Labour Must Hold Their Nerve And Vote Down May’s Bad Brexit Deal

Unite’s Len McCluskey

“We can’t be bounced into a bad Brexit – the idea that the only choice is between this deal or no deal is preposterous and an insult to the country” says Unite’s Len McCluskey

“Last week, the Brexit drama became a full-blown crisis.

Anxiety is growing throughout industry over the continuing confusion and uncertainty over the terms of Brexit, and the possibility that Britain might end up leaving the European Union without a deal at all. Political posturing costs people’s jobs, including those of Unite members, who I am determined to protect above all.

But we must be clear – we can’t be bounced into a bad Brexit.  Theresa May’s plan addresses none of the concerns about Brexit and mitigates none of the risks.  It only answers the question as to how low a common denominator can go.

The idea that the only choice is between this bad deal or no deal is preposterous and an insult to the country.  It is an argument that appeals only to her ungovernable Party, which has dragged the country to the brink.

That is why, although 52 per cent of the public voted for Brexit in 2016, only 27 per cent back the Conservative deal on offer today, according to Survation.

The Prime Minister is disingenuous in saying she is carrying out the people’s wishes.  The 52 per cent who voted leave did so for two main reasons.  Firstly, a feeling of being left behind, forgotten in towns and cities blighted by a lack of investment.  Secondly, because greedy bosses have been allowed to abuse migrant workers and undercut pay and conditions creating a race to the bottom culture.

Her government has no answers on these issues and this deal offers nothing to the 48 per cent, also seeking long-term job security and investment and good and friendly relations with Europe.

If the Prime Minister would only stop listening to the hard-line rump on her own backbenches, she would realise that there is a different deal available.  That it is perfectly possible to secure a natural majority in parliament for leaving the European Union, as the British people mandated in June 2016 but in a way that unites the nation.

She needs to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn and forget about Jacob Rees-Mogg and her disloyal cabinet.  She needs to actually listen to trade union concerns, rather than pretending to do so. Jeremy Corbyn extended the possibility of agreement in his Party Conference speech in September. Now is the time to take up the offer.

In short, Mrs May needs to act as a national leader and not as a party manager. If she did, she could draw on the goodwill of all those who believe democratic votes must be respected and who understand her difficulties in trying  to negotiate with the EU while manacled to the madhouse that is the Conservative Party in parliament.

The deal that can fly means a permanent customs union – a move which would at a stroke allay many of the fears for jobs.

It means entrenching the workers’ rights mandated by the EU which would be at risk from the hard-right hatchet-men of the Tory fringe.

It would offer stable long-term guarantees to Northern Ireland over the border, protecting the historic Good Friday agreement that too many are irresponsibly prepared to play ducks-and-drakes with.  And it would secure our sovereignty and our right to set our own migration policy, most importantly, based on proper labour market protections for all workers.

This deal does none of those things.  A shambolic negotiation has resulted in a shambolic deal, which offers Britain no control over its laws, money or borders. At best it offers temporary commitments which mean nothing to those making long-term investment decisions.  Businesses sent out to bat for this deal now should understand that this is little more than 21 months more of peering over the cliff-edge.  It is not the certainty that you are being sold.

There are no protections for workers’ rights, no barrier-free market access guarantees. It leaves Britain locked into arrangements we cannot exit from except with the other parties’ permission, a circumstance none of us would accept in any area of our lives.

I doubt Mrs May will take up the path offered by Corbyn seeking what is right for our nations – MPs should, therefore, hold their nerve, act for the people and vote down her plan. She must, in such circumstances, recognise she has lost the authority to govern and resign.

Parliament would do well to then endorse Labour’s honourable and sensible Brexit plan which, I believe, the EU would also accept, although I fear that the destructive factionalism of the Tory Party will prevent this.

With a new Tory leader and prime minister there would be an moral imperative to have a real people’s vote in a General Election, when the British people could restore the credibility of government by electing Labour – the only party capable of delivering Brexit for both the 52 per cent and the 48 per cent.

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BREAKING: Unite Reps Briefing: Opposing Blindfold Brexit

Unite’s Len McCluskey

Issued to Unite the Union workplace reps November 16th

Unite Reps Briefing: Opposing Blindfold Brexit

Unite the Union is calling on MPs to reject the Government’s Withdrawal Deal if it is put before Parliament.

“Be in no doubt, limited in aim and vague in detail, this deal fails our tests. It is not in the interests of working people, it is only in the interest of Theresa May’s survival in front of a divided party.

“Unite utterly opposes the false choice of a bad deal versus no deal. We have an alternative which would respect the 2016 referendum, offer permanent security for jobs and working rights, and command the support of a Parliamentary majority.

“Rather than setting out a real vision for what the future EU-UK relationship should be, the Tory deal seeks to rush us out of the door with no agreement in place. The government are asking us to don the blindfold and take a leap of faith. That is unacceptable.

“We must not be blackmailed into supporting a bad deal. We must hold our nerve. This vote raises the prospect of the general election our country desperately needs. To that end Unite calls on Labour MPs to vote this deal down.”
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary

Unite is calling on all MPs to oppose the Withdrawal Deal, which is in two parts.

The Withdrawal Agreement:

Fails to meet the red lines set by Unite, the Labour Party and the TUC.
Fails to deliver a permanent customs union, vital for investment and job security.
Fails to guarantee no hard border in Ireland on a permanent basis.

The future framework:

Is a vague, non-binding declaration. It is not a framework for a future trade deal.
It utterly omits protections for workers’ rights and barrier-free access to the Single Market two of the fundamental tests any deal must be judged against. (See Unite’s test below)
This blindfold Brexit is a leap into the unknown. It prolongs the job-threatening uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with Europe.

The false choice of a harmful Tory deal and no deal is a political trap. If the Government cannot table a deal which meets the tests our movement has adopted a General Election becomes a real prospect.

The Withdrawal Agreement:

Having failed to negotiate both a withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future UK-EU trading relationship, this Government’s ‘deal’ only covers the divorce proceedings, namely the so-called £39 billion divorce bill, citizens’ rights, the Northern Irish backstop and the transitional period.
A UK-wide backstop does not amount to the permanent customs union needed to defend thousands of jobs in industry and agriculture and prevent a hard border in Ireland.
Theresa May has said: “The point about the backstop is it may never be used. It only comes in if, for technical reasons, the agreed end-state customs arrangement has not been possible to put in place.”
A backstop which may never be used and fails to match the offer made by Jeremy Corbyn in the Leader’s speech at Labour Conference to support a deal which includes a full customs union.

What is Blindfold Brexit?

Rather than a full framework setting out the terms to be implemented the deal will be accompanied by a non-binding political declaration.
This is intended to buy May’s government time and defer the political decision about the future trade deal until after the UK has left the EU in March.
The withdrawal agreement and political declaration, taken together as the ‘deal,’ provides no answer to the issues raised by the 2016 referendum.

The Unite Tests:

In line with the principles supported by our 2018 policy conference Unite is clear that any Brexit deal must:

Deliver barrier-free access to the Single Market to ensure ongoing exchange of the goods and services which thousands of our members’ jobs rely on.
Secure a customs union with the European Union.
Enshrine and enhance working rights, social and environmental protections which are currently based in EU law. These must be transferred into UK law through primary legislation, open and democratically.
Not undermine the Good Friday Agreement or the economic integrity of the island of Ireland. There must be no hard border between the Republic and the north.
Grant the immediate and guaranteed right to remainfor European citizens in the UK and their dependents and secure the rights of UK citizens working in other EU countries.
Retain membership of beneficial European-level institutions or regulatory bodies which are vital to our industrial sectors such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ECHA (REACH) and Euratom.

For more information from Unite on any of these issues contact:
Ben Norman, Unite Researcher, Unite the Union

Len McCluskey
Unite general secretary

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Brazilian Presidential Election: Unions Say The The Fight Goes On!

Official note from the Unified Workers’ Central [CUT] note on the outcome of the 2018 elections in Brazil

Posted: October 29, 2018 – 11h33 | Last modified: October 29, 2018 – 11:58

The Executive Directorate of the CUT, in view of the official outcome of the presidential elections, approved the following note, which should be widely disseminated to all workers on the basis of each of the affiliated unions.

The majority of Brazilian voters have just handed over the presidency of the Republic to someone who, during his political career, has always voted against the rights of the working class, opposed social policies, voted in favor of freezing investments in health and education, supported the delivery of the pre-salt and oil reserves to foreigners, offended and threatened left-wing activists, women, blacks and LGBT people. However, almost half of the population voted against the project that will lead Brazil backwards in terms of politics and civilization.

Throughout the campaign, the media were used daily to attack the popular candidacy. Bosses pressured their employees with all kinds of threats. The name of God was used in vain. The social networks were flooded with lies, in an articulated strategy paid by companies with the objective of defaming the Workers’ Party (PT) and its candidate, Fernando Haddad. The judicial system, in addition to arbitrarily blocking Lula’s candidacy, manifested weakness and connivance by not punishing those who openly threatened the institutions or committed electoral crimes. Impunity has contributed to the increase in acts of intimidation and violence against PT voters and to the growing climate of hatred that has divided the country.

Those who think they would destroy our capacity for resistance and struggle are deceived. The PT emerged stronger from this process as the main force of opposition to the neoliberal and neo-fascist government. The CUT and social movements have also strengthened. Lula and Haddad consolidated themselves as the great leaders in the popular-democratic field. The CUT will keep the working class together, preparing it for the struggle in the streets, in the workplaces, in the factories and in the countryside against the withdrawal of rights and in defense of democracy.

The government that will take office on January 1, 2019 will try to deepen the neoliberal program that has been under way since the coup against President Dilma: pension reform, withdrawal of more rights, continuation of privatizations, rising unemployment , wage cuts, rising costs of living, worsening education and health, increasing violence and insecurity. In addition, it will try to persecute and repress the trade union movement, social movements, as well as the democratic and popular sectors in general.

We have a huge challenge ahead of us. It is time for unity of the democratic-popular forces to resist. The CUT will continue its trajectory of struggle and call for its bases to remain mobilized and to resist any attack against rights and democracy.

Long live the Brazilian working class!

Free Lula!

Vagner Freitas – President of CUT

Spanish version – click here

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Canada Must Investigate Labour and Environmental Violations Committed by Candian Companies In Mexico

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Save Jobs At Cammell Lairds

Sign the petition to help save jobs in shipbuilding in the UK.

Cammell Lairds has just won £619million’s worth of contracts to build the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Ships, but in stead of reassuring their workforce, they have decided to propose 291 redundancies with the first taking place, just weeks before Christmas.

We need to be turning the tide on casualisation, we believe it is not acceptable that companies like Peel Ports who have a controlling stake in Cammell Lairds, can take such aggressive steps to maximize profits.

Please sign the petition – you can cut and paste the url.

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Updated: Emphatic victory for Unite as union regulator declares no breach in union’s election

Unite’s Len McCluskey – emphatic victory on election complaints.

The Certification Officer, (the regulator for the UK’s trades unions), announced on 5th October that there was no breach of rules during the 2017 union-wide election for the post of General Secretary of Unite the union, (the UK’s biggest trade union) won by Len McCluskey.

The Certification Officer dismissed every charge brought against the union by Gerard Coyne former Regional Secretary of Unite in the West Midlands and a member of his campaign Richard Brooks.

The decision, on behalf of the Certification Officer, has been given by former high court judge Jeffrey Burke QC after a week-long hearing.

Responding on behalf of Unite the union to the decision Unite’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, (who acted as general secretary during the election), said:  “Today’s decision is the correct one.  Every charge brought against our union by Gerard Coyne and his campaign has been dismissed and shown to be misconceived, underscoring once again that our election was, as we have always said, conducted freely and fairly. 

“This is an emphatic ruling that ought to draw a line under matters once and for all, allowing this union to do what it does best, defend the interests of its members.

“This judgment is, however, also a damning indictment of the Coyne campaign.  Our union is particularly pleased that it has been vindicated over the Unite Herald, a disgraceful publication produced by the Gerard Coyne campaign, using the good name of this union to misinform and mislead our members.

“This publication defined the Coyne campaign; it was never about doing the best by our union and its members but was politically motivated, filing empty complaints designed to pollute opinion of our union. It is a matter of much regret that this diverted considerable union time and resources when our member face the unprecedented challenges of Brexit, automation and the rise of insecure work. 

“During the course of the hearing we also learned that Gerard Coyne had obtained access to the data of in excess of half a million Unite members, donated free of charge by a company called Black Swan, a calculated intrusion into the private details of our members. 

“This organised effort by external reactionary forces to interfere in Unite’s democracy has predictably failed.  Those who have attempted to smear this organisation for their own ends should hang their heads in shame. 

“Gerard Coyne and his supporters should reflect upon whether the manner in which they have conducted themselves reflects the values of our members and whether they have any place in our movement.”

Jeffrey Burke QC is expected to publish his full response to the 10 complaints publicly on Wednesday 10th October according to The Independent. The Guardian also reports: ‘The watchdog criticised aspects of Coyne’s campaign which it found included “misleading” information in some of the literature”.

Channel 4 reporter, journalist and broadcaster Michael Crick tweeted: “Len McCluskey tells me on Certification Officer’s dismissing of all Gerard Coyne’s complaints: “My phone has not stopped ringing. Texts & emails are flooding in. People were disgusted with the type of campaign that Coyne ran. That has now been confined to the dustbin of history.”


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Frances O’Grady’s Speech At The Jimmy Reid Foundation Memorial Lecture, 27th September 2018

Frances O’Grady, TUCs General Secretary

Frances O’Grady was introduced by Lynn Henderson, the vice-chair of the project board of the Foundation. Lynn is also this year’s STUC President and a longstanding national officer of the PCS union. Lynn was preceded by a welcome from the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander. The Jimmy Reid Foundation wishes to thank Glasgow City Council for facilitating the lecture in the Banqueting Hall in the City Chambers and to the numerous unions,  trade union solicitors and other progressive organisations for sponsoring the published programme of the lecture.

“A future after Brexit? Unions and the Scandinavian model of social democracy”

Lynn, Lord Provost, friends . . . comrades.

The phrase “working-class hero” has become something of a cliché. Used and, sometimes, abused.

But tonight, we remember someone worthy of the title.

Jimmy Reid was certainly working-class. He was born in Glasgow and left school at 14.

His father was in and out of work.

One of seven children, three of his siblings died in infancy.

And, as was the way for many of his generation, he was self-educated.

Once, when a somewhat pompous academic asked him which university he’d studied at, quick as a flash, Jimmy replied: “Govan library”.

And for millions of people, Jimmy was also a hero. Not least for the shipyard workers, whose livelihoods and communities he did so much to save.

An engineer by trade, Jimmy was a union organiser by vocation.

And his cause was human dignity: standing up for people facing everyday humiliations and petty tyrannies; borne of an economy rigged in favour of the few.

He was from the school of trades unionism that spoke the language of morality.

And he had faith in working people’s ability to shape our own future.

You could say that Jimmy was the trade union movement’s Steve Biko.

Raising consciousness. Instilling class pride. Building self belief.

For Jimmy, class struggle wasn’t just a matter for theoretical debate. It was about how we live our lives.

Fighting for our rights, yes. But also encouraging each other. Looking after each other. Friendship, love and compassion.

As a French socialist once said: the brain works on both sides of the body. But the heart – the heart –  beats only on the left.

The work-in was a case in point.

Jimmy Reid addresses workers at UCS during the work in.

A magnificent rebuke to the bosses’ age-old tactic of a lock-out.

And an industrial tactic of immense intelligence and imagination, for which, of course, Jimmy Airlie deserves great credit too.

But it was also about an appeal to fellow human feeling.


And the world was watching.

During the dispute, the situation became so serious that Ted Heath’s press secretary urged him to abandon his yacht race and return to number ten, as he said, “at great inconvenience”.

In fact, he urged the Prime Minister to do so, and I quote, at great “demonstrable” inconvenience. An early example of political spin.

But the public was unimpressed by the grandiose sailor’s sacrifice.

On the contrary, the work-in inspired support for the shipyard workers, far and wide.

And from all walks of life.

At one point, a cheque for £5,000 arrived simply signed “Lennon”. One shop steward remarked: “It canna be Lenin – Vladimir’s dead”.

It was, of course, from John Lennon.

In the trade union movement, Jimmy’s life and times still inspire us.

And that’s why it’s a such huge honour to be here in George Square, in the presence of Jimmy’s family, to deliver this lecture.

And doubly so in a year when the TUC celebrates its 150th birthday.

So I’d like to thank the Jimmy Reid Foundation, for inviting me.

The City Council, for kindly hosting this event.

And all of you, for coming along tonight.

I’m hoping that, in Jimmy’s words, they’ll be no hooliganism or vandalism.

But perhaps, later on, we’ll enjoy some bevvying.

Tonight I want to talk about how we can draw on Jimmy’s spirit and insights to win justice for working people.

But I should warn you that this won’t be an exercise in nostalgia.

I believe that would be a disservice to the memory of a man who was so far sighted.

And to the new generation of workers who need unions to solve the problems of today, not yesterday.

Including, those brave strikers at McDonalds and TGI Fridays;

Those leading the brilliant Better than Zero campaign here in Scotland;

And the hundreds of low-paid young workers, helping the TUC to test out new digital models of organising across the UK.

Because, of course, capitalism has changed from the model of forty years ago; When huge swathes of the workforce were employed in heavy industries.

That means we must change too.

Just a decade ago, the Lehman Brothers crash exposed the neglect of the real economy and the consequences of the financialisation of capital.

But now it’s changed again.

Today, corporate wealth lists are dominated by tech giants like Amazon and Apple.

Multinational companies that respect no borders and salute no flags.

Accelerating the speed of globalisation.

Combining corporate, social and digital power on an unprecedented scale.

And heralding a period of major disruption – industrially, politically and at work.

Jimmy famously spoke of how we are not rats.

Perhaps today we need to assert that we are not robots.

Except that, in my experience as a trade unionist, robots get much better care and maintenance than many workers do.

So let’s say, we refuse to be slaves to an app.

Like Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders.

Or Amazon’s mechanical turks.

Not just alienated but atomised.

The ultimate flexible workforce.

Working tiny bits of time for tiny bits of pay.

….And, our challenge, brothers and sisters, is to organise them.

So, I want to focus on prospects for the new working class and the future of work.

But first I need to say something about the B- word. Brexit.

Because just over 180 days from now, Britain is due to leave the EU.

The greatest peacetime challenge we have ever faced.

And it’s one almighty mess.

While the TUC campaigned hard for a Remain vote, we respect the referendum result to leave the EU.

As always, now our task is to unite workers. And that’s true, whichever way they voted.

So the TUC has argued for a Brexit deal that puts working people first.

That secures the trade, investment and growth on which livelihoods depend.

That guarantees a level playing field on rights at work with our friends in Europe.

And one that safeguards peace and the Good Friday Agreement, that trade unionists on both sides of the Water, worked hard for together.

The TUC has looked at all the options and we believe that workers’ interests would be best served by what some call Norway plus the Customs Union.

Because, if we trade from outside, expensive red tape and tariffs will: hike prices, hit pay and hurt jobs.

Because it would avoid the current contortions over the border in Ireland.

And because, the safety net of rights we fought for, from consultation rights to holiday pay, can’t be unpicked by any Tory government, as long as we have to stick by single market rules.

If anyone’s got a better idea, then we’re open to ideas.

But, so far, we haven’t heard any.

And we reject the Hobson’s choice of a bad deal or no deal. If Mrs May’s proposals would hit working people hard; Boris Johnson’s no deal nonsense could break us.

And even if Brussels agreed Mrs May’s withdrawal proposals, it’s unclear whether Westminster will.

As we all know,  the governing party in Westminster is at war with itself.

Many Conservatives seem more interested in who’s going to get their own top job, than saving anyone else’s.

So it seems a little unfair for Mrs May to accuse Brussels of showing her no respect, when her own colleagues have made no secret of the fact that they’re busy collecting signatures to dump her.

Meanwhile, many people are watching this spectacle with dismay. They’re worried about their own livelihoods, and in particular, job prospects for their kids.

It’s little comfort that the Prime Minister finally understands what it’s like to be on a zero hours contract.

The hard Brexiteers on the back benches are ready to pounce.

The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg.

I confess that, in the past, I’ve likened them to Lord Snooty and his pals from The Beano.

But they are not just harmless English eccentrics.

What the hard Brexiteers really want is a low-tax, low-regulation, free-for all.

Carving up our NHS and weakening workers’ rights.

A dose of capitalist creative destruction.

Shock and awe.

All under the guise of shaking up an Establishment, of which they are the top brass.

These are dangerous times.

And the rise of right wing nationalism should worry all democrats.

Inspired by Trump in the West and Putin in the East, across Europe, the new far right is gaining traction.

President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon has set up office in Brussels.

And the far right’s campaign strategies are getting more sophisticated.

Their anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message mobilises thousands on the streets, but millions more online.

They have big money and are globally networked.

Grooming right-wing politicians in mainstream political parties.

Targeting blue collar workers who are rightly angry about an economic system that is failing them.

And using Brexit as an opportunity to destabilise a model that, while far from perfect, has kept the peace in Europe for nearly seventy years.

So as we count down to March next year, the stakes could not be higher.

Not least here in Scotland, where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to remain in the EU.

And where communities that are already struggling will pay the highest price.

Like the TUC, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has rightly called for an extension to Article 50.

To give us a chance to negotiate a deal on new terms. A deal that protects jobs, rights and peace in Ireland.

But the truth is most people don’t trust the Westminster government to get that deal.

And we’re running out of road.

So I have been taking the same message to all politicians.

This is not the time to keep your head down.

We need to hear more voices speaking up for working people, wherever they live.

I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will join me in putting the Prime Minister on notice.

And warn Mrs May that if we don’t get the terms working people need, we will mobilise for a popular vote on the final deal.

People deserve the final say.

After all, trade unionists are required to put the outcome of a negotiation to a ballot of members.

Why shouldn’t the Conservative government have to put the terms of their deal to the vote too.

But whatever happens with Brexit, we must all get to grips with the way he world of work is changing.

A capitalism which is more global, more mobile and more ruthless than ever before.

But also more digital too, reshaping power, politics and work in profound ways.

In the late twentieth century, finance capital called the shots.

Markets were deregulated. Banks began to gamble. Private equity, hedge funds and shadow banking became more powerful.

Trillions of pounds could be moved at the flick of a switch. Financial investments began to crowd out productive investment. And exotic new derivatives products were invented.

As workers’ bargaining power was attacked, cheap debt took the place of wages as a driver of growth. And the inevitable result was the meltdown of 2008.

But today’s capitalism is different.

The new masters of the universe make their money from information.

Data is the new oil.

And, by the way those companies are taking much of that data from us, for free.

The tech giants’ ambition is not just to drive down wages and drive up profits, but to redefine work itself.

As adept at sidestepping labour standards as they are at avoiding tax, they are uprooting the lives of millions of workers.

Reducing employment to a digital platform. Replacing jobs with gigs. And in the process, stripping out even our most basic rights.

Uber is a transport firm but owns no vehicles and employs no drivers.

Amazon likes to call its warehouses ‘fulfilment centres’. But it tags staff like cattle. To time and track workers too afraid to take sick leave, or even a toilet break.

And Deliveroo has ordained that its digital army of riders are self employed. So there’s no right to the minimum wage, no right to holiday pay and no right to be accompanied by a union rep.

Workers without a workplace. Hired and fired by smart phone. No boss to negotiate with. On the go for twelve hour shifts. Relying on food banks to feed their children and loan sharks to get through the week.

Britain today.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Artificial intelligence, automation and algorithms will transform work.

The Bank of England tells us that 15 million jobs could be vulnerable to new technology.

Not just the likes of cooking, cleaning and driving.

But white collar and professional jobs too.

And the Westminster government’s message?

Be grateful for having a job. Any job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to do things differently.

And forge a fair transition from the old world to the new.

Jimmy Reid famously challenged “the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable”.

And that must be our guiding principle now.

Of course, there are threats ahead.

Some jobs will go. Some will be created. Many more will change.

The idea that steel workers will move seamlessly into jobs as software engineers won’t wash.

But we could set ourselves a positive goal.

To replace mind numbing, monotonous, soul destroying work.

With better paid, more skilled, more satisfying jobs.

There is plenty of good work that society needs to be done, involving skills that can’t be replaced by tech.

Creativity and care are just two examples.

That’s why the TUC has argued for a commission on future of work, bringing governments, employers and unions to the table, to plan a fair transition.

Scotland could lead the way.

Looking at how to invest in and deploy the new technologies, so we upgrade firms and skills.

And, when it comes to the predicted multi-billion pound productivity gains: to figure out how workers – and our public services – get fair shares.

I contend that the promised gains from technological change should mean more time for ourselves and our families .

Something that feels all the more important in a week when we’ve learned that nearly a quarter of  young girls are harming themselves.

And that, every year, the same proportion of adults suffer from a mental health problem.

No doubt the causes are complex.

But the twenty-first century sickness of anxiety, stress and low self-esteem is spreading.

Families need more time together,

But with the cost of childcare rising three times faster than wages, many parents only manage by working back to back shifts.

When they get home, they’re exhausted.

Job intensity, impossible workloads, and the lack of any sense of a voice, or control over our working lives are all taking their toll.

At our 150th Congress, I said that if the big victory of the last century had been a two day weekend, then surely this century we should lift our sights to a four day week.

As Jimmy Reid argued (and I quote):

“If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession”.

How the tech revolution pans out in the future is all about the choices we make now.

We’ve got nothing to fear if it’s matched with a revolution in skills, workplace rights and social protections.

If we revitalise and spread collective bargaining, so the gains are not just grabbed by the greedy.

If we make sure that tech poor towns and communities are included.

If we agree to prioritise the common good.

Instead of enslavement, tech could be a force for liberation.

For better work and richer lives.

And this takes me onto our third priority.

And an alternative vision for the future.

The digital capitalists have got theirs.

The right-wing populists have got theirs.

It’s about time we spoke up for ours.

Now when I was invited to deliver this lecture, I was asked to talk about unions and Scandinavian social democracy.

And at a time when the hard Brexiteers want to drive us towards aping Trump’s America, there’s a compelling case for instead looking across the North Sea.

If the only choice we faced was between Trump-style populism or Nordic social democracy, then there’d be no contest.

It’s easy to see the attraction of Scandinavian social democracy.

In its different manifestations, it’s been more resilient than other models.

Sweden’s welfare state shows that with fair taxation you can deliver world-class childcare and social care.

Denmark guarantees a high minimum wage and more generous unemployment benefit, providing security for the low-paid and those without work.

And Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, built up from North Sea reserves, has become the world’s richest pension fund.

Contrast that with how Margaret Thatcher squandered our North Sea windfall paying for mass unemployment and tax cuts for the rich.

Not surprisingly, the Nordics are still near the top of the world rankings for happiness, openness, education and gender equality.

I remember many years ago when I was pregnant campaigning for the UK to sign up to the EU directive on better paid maternity leave.

I wore a badge carrying the slogan ‘I’d rather have a baby in Norway’.

Because women were granted nearly twelve months of paid maternity leave.

And whole cities were designed and planned around the needs of children.

Moreover, it was taken for granted that a good society needed active citizens.

And, that the great majority of working people should be protected by collective bargaining.

So yes, post-Brexit Britain could do a lot worse than go Scandinavian.

But we must recognise that the world has changed: and social democracy – even Scandinavian style – is under pressure.

Since the crash, many social democratic parties have tanked at the ballot box.

In France, the Socialists attracted just 6 per cent of voters in last year’s Presidential elections.

In Germany, the latest polls show the SPD is only one point behind the neo fascist AFD.

And in Denmark, it pains me to say that, on immigration, the social democrats’ rhetoric seems to be trying to outflank that of the right.

Blaming the victims of poverty for so-called ghettoes. Scapegoating migrants for society’s ills.

But as the Labour Party has shown, there is an alternative.

For all its difficulties, Labour has reinvented itself by moving decisively to the left.

Yes, didn’t win the 2017 general election. And yes, it has its work cut out to inspire the same confidence and hope in blue collar heartlands, that it has inspired among the young.

But having started the campaign with 27% support, by Election Day four in ten people cast their vote for a party with a red-blooded popular programme.

Can Labour get over the 45% line by appealing to blue collar aspirations, as well as middle-class insecurity? It won’t be easy but it can be done.

Now Jimmy Reid was a supporter of Scottish independence, and it’s not my intention to use this platform to wade into that debate. Nor is it my place.

Scotland’s future is a matter for the Scottish people.

Likewise the question about whether the SNP is a genuinely social democratic party.

And the broader issue of whether, whatever it’s political hue, a coalition based on nationalism can hold.

But I am a trade unionist.

And I still hold with Mick McGahey’s view that workers here in Scotland will always have more in common with workers in London, Durham or Sheffield, than with ‘Scottish barons or traitor landlords’.

Capitalism knows no borders, and neither should organised labour.

We need a new socialist politics, strong enough to reverse the obscene shift of wealth and power into ever fewer hands.

After all, workers create the wealth. And they deserve a fair share of it.

Economic justice is the only way to build a strong society.

More equal, more welcoming, more humane.

Investing in schools and hospitals, building council homes, strengthening pride in our communities.

Taking strategically important industries like our railways and the post back where they belong, into public ownership.

And making the rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.

(And, I might add, certainly not giving the likes of Amazon tax breaks, when they rip off workers and refuse to recognise a union.)

As Jimmy Reid rightly identified, alienation – “the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making” – remains one of our biggest challenges.

As he saw it, the untapped resources of the North Sea were nothing, compared to the untapped resources of people.

For Jimmy, political democracy had to be matched with industrial democracy. He argued that: “Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision making by the people for the people.”

And he was right.

In my view, democracy should not stop at the workplace door.

Every worker should have the right to a collective voice through a union.

Employers should have an obligation to collectively bargain with us.

And our voice should be heard at every level, up to and including the boardroom.

For inspiration, we should be guided by what drove Jimmy Reid throughout his life: human dignity.

The dignity of doing a good job, fairly rewarded. Of being respected at work and in society. Of having somewhere decent to live.

And of knowing that from cradle to grave, good public services will be there when you need them.

That’s the dignity that inspired Jimmy Reid, that inspires me, that continues to inspire millions of trade unionists today.

Jimmy’s political affiliations may have changed – from Communist Party to Labour to the SNP. But his values stayed true.

As the former Labour MP Brian Wilson wrote: “Few individuals in the political or trade union arena over the past century have raised so many spirits, challenged so many assumptions or offered more vivid glimpses of a different social order”.

The best way we can honour Jimmy’s memory is to fight for the future.

As the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in showed, we can achieve great things together.

It’s no coincidence that UCS came to stand for “unity creates strength.”

And whether it’s the rise of the right or the rise of the robots, we need that same sense of solidarity now.

A new class politics. A new shared identity. A new humane socialism.

Frances’ lecture was covered in the Morning Star


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Tribune Is Back! Left Wing Newspaper now high quality bi-monthly magazine

By Adrian Weir

After a seven month absence left wing magazine Tribune was relaunched in Liverpool this week at two packed meetings, at The World Transformed and at the Labour Party Conference.

The panel at the Labour Party launch included Jon Trickett MP, Class think tank director and Labour’s PPC for Chingford & Woodford Green, Faiza Shaheen, Tribune Associate Editor and Morning Star contributor Marcus Barnett and, Unite Assistant Chief of Staff, Adrian Weir.

At the relaunce of the magazine Adrian Weir said: “Welcome to this relaunch meeting – sponsored by Unite – for Tribune magazine. My task today is to ensure that the re-launch of the magazine clearly carries Unite’s support.
At the earlier launch at The World Transformed many speakers referred to Gramsci in their contributions but I’d like to go back to the original source material.
I’m going to read a passage that is now almost 180 years old but will be instantly familiar.
It’s Marx, taken from the German Ideology: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.”
Recognition of this essential truth has been persistent in the Unite legacy unions.

Unite and the T&G before it has made many attempts to break the monopoly over the generation and distribution of ideas held by what we now call the “mainstream media.”
In the mid-1980s, in recognition of a 150th anniversary, the T&G sponsored a prestigious lecture series, the Henry Hetherington Memorial Lectures delivered by Ron Todd.
Hetherington was the publisher the Poor Man’s Guardian that described itself as ‘a penny paper for the people.’ In 1833 Hetherington was selling 220,000 copies a week of The Poor Man’s Guardian.
In the 1980s – the heyday of Thatcherism – the T&G and others strongly supported what was meant to be a mass circulation, popular, definitely left of centre, weekly newspaper, the News on Sunday.
The first issue of News on Sunday appeared on 27 April 1987. Thanks to emergency funding from the T&G the paper did not fold during the General Election of June that year but did finally close in November 1987 by which time it had fallen into the hands of the notorious Owen Oyston.
But moving on from the lecture circuit and the popular press I’d like to speak for a bit about support for and the future of the labour movement press.
I guess as with the Republic of Cuba nobody expected that the Morning Star would survive the fall of the Soviet Union, but it has – with great support from the unions.
Unions take copies for their offices, take copies to hand out free at their conferences and encourage branches to take out shareholdings in the PPPS, the co-op that owns the paper.

In a similar way, the unions contributed to keeping the earlier version of Tribune alive. Variously headquartered in either ASLEF, T&G or Unite buildings, the old paper was peripatetic around London.
Leading trade unionists and others provided copy for free; the T&G took 100 copies weekly that latterly became Unite taking 100 copies fortnightly.
In the world of on-line only copy Unite, along with Unison, are identified as the big union sponsors of Labour List.
We may anticipate that the left of centre media of the future is exclusively in the hands of Left Foot Forward, Skwawkbox and so on.
But in the here and now Unite believes that the model devised by Tribune editor Ronan Burtenshaw and his team is compelling.

A bi-monthly print version that carries more serious think pieces and long reads along with some news and culture associated with the Tribune heritage plus a digital version that allows Tribune to lead with frequent news and comment pieces seems to be a winner.
Tribune is most certainly not a new entrant seeking to build a base – it’s been with us since 1937.
At one point Tribune was essential reading for those on the Labour left, we certainly hope that the re-launched, new version will reclaim that place.
The Blairite hollowing out of the Party in the 1990s did not just demobilise our members and activists – is closed down discussion of policy and direction of our Party.
Professor David Harvey on The World Transformed made the point that unfortunately some of the left became seduced by neo-liberal arguments. Perhaps most famously by Marxism Today.
Although I don’t hold Professor Eric Hobsbawm as the worst offender of the Marxism Today group I think it’s very telling that Ronan has chosen to take issue with Hobsbawm’s Forward March of Labour Halted thesis as his first leading article.
Arguably all that Marxism Today achieved, other than the liquidation of the Communist Party, was to open the door for the Blairite takeover of our Party.
Blairism assumed it had won the battle of ideas; it effectively endorsed the end of history narrative.
But, for example, with the establishment of CLASS and the Corbyn insurgency we’ve shown that that battle is not over.
It is still the case that all of history is indeed the history of class struggle.
With the relaunch of Tribune the battle of ideas continues.”

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The Tories Industrial Strategy is in tatters – we need a Labour Government to rebuild UK manufacturing.

Full house, standing room only for Unite’s Manufacturing Matters Fringe Meeting at the Labour Party Conference.
Photo: Mark Turner

The UK stands at the crossroads. The country faces the prospect of crashing out of the European Union inflicting untold damage on our manufacturing industries if we are faced with no customs union or access to a single market. Along with confusion on membership of European agencies, the UK could see a breakdown in ‘just in time’ supply chains in industries such as automotives, aerospace and engineering, with companies deciding not to back new investment in new in their businesses here and in our infrastructure.

Unite has warned of backlogs of lorries at our ports (not just Dover) with lorries waiting to cross into the EU and into the UK as well as the damage caused by our loss of membership of EU agencies and regulatory bodies in civil aviation, nuclear, pharmaceuticals and medicines which could be ended or frozen until they are sorted out – causing massive uncertainty and anguish for travelers, our NHS, patients and services.

Unite has been warning of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit or a bad deal Brexit and its consequences for industry for two years. But the fact is that hard line Brexiteers do not really care about manufacturing and industry.

One employer’s organization recently told me the PM and the majority of the cabinet ‘do not get manufacturing’. Another said that at a recent meeting with Government ministers were still parroting the mantra that everything would work out – despite the recent warnings comments from manufacturing companies, trade unions and regulatory bodies.

Unite has also argued strongly the UK will also need a robust industrial strategy – one which will defend our industries and stop a slide into a low wage, low skill precarious employment, service economy.

When Theresa May came to power she announced the Department of Trade and Industry was to become the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,

As the UKs biggest manufacturing union we thought hat the Government just may have heeded calls to prioritise manufacturing and with it develop a robust Industrial Strategy. No such luck!

What we heard instead were sound bites, about ‘protecting manufacturing’, ‘ensuring investment’, ‘higher productivity’, and ‘ending skill shortages’ – remember the Northern Powerhouse?

Unite had already developed our new manufacturing strategy and we worked with Labour on key policy commitments on industrial strategy. But we heard little from the Government.

When the Government document (after lengthy delays) did get launched a year ago, it actually looked ‘substantial’. But it was big on type and had lots of photographs and there was little of substance.

Since then, consumed by Brexit any pretence of an industrial strategy has been abandoned.

On almost every occasion they have had a chance to demonstrate they have a joined up strategy they have bungled it.

Examples include Bombardier in Northern Ireland, when it was under attack from Boeing who were seeking tariffs against the C series passenger jet. The Government dispatched the Trade minister Liam Fox to the USA and fearful of upsetting Donald Trump, the government waved the white flag and it was left to unions in the UK and Canada to never give up, lobbying hard in the USA and in the EU. Eventually the US trade authorities threw out Boeing’s claim.

On Trump’s Steel and Aluminum tariffs again they dispatched Dr. Fox to the USA who came back (again) empty handed. It was left to the EU to confront Trump as Unite had initially proposed to deal with the issue of dumping and the global overcapacity in production of steel and aluminum.

Security printers DeLa Rue, lost the contract to print and manufacture UK passports after ten years of no security issues at all – the government offered little help in the way of help.

At GKN, a company that traces its engineering history back 250 years – it took the Secretary of State 57 days before he called in the eventual purchasers Melrose – a City financial company to seek assurances from them about the future of the business. This was against a background of nobody wanting the deal, (except Melrose and speculators). The takeover was opposed by the workforce, the aerospace and the automotive industries, Labour MPs (and some Tories) and yet it was allowed to go ahead in the full knowledge Melrose would split it up and sell parts of the business on. Just five months on – parts of the GKN business are going up for auction and our members work is being transferred out of the UK.

We are lagging further behind Germany, the USA and China on research and development into electric vehicles and the much needed technology and infrastructure. May’s announcement of £106 million investment is peanuts – and leaving it to the market to fund the rest is nonsense.

The three Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships on order that should be built in the UK – using UK steel and technology could now be built abroad – Jeremy Corbyn has already stated under Labour they would be built here in the UK.

Plans for the construction of the revolutionary Swansea Tidal Lagoon were simply scrapped.

The Apprenticeship Levy designed to get 3 million new apprentice starts by 2020 is now at breaking point and failing badly.

So we need an alternative.

Any Industrial Strategy worth the paper it is printed on must consider the long term, big picture including infrastructure investment in aerospace, science and automotives. This includes a just transition to electric vehicles and future mobility with sustainable energy needs. Protecting our foundation industries such as steel and deal with dumping of good such as steel, tyres, ceramics on the global market – after Brexit day the UK’s Trade Remedies Authority who would deal with dumping cases will not be up and running for two years.

We need to support small and medium supply chain companies – as they do in Germany with their Mittelstand programme and good quality gold standard apprenticeships.

It also means changing the rules of the game by reforming the takeover code to promote long-term thinking – and end short-termism and asset stripping such as we saw at GKN. It means giving workers a strong, collective voice, by extending collective bargaining and a real voice at work.

We need a government that will use every lever at its disposal to support, which will defend and invest in UK industry and in decent jobs – jobs for the many not the few.

We need Labour in power to deliver the industrial strategy our country needs and deserves.

First published in the Morning Star September 25 the days of Unite’s Manufacturing Matters Fringe Meeting at the Labour Party Conference.



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Posted in Economics, Labour Party, Media, Politics, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union, Workers Uniting | Leave a comment

CSEU Fleet Support Ships – Campaign Review

The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions are running an excellent campaign to ensure that the UKs Fleet Support Ships are built here in the UK, protecting good, skilled jobs in UK shipyards and in UK manufacturing.

The CSEU have produced a review of the campaign to date. You can download it by clicking on the link below.

Fleet Support Ships Campaign Review pptx.

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