the Morning Star for several years.

Paying tribute to him Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU said ‘Ken was a forward thinking, socialist union leader who devoted many years of his life to protect Fireworkers pay and conditions. Ken defended everything that was good about the work of firefighters.

Asked how he would describe himself Cameron said: ‘a socialist and a comrade’.

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Len McCluskey: Labour’s fresh thinking on investment will lead to a stronger economy

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Labour must put the brakes on the `Sports Direct economy’ caused by a discredited political dogma which has down-graded industrial strategy, rejected the investment that is vital to growth and has assisted the inequality now raging through the UK, the leader of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, said today (Saturday 21 May).

Len McCluskey was speaking at the Labour Party’s `State of the Economy’ conference in London, held as part of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s pledge to build a new consensus on economic policy.

Addressing the audience, Len McCluskey echoed the calls of Nobel-winner and McDonnell advisor Joseph Stiglitz who has called for action “rewrite the rules” of how our economy operates, saying:

“This is a very welcome initiative from John and his team.  This country urgently needs a Labour government that will chart a new course because this is no longer an issue of tinkering at the edges; it’s about rewriting the relationship between capital and the communities and people it is there to serve.
“The next Labour government will be one that understands that the economy must work for the people, not the other way round.
“That means rejecting outright the failed consensus of the past 40 years – the free market dogmas that crash-landed eight years ago – and walking away from the tired thinking that dominates today’s policy prescriptions.
“Our country needs an industrial strategy supported by long-term, public-led investment in our country’s infrastructure: in transport, energy, housing and communications. Without this infrastructure, industry cannot flourish.
“It requires a new approach to job-destroying takeovers which may work for big shareholders but damage everyone else.  It requires particular attention to those key sectors which underpin broader economic development, from steel to communications technology.  And yes, a successful industrial strategy requires us to ‘re-write the rules’ and restructure our economy, rebalancing it away from an over-reliance on financial services.
“That, of course, means investment supported by a reformed banking system oriented to helping build the real economy and away from the present day short-termism that inhibits investment.
“It’s not about central government making every decision – it is about government ensuring that the interests of the community and long-term development are put first.
“On the steel crisis, this Conservative government has had to be dragged to the table just to engage with stakeholders and workers in order to save one of our key foundation industries.  On the major economic decisions of our times, its only answer has been deepening austerity and further cuts to the public services and investment that would grow our economy.
Calling for Labour to submit its policies to an ‘equality audit’, Len McCluskey added:

“It seems that everyone is against widening inequality but no-one wants to do much about it.  I would suggest that if there is one single factor which propelled Jeremy and John to the leadership of the party last year, it was the desperate desire to see Labour get back to its roots in tackling rampant inequality.
“Let’s be clear, there is no free-market based answer to inequality. It is the out of control market that has caused incomes at the top and bottom to hurtle apart at warp speed and put many basics – like having your own home – out of reach for millions.
“We need to put the brakes on this race towards the Sports Direct economy.  Everything Labour proposes should have to face an “equality audit” – is this going to make society fairer, is it going to redistribute power and wealth?
“That means tackling low pay, liberating trade unions to do their job, and making employers compete on quality and service, not on cost-cutting at workers’ expense.”
Len McCluskey was speaking at Labour’s The State of the Economy conference, where he was part of a panel that included Professor Linda Yueh, Sue Himmelweit of the Women’s Budget Group, the author and broadcaster Paul Mason and the acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall.
The conference took place at London’s Imperial College university.

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Why The EU Must Not Grant China Market Economy Status

14.03-china-coils1The decision by the European Parliament recently to oppose granting Market Economic Status (MES) to China is very welome. It follows extensive lobbying by Unite and our global union with the US Steelworkers, Workers Uning (read statement) along with the Brtish TUC and the European TUC.

The decision is a blow to China and those governments who support granting China MES — the Tories in the UK so far have been prepared to accept MES for China  as part of their strategy to seemingly give everything they can to China in exchange for investment.

The EU vote was cast amid fears that market economic status for China would leave the UK and the rest of the European Union unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on steel and other products such as ceramics, paper and tyres to defend decent UK jobs and industry.

The EU Commission and the Tory Government will now be well advised to listen to the MEPs as would the Government in the UK.

Over the coming months the EU Commission is due to decide whether to grant MES to China. The move has been triggered by the fact provisions written into China’s protocol, when it acceded to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) 15 years ago, kick in on 11 December 2016.

Currently China is not considered a market economy in EU anti-dumping proceedings, meaning the EU uses data from another market economy to calculate anti-dumping duties when it imposes fines on China.

As a number of UK trade associations such as the British Ceramics Confederation have express total opposition pointing out that China does not even meet the and does not meet the five technical criteria for granting MES.

These are:

  • Decisions by firms regarding prices, costs and inputs are made in response to market signals, without significant state intervention.
  • There are no significant legacy distortions in the economy from the previous non-market period.
  • Firms in the economy operate under transparency, bankruptcy, property ownership and corporate governances.
  • Firms in the economy operate under a single set of accounting standards based on international norms, applied in all circumstances.
  • Exchange rate conversions are carried out at a market rate.

On all counts China does not meet the criteria.

Granting China market economic status would be the death knell for key industries including steel which are already fighting for survival in the face of the dumping of cheap imports.

It would leave the UK and Europe unable to impose anti-dumping tariffs on cheap Chinese goods including car tyres, ceramics and paper –  and leave workers in the UK competing with both arms tied behind their backs.

If key industries like our steel industry are to have a future in the UK, government must drop its veto to the EU invoking the ‘lesser duty rule’ and allow higher tariffs on Chinese steel.

The Government should listen to the voices of MEPs and Labour who will I am sure echo the decision and once again make it clear that Labour’s policy is to oppose MES – no ifs or buts.

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Len McCluskey On Why Unite Supports EU Remain

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Uber Recognises New York Drivers – But Not Full Unionisation.

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi signUber the platform based ride hailing – taxi company announced an agreement with International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to create an association for drivers in New York that would establish a forum for regular dialogue and afford them some limited benefits and protections — but that would stop short of unionisation.

The association, will be known as the Independent Drivers Guild and will be affiliated with a regional branch of Machinists union, and is the first of its kind that Uber has officially blessed, although Uber drivers have formed a number of unsanctioned groups in cities across the country.

“We’re happy to announce that we’ve successfully come to agreement with Uber to represent the 35,000 drivers using Uber in New York City to enhance their earning ability and benefits,” said James Conigliaro Jr., the ‘guild’ founder and assistant director and general counsel at the International Association of Machinists District 15, which represents workers in the Northeast.

The agreement is Uber’s latest attempt to assuage mounting concerns from regulators and drivers’ groups about the company’s labour model, which treats drivers as independent contractors. That model helps Uber keep its labour costs low, but it excludes drivers from coverage by most labour and employment laws, such as those that require a minimum wage and overtime.

That has spurred public disagreements, and many drivers have organized in unofficial unions to gain more rights. The prospect of unionisation has loomed at times; lawmakers in Seattle voted last year to approve a bill allowing drivers for Uber and other ride-hailing apps to form unions.

In response, Uber, which is based in San Francisco, has been striking deals to tamp down the problems — with the proviso that the company be able to continue classifying its drivers as contractors and stop short of allowing drivers to unionize.

Last month, Uber reached a settlement in a prominent class-action lawsuit with drivers who had contested their contractor status. Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay as much as $100 million and put less pressure on drivers to a

Uber faces other labour-related hurdles. Along with Lyft, a competing ride-hailing service, the company this week withdrew operations from Austin, Tex., after losing a battle with the City Council over the nature of its background checks for drivers.

Under the terms of the deal in New York, which will be in effect for five years, a group of drivers who are guild members will hold monthly meetings with Uber management in the city, where they can raise issues of concern.

The drivers will be able to appeal decisions by Uber to bar them from its platform, and can have guild officials represent them in their appeals. In addition, they will be able to buy discounted legal services, discounted life and disability insurance and discounted roadside help for problems they encounter while driving.

Yet unlike a traditional union, which contractors typically cannot form, guild members will not be able to bargain over a contract with the company that would stipulate fares, benefits and protections. Uber will continue to determine most of these elements unilaterally, albeit with more input from drivers.

The Machinists union has also indicated that for the duration of the five-year agreement, it will refrain from trying to unionise drivers, from encouraging them to strike and from waging campaigns to have them recognized as employees rather than independent contractors.

“It’s important to have immediate assistance in the industry and this is the structure that provides that,” said Mr. Conigliaro.

He emphasized, however, that drivers did not waive any labor rights by joining the guild, and that if Uber drivers were found to be employees at any point during the agreement, the union could try to unionize the drivers at their request.

Uber said the agreement would help smooth relationships with drivers, whose frustrations have grown with recent fare cuts and policy changes .

“Communication is important,” said David Plouffe, Uber’s chief adviser. “On price cuts, we haven’t always had the best forum to discuss and share data — how price cuts work, what we see afterward.”

Mr. Plouffe said that as a result of discussions with drivers in certain parts of the country, Uber had adopted a number of changes, like a pilot program to charge riders when a driver has to wait for more than two minutes.

With the agreement, Uber also wins an ally in its effort to change the New York State law that levies a nearly 9 percent tax on black car rides but that does not apply to taxis. (There is a 50-cent surcharge on yellow taxi trips.) Uber says the law unfairly singles out parts of its service. Under the terms of the deal, the machinists union will help Uber lobby the State Legislature to treat all hired vehicles equally.

Mr. Plouffe said the money likely to be saved from changing the law would flow to drivers’ bottom lines, and some of it would be used to help set up a benefits fund that the guild would administer and whose scope it would determine. Among the potential new benefits is paid time off for drivers.

Uber was not seeking to replicate the guild idea outside New York, which differs from other cities in that a much higher fraction of Uber drivers use the platform full time or close to full time, Mr. Plouffe added.

Also , Uber said the Freelancers Union, which supports independent workers, will advise the company on how to create portable benefits for its drivers and other gig economy workers.

Sara Horowitz, the group’s founder and executive director, praised the agreement as a bold step that would become “part of a larger strategy for this new work force.”

The agreement drew a mixed reaction from drivers. Eric Grant, a veteran Uber driver who recently served on a panel in Seattle that heard appeals from fellow drivers who had been deactivated — part of a special pilot program in that city — said Uber’s new appeals program was a much-needed change.

“One of the issues they have had in the past is that they deactivate people willy-nilly, without any appeals process,” Mr. Grant said.

Others, particularly those involved in competing attempts to organize Uber drivers in New York, were skeptical. Abdoul Diallo, who helped found an association of drivers in New York, which is called the Uber Drivers Network and claims about 5,000 members, said that the new organization sounded “bogus” and that the guild was no substitute for an actual union.

Mr. Diallo said deactivation was relatively far down the list of concerns for most drivers in his organization. “First and foremost, price cuts and commissions matter most to drivers,” he said.

The machinists union said no topic was off the table in the guild’s discussions with Uber, including fares and commissions.

Mr. Diallo’s group, meanwhile, is encouraging drivers to sign cards that will allow the Amalgamated Transit Union to represent them; more than 5,000 drivers have signed.

Edited from NY Times article.

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Brexit is not the answer to the new generation of free trade agreements


By Adrian Weir

The cat is out of the bag – the publication last week of the LSE report on the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions within the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) commissioned by the Government has concluded that there’s nothing in for the UK.

To quote from the report: “we conclude that an EU-US investment treaty that does contain ISDS is likely to have few or no benefits to the UK, while having meaningful economic and political costs.”

In their conclusion the LSE authors make four clear points:

  • there is little reason to think that an EU-US investment chapter will provide the UK with significant economic benefits
  • there is little reason to think that an EU-US investment chapter will provide the UK with significant political benefits
  • there is some reason to expect an EU-US investment chapter will impose meaningful economic costs on the UK
  • there is some reason to expect an EU-US investment chapter will impose meaningful political costs on the UK

But which side, if any, of the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ argument does the report bolster?

Those who advocate ‘Leave’ often cite the ‘free trade’ treaties currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the EU and Canada, the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA), as reasons to leave. Specifically, the threat to public services posed by TTIP is often cited as the reason to go.

And yet in a recent Guardian article, Will Straw, of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, attempted to rebut former Gang of Four member David Owen’s assertion that the NHS was at threat from TTIP: “Lord Owen’s claims about the proposed trade deal with the US are utterly untrue. The UK government … and the EU are crystal clear that there are specific protections to ensure that the NHS would be unaffected by TTIP, which has the potential to increase jobs and growth in Britain.”

On the same day Rachel Reeves MP claimed on Labour List that “… anyone who studies both the detail and political intention of this deal [TTIP] can see that it poses no threat at all to our health service.”

“Anyone” clearly doesn’t extend to Michael Bowsher QC; acting for the campaign group The People’s NHS who has stated that: “Our conclusion is that TTIP poses a real and serious risk to future UKG [UK Government] decision-making in respect of the NHS”.

Both Straw and Reeves are wrong. It is not the case that the Conservative Government has made the NHS ‘safe’ should the TTIP treaty ever be ratified. Nor have the European Commission’s negotiators made any special provision or protection for the NHS.

Essentially, TTIP is an issue that transcends ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ not least because TTIP is just one part of a network of new generation deregulatory free market/free trade deals being negotiated around the globe. For example, the treaty with Canada, CETA, may be signed very soon and would be equally as dangerous as TTIP, the ratification of which appears to be some way off.

President Obama’s assertion during his visit last month that the UK would be at “the back of the queue” for a free trade deal with the US if it left may be taken as not so subtle American support for the ‘Remain’ side as was the intervention of Lt-Gen Frederick ‘Ben’ Hodges, head of the US Army in Europe, who concluded that Brexit would apparently leave Europe weaker in the face of Russian expansionism.

The public views of Obama and Hodges are for a political purpose and not based on what will really happen.

Should Britain vote ‘Leave,’ Cameron, or whoever is leading the Government at that point, will attempt to open negotiations with the US on a separate bi-lateral trade treaty which will be equally as bad, if not worse, than the likely impact of TTIP on public services, health and safety, food and environmental standards and labour rights.

Campaigners have exposed the fact that the TTIP and CETA treaties contain these special legal provisions – ISDS – enabling multinational corporations to sue nation states in secret quasi-courts if the nation tilts the terms of trade away from the interests of business in favour of its citizens.

These corporate courts operate to protect the interests of foreign investors, making both governments and public bodies risk averse when it comes to public provision of services or a return to public ownership of those parts of the NHS the Tories have already privatised.

Again, referring back to the report: “… the impact of an EU-US investment treaty on UK policy space can be understood as the extent to which the treaty prevents the government of the day from adopting policies that the government would have preferred to adopt in the absence of the treaty.”

The anti TTIP campaigning has got the European Commission worried, particularly public disquiet with ISDS. Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is urgently promoting her so-called reform of ISDS – the Investor Court System (ICS), with open courts, appointed judges and an appeal mechanism.

We should not be taken in by the proposed reform, the ICS will still give rights to corporations not enjoyed by citizens; it would still make governments risk adverse about regulation in favour of workers and citizens that may be at the expense of the corporations.

We should also not be led to believe that a vote to ‘Leave’ is a vote against this new generation of free trade treaties, that a ‘Leave’ vote would be a vote against TTIP – which it will not be.

TTIP and CETA transcend ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ which is probably why the LSE report has not been seized upon by either side (campaigning group 38 Degrees has given the report publicity but not in a ‘Remain or ‘Leave’ context).

We will need to maintain the campaign against TTIP and CETA if the Referendum outcome is ‘Remain’; we will need to campaign against new UK bilateral investment treaties (BITs) if it’s to ‘Leave’.

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Manufacturing is essential to the UK’s economy — and it depends on EU membership

BMW2The Brexiters’ alternative is a zero-hours, low-skill, low-paid economy

Economics professor Patrick Minford, who supports the Brexit campaign, said recently that ‘if we left the EU, it seems that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing.’

Minford – who was a major proponent of Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies in the 1980s – says this wholesale elimination of manufacturing post-Brexit ‘shouldn’t scare us’. In fact, he said we should welcome it. He also went onto say that new imported BMWs and brie would be cheaper too.

But what if the Brexit Prof is right? What would happen if UK manufacturing eventually disappeared?

Firstly 2.6m jobs would be gone. Manufacturing accounts for nearly half of all our exports at 44 per cent. Business research and development in the UK would take a massive hit, as 69 per cent of R&D is spent on manufacturing. We would say goodbye to our position on global league table – we now stand seventh in the world in terms of manufacturing output.

Although the services industry dominates the present UK economy, manufacturing still represents 10 per cent of our GDP and is a major contributing factor in driving productivity – a key measure in the long-term health of the economy and working people’s living standards.

Unlike services, which Minford said we should embrace as we give up on the business of making things, manufacturing provides well-paid, highly skilled jobs. Average annual wages in manufacturing stand at nearly £31,000, compared to only £26,500 in services.

But the future health of manufacturing in the UK is, in Unite’s view, very much dependent on the UK’s continued membership in the European Union.

The Engineering Employers Federation, which represents the UK’s manufacturers, notes that the EU accounts for 18 per cent of global output – and the UK sells 50 per cent of all its exports to the EU. The EU is also a major driver of innovation in the UK – it invests £11bn each year on innovation programmes, of which 15 per cent is invested in the UK.

What’s more, the leading destination for foreign investment in the EU is the UK.

The future of the UK’s exports and imports of manufactured goods is inextricably linked to continued membership in the EU. In 2012, the value of imports of manufactured goods from the EU to the UK stood at £158bn, while the value of exports from the UK to the EU stood at £104bn.

Manufacturers are united in their belief that the UK is better off remaining in the EU.

A recent EEF survey says that 84 per cent of UK manufacturers believe being part of the EU is a positive aspect of the UK business environment.

The survey also showed that an astounding 50 per cent of manufacturing companies would be less likely to increase investment if the UK were to leave the EU.

Other important manufacturing trade bodies including the Society of Motor Manufacturers; the Chemical Industries Association; ADS – the body which represents the aerospace, defence, security and space industries; the Ceramic Federation of Great Britain and others support the remain campaign.

A some of the UK’s top manufacturing companies employing thousands of trade union members including Airbus, Siemens, Nissan, Ford, Rolls-Royce, Cummins Engineering,  BAE Systems, Unilever, Astra Zenca, BMW, JLR, BP, Pearson Publishing, GE, GKN among others, have publicly stated it is in the UK’s interest to remain in the EU.

An open letter signed by some of the UK’s top engineering companies said:

“British engineering is deeply integrated with global markets and companies. If Britain votes to leave the EU, the period of uncertainty about the terms on which access to these markets would be granted would be a threat to the sector. Brexit would be a loss of automatic access to the EU market.”

The UK’s main manufacturing unions, Unite, GMB, Community and USDAW have all come out in favour of remaining in the EU.

Of course Brexit supporters have dismissed this overwhelming support arguing we can go it alone and other countries would beat a path to our door. What nonsense. They say we can negotiate our own trade arrangements with EU countries, the USA and the rest of the world. This is naïve at best.

Big trade deals take years to negotiate. What do we do in those five or more years before new trade deals are agreed? Investment dries up, tarrfifs get imposed – chaos looms.

President Obama made it clear, much to the chagrin of the Brexit brigade that the UK would be at the back of the queue in any trade negotiations the with the USA if we were to leave the EU.

Outside of the EU, we won’t have the power of being in a market of 500 million people, we will be in a market of only 60 million. What do the Brexiters think the US and EU countries will do if they want a trade deal with us? It won’t be a negotiation – they will probably send a fax saying ‘sign here’.

No modern, developed country can exist without having a strong manufacturing base. What would happen is that the UK would have a perpetual zero-hours, low-skill, low-paid economy with a race to the bottom.

Once high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs are gone, they will not come back come back and those UK workers looking for good jobs will move overseas and they’d take their skills with them – we would lose the best and the brightest.

The decision to stay in or leave the EU will have monumental consequences for the future shape of our economy. Do we want a world with better jobs for our children and protection in the workplace? Or one in which we’re in free fall in a race to the bottom? The latter is the Brexit option.

Tony Burke is Assistant General Secretary at Unite

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