Letter From Ann Field In Morning Star On Wapping Dispute

Wapping_strike_0001The following letter from Ann Field, former GPMU-Amicus National Officer was published by the Morning Star in response to recent articles on the News International (Wapping) Dispute.

“Saturday’s (14th June) leading article managed a mention, but Peter Frost (16th June) omitted entirely the two root causes of The Sun’s position as chief rat in the Fleet Street sewer.

In a monumental conspiracy involving the company and the right-wing leadership of the electricians’ union, supported by the Tory government, the police and the anti-union laws, almost the entire workforce was sacked within minutes of beginning a strike to defend their jobs, conditions and trade union rights.

5500 printworkers lost their jobs in January 1986 and suffered hugely, losing their livelihoods, their community and bearing physical attacks by mounted and riot police week after week at Wapping until February 1987.

The second root cause is the ability of a company or individual to amass huge portions of press and media in the UK. Murdoch’s domination has resulted in enormous and malign influence over politicians and opinion.

Irrespective of the advancing years of the man himself, News Corp is a trans-national company extending its commercial power into education as well as newspapers, media, sport and film. Murdoch’s News Corp is not the only company monopolizing the media, but is certainly among the most malign.

A management that was prepared to stop at nothing to destroy its own workforce and union organization would use any means to achieve its objectives whether it’s maligning people in their death throes or phone hacking, These two points should have been mentioned.

For more details see: www.wapping-dispute.org.uk or click here.

Ann Field

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Ecuador’s Economic Miracle – Putting People Before Profit

ecuador-headerEcuador is being today transformed by progressive policies that put people first. These are delivering free healthcare and free education, tackling poverty and creating a more equal society. 

Yet just over a decade ago things were very different. Then a massive banking crisis caused economic collapse. Unemployment rocketed and one in ten people left their country to escape the crisis.

Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution – led by President Rafael Correa – has changed all this. Ecuador is today experiencing strong economic growth and even during the global economic crisis, there was no recession in Ecuador. Ecuador now has the lowest unemployment rate in its history.

Challenging the ideas behind austerity economics, a huge programme of public investment is driving Ecuador’s economic growth and building a more inclusive society. Four times more is spent on health and education than a decade ago after Ecuador scrapped the illegal debt owed to international financial agencies and devoted this instead to public services.

Ordinary people are benefiting from all this change. Ecuador has reduced reducing inequality faster than any other Latin America country in recent years through measures to ensure that wealthiest can no longer avoid paying taxes and by creating a nationwide Living Wage.

As a result, the United Nations ranks Ecuador as one of the three countries in the world that has most advanced human development in recent years.
All these changes are popular with President Correa and his coalition of supporters winning 10 sets of elections since 2007.

Come and find out more about how Ecuador shows there is an alternative:

With Andrés Arauz, Ecuadorian Vice Minister responsible for economic and social development

When: Thursday 26th June at 7pm

Venue: Unite the Union, 128 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8TN (Nearest tube Holborn)

To register click here.

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Gateshead Glass Workers On Strike All Week

14853Unite members at two sites of Tyneside Safety Glass in Gateshead which makes laminated glass, are on strike this week over ‘a paltry and insulting’ pay offer.

About 112 workers have been on strike since Monday, June 16th at the Kingsway and 7th Avenue sites on the Team Valley Industrial Estate.

The strike is from 05.00 to 19.00 each day and also includes a continuous overtime ban.

Unite said that the company could well afford to be more generous, especially as it awarded the highest paid director a 14 per cent pay rise last year and shifted £750,000 from the company’s account to the owner’s trust fund.

The company had offered a three-year deal – three per cent in the first year, and then two per cent in the two subsequent years – but Unite said that this deal had strings attached to make the deal self-funding.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: “Our members rejected the paltry and insulting ‘strings attached’ deal by more than 90 per cent as the company was giving with one hand and taking with the other.

“Our hardworking members and their families are faced with the continuing cost of living crisis, with household bills going through the roof and they deserve a more generous pay deal.

“Tyneside Safety Glass claims that it has no money for a pay rise for its employees, but it seems to have plenty of cash to give to one of its directors and to lavishly top up the owner’s trust fund.

“The management’s plea of poverty does not ring true and we urge them to get around the table urgently to negotiate a fair and equable settlement, so our members can continue to contribute to the prosperity of the company

“The strike is solid and has been well-supported by the Tyne and Wear community.”

The company makes laminated and toughened glass for bus windows and windscreens, as well as bulletproof items.

Message of support can be sent via Fazia Hussain Brown, Unite Regional Officer at fazia.hussainbrown@unitetheunion.org

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Huhtamaki : Creating Low Wage, Precarious Employment In USA

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Huhtamaki workers in Commerce, California. They do not have the protection of a union, but they bravely stood up and demanded that management respect their right to engage in collective action.

By Mike Hall

That Starbucks cup that held your morning skim latte or the Chinet paper plates you’ve got packed up for a picnic this weekend were likely made by workers at one of Huhtamaki’s 21 plants in the United States, where more than 3,500 people work for the global Finnish packaging and paper products corporation.

At Huhtamaki’s Commerce, California plant, workers asked management to “engage in a good faith dialogue” about working conditions in the plant where temperatures can reach 100 degrees or more and where workers are subject to a disciplinary system they say management uses “only as a tool to punish workers.”

The letter they presented to Huhtamaki’s plant managers also urged those managers to refrain from retaliating against the workers for their actions.

Said one worker: “We knew that when we tried to talk to management about these issues individually, nothing changed. When we all got together we realized that if we all asked for changes together, there was no way they could ignore us. All we want is for them to treat us the same way they treat their union employees”.

While the Huhtamaki workers in Commerce do not have a union voice, they do have union support from the workers at the six Huhtamaki facilities where workers enjoy the protection of a union contract.

Five are United Steelworkers (USW) bargaining units and the other is represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW). Many of the company’s other plants around the globe in the United Kingdom, Brazil, New Zealand and elsewhere are also unionised.

Those union workers have been sending messages and photos of support to their non union Huhtamaki brothers and sisters in California.

The USW Huhtamaki Council also sent a letter supporting the workers.

Another worker said: “It’s really great knowing that other Huhtamaki workers around the country are supporting us today. I feel like the company will have to listen to us now”.

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USW Huhtamaki workers in Waterville, Maine standing up for collective rights.

Huhtamaki is expanding its U.S. operations and a new report from the USW and the AFL-CIO reveals how the company’s expansion strategy in the United States is creating low-wage, precarious employment while threatening the job security and living standards of unionised employees.

The report details how Huhtamaki is leveraging local and state subsidies and tax breaks and instead of providing good jobs for the communities it expands into, the company is using an increasingly low-wage, minimal benefits temporary workforce.

It also outlines cutbacks in occupational safety and health spending that are impacting workers in the plants, Huhtamaki’s use of a union-busting law firm to combat workers’ initiatives to organize and its moving of product lines to its nonunion plants.

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Big Media And Internet Titans: Media Ownership – The Democratic Challenge

bigmediacoverA new book edited by Granville Williams

The central argument in the new book, ‘Big Media and Internet Titans’ is that media pluralism must be put back on the political agenda. The book has been published by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

“We identify key policy issues,” said the book’s editor, Granville Williams, “and argue that governments need to recognise that unless there are clear rules and limits on media ownership, democracy suffers. The Leveson Inquiry demonstrated this unequivocally.”

‘Big Media & Internet Titans’ highlights the democratic challenges posed by excessive media power, both in the hands of ‘old media’ – newspapers, television, radio – but also through the emergence of the four giants of the internet age – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Never before have such global behemoths grown so fast or spread their tentacles so widely.

The book poses urgent questions about media ownership and throws down the democratic challenge for politicians to embrace policies which will promote diverse, democratic and accountable media.

Contributors to the book: Tim Gopsill, Ann Field, Paul Routledge, Martin Shipton, Des Freedman, Gary Herman, Mike Holderness, Andrew Wiard and Jonathan Hardy.

A copy can be purchased here or by telephoning 07729 846146 or sending £9.99 (incl P&P) to ‘Big Media’, CPBF, 23 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NL. Cheques payable to the CPBF.

Or you can pay via Paypal by clicking here.

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Orgreave: 30th Anniversary Picnic & Festival – June 14th

orgreave-Web_Page_1 Click on the poster to download the full programme for the event.

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Len McCluskey: “Ministers limping to 2015 general election”

In a briefing to MPs Unite says that the Queens Speech shows that the Coalition Government had run out of steam, was limping to the General Election ad that the Lib Dems have been ‘toxified’ by Coalition policies.

The briefing to MPs states: “We’re in the final straight up to 2015. The tactical device of the fixed term Parliament to keep the two parties together appears to have worked. Initially the Liberal Democrats aided the detoxification of the Tories, but as this illiberal government progressed the toxicity infected its leadership. Hell bent on privatising the welfare state, the NHS and Royal Mail, the electorate rejected the Lib Dems’ claims that they were a moderating force.

In reality, Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers have turned on each other with dislike and frustration over Europe and education policy.

This government have run out of ideas. Perhaps we should be grateful for that given how their disastrous policies have pitted old against young, abled against disabled and the elite one percent against the rest of us. Inequality levels have taken us back a hundred years.

They are banking on the economy being revived in the run up to 2015 to improve their political fortunes but as is well known, this so-called ‘economic recovery’ is not felt by those on wages that have been frozen, workers on zero hours, and where self-employment is by coercion rather than by choice.

Within this sparse Queen’s speech the coalition wants us to focus on its so called ‘centre piece’ – pensions. Let’s not forget that it was Margaret Thatcher’s government that began the rot when in 1988 it let workers opt out, diverting some of their National Insurance into a personal pension scheme, thus opening the way for mis-selling.

The speech covered the announcement made in the Budget which lets people take money upfront. Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said then that he was relaxed if pensioners spent their money on a Lamborghini. Apart from the patronising ridiculousness of that statement, this is a policy that according to the government gives people control over how their pension savings are used during retirement. They claimed that it will increase security but forget the spin on ‘freedoms’ – if individuals make unwise decisions it could have entirely the opposite effect.

Despite not actually using the term in the Queen’s speech ‘collective defined contribution’, referring instead to ‘private pensions’, the legislation has the potential to allow a new type of pension scheme, which may offer higher and more predictable benefits, to be developed for some employees at some point in the future. But as this will take time it’s probably ‘jam tomorrow’.

Among the Bills in this sparse speech there were measures that Unite welcomed, such as tax-free childcare, tackling ‘modern slavery’ and infrastructure. And there was a glimmer of hope with the crackdown on bosses that don’t pay the national minimum wage”.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite said: “In reality this was a legislative programme that is limping towards the 2015 general election. It was notable for what it didn’t contain:

There were no initiatives to tackle the cost of living crisis, bring work to the jobless and embark on a massive house building programme – ministers skirted around the things that matter to millions of British citizens.

The financial meltdown of the NHS did not merit one word from this government”.

He summed it up by saying:

“Ministers, devoid of imagination and ideas, are limping towards next year’s general election with no real solutions to tackle the big issues that matter to working people and their families. There are no initiatives to tackle the cost of living crisis or bring work to the jobless”.

You can read more here.

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US labour authorities seek bargaining order for Novelis with United Steelworkers

1 Rolling aluminum on the hot mill at Oswego NYUpdate: Federal board seeks to force Novelis to bargain with Steelworkers union at Scriba plant - Click on link for update on this story.

The General Counsel of the highest labour authority in the U.S.A., the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), asked the Board to order Novelis to recognise and bargain with the United Steelworkers (USW) at its aluminum plant in Oswego, New York in early May this year.

Novelis has plants worldwide including India, Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland and Warrington UK.

They produce and re-cycle aluminium and metal products Responding to the General Counsel’s order, USW District 4 Director John Shinn said: “The NLRB’s decision to seek a bargaining order sends a clear message to the management of Novelis and the Aditya Birla Group – we welcome your investment to create jobs in the U.S., but not at the expense of our basic rights. We urge Novelis to sit down and bargain a fair contract with its workers in Oswego.”

Novelis is a subsidiary of Hindalco, which is part of the India-based Aditya Birla Group. Last December, the company announced a $120 million investment that would add 90 jobs at the Oswego plant. In January, a majority of workers signed USW membership cards.

But in an election conducted by the NLRB on February 20th and 21st, workers voted against USW representation by a 287-273 margin.

However, the NLRB found that in the days before the election, Novelis management committed multiple violations of U.S. labour law, including:

■ interrogating employees about their anti union membership, activities, and sympathies;

■ impliedly threatening employees that the plant would close if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees with a reduction in wages if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees with more onerous working conditions, including mandatory overtime, if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees that if they elected the Union, Respondent would lose business;

■ prohibiting employees from wearing union insignia on their uniforms while permitting employees to wear anti-union and other insignia;

■ selectively and disparately enforcing company no-solicitation rules by prohibiting union solicitations and distributions, while permitting nonunion and anti-union solicitations and distributions in employee work and break areas and on bulletin boards;

■ disparaging the Union by displaying a redacted Board letter and telling employees that the Union had filed a charge regarding the restoration of the Sunday premium pay and employees’ use of personal time on Sunday as time worked, at a time when no such charge had been filed;

■ threatening employees that the company would have to rescind Sunday premium pay and overtime benefits if it pled guilty to the Union’s charge.

The NLRB concluded that: The serious and substantial unfair labor practice conduct described above . . . is such that there is only a slight possibility of traditional remedies erasing their effects and conducting a fair election. Therefore, on balance, the employees’ sentiments regarding representation, having been expressed through authorisation cards, would be protected better by issuance of a bargaining order.

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Umbrella Agency Scam: Sparks Lead Fightback!

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Merseyside: No More Austerity Rally – Peoples Assembly, CTUF, IER

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