Corbyn To Slam Tories On Short Termism, GKN Takeover Bid and Brexit

Speaking at the EEF – The Manufacturers’ Organisation Conference today, 20th February Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, will pledge to stand up to bankers to rebalance the economy in favour of jobs and industry.

He will declare that finance needs “a fundamental rethink” and the next Labour government will make it “the servant of industry not the masters of us all.”

Jeremy Corbyn will also raise the case of Melrose’s attempted takeover of GKN, a manufacturer that employs 6,000 workers in the UK, pledging to “broaden the scope of the ‘public interest test’, allowing Government to intervene to prevent hostile takeovers which destroy our industrial base.”

He will also say that Government is failing business by not providing clarity on Brexit, saying that “with two out of six of the Government’s “Road to Brexit” speeches already delivered, the Tories approach to Brexit is, if anything, less clear.”

On tackling the power of finance to support industry, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say:

We need a fundamental rethink of whom finance should serve and how it should be regulated. There can be no rebalancing of our distorted, sluggish and unequal economy without taking on the power finance.

For forty years, deregulated finance has progressively become more powerful. Its dominance over industry, obvious and destructive; its control of politics, pernicious and undemocratic.

The size and power of finance created a generation of politicians who thought the City of London could power the whole economy. Out of control financial wizardry and gambling were left barely regulated, while the real economies in once strong industrial areas were put into managed decline.

The welfare state was left to pick up the slack with sticking plaster redistribution to the people and places held back by the finance-led boom in the South East of England.

For a generation, instead of finance serving industry, politicians have served finance. We’ve seen where that ends: the productive economy, our public services and people’s lives being held hostage by a small number of too big to fail banks and casino financial institutions.

No more. The next Labour Government will be the first in 40 years to stand up for the real economy. We will take decisive action to make finance the servant of industry not the masters of us all.

On protecting manufacturers from debt-fuelled takeovers, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say:

The reign of finance doesn’t stop at the gates of the City of London. Its extractive logic has spread into all areas of life with short-term performance and narrow shareholder value prioritised over long-run growth and broader economic benefit.

Take GKN, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious engineering firms, which employs 6,000 workers across the UK, contributes an estimated £1.3 billion to the economy, pays a healthy £174 million in tax each year and invested £561 million in R&D in the UK alone.

And yet GKN is currently facing a hostile, allegedly debt-fuelled takeover bid by Melrose, a company with a history of opportunistic asset-stripping.

It’s an all too familiar story, like when Kraft took over Cadburys. A valuable company could be sacrificed so that a few can make a quick buck.

We rightly praise the growth of companies like GKN and their location in the UK. And yet when we are facing the possible destruction of that company, we are powerless to act.

That’s why the next Labour government will broaden the scope of the ‘public interest test’, allowing Government to intervene to prevent hostile takeovers which destroy our industrial base.

On business’ desire for clarity on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say:

The Tories’ approach to Brexit is threatening to turn our skills crisis into a catastrophe, especially for manufacturers that rely on recruiting skilled workers from overseas.
Brexit is for many an emotive subject, but for business, it is first and foremost a practical matter.
To make decisions about where, when, perhaps even whether to invest, you need to know what markets you will have access to, what regulations and product standards you will be subject to, who you will be able to recruit, what will happen to our supply chains, which we all know are currently integrated across borders.

That’s why Labour has from the start taken the practical position of accepting the result of the referendum and insisting the economy must come first. We are leaving the EU but our businesses must not withdraw from European markets. Business needs clarity and with two out of six of the Government’s “Road to Brexit” speeches already delivered, the Tories’ approach to Brexit is, if anything, less clear.

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IG Metall secures far reaching pay and conditions deal in Germany

“Workers’ priorities have shifted. Instead of higher wages, work-life balance is now in focus”

On 5th February the giant German metal and engineering workers union IG Metall reached a ‘ground-breaking’ national sectoral pay and conditions agreement with engineering employers in the region of Baden-Württemberg.

The agreement will apply across Germany – eventually covering 3.9 million workers.

Under the German system of sectoral collective bargainng, negotiations begin in one region (Baden-Württemberg is one of the manufacturing heartlands of Germany with companies such as Daimler, Volkswagen’s Porsche and auto parts firm Bosch) and if no progress is made, unions stages ‘warning strikes’.

Strikes did take place at of high profile companies in the region including Daimler, Siemens and Airbus this year after the employers organisation Suedwestmetall, offered only a 2% pay increase.

The deal is seen as testament to the growing influence of German unions against a backdrop of the country’s strong economic performance and low unemployment.

The series of warning strikes cost carmakers, automotive suppliers and engineering firms almost 200 million euros ($249 million) in lost revenues, affecting big firms like Daimler, BMW and Airbus and dozens of smaller suppliers in the German ‘Mittlestand’, privately owned SME’s in the supply chain.

The details of IG Metall’s wage deal are highly complex. (Click here to read the full details of the agreement)

The agreement includes:

  • A 4.3% plus increase from 01.04.2018, a €100 lump-sum for the months January to March 2018 (apprentices will receive €70), and a collectively agreed supplement of 27.5% of a monthly salary and a fixed amount of €400 from 2019.
  • The right to a limited reduction in working hours up to 28 hours for up to 24 months.
  • Additional days off for parenting and nursing as well as relief for shift work.

German industrial relations experts say the deal reflected a “new mindset among younger workers”. “More and more people have periods in their lives when they want to work less, for example to look after elderly relatives, or to take a sabbatical or unpaid leave,” said Hanna Schwander, professor of public policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

The days when employees joined a company at an early age, worked full time most of their lives and retired early were “long gone” – and it was becoming “increasingly important for people to reconcile their personal and professional lives”, she said.

The business daily newspaper Handelsblatt said the deal reflected “the credo of the new age: that time is more valuable than money.”

“The wage settlement is a milestone on the path to a modern, self-determined world of work,” said Jörg Hofmann, IG Metall’s chairman.

Germany’s collective bargaining talks have been watched closely by the European Central Bank, which would be better able to hit its inflation target if wages in the Eurozone’s largest economy rose.

Mario Draghi, the ECB chief, has said wages need to grow before the bank can unwind its crisis-era stimulus measures.

But Mr Hofmann said the deal would have a “positive effect” across the economy, with the “significant increase in incomes strengthening domestic demand”.

Besides the pay settlement the groundbreaking deal includes the right of workers to reduce the working week from a standard 35 hours to 28 hours for two years, to care for relatives and dependents. Workers would switch from the present 35 hour week to 28 hours per week for up to two years before a return to full-time work.

Until now, those switching temporarily to shorter hours have enjoyed no guarantee they could reclaim their full-time post. Their salary will be adjusted to fall in line with shorter number of hours, but some beneficiaries such as young parents, those caring for elderly relatives or people doing shift work, will be able to take more paid holidays.

“Workers’ priorities have shifted. Instead of higher wages, work-life balance is now in focus,” BayernLB economist Christiane von Berg said.

Commenting on the deal (which has been sent to all manufacturing unions in Europe) Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe, the European wide manufacturing union federation said: “It is only fair that the German metalworkers get a good share of the wealth they have contributed to create. This is good for the economy as a whole since this pay rise will translate into more purchasing power. This is also a signal for all European workers for whom it is high time for a wage increase”. 

“After years of flexibility imposed by employers, this agreement is shifting the balance of power in introducing more self-determination for workers in their working time. This agreement is at the cutting edge of modern working time with more possibilities for workers to have working arrangements that fits their life and their health.

With this agreement, IG Metall has shown that strong trade unions combined with collective bargaining structures can deliver good living and working conditions for a large majority of workers.”

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Unite South East Sponsor ‘Jazz For Labour’ With Courtney Pine Gig

Unite South East Region is sponsoring a unique ‘Jazz For Labour’ event on 3rd March when legendary jazz musician Courtney Pine will be playing in concert in the Leatherhead Theatre.

Pine will be playing a full set encompassing the 30 years he has towered over the UK jazz scene incorporating a wide range of his rich and deep repertoire.

The Voice newspaper stated: “There have been many pioneers in the black British community – people who have defined an era, changed societal perceptions and made it easier for those who follow to progress in their field.  Courtney Pine is such a trailblazer”

He has released 16 studio albums and continues to tour worldwide with his award winning band playing clubs, concert halls and festivals from Glastonbury to Fuji Rock, Montreux to Cape Town.

His numerous TV and radio presenting credits include “Mandela Living Legend” for the BBC and the Sony Award winning long running specialist jazz show – Courtney Pine’s Jazz Crusade for BBC Radio 2. He was most recently commissioned by The Tate to compose and perform a unique piece inspired by the work of artist Henri Matisse, as part of Tate’s ‘Matisse Live’ broadcast in cinemas across the UK.

In 1986 a 22 year old Courtney Pine appeared on the front cover of the iconic British music publication NME, he is the only Black British jazz artist to do so – the last quote in a two page interview read “You know I’m doing this for a reason” – some 30 years later he still is…

There will also be an appearance by a a ‘major’  Labour front bencher at a meet and greet drinks reception and a silent auction with some fabulous prizes.

This is an unmissable event; tickets are only £25.00 and are available either by calling the Box Office on 01372 365141 or by clicking the link here: The Leatherhead Theatre.

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This corporate takeover will show whether May is really committed to an industrial strategy

The government must reject the buy-out of a key manufacturing firm if they are serious about protecting UK manufacturing.

When Theresa May first promised a new Industrial Strategy for UK manufacturing, she claimed to be following in the footsteps of her political hero Joseph Chamberlain. It’s ironic then that this strategy will be left in tatters if Mrs May and Business Secretary Greg Clarke allow this latest corporate takeover.  

GKN – a company Chamberlain helped establish in Birmingham –  is subject to a hostile takeover bid from Melrose, whose website boasts that it’s role is to ‘buy, improve, sell’ .

The ‘sell’ part usually comes after a few short years. Of course, it results in big profits for themselves and shareholders.

GKN is a major UK manufacturer of high-tech aerospace, defence and automotive components. So a risky takeover represents the opposite of May’s apparent long-term commitment to UK manufacturing needs.

This is get rich quick short termism – the sort we saw back in the days of red braces and mobile phones the size of a brick – the 1980’s.

For Unite, the share price comes in at a very distant last in the list of our priorities, compared to the 6,000 workers spread across 14 UK sites.

The financial media are reporting that the Melrose bid is worth £7 billion. But in reality they aren’t spending a penny.

Instead they plan on borrowing the cash, enticing shareholders with promise of an ‘exceptional dividend,’hen shouldering the company with the debt they’ll expect the workers to pay off.

If this ‘debt for dividend’ deal – which piles all the risk onto the workforce – is allowed to succeed, it’ll send UK manufacturing back decades.

Let’s be clear, just as the Carillion crisis has become a watershed moment for the public sector, raising long overdue questions about contracting – so the fight to save GKN is a watershed moment for UK manufacturing.

What can be done?

Along with the pioneering electric vehicle technology made by Unite members in the Driveshaft division, GKN’s aerospace operations produce military-grade technology for both the UK and US air forces.

Simply put, this takeover is also a matter of national security – and that allows Secretary of State Greg Clark to intervene and put a stop to it.

Lets end this fixation with short-term share prices. By every other measure GKN, is performing strongly – and that’s entirely thanks to a world-class workforce.

If GKN is broken up, business links which give UK manufacturing a vital competitive edge will be lost.

Instead of carving the industry up – either by Melrose or the current management – we need to see a long-term plan, backed up by investment.

In the coming weeks, Unite will be working with our members, who oppose the takeover, as well as MPs, industry and GKN’s European employees to say: this is a takeover too far.

Unite has not given up on the idea of having a Manufacturing and Industrial Strategy. The coming days will show if Theresa May and her government can say the same.

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Ivan Beavis – A Legend & A Hero

Yesterday I was privilaged to attend the funeral of a friend and comrade, the legendary Ivan Beavis, former circulation manager at the Morning Star, trade unionist, music collector, Man United fan, gig goer, and socialist.

The ninety minute ‘event’ (Yes thats right – 90 minutes) had so many things – it is worthy of a report in the Morning Star itself! The packed room heard so many memories of Ivan – stories, poems, songs, humour, with speakers from his family and friends, former TUC President Rita Donaghy, comrades from far and wide, music buddies from Germany, Rob Griffiths General Secretary of the Communist Party and Star editor Ben Chacko.

I mean where else would you have heard music by Curtis Mayfield, the Red Army Choir, Joe Cocker and Muddy Waters with Johnny Winter?

Where else would you have heard about gigs at the 100 Club, the Flamingo and Joe Cocker concerts in Germany? Or Bruce Springsteen being turned down to play at the end of the People’s March For Jobs (not Ivan’s fault)? Booking Dr. Feelgood and bands for fund raisers? Record collecting and spending more that he should have on bootleg albums? His beloved Manchester United, Duncan Edwards and the Busby Babes? Poety by Leonard Cohen? Favourite bands such as the Graham Bond Organisation, jazz by Chet Baker and Miles Davis? The foibles and battles in the Communist Party and the founding of Unison?

I first met Ivan when I joined the board of the Star. We clicked straight away he was a passionate  Man United supporter, with an encylopaedic knowldge of the club and its history, he knew tons about music – almost anything – soul, blues, rock, jazz. He knew loads of obscure bands and got them to play fund raisers. He explained the problems of newspaper distribution of a small title and he used to ask me to tell him on which motorway and railway stations I saw or bought the paper, he used to moan to me when there were errors in the paper (he went nuts when the same back page was printed on consecutive days), he was the Unite Father of the Chapel at the Star, his humour was infectious and on leaving meetings or leaving saying goodbye at union conferences when he was running the Star stand he would end with a cheery “See you later dear!!”  He was a legend.

Below is John Haylett’s obituary from the Morning Star of January 17th – every word is true!

MANY Morning Star readers may know the name of Ivan Beavis from his personalised and witty columns publicising our paper’s Fighting Fund, but he was so much more than that.

Ivan, who has died just short of his 70th birthday, spent two decades working at the Star — mainly as circulation manager, then campaigns manager and, in recent years, an inimitable Fund columnist.

His children Naomi and Joseph have been struck by the breadth of tributes received by their mother and love of Ivan’s life Christiane Ohsan, asking how their dad was always able to be there for them with so much going on in his life.

He was involved at national and grassroots level in his trade union Nalgo/Unison, his Communist Party, anti-racism and anti-imperialism work and international solidarity, notably with the struggles of Cuba, Grenada, South Africa and many more.

Ivan was an avid collector of recorded music, especially on vinyl, and had an obsession — some termed it a perversion — with a football team called Manchester United.

Born in Ealing, he attended what his classmate John Hendy QC calls the “second rate” Walpole Grammar School in Northfields where “Ivan did even more miserably than I did at O-level and bailed out, I think, at 16.”

Hendy recalls being, with Ivan, “part of a significant grouping of young communists in the school,” where the Communist Party candidate was pipped by the Liberal in a school mock election.

He recalls “a very kind, warm, generous and funny — and rather ungainly — kid who detested anything to do with sport or exercise. I have clear memories of him skiving off during cross-country runs for a fag, only appearing again to join the pack as it finished the course.”

The labour movement lawyer only ran into Ivan years later when he became the fundraising face in the Morning Star and they continued where they had left off all those years before.

“He was one of the few redeeming features of a school education which ignored the potential of so many and out of which, for diverse reasons and circumstances, he and I managed to forge lives in which we had the great privilege of being able to do something to advance the cause.”

On leaving school, Ivan went to work at Middlesex County Council, later to become the Greater London Council, where he joined Nalgo.

Ivan got married at this time and this union produced children Natasha and Matthew, who tweeted: “So proud to call him my dad. RIP comrade xxxx” in response to earlier tributes to Ivan on our paper’s Twitter feed.

Despite his communist flirtation in school, Ivan’s first introduction to real politics was with Peter Hain’s Young Liberals in the direct action demonstrations against apartheid South Africa’s rugby team.

“That bastard Hain,” he would later roar in mock-serious recollection. “He was interviewed on TV and I got my head kicked in by Old Bill.”

However, it was Ivan’s growing contacts with communists in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and in his union that convinced him to join the Communist Party rather than any resentment over his rough treatment at the hands, or feet, of the Metropolitan Police.

He met Christiane, who was also active in Nalgo, in the late 1970s, supporting an alternative candidate for a seat she was contesting on Hackney branch’s executive committee.

“I was elected and he got over it,” Christiane remembers with a smile and the pair got together during preparations for a Greater London Association of Trades Councils solidarity delegation to the Soviet Union in 1980 in response to a US-orchestrated campaign to boycott the Moscow Olympics.

Christiane joined the CPGB shortly after that, just in time to witness Ivan’s expulsion as one of the “London 22” — members of the party’s London district banished for refusing to accept an EC edict to cancel the LDCP biennial congress.

Fellow expellee Mary Davis recalls Ivan being in the “belly of the beast” — her designation of the party’s Hackney borough organisation — where the Eurocommunist faction intent on ridding the party of people like Ivan had established itself.

“Ivan refused to buckle to threats and continued to support the right line,” she says.

Christiane’s CPGB card was not renewed and, although she attended meetings of the Communist Campaign Group, the forerunner to re-establishment of the party as the CPB in 1988, it was not until 2006 that she rejoined.

“It was a terrible time, full of vitriol. The party was tearing itself apart. It was such a mess.”

As dispiriting as this was for Ivan, he had plenty to do in Nalgo, being elected first as Hackney branch secretary, Met district region secretary and then to the national executive council (NEC).

“It is his time as Met district region secretary for 10 years when most of us got to know Ivan. It was a bit like white water rafting,” suggests former national president Rita Donaghy.

“Our fortunes often followed the same path both in elections to the NEC — we were elected and kicked off in the same years — and when we both got a mention in [former electricians’ union leader] Frank Chapple’s column in The Sun in July 1985.

“Ivan was described as ‘a hard-line supporter of the pro-Moscow Morning Star newspaper’ and I was ‘a left-wing Labour Party member’.”

Donaghy remembers Ivan’s waspish sense of humour in moving a motion urging Nalgo to defy anti-union laws, declaring: “Nalgo must also take its place in the fight against the anti-union laws even if it means the NEC has to go to prison temporarily.”

“Typical of Ivan that he always tried to soften the blow,” she says.

Union conferences are, of course, important for more than simply the cut and thrust of debate. Delegates must be entertained in the evenings and Nalgo was blessed with imaginative organisers of social events.

“Ivan was the only man I know who could sell 600 tickets for a 300-person venue,” says Donaghy, who remembers that delegates knew not to clash with the Morning Star night he and other comrades organised.

Liam Chalmers from Dumfries and Galloway recalls the close alliance between the left-inclined London and Scottish delegations at annual conference, pointing out that Ivan had two major qualities that endeared him to his “many friends and followers from North of Carlisle and Berwick.”

“He was plain-spoken and able to explain political theory and strategy in the simplest terms without resorting to non-comprehensible and boring dialogue. In doing so, he demonstrated an infectious sense of humour — a quality he retained over the years in his role as fundraiser for the Morning Star.

“As a true socialist, Ivan scorned the annual Honours Lists, but I’m sure he would have welcomed the award of an Honorary Scot title.”

And what a godsend to the Morning Star’s coffers were those fundraisers that Ivan and his Haringey comrades Steve Powell and John Marsh took the lead in organising, with top-notch acts so delegates knew that they wouldn’t be fleeced at the Star social. It was literally unmissable.

“Many decades ago at a packed Morning Star social at Nalgo conference with the band Dr Feelgood that I’d helped organise, Ivan approached me, somewhat unsteadily having ‘had a drink taken,’ as the Irish say,” Powell recalls.

“‘Darling,’ Ivan announced, ‘I’m rolling in money.’ I pulled him into the venue manager’s office where Ivan produced wads of bank notes and cheques from every pocket.

“When it was all counted and locked securely in the manager’s safe overnight, I’d relieved him of over £4,000. The profits were paid into the Morning Star account the next day.”

Mancunian Marsh was suspicious of Londoner Ivan’s footballing affiliation until he recounted quality time spent with his estranged father, who had moved back up north, at Old Trafford watching the Busby Babes before they tragically died at Munich Airport.

His roll call of the musicians of all genres that Ivan persuaded to play for the Morning Star, the African National Congress, the National Union of Mineworkers during the 1984-5 national strike and other causes reads like an A-Z of popular music.

“Ivan raised all the funding and monies for these events. All the profits went to respective causes,” Marsh stresses.

Highlighting the way Ivan used humour to make political points, Marsh recounts his response to harassment by “anarcho-liberals” seeking to impose supposed emergency motions on him by submitting his own.

It “deplored the behaviour of a plethora of incandescent, ultra colleagues who will not permit the London District Secretary to have a minute’s peace; bombarding him with all kinds of nonsensical, idiotic emergency motions that do not fit the criteria required.”

He proposed in consequence that the colleagues in question be denied chairs for five years, that “Comrade Beavis” be rewarded, “with substantial reparations from trust funds, and declare that in the evenings he must be allowed to drink his Guinness in peace.”

Ivan acceded to a withdrawal request by the standing orders committee, who feared that, as it was technically in order, conference might well pass it.

South African Abdul Bham, who was working for the ANC in London at the time, “immediately recognised [Ivan] as an internationalist and committed anti-racist.”

He pays tribute to Ivan and team for organising the South Africa Women’s Day celebration in Finsbury Park in August 1987, when US communist Angela Davis and ANC chief rep Ruth Mompati headed the bill and drew thousands of people to the park and into solidarity action behind the South African liberation movement.

“It was comrades like Ivan who assisted us in many ways to gain freedom in South Africa,” says Bham.

“That freedom came at a price. Today the struggle has taken a different form, fighting corruption and nepotism. We owe it to people like Ivan to also succeed in this struggle.”

He bids farewell to his comrade in traditional South African manner. “Hamba Kahle, Ivan. Amanda Ngawethu” (Go well, Ivan. Power to the People).

To try to list the countries for whose people Ivan worked in solidarity would be to risk missing some out, but Grenadian Jacqui McKenzie remembers Ivan’s role in winning Nalgo support for her island’s brief revolutionary experiment from 1979 – 1983.

His work escalated, however, when, using the pretext of the killing of revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop in October 1983, US president Ronald Reagan ordered 10,000 US marines to invade the island of fewer than 100,000 people.

“Ivan was instrumental in getting Nalgo to pass resolutions to condemn the invasion and could often be seen at the many meetings and marches organised in defence of the revolution and at the many pickets of the US embassy,” McKenzie recollects.

His work was largely responsible for Nalgo national conference passing a resolution in June 1988, condemning the unconstitutionality of the Grenada 17 political trial.

Ivan didn’t know how to wage a half-hearted struggle. He gave his all and was widely loved for it.

While the movement mourns, Christiane and family behold what she calls “a huge, massive hole” where once he stood.

His tendency to call everyone ‘darling’ avoided the possible embarrassment of forgetting comrades’ names, but it also reflected Ivan’s unchallenged status — just as Lenin once once called Bukharin the darling of Russian Bolsheviks — as the darling of not just Britain’s Communist Party or the Morning Star but much further afield too.

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Unite Launches Groundbreaking ‘Pay Claim Generator’ To Boost Collective Bargaining

Unite, launched a new groundbreakin digital tool to help members to secure better pay deals and help with Collective Bargaining.

Unite has dveloped a ‘Pay Claim Generator’ which will help in the fight for increased pay and a fair share of company profits especially at a time when there is pay stagnation.

Current Retail Prices Index (RPI), was 4.1% last month, up from 3.9% in November.

Across the economy real wages have fallen 4.4% between the end of 2007 and 2017, but company profits have grown from 11.4% to 12.6% over the same period.

Unite’s union representatives will now be able to arm themselves with the latest financial information and help prevent employers from claiming pay increases “are not affordable”.

At the click of a mouse the latest up-to-date information can be gleaned from Companies House, the Office for National Statistics and Unite’s own database containing the details of tens of thousands of pay deals.

A bespoke comprehensive pay and conditions claim can be created, including the most up-to-date information on their company’s financial performance, their ability to pay, the latest economic indicators and pay deals at comparator companies by sector and postcode.

Sharon Graham Unite’s Executive Officer said: “Unite is working with members to ensure they have the best tools, information and representation to increase their pay and conditions. Unite’s Pay Claim Generator will help stop employers from claiming pay rises are not affordable where they clearly are.

“Over the last decade pay has shrunk while company profits are up and corporation tax is down. Workers deserve their fair share of the profits they created.

“Unite has secured some great pay deals at companies like Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Thomas Cook and Virgin because workers do better when they are in a union. Unite’s ‘Work, Voice, Pay strategy’ is about working with members to help them win at work.” 

For more information about the Pay Claim Generator see the following guide.

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Factory Gate Meetings At Bombardier Belfast – Thursday January 18th

Workers to gather for union meetings between noon and 1.00pm on Thursday [January 18th] at gates of all five Bombardier sites

Decision by US International Trade Commission on proposed 292% C Series tariffs due to be made public within next fortnight

Unite Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock, who will address workers at a gate meeting inside the main Bombardier site at Airport Road on Thursday coming said:

“Workers here are hugely concerned that 292% import duties on the C Series are likely to be rubber-stamped by the US International Trade Commission. This decision seems all the more likely given that the UK government last week effectively raised the white flag by announcing that they expected the tariffs would be imposed and placing their hopes in overturning them at the World Trade Organisation. That process is likely to take years – during which time the damage to jobs here in Northern Ireland will have been done.

“These tariffs effectively quadruple the price of the C Series in the US, shutting Bombardier out of the largest market globally for the aircraft. That poses an immediate and serious threat to every single job at Bombardier in Northern Ireland and by extension to those tens of thousands of workers in their supply chain and those who benefit from the boost wages provide our economy.

“To date the action taken by this government – a mere two calls by the Prime Minister to the US President – has been woefully inadequate. Inaction and supine pleading are completely unacceptable. The gate meetings on Thursday represent the next step in workers mobilising to defend Northern Ireland jobs”.

Unite regional officer with responsibility for the workforce at Bombardier, Susan Fitzgerald, will also address the gate meetings:

“Unite has organised these gate meetings as this is the eleventh hour for the workforce and so far we have seen only complete inaction and a total lack of urgency from government and our local political leaders on the threat to jobs.
 
“The ITC decision directly threatens more than four thousand workers and indirectly a further 20,000. Unite will not join the government in raising the white flag and resigning ourselves to defeat.
 
“We demand that the UK government plans now for all eventualities. They must use whatever power they have to force Boeing to withdraw their complaint, there doesn’t need to be single job loss for any worker in Boeing or Bombardier. We will continue to fight for the jobs, skills and future of our members and their families”, Ms Fitzgerald finished.
 

Media who wish to access the gate meeting at the main site will need access passes as it will be held on Bombardier grounds. We are asking for all media to contact Unite to arrange this through emailing our Belfast media account or leaving a phone message with Donal O’Cofaigh, Unite Campaigns & Communications (NI) on 07810 157926.

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Fantasy Trade Deals: Welcome To Cloud Cuckoo Land

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says suggstions of joining TPP trade deal is “Scraping the bottom of the barrel”

Last weeks latest ‘flight of fancy’ by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and his Brexit team (cheered on by the pro-Brexit media) that the UK has held informal talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, if the UK leaves the EU single market has been roundly trashed by economists, politicians and trade unions.

The TUC issued a warning about the possible impact on workers’ rights if were ever to join the TPP trade agreement.

It was announced last week that UK officials have embarked on ‘informal talks’ about future membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (now dubbed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Paternship CPTPP). Talks in New Zealand took place  in November 2017, when Liam Fox held meetings in Wellington with NZ Trade Minister David Parker.

But TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said such a move would be “scraping the bottom of the Brexit barrel. Trade unions around the world have opposed this deal because it allows labour abuses, it puts public services at risk and it gives too much control to corporations,” she said of the trading pact.

O’Grady said: “Ministers should stay focused on keeping frictionless trade with our major trading partners in the EU and protecting our rights at work. The best way to achieve this is a Brexit deal that keeps us in the single market and customs union after we leave the EU.”

The TPP deal was hit when Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the talks, which are still very slowly progressing. It still includes 11 potential members including Australia, Mexico, Singapore, Canada, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Trump has blamed NAFTA for being responsible for job losses in America’s industrial heartland but also abandoned the TPP talks and the talks on a trade deal with the EU  – TTIP.

US unions had mounted a vigorous campaign against TPP and received the backing of unions in counties taking part in the talks as well as UK unions such as Unite.

The US Communication Workers said TPP would be a “complete disaster” as it could incentivise corporations to move service sector jobs to lower-wage economies such as Vietnam and Australian trade unions said that thousands of jobs could be destroyed by the deal.

In UK the shadow trade secretary, Labour’s Barry Gardiner, said TPP had been “mired in controversy, with negotiations clouded in secrecy and the USA pulling out over fear of job losses” and called on Liam Fox to explain why it made sense to be discussing aligning regulations with countries on the other side of the world that accounted for 8% of British exports, given the potential losses from a nearer market that accounts for 44%.

The fact is that the Tories and their Brexit have been casting around to open any talks or get even a promise of a trade deal to counter the loss of a trading deal with the EU after Brexit.

Immediately after the Brexit vote Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson suggested that securing trade deals to replace the benefits of the EU single market would be relatively easy. Britain would, they predicted, become a ‘swashbuckling trading nation’ again. That has not been the case.

Fox has tried to make himself look busy with publicity stunts – jetting around the world but getting nowhere fast.

Initially it was suggested that Commonwealth countries would come to our aid and do some form of trade agreement, or we could get a deal with India (which in turn said that increasing student numbers coming to the UK would have to part of any deal). Trump having held hands with her in the White House promised Prime Minister May a ‘big beautiful trade deal’ (only to show his ‘America First’ credentials with the Bombardier – Boeing situation). It has been suggested we could join NAFTA with the USA, Canada and Mexico. Fox has also ‘given the impression’ deals could be done with China, Japan, Turkey, Mexico and South Korea.

On TPP Fox said it was “a bit premature” to be trying to join the TPP before a deal has been negotiated but did not deny that talks had taken place.

Another minister farcically argued that the UK’s geographic distance from the Pacific was not a barrier to such a move.

Simon Fraser, a former British diplomat who led both the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, poured scorn on joining a distant trading pact. He tweeted “Welcome to cloud cuckoo land”.

This was added to by former Treasury minister, (the respected economist now a cross bench peer) Jim O’Neill, who told the German newspaper Die Welt: “Brexiteers in May’s cabinet like Boris Johnson or Michael Gove were very intellectual, smart people. But they have no clue about the world of economy. They are clueless, sadly. Clueless.”

One of the lead countries in the TPP talks Japan, is the largest economy within the TPP grouping, accounted for just 1.6% of UK’s goods exports in 2016, according to the MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity. Meanwhile, Germany alone accounts for 11%.

The rabid pro-Brexit media in the UK is jumping on any half-baked announcement, (such as joining TPP or Nafta) in the hope of shoring up earlier optimistic predictions that countries would be queuing at our door to negotiate a trade deal and that the EU would eventually cave in to our demands.

Trying to replace a EU single market agreement with a deal with countries 5000 miles and three time zones’ away all with differing cultures and legislation borders on madness.

Plus the fact is that no trading block or country will open discussions with the UK until they see what sort of agreement we reach with the EU – that is their main prize, not the UK.

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A Union Voice From Europe

Martin Mayer, TUC delegate to the EU Economic and Social Committee

By Martin Mayer, UK TUC delegate to EU Economic and Social Committee

December 2017

 “BREXIT means BREXIT?”

Reality check on current status of the BREXIT negotiations

On Friday 8th December, Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker finally signed the piece of paper that signalled the completion of the first stage of the negotiations, with the expectation this will trigger the long awaited negotiations on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, as a third country outside the EU, the single market and the customs union.

Yet just days before, the UK Government’s handling of BREXIT negotiations had descended into farce. Firstly on the Monday, Theresa May with pen poised to sign a deal on the Ireland border was forced into a humiliating climb-down when the DUP refused to agree at the last minute. The next day David Davies Minister for BREXIT made the astonishing admission to Parliament that the BREXIT impact assessments on 82 sectors of UK economy didn’t even exist. On Wednesday Philip Hammond stated that whatever financial divorce bill was agreed would be paid irrespective of the nature of any eventual deal, only to be slapped down hours later by a No 10 spokesperson. Perhaps most staggering of all, he also admitted that the Tory Cabinet has not even had a discussion about what type of BREXIT deal the Government is looking for. With the EU and the whole world looking on aghast, it seemed that 18 months after the UK Referendum we were no nearer to clearing the initial 3 hurdles set by the EU before talks on a future trade deal can begin (citizens rights, the financial divorce settlement and the Irish border).

The Irish border – far from being a side issue of relatively little importance as some Tory Brexiteers assumed- has proved to be absolutely central to what BREXIT is about as it exposes all the conundrums implicit in a divorce from the EU. All sides say they want to retain an open border in Ireland but this has to be more than “aspirational” and must be based on the hard reality of what an external EU border with a third country (in this case the UK) will look like. If, like Switzerland and Norway, we retain at least some aspects of the single market and the customs union, then an open border and near-seamless trade could be maintained. On the other extreme, if we leave both the single market and the customs union and embark on a bonfire of EU laws on consumer rights, employee protections, environmental standards and free movement as demanded by the far right neo-liberal Tory Brexiteers, a hard border with tariffs is the inevitable consequence not just in Ireland but at Dover and all other crossing points between the UK and the EU.

Theresa May, under massive pressure to break the deadlock on the first stage of the talks and after her Government has wasted 18 months trying in vain to move onto the second stage without dealing with the first, attempted to make progress on the Irish border issue by guaranteeing a large degree of convergence with EU regulations north of the border post-BREXIT (perhaps something akin to the Norway/Switzerland solution?). The problem with the original paper that Monday was there was no such assurance for the rest of the UK in its future relationship with the EU. The DUP quite rationally feared the inevitable consequence would be the movement of the EU/UK border from Ireland to the North Sea, something long mooted behind the scenes as a possible solution but one that was always clearly and emphatically rejected by the DUP whose 10 votes prop up the Government. It’s not that the DUP object to a soft BREXIT per se, but to find Northern Ireland placed at the other side of the effective border with the rest of the UK not only fundamentally challenged the integrity of the Union, but raised huge dangers for the DUP about the future prospect for the Republican dream of a re-united Ireland inside the EU. To add fuel to the fire, the DUP was not given sight of the document till late Monday morning literally hours before Theresa May was due to sign it off with Jean Claude Juncker in Brussels.

The answer was to apply the term “regulatory convergence” not just to Northern Ireland but equally to the whole of the UK (something the DUP acquiesced to rather than openly agreed). To the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier, this means the UK would to a greater extent maintain many of the EU regulations relating to the single market, thus making near seamless trade between a post-BREXIT UK and Europe a distinct possibility. But not according to the UK’s negotiator David Davies who sparked real consternation in Brussels when once back in the UK he declared the paper was not legally binding and all was up for grabs in the eventual trade talks. It is pretty serious when the Commission then accuses the UK negotiator of a “breach of trust” and the EU Parliament days later when endorsing the deal, actually adds an amendment damning David Davies by name. The EU Commission is now scrambling to turn this “gentlemen’s agreement” into a legally binding document to seal the basic principles for Britain’s divorce settlement.

After months of Tory manoeuvrings to avoid complying with the EU’s three negotiating requirements for a divorce settlement prior to any post-BREXIT trading relationship is discussed, Theresa May’s signed agreement signifies a complete about turn. The EU now has the UK’s acceptance to a divorce bill ( a compromise figure of around £40B appears acceptable); an agreement more or less on EU and UK citizens rights; and now a solution to the Irish border problem by UK committing to “regulatory convergence”. On top of that, UK has agreed to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice for years to come, once ruled out under one of Theresa May’s “red lines”. The Tory Brexiteers once boasted they would dictate terms to the EU, which in turn would roll over in its desperation to maintain trade with us. Instead the EU 27 stayed firm and the UK Government bowed to the inevitable at the eleventh hour.

Any sensible reading of the document signed by Theresa May should mean that a hard Brexit is now dead in the water. It is clear the Tory cabinet does not understand this. After its long awaited discussion on what a future BREXIT should look like, the Tories still seem to think they can have their cake and eat it:

Regulatory convergence? Boris Johnson and Michael Gove boast in the Sunday Times that they’ll scrap the EU Working Time Directive and other “burdens on business” in their bid for a deregulated low cost low tax Britain outside the EU. Forget even a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement on that basis.

Outside the Single Market? The Tory Cabinet want to retain free access for the financial sector (the only part of the economy they actually care about), ignoring Michel Barnier’s consistent explanation that you cannot be half in and half out of the Single Market. No cherry-picking, he said.

A Canada PLUS PLUS Trade Deal? They want a free trade agreement better than Canada, with something like single market access especially for their beloved financial sector, but with the freedom to deregulate where they wish. They really don’t understand do they? Continue reading

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Treason is punished, courage is rewarded – Napoleón Gómez Urrutia

Napoleon Gomez, President of Los Mineros

Excellent article from La Jornada, in Mexico, 21st December 2017 on Mexican trade unions and the Mexican independent union Los Mineros joining with Unite the Union and the United Steelworkers in our global union Workers Uniting.

The year 2017 could not conclude without the occurrence of some very important actions and decisions at an international level that clearly reflect what is happening in Mexico and especially in the labor movement.

On the one hand, the significant suspension and eventual expulsion of the Confederation of Mexican Workers  (CTM) and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) from the most important trade union organization in the world, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with more than 170 million members. An unprecedented case that further damages these pro-government workers’ associations, accused of treason after allying themselves with conservative, opportunist and anti-union groups that contradict the objectives and principles of the ITUC. Their surrender and submission to governments of whatever ideology have been revealed worldwide.

On the other hand, Los Mineros of México were distinguished in October 2017 with permanent and enthusiastic admission as the only representative of our nation to an outstanding trade union organization, which has distinguished itself in the fight for democracy, freedom and the defense of labor and human rights.

This organization, Workers Uniting, brings together the most powerful unions in England, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada and now Mexico through Los Mineros.

This is not just a symbol or a letterhead; it is union power that becomes stronger every day through the permanent struggle for justice, respect and dignity of all from a progressive and humanistic perspective and attitude.

We’d best leave aside the sad and shameful role of the CTM and the CROC, which are the same confederations that proposed last week to the Senate of the Republic, through two senators – Tereso Medina, of the CTM, and Isaías González, national leader of the CROC, both members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – to modify Article 123 of the Constitution and reform the draft of the new Federal Labor Law with some proposals that not even the most reactionary entrepreneur would have considered, such as giving free rein to companies to contract with outsourcing companies or contractors, without any obstacle and at any level of employment, which would allow employers to freely adjust their staff or dismiss workers without justification and without the need to notify them in writing.

That is to say, a total aberration and regression, with makes it easier to understand why they were expelled from the ITUC, because they also destroy collective bargaining and, freedom of association and practically suggest canceling the right to strike, in order to ingratiate themselves and receive rewards or compensation for well serving the system of corruption that prevails in Mexico.

Workers Uniting, which was founded in 2008 and to which Los Mineros of México are now affiliated, is an organization with a common vision of a progressive unionism, based on political struggles and the experience accumulated over more than 150 years of evolution of the workers’ movement. At the center of this vision is the principle of solidarity and the understanding that workers have in common their place in the economic system, their principles and values ​​and the defense of their rights, regardless of gender, sexual, racial or ethnic identity, language or national origin, age or abilities.

This recently constituted organization unites the real working class, which is politically aware, rejects the arguments of the conservative right that has sought to discredit and divide the democratic labor sector of all countries and common rights and identity of workers, because the root of the mentality of the minority social elites is a blind faith in free trade and uncontrolled markets, which have caused so much damage for the working class.

Workers Uniting recognizes that in the global economy there are no borders, that politicians handle their agendas according to their convenience – whether in London, Ottawa, Dublin, Washington or Mexico City, and that behind them are the big corporations, multinational companies and financial institutions. The members of Workers Uniting are equally aware that all these interests are closely connected and that they constitute a central part of the strategy of the political class to orchestrate and direct global attacks against free and democratic workers’ organizations.

That is why it is important and fundamental for leaders, academics and intellectuals to articulate a credible alternative to unify and strengthen the actions of the entire working class, which has a great awareness of the need for a change of model and direction that generates greater equality, security, democracy and justice for the entire population.

With this shared vision, Workers Uniting is committed to strengthening international solidarity against exploitation, abuse and injustice, based on the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all. The enthusiastic acceptance of the membership of Los Mineros results from our prestige in the union struggle, our capacity for organization and our defense of the fundamental rights of workers, which are continuously violated in Mexico –  an outrage that has been supported by the shameful alliance of the CTM and the CROC with the enemies of the workers.

Click here to download the original in Spanish.

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