AFL-CIO Executive Council Statement on Volkswagen

vw-chattanooga-plant-lay-off-500-workersBelow is a statement from the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Volkswagen’s continuing refusal to bargain with UAW Local 42:

The diesel emissions scandal at Volkswagen has called into question the principles the company has touted: environmental protection, sustainability and social responsibility. The damage done by the deception perpetrated on its customers will take a long time to heal.

Volkswagen workers also are feeling deceived, not so much by the emissions cheating, but by the company’s behavior at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. After the tainted February 2014 representation election, where anti-union politicians and big money interests interfered with the vote, the UAW filed election objections with the National Labor Relations Board. But Volkswagen was not eager for a public airing of that election conduct. So in an April 2014 agreement between Volkswagen and the UAW, the union agreed to withdraw its objections at the NLRB and Volkswagen promised to recognize the UAW based on its majority support. The UAW withdrew its objections; Volkswagen has ignored its promise.

The UAW chartered Local 42 in July 2014 to carry on the fight. Tennessee politicians, especially Gov. Bill Haslam, have continued a drumbeat of baseless assertions that unionization would hurt the state’s economic vitality, completely ignoring the thriving General Motors plant in Spring Hill represented by UAW Local 1853. In 2015, Local 42 made the strategic decision to pursue its goal of a collective bargaining agreement in a series of steps. The first step was to seek an election for the plant’s 160 skilled trades workers. Volkswagen scrambled to re-engage with the union, asking for meetings to discuss its long-ignored agreement on recognition. Meetings were scheduled and then canceled by the company. When Local 42 filed its petition at the NLRB, Volkswagen sent a “special communication” to all Chattanooga employees, notifying them of its opposition to the petition but indicating it would enter collective bargaining if the UAW was elected.

Local 42 was elected, by better than a 70% margin. Yet within weeks of their victory, Volkswagen again went back on its word, refusing to begin negotiations and appealing the NLRB’s election decision. Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain is not only a reversal of its pre-election statements, but violates its own Declaration on Social Rights and Industrial Relationships.

To regain the trust of its stakeholders, Volkswagen must make corporate social responsibility (CSR) more than just a slogan and a public relations strategy. It must recognize that emissions controls are meant to limit the social costs of air pollution, and that collective bargaining helps create and sustain a productive and secure workforce.

The 12.5 million women and men of the AFL-CIO call on Volkswagen to turn a new page, fulfill its promises, and sit down with UAW Local 42 to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

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TUC Report Outlines Workers’ Rights At Risk From ‘Brexit’

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary.

The TUC has published a report today that sets out which workers’ rights in the UK are underpinned by EU rules – and would therefore be at risk if the UK votes to leave the EU.

UK Employment Rights and the EU provides a comprehensive assessment of the employment rights that derive from the UK’s membership of the European Union. And it considers the threat to these rights in the case of the UK voting to leave the EU.

These rights, which include paid annual leave, time off for antenatal appointments and fair treatment for part-time workers, are used every day by millions of workers. But if the UK votes to leave the EU, no-one can say what will happen to these rights.

Decisions on which rights to keep – and which to amend or drop altogether – would be left to the government as they reviewed all UK laws linked to the EU. And any changes could let employers cut the benefits and protections that UK workers currently have.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people have a huge stake in the referendum because workers’ rights are on the line. It’s the EU that guarantees workers their rights to paid holidays, parental leave, equal treatment for part-timers, and much more.

“These rights can’t be taken for granted. There are no guarantees that any government will keep them if the UK leaves the EU. And without the back-up of EU laws, unscrupulous employers will have free rein to cut many of their workers’ hard-won benefits and protections.

“The current government has already shown their appetite to attack workers’ rights. Unions in Britain campaigned for these rights and we don’t want them put in jeopardy. The question for everyone who works for a living is this: can you risk a leap into the unknown on workplace rights?”

The full report UK Employment Rights and the EU: an assessment of the impact of membership of the European Union on employment rights in the UK can be found at here.

The EU-derived rights outlined in the report include:

  • The right to 20 days’ paid annual leave a year.
  • The right to not be forced to work longer than 48 hours a week on average.
  • The right to paid time off for antenatal appointments; and protections for pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.
  • The right to up to 18 weeks’ parental leave per child and to time off for urgent family reasons.
  • The right to equal pay for work of equal value between men and women.
  • The right to equal treatment for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers with other employees.
  • The right for workers’ representatives to be informed and consulted on significant changes that could affect jobs.
  • The right to high standards of health and safety at work.
  • Protections for workers affected by outsourcing or business buy-outs.
  • Protections from discrimination in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, and religion or belief.

Millions of workers have benefited from the EU-derived workplace rights covered in the report. Examples include:

  • Six million workers gained new or enhanced rights to paid holidays (two million of whom had previously had no paid annual leave.)
  • Around 400,000 part-time workers, most of them women, gained improved pay and conditions when equal treatment rights were introduced.
  • Landmark legal cases with far reaching effects for other workers have resulted from women becoming able to challenge unequal pay in workplaces where men and women were concentrated in different kinds of jobs.
  • Some agency workers received a pay rise and improved holiday entitlements; and many workers on fixed-term contracts gained greater job security as a result of EU legislation.

The government has sought to diminish workers’ rights. For example, in 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rights was increased from one to two years, along with new caps on compensation. And in 2013, much higher fees were imposed on workers seeking to enforce their rights at employment tribunals.

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Smurfit Kappa Accused Of Union Busting In Poland

Smurfit-Kappa-changes-European-management-structure_strict_xxlThe giant multinational packaging corporation Smurfit Kappa is being accused of ‘blatant union busting’ by the global union confederation Union Network International (to which Unite in the UK and Ireland is affiliated) who are calling on its 20 million membership to send messages of solidarity to Smurfit Kappa Poland unions being discriminated by management.

Following a successful and strategic organising campaign lead by UniGraphical at Smurfit Kappa sites in Poland local management has unilaterally ended wage negotiations and announced a pay increase to begin in April while bringing in a series of anti-union measures. Supervisors have been given special “training” by a firm of lawyers and new rules have been announced for all 5 of Smurfit Kappa’s plants in Poland:

* Union literature is banned
* Talking except on official breaks is banned and the supervisors have been asked to issue warnings
* Union representatives are not permitted to report back to their members
* After shift union meetings on company premises are banned
* Supervisors have been asked to keep a close watch on known union leaders

UNI Global Union’s Andy Snoddy who heads up the confederation’s graphical division said, “These measures are outrageous and a serious attack on unions and workers’ rights. It is totally unacceptable that polish workers are discriminated against and treated differently than Smurfit Kappa workers in the rest of Europe.

“We are call on all trade union representatives of Smurfit Kappa to inform their members around the world and ask them to tell their national management that the actions of their Polish counterparts are unacceptable. UNI’s 900 unions and 20 million membership stand in solidarity with Smurfit Kappa Poland workers who are suffering under these new anti-union rules.”

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Spain: Support the Airbus 8

160211 Info 43_1 - Trial to the Airbus 8_Page_3Eight trade unionists who work for aerospace company Airbus are facing jail sentences in Spain for standing up for the right to strike and picket. They were in the UK this week explaining their case and the Spanish ‘Gagging Laws’ as their trial got underway. Read the updated bulletin here. Trial of the Airbus 8 here.

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“Tories have been prevented from hitting British workers’ rights”

alan-johnson-pic-dm-7323465681Alan Johnson MP, Chair of Labour In For Britain, commenting on the publication of Donald Tusk’s letter outlining a draft plan for the UK’s membership of the EU, said:

 “Britain’s membership of the EU is much bigger than any changes David Cameron hopes to make.

 “The sooner these reforms are agreed, the sooner we can we can step up the campaign to keep Britain in Europe and end the uncertainty around our EU membership.

 “At the outset of this process, Labour were clear that David Cameron must not use these reforms to damage protections at work guaranteed through our EU membership.

“The Tories have been prevented from hitting British workers’ rights to minimum paid leave, rights for agency workers, guaranteed paid maternity and paternity leave and protection from discrimination.

 “Labour is campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union because our membership brings jobs, prosperity and Britain’s influence in the world as well as protecting British workers and keeping us safe.”

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Trade Unions And The Coming Digital Revolution

Humanoid robots work side by side with employees in the assembly line at a factory in Japan.

Humanoid robots work with employees on the assembly line at a factory in Japan.

Phrases such as ‘Industry 4.0’, ‘Big Data’ and ‘The Internet Of Things’ are now common currency as the predictions of a new digital world and a new world of work.

The coming digital revolution is a hot topic with employers, the media, academics and unions. All are now looking at how the UK will handle the coming challenges that the new digital age will bring and what the world of work will look like in the next ten years.

In November 2015 Andy Haldane the chief economist at the Bank of England told the TUC that 15 million jobs could be ‘hollowed out’ as digitization and robotics are introduced to the UK’s workforce. He told a TUC conference: “Technology appears to be resulting in faster, wider and deeper degrees of hollowing-out than in the past. Why? Because 20th century machines have substituted not just for manual human tasks, but cognitive ones too. The set of human skills machines could reproduce, at lower cost, has both widened and deepened.”

Click to read Andy Haldene’s speech here.

One well publicised statistic is that iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, employing 1.2 million workers, says that robots will replace 30% of workers on their production lines in five years.

The fact is that nobody can accurately predict what the coming digital revolution will bring, or the speed of developments, or what sectors of the economy, jobs and world of work in will be affected.

Haldene did point out that the Bank of England studies show that those jobs with a “high creative and technical content,” and those that heavily draw upon “emotional intelligence,” are “the two classes of employment that are most impervious to the rise of robots.”

These predictions of course are not new. In 2013 Oxford Martin School’s report on the impact of future technology attempted to assess the extent of the threat to employment through technological change. It concluded that 45% of jobs in the UK were at ‘high risk’ of being taken over by computers within the next twenty years – in two stages.

First, computers will start replacing people in areas such as transport, logistics, manufacturing production and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be affected in this first stage.

The report goes onto say that there will be slow down due to bottlenecks in technical areas such engineering. But the prediction is that this will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent on artificial intelligence putting jobs in management, science and engineering and the arts at risk.

However, in manufacturing the use of industrial robots in sectors such as automotive manufacturing is well established, digitally connected production is common place and manufacturing companies are already using 3D printing and remote controlled maintenance.

The development inter-connected vehicles is underway with many companies investing millions in R&D in developing autonomous vehicles – Apple are working on a driverless vehicle as are Ford and others.

 So what made Andy Haldene’s prediction such big news?

 First off – the speed of the growth of the digital and connected world is accelerating. The digital world is already having significant effects on the economy and jobs.

 eFiYVJzA recent presentation by IBM illustrated the current impact of the digital world – called “The Digital Disruption Has Already Happened” – pointing out that the worlds largest taxi company owns no taxis (Uber); the largest accommodation provider owns no real estate (Airbandb); the largest phone companies own no telco infrastructure (Skye, WeChat); the world’s largest valuable retailer owns no inventory (Alibaba); the world’s most popular media owner creates no content (Facebook); the fastest growing banks have no actual money (Society One); the world’s largest movie house owns no cinema’s (Netflix); the world’s largest software vendor’s don’t write the apps (Apple and Google). Add to that other emerging platforms and you can see what they are getting at.

We could argue we have seen it all before. Remember the bubble when internet companies were worth billions as investors poured money into them – only to see many of them crash and burn and or get taken over – anyone remember My Space, Boo.Com,, anyone ever remember their Compuserve number?

The most popular phrase for the digital revolution is Industry 4.0 – based on a simple explanation that Industry 1.0 got it all going in with machines powered by water or steam – creating the industrial revolution; Industry 2.0 developed mass production powered by electricity; Industry 3.0 was driven by the use of electronics and information technology and Industry 4.0 represents the new digital, cyber-physical connected age.

In Germany the IG Metall union (engineering and manufacturing union) is now working on how the new digital age will affect their members and employment structures in a country with employment based on co-determination and tight regulation in the workplace.

The union is examining how workers will adapt and how the union can organise ‘click workers’ or ‘cloud workers’ who will be outside of the their normal structures.

They are looking at (among other things) how to deal with the new flexible working patterns; the replacement of human work; 3D Printing; the extended use of cloud computing and crowd sourcing; computer based support for decision making; paperless logistics and the optimization of production using ‘big data’.

Equally they highlighting the dangers of the digital revolution of creating more precarious work; a race to the bottom in social standards; the elimination work through the use of robotics and the monitoring of behavior patterns and performance and individual flexibility – what IG Metall described as the ‘dark side’.

In order to get ahead of the game the German Federation Of Industries, IG Metall and the Government developed – in 2014 – an alliance dubbed ‘The Future Of Industry’. Each side has their own concerns. The employers say industry is facing a fourth industrial revolution, driven by the Internet, allowing for the physical and virtual worlds to merge. They want Germany to be ahead of the game.

 IG Metall says the technology must not control people. “Every second job is at risk and is putting employment, skills, training, flexible working and organizing new workers at the top of the agenda”.

The group has begun its work and working groups are now developing a ‘consistent agenda of medium and long term prospects for industries future’.

The global union IndustriALL which covers manufacturing produced an interesting peice on Industry 4.0 which contains quotes from IG Metall official Christian Brunkhorst on the effect it will have on the German automotive industry. Click here to read it.

So what about the UK? The Government began a consultation in December last year asking for ideas and comment – with lots of stuff about “setting the digital agenda” and the ‘smartphone state”.

Cover Page from Digital New World11-25076Unite submitted its own document drawn up by members working in the IT sector and called ‘A Digital New World’ which set out what unions need to be demanding from the digital revolution – skills; training and re-training to make sure low skilled workers do not lose out; avoiding the race to the bottom, decent employment rights.

Click on the above link or the graphic to download the Unite document,

As in German unions will have to reach out and organize ‘click workers’ and workers who will have already adapted to new patterns and forms of work including flexible working patterns, self-employment or project workers.

Unions’ bargaining agenda’s will have to include employment protection, working hours and patterns, skills and retraining opportunites.

Whilst the Government boasts of the UK being at the front of the digital revolution little or nothing is being said about jobs and the impact of the digital revolution and how we protect workers who maybe displaced by technology.

There will be massive impact on employment, working conditions, rights at work and on trade unions. We must not miss the opportunity to influence the way the digital revolution will effect workers and the future of work.

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CTUF – IER Spring Rally – February 11th


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EEF Manufacturing Survey – Another ‘Wake-Up’ Call For Government Says Unite

130102011020-us-ism-manufacturing-monster_0Today’s (Monday 11th January) annual survey by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF is yet another a wake-up call for the government said Britain’s largest union, Unite as it warned manufacturers against breaking up skilled workforces and trying to impose lower pay and conditions.

A key driver to the UK economy, manufacturing directly employs 2.6 million workers and accounts for 54 per cent of UK exports. Unite warned that a lack of a coherent industrial strategy from the government was holding back the sector and jeopardising thousands of highly skilled well paid jobs.

Commenting Tony Burke Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for manufacturing said: “The EEF’s survey is yet another wake up call to the government. We saw in the steel sector the consequences of not having an integrated strategy for manufacturing – the plant at Redcar closed and with it a national asset and over 2,000 skilled jobs were lost along with thousands more in the supply chain.

“Manufacturing is the greatest creator of wealth this country has. The government needs to stop sloganeering and do some serious work to support manufacturers like governments in our competitor nations such as Germany do.

“Unite would also caution employers against breaking up skilled workforces and trying to impose lower pay and conditions as the answer to the dilemmas facing manufacturing. We know from past experience that those employers who engage the workers and their unions to face them are the ones still standing once the storm passes.

“Crying wolf over being forced to make marginal improvements to low wages such as the introduction of the national living wage will not be appreciated by a workforce that has put its shoulder to the wheel through some very tough times since 2008. Rightly, they will be asking why so many big companies are sitting on cash reserves instead of investing for growth.

“We have been here before with the minimum wage and no jobs were lost over what was arguably a far more demanding pay improvement than Osborne’s effort which will only apply to the over-25s.”

Also click here for previous blog and EEF report on predicted manufacturing job losses.

For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 07967 665869.

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Manufacturing – Big Job Losses Predicted For 2016

130102011020-us-ism-manufacturing-monster_0The EEF (Engineering Employers Federation) is predicting big job losses in UK manufacturing during 2016 – despite the success of the UK automotive, aerospace and pharma sectors.

Their latest report says British manufacturers will shed tens of thousands of jobs next year as they battle a tough export market. The predicted job cuts in the UK steel sector and a continuing drop in demand from the North Sea oil industry – with the price of oil not expcted to reach $50 a barrel for sometime – are taking their toll.

Although the EEF says manufacturing may “shrug off” the 2015 recession only modest growth is expected in in 2016 with a potential sharp downtown in the Chinese economy – which may effect other economies.

The report is another blow to the Government. The re-balancing of the economy has not happened – the UK economy still floats on a bed of personal debt and credit and an over reliance on the service sector.

The lack of an industrial strategy to help companies in engineeering and the supply chain and the failure of the Government to react quickly enough to the steel crisis – eventually being forced to step in to help the beleaugred sector has created uncertainty among manufacturers.

Osborne’s continued boasts of a ‘recovery’ are looking increasingly threadbare. The ‘March of The Makers” stalled and never got going and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is under-water.

EEF says the main drivers behind overall manufacturing growth of 0.8% in 2016, are the automotive, pharma and aerospace sectors.

“Some of the headwinds have been a consistent theme over 2015 – the collapse in oil and gas activity, weakness in key export markets, and strong sterling. Others, like disappointing construction activity and the breakdown in the steel industry, have piled on the pain since the second quarter of 2015,” said EEF’s chief economist, Lee Hopley, in the report.

“It’s not all doom and gloom however, with the resilience of the transport sectors and the rejuvenation of the pharmaceuticals industry providing reasons for cheer in UK manufacturing.”

The Office for National Statistics pared back its estimate for gross domestic product in July to September – and said activity had also been weaker in the previous three months. Household spending was the main driver of growth while the manufacturing sector contracted and a weak trade performance also dragged on growth.

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Greece: #ThisIsACoup – Watch the documentary here.

CWC1b3eWIAARJa0-1Director Theopi Skarlatos and producer Paul Mason present #ThisIsACoup, a four-part documentary series telling the story of how the European Union destroyed the first radical left government in modern history.

#ThisIsACoup – Episode One: “Angela, Suck Our Balls”

With the clash with the lenders on hold, some Greeks take to the streets to organize resistance. As the crunch looms, Tsipras predicts they will run out of money by the end of May. Almost on cue, Syriza defaults on its debt to the IMF and the “rupture” begins.

#ThisIsACoup – Episode Two: To Pay or Not To Pay?

The crunch is here. A new bank run is draining the banks, while the state is almost out of cash. Against all odds Tsipras wins a crushing referendum victory, but as they celebrate, finance minister Varoufakis is sacked. What will Tsipras do next?

#ThisIsACoup – Episode Three: OXI – The Greek Word for “No”

Despite a historic twitter protest involving up to a billion people, a new austerity deal is signed. In an exclusive first English interview since the climb-down Tsipras gives his own explanation of why things went wrong.

#ThisIsACoup – Episode Four: Surrender or Die

Theopi Skarlatos talks with Eric Hynes about her four-part series for Field of Vision, which examines life under austerity in Greece, the country’s confrontation with the EU, and the emotional turmoil accompanying political change.

Interview with Theopi Skarlatos, Director of #ThisIsACoup

Recounting the moment last January when the leftist Syriza party was elected to power in Greece, Paul Mason said, “I knew it would be the most important political crisis of my life.”

Interview with Paul Mason, Producer of #ThisIsACoup



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