Finland: Four Industrial Unions Set To Merge

1In a move which commenced earlier this year four of Finland’s main industrial unions are planning to merge to create one powerful 260,00 strong union whose focus will be on Finland’s exporting industries.

The ruling bodies of the four unions met in November and gave the go-ahead for the merger.

The unions involved include behind the industrial union TEAM; the Metal Workers’ Union; Paperlitto, the Paper Workers’ Union and the Woodworkers’ Union.

There are still issues to resolve – but reasoning behind the move makes sense and is widely is understood by Finnish unions.

Firstly collective bargaining is being conducted more at union level. Secondly, following the approach from the Finnish Government to develop a ‘the Finnish model’ where export industry unions play a major role in setting pay rises in collective agreements which would be followed by other unions proved a major attraction.

While there is still some uncertainty as to how ‘the Finnish model’ would work the industrial unions – who are all financially sound – decided to grasp the opportunity.

To push the merger the unions have set up eleven working groups covering areas such as the economy, statutes, education, advocacy, politics, technology and the unemployment fund.

Union subscriptions will be one per cent a member’s gross income. The union unemployment fund contribution will come on top of this.

All the existing 42 collective agreements will be retained with three sectors of collective bargaining: the technology sector will have 5 collective agreements; the chemical industry 18 agreements and the forest industry 19 agreements.

The final report on the merger project and proposals to proceed will be made until the end of January 2017. After discussion with the members the unions will make final decisions on the amalgamation in May 2017.

The first joint Congress of the new union is planned for November 2017 and the new union would begin its work from the beginning of 2018.

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Len McCluskey’s Story

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Len McCluskey: Why I Am Standing For General Secretary

Trade unionism matters more than ever. With the economy still in a slump, the Tories in power and the shadow of Brexit hanging over millions of jobs, unions are the only line of defence for working families.

So the future direction of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain and Ireland, is vital. It is far too important to be reduced to an extension of the rows in the Labour Party.

I am standing for re-election as Unite’s General Secretary for two reasons: My record – and my vision.

Bad employers have come to fear Unite. Just ask Mike Ashley, after we shone the spotlight on atrocious working practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook facility.

Or ask the mean restaurant chains which have had to pay up after our Fair Tips campaign stopped them docking gratuities meant for waiting staff.

And we have secured justice for blacklisted building workers, challenging the scourge of employer victimisation.

Unite now has a dispute fund of over £35million, ready to take on scrooge bosses wherever and whenever members want.

We have campaigned to protect our NHS from the consequences of secretive trade deals geared to business interests. And we have saved jobs in the beleaguered steel industry.

‘Members first’ has always been my philosophy. That is why I have committed to supporting workers in the defence industry, including those making nuclear submarines, despite political pressure, and why I launched this year the ‘Work Voice Pay’ campaign to focus on the industrial sharp end.

And I have campaigned in support of investment in our infrastructure, whether it is HS2 or a new runway at Heathrow.

Unite has changed too. We have more than 15,000 unwaged members, connecting us to communities that the elite forget. And there are more women than ever before in leading roles in the union.

But there is much more to do. We face three great challenges in particular.

First, Brexit. In all the talk of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, of market access and so on, workers need to know that someone is looking out for them. We are putting protecting jobs, as at Nissan, and workers’ rights at the top of the agenda – but that work is just starting. We can’t let the City and the CBI settle our economic future without hearing from working people.

Second, the emergence of the ‘gig economy’. That is a trendy term for the age-old problem of a casual labour market, now reaching epic proportions in Britain. That millions of workers have no security and few rights is a blight on British society.

The trade union challenge is to offer these workers the same protections as we do to those in better-established industries.

I aim to use digital technology to revolutionise how we reach out to and support workers across the economy. Unite will also be in the forefront of legal and political campaigns to end the abuses of the “flexible” labour market.

Third, free movement of labour. Unions understand that workers have always done best when the labour supply is controlled and communities are stable. While we must reject any form of racism, and help refugees fleeing war, we must also listen to the concerns of working people.

They understand that the free movement of labour means downward pressure on wages, in some sectors at least.

That’s why I have called for new safeguards that would ensure any employer recruiting from abroad must be covered by a proper union or collective bargaining agreement, stopping companies cutting costs by slashing workers’ wages and transforming a race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate-for-the-job society.

From my days on the Liverpool docks, I have understood what ordinary workers look for from their trade union – a focus on pay, job security and health and safety; with guarantees against discrimination and victimisation.

That is as relevant and important in the 21st Century as it was in the twentieth. And as ever, unions require unity and clear leadership to deliver. The last thing we need is for Unite to become a political football for factions in the Parliamentary Labour Party. I think we heard maybe a little too much from them this summer.

For the last six years, Unite has started to deliver on its promise. In the years ahead, I promise to deliver still more.

Len McCluskey is running for re-election as the general secretary of Unite the Union

Follow Len McCluskey on Twitter: @UniteforLen

Website: www.unite4len.co.uk

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German Trade Union’s Reject CETA

logo-dgbIn a surprise turn around the German trade union umbrella organisation the DGB have come out against the EU-Canada Trade agreement known as CETA. A document available to download here spells out why tacit previous support has been over-turned.

The DGB has faced criticism of its previous stance, not just from some German unions but also from EU unions, who now see the opposition of the DGB as a step towards getting Angela Merkel to pull the plug on the who deal.

This remains to be seem as Merkel was instrumental in rescuing the deal after the Belguim regional parliament in Wallonia rejected the agreement and EU and Canadian officials were scrambled to save it by tinkering around the edges of the agreement.

The DGB document is clear that the revised document (described in some quarters as merely “putting lipstick on a pig”) does not satisfy them on a number of accounts including protection for workers. More soon……

 

 

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Fidel Castro Tribute by Len McCluskey of Unite

cyk3ocdxgae0obsCommenting on the death of Fidel Castro, the leader of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, Len McCluskey said:

“With the passing of another towering figure from the history of the twentieth century, this is the moment to remember what Fidel Castro achieved for the people of Cuba and Latin America.

“He saw off the corruption and brutality of the Batista regime and, despite the imposed poverty of the US illegal embargo, went on to create a country with the best health and education systems in the region.

 “His Cuba inspired those seeking freedom around the world.  This is the legacy for which he will be remembered.”

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The Defeat Of TPP Trade Deal Is A Tale Of Ants Slaying A Dragon.

Democratic National ConventionBy Leo Gerard, President of the Unite Steelworkers of USA and Canada

It seemed a fearsome task, challenging the powerful behemoth that is Wall Street, Big Pharma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Ag, Big Oil, all their lobbyists, and all the Congress critters they’d “campaign-financed” to support their money-grubbing 12-country trade scheme.

The battle was engaged, though, for the sake of workers’ rights, clean air and water, food safety, reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, national sovereignty, internet freedom, financial regulation, public control of public lands, the right of governments to pass laws for the public good without corporations suing for so-called lost profits in secret tribunals adjudicated by hand-picked corporate jurists, and the freedom of local governments to buy American-made products for taxpayer financed projects to create American jobs. And, frankly, so much more.  For a righteous, just and equitable society. That’s why there were so many ants.

Literally thousands of civil society groups coalesced to combat the TPP. These included labor unions, health care organizations, food safety advocates, environmentalists, churches, family farmers, social justice societies, indigenous rights organizations and allied groups in the 12 TPP partner countries. My union, the United Steelworkers, was among them. It was an overwhelming number of groups with an overwhelming number of members who conducted an overwhelming number of events over years to make it clear to lawmakers just how strongly citizens opposed the TPP.

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It began slowly with warnings about the secret negotiation process itself. Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which was instrumental in organizing the collaborative action against the TPP, said groups started telling politicians early on that they weren’t going to tolerate another NAFTA. No one listened. As a result, he wrote:

“. . .first thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then literally millions of Americans signed letters and petitions urging the Obama administration and Congress to abandon TPP negotiations that gave corporate lobbyists a seat at the table, while keeping the public in the dark.”

Let me tell you about the fire ant. They mostly live in mounds. If an animal steps on the mound, the ants will attack. A few ants are irritating. A bunch are annoying. Half a million fierce fire ants with tiny venomous stingers working together can kill a 10-pound animal. That’s what happened to the TPP.

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The anti-TPP forces conducted call-in days that resulted in hundreds of thousands of calls to Congressmen and women. When Congress was weighing whether to fast track the TPP, in other words to approve it without even bothering to amend it to fix it, the anti-TPP forces conducted an encampment on Capitol Hill for three weeks. This, and many other anti-TPP demonstrations, occurred a year before either party chose its presidential nominee.

The USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Political departments worked with USW members to send to Congress more than 350,000 postcards protesting the TPP. USW members met with their Senators and Congressmen 1,500 times this year to oppose the deal. They held rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings and even rock concerts to inform their communities about the problems with the TPP. They conducted large rallies and other events in Washington, D.C. They built support with their state legislatures and local governments, persuading cities and towns across the country to pass resolutions officially opposing the TPP.

And that’s only what the USW did. The AFL-CIO was an important leader on this issue. And many other unions were just as active, and so were groups like the Sierra Club and the BlueGreen Alliance. The effort was relentless and concerted. And that’s why it was successful.

For the USW, this win was a long time coming. It began 22 years ago when the USW took on NAFTA. The union filed a federal lawsuit trying to overturn that scheme. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court refused to hear it, and the USW lost. Workers continue to suffer devastation from NAFTA today, as manufacturers close profit-making American factories and re-open them across the border in Mexico where greedy corporations can make even more profit by destroying the environment and paying slave wages then shipping the goods duty free back to the United States.

For example, Carrier announced in February that it would close two profit-making factories in Indiana and reopen them in Mexico. The result is 2,100 workers, members of the USW, will lose their good, family-supporting jobs.

That’s NAFTA. That’s a trade deal negotiated by corporations for corporations. After that came Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China in 2000. The USW strongly protested that as well, because the union believed none of the hype about how China was a huge market, and the United States was going to do all of the selling there.

As it turns out, the USW was right. China has relentlessly dumped government-subsidized products on the American market, baldly defying the international trade laws it agreed to abide by when it signed that agreement in 2000. That has devastated companies that want to manufacture in America, including steel, aluminum, paper and tires producers. These manufacturers have repeatedly had to pay untold millions to file trade cases to obtain limited relief in the form of tariffs, and tens of thousands of workers have paid in the terrible form of lost jobs.

The USW has protested virtually every so-called free trade scheme proposed since NAFTA, most particularly those with Korea and Colombia. In the case of Colombia, where more trade unionists were murdered than in any other country in the world, we asked for a delay in approval of the deal at least until safety for collective bargaining could be assured. We were ignored. And more trade unionists have been murdered every year since the deal took effect.

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Then came the massive, hulking dragon of a TPP, the likes and size of which had never been seen before. This time, the corporatists really stepped in it. This time it wasn’t just a few angry trade unionists stinging their ankles. This time the self-dealing free traders had pissed off far too many civil society groups. And they were organized. And they weren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s not over, though. None of us oppose trade. We just want trade deals that, as economist Jared Bernstein and trade law expert Lori Wallach put it, are “written for all the cars on the road, not just the Lamborghinis.” For that to happen, all the groups that protested this deal must be at the table to negotiate the next deal – not just the corporations. The Lamborghinis are one interest group. We are many.

When I was a kid, Frank Sinatra sang a song called High Hopes, and the most famous verse was this:

No ant can move a rubber tree plant. But let me tell you, a couple million ants just killed a TPP monster. There’s high hope in concerted action.

Originally published on the Huffington Post blog, republished with permission of Leo Gerard.

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Wal-Mart Trying To Stop Workers From Using Oransing App

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Russian Revolution Centenary Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information please click here.

 

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Len McCluskey On Brexit & Immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Great News For Construction Workers As UCATT Vote To Join Unite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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