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Day of Strike Action in French Public Services Against Background of Unity Call for the Left.

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Image result for CGT jour pour la fonction publique 22 mars

Today is March the 22nd, the same day in March when, fifty years ago,  the revolt of May 68 began.

“when a a French student movement at the  University of Nanterre founded on 22 March 1968, started a prolonged occupation of the university’s administration building.”

After occupying the building, the school dean called the police, and a public scuffle ensued that garnered the movement media and intellectual attention.”

Today is March the 22nd when a day of strikes, from the Public Service to Trains, is taking place.

L’Humanité leads with the story,

Mobilisations. Les agents se battent pour sauver notre service public

A day of action in public services, joined by train drivers, is supported by all the unions,  CGT, FO, FSU, CFTC, CFE-CGC, Solidaires  and FA-FP. On the rail network a united front of the SNCF (CGT, UNSA, SUD-Rail, CFDT), backed by FO are moblising against the “reform” of the train service, which directly touches the conditions of workers, notably the locomotive drivers.

The Guardian reports,

Thousands of train drivers, teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers and other public sector staff have gone on strike across France and begun street protests against Emmanuel Macron’s latest reform drive.

France’s centrist president, who has been in power for nearly a year, has so far escaped large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an overhaul of labour laws in the autumn despite limited street marches.

But Thursday’s strike marks a new joint phase in trade union action – it is the first protest against Macron that has brought together civil servants and railway staff.

Rolling news from LibérationFonctionnaires, cheminots…, tous ensemble

This happens against the background of successful appeal for left unity behind the strike action and protests, issued by Olivier Besancenot of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA).

Déclaration unitaire : Défendons tous les services publics ! Solidarité avec les cheminots et les cheminotes !

Une réunion unitaire s’est tenue dans les locaux du NPA la semaine dernière. Elle a aboutit à un appel unitaire large, d’une grande partie des organisations politique du mouvement ouvrier, en soutien aux mobilisations à la SNCF et dans les services publics. Une conférence de presse se tiendra également jeudi.

Le Monde dedicated a long report on this welcome initiative.

A gauche, l’unité (presque) retrouvée.

12 parties and groups have backed the call, from Alternative Libertaire (AL) ; EELV ; Ensemble ; Gauche Démocratique et sociale (GDS) ;  Géneration.s, (led by former Socialist Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon) ; Groupe Parlementaire FI ; NPA ; Nouvelle Donne ; PCF ;  PCOF ; Parti de Gauche (PG)  to République et socialisme.

The Parti Socialiste, and its newly elected leader, Olivier Faure, were, in view of the record of their recent government, not asked to join.

It goes without saying that the leader of La France insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who considers his rally is the only force that counts on the left, is keeping his distance.

Strikes in France: A guide to navigating transport, childcare and more.

France 24.

Spring is officially here, and with it comes the start of strike season in France. With workers across the country set to walk out on Thursday, here is a brief rundown of which services will be affected and tips on how to survive the madness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, France is the country with the second-highest number of days not worked due to industrial action in Europe, bested only by Cyprus, according to the European Trade Union Institute.

Yet despite the regularity of strikes in France, navigating disrupted services can be stressful for even the most experienced of locals. To make life easier, here’s a guide to Thursday’s strikes, as well as a few tips on how to survive.

Who’s striking?

 A total of seven trade unions have called on public sector employees across the country to strike on Thursday, including school and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers and Paris metro (RATP) workers.
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As Corbyn attacks EU “cheap agency labour”, Europe creates new Agency to End ‘Social Dumping’ and Protect Workers.

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Related image

EU Sets up new Authority to Stop Social Dumping.

This section of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Scottish Labour Party at Dundee  continues to create controversy,

We cannot be held back inside or outside the EU from taking the steps we need to develop and invest in cutting edge industries and local business stop the tide of privatisation and outsourcing, or from preventing employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions in the name of free market orthodoxy.

Here is a recent report.

Jeremy Corbyn has been attacked by senior Scottish Labour figures after making “incredibly disappointing” comments on immigration.

The European.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray rounded on the Labour leader over remarks on leaving the EU in his speech to the party’s conference in Dundee.

Setting out his position on the Brexit deal, Corbyn said a future Labour government “cannot be held back inside or outside the EU … from preventing employers being able to import cheap agency labour, to undercut existing pay and conditions in the name of free market orthodoxy”.

Speaking at a fringe event hosted by the Scottish Labour for the single market campaign, Murray said: “I’m disappointed that the Labour party is not making this argument – immigration is good for the United Kingdom and Scotland and we have to be brave enough to stand up and make that point.

“And I was incredibly disappointed to see yesterday that the only person smiling after that passage in Jeremy’s speech would have been Nigel Farage.”

Murray said he believed the Labour front bench was the biggest impediment to getting single market membership into the Brexit bill but added: “The country is with us, Labour party membership is with us.

Corbyn’s views on “cheap agency labour” indeed echo the views of  ‘Sovereigntist’ anti-EU forces.

The pro-Brexit Morning Star recently contained this statement from the Communist Party of Britain. (CPB).

Most of British big business wants to keep Britain as closely aligned as possible with the single market because its rules for the free movement of capital, goods and labour, together with the right of companies to operate in any country they choose, enables them to maximise profit at the expense of working people,” Mr Griffiths added.

He highlighted a string of rulings by the European Court of Justice to restrict the rights of elected governments and trade unions to take action to protect imported, outsourced or redundant workers.

The hard-line anti-EU Socialist Party has argued for no ‘soft Brexit’ and dropping all legislation that allows the free movement of labour .   On  the 28th of February it declared,

EU rules have included the posted workers’ directive which enables bosses to use migrant labour to undercut existing wage levels.

If any of these groups, and Corbyn’s speech-writers, had bothered to follow the latest developments in the EU, they would have noticed that a wholesale reform of the “posted workers” directive is underway.

Here is the existing situation,

A “posted worker” is an employee who is sent by his employer to carry out a service in another EU Member State on a temporary basis.

For example, a service provider may win a contract in another country and send his employees there to carry out the contract.

Posted workers are different from EU mobile workers in that they remain in the host Member State temporarily and do not integrate in its labour market.

On the contrary, EU mobile citizens who go to another Member State to seek workand are employed there, are entitled to equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax conditions.

Rights and rules for posted workers

The EU law defines a set of mandatory rules regarding the terms and conditions of employment to be applied to posted workers

  • to guarantee that these rights and working conditions are protected throughout the EU
  • to avoid “social dumping” where foreign service providers can undercut local service providers because their labour standards are lower.

These rules establish that, even though workers posted to another Member State are still employed by the sending company and therefore subject to the law of that Member State, they are entitled by law to a set of core rights in force in the host Member State.

This set of rights consists of:

  •    minimum rates of pay;
  •    maximum work periods and minimum rest periods;
  •    minimum paid annual leave;
  •    the conditions of hiring out workers through temporary work agencies;
  •    health, safety and hygiene at work;
  •   equal treatment between men and women.

However, there is nothing to stop the employer applying working conditions which are more favourable to workers than those of the sending Member State.

The EU law thus provides a clear framework to guarantee fair competition and respect for the posted workers’ rights so that both businesses and workers can take full advantage of the internal market opportunities.

The social security of posted workers is regulated through Regulation no 883/2004on the coordination of social security systems. A detailed guide explaining the applicable rules is available.

In the light of problems with enforcing these rules there has been extensive discussion of reform.

Réforme du travail détaché (Posted workers) : les institutions européennes trouvent un terrain d’entente. 1.3.18.

European Commission – Statement

Joint statement on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive

Brussels, 28 February 2018

Joint statement by European Parliament Co-Rapporteurs Elisabeth Morin-Chartier and Agnes Jongerius, Bulgarian Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Policy Zornitsa Roussinova and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive:

After intensive negotiations this evening we, the negotiators on behalf of the European Parliament, the Council and Commission, are satisfied to have covered all issues during the 7th trilogue meeting. We reached a common understanding on the contours of a possible agreement on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive. We believe that the proposed package agreement on the table is balanced. The possible agreement establishes the principle of equal pay for equal work on the same place, whilst providing more legal certainty for both workers and employers.

We will now present the results of our negotiations within our respective institutions and will do our utmost to secure the mandates necessary for the final conclusion.

The outcome was announced this morning.

Bruxelles présente la création d’une nouvelle Autorité européenne du travail.

150 people are to be employed to enforce the law, prevent social dumping (the undercutting of wages and conditions), and  stop the abuse of migrant labour – though as this link indicates, some states are bound to be recalcitrant.

L’Europe a pris des mesures sur les travailleurs détachés, la lutte contre le dumping social, la mobilité au sein de l’Union etc. Mais encore faut-il que ces règles soient bien appliquées par les États. Or ce n’est pas le cas. Dans la réalité, certains pays, notamment de l’Est, ferment les yeux sur les abus car ça les arrange bien et si les administrations locales ne font rien, personne ne peut le vérifier. Ce sera donc le rôle de cette nouvelle Agence, d’aller demander des informations et d’enquêter pour voir si, réellement, les règles sociales sont bien appliquées de la même manière dans tous les pays de l’Union.

Update, just out: (Libération),  Bruxelles propose de créer une autorité européenne du Travail en 2019

European Commission – Press release

Commission adopts proposals for a European Labour Authority and for access to social protection

Strasbourg, 13 March 2018

Today, the European Commission is taking more concrete new initiatives to further deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights.

More specifically, the Commission presents its proposal for a European Labour Authority, as announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address, as well as an initiative to ensure access to social protection for all workers and self-employed. These initiatives are accompanied by a Communication on the monitoring of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which will be closely linked to the European Semester of policy coordination.

Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, said“Europe is now steadily growing and employment is on the rise, but we have to ensure that growth is more inclusive to the benefit of all. This package sets out a number of steps to make that happen: by making sure the rules for people to live and work across the European Union are well known and enforced, by following up on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, pushing the broader momentum for social rights, and by focusing on access to social protection. A stronger social Europe is a more sustainable Europe.”

Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, added: Our work to ensure fair labour mobility culminates in today’s proposal for a European Labour Authority. This is essential for a well-functioning European labour market. It will help citizens and businesses on the move find the right information and strengthen cooperation between the Member States to enforce fair and effective rules. And with our proposal on access to social protection, we are working with Member States to make sure that nobody is left behind. Our aim is to ensure that people have access to adequate benefits no matter how the new world of work evolves.”

Over the last decade, the number of mobile citizens, people living and/or working in another Member State, has almost doubled to reach 17 million in 2017. The European Labour Authority will help individuals, businesses and national administrations to get the most out of the opportunities offered by free movement and to ensure fair labour mobility. The objective of the Authority is three-fold.

First, the Authority will provide information to citizens and business on opportunities for jobs, apprenticeships, mobility schemes, recruitments and training, as well as guidance on rights and obligations to live, work and/or operate in another Member State of the EU.

Second, the Authority will support cooperation between national authorities in cross-border situations, by helping them ensure that the EU rules that protect and regulate mobility are easily and effectively followed. Today, an extensive body of EU legislation regulates the free movement of workers and a number of such rules are being amended and modernised, such asfor the coordination of social security systems across the EU and issues like posting of workers in the context of service provision. The priority is not just to make these rules fairer and fit-for-purpose but also to make sure that they can be correctly applied and enforced in a fair, simple and effective way in all economic sectors. For instance, the Authority will help improve information exchange, support capacity building among national authorities and assist them in running concerted and joint inspections. This will strengthen mutual trust between actors, improve day-to-day cooperation routines and prevent possible fraud and abuse of rules.

Third, the European Labour Authority will be able to provide mediation and facilitate solutions in case of cross-border disputes, such as in the event of company restructuring involving several Member States.

The European Labour Authority will be established as a new decentralised EU agency and, following the completion of the EU legislative process, should be up and running in 2019. To facilitate the establishment of the Authority and make sure it is rapidly up and running once created, the Commission is also setting up an advisory group composed of key stakeholders to look into the practical aspects of the future functioning of the Authority.

The Commission is also presenting today a proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. As the world of work evolves due to new lifestyles, business practices and digitisation, social protection systems constantly need to match new realities. Today, almost 40% of people employed are either in an atypical employment situation – meaning that they are not working under a full-time, open-ended contract – or self-employed. Such persons are not always well covered in terms of social security, lacking unemployment insurance or access to pension rights. In line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, this proposal aims to set a direction for Member States to support access to social protection for all workers and self-employed, in particular for those who, due to their employment status, are not sufficiently covered by social security schemes.

The Recommendation foresees:

  • to close formal coverage gaps by ensuring that workers and the self-employed in comparable conditions can adhere to corresponding social security systems;
  • to offer them adequate effective coverage, so that they can build up and claim adequate entitlements;
  • to facilitate the transfer of social security entitlements from one job to the next;
  • to provide workers and the self-employed with transparent information about their social security entitlements and obligations.

Finally, as a complement to the initiatives already taken and still to come at EU level, the Commission outlines its views for the monitoring of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. This will be done by reflecting the priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the annual cycle of the European Semester of policy coordination, which includes an analysis of measures taken and progress made at national level; the provision of technical assistance, benchmarking exercises and exchange of good practices; and the screening of employment and social performances, also with the help of the new Social Scoreboard, which tracks trends and performances across EU Member States in the three areas of principles under the Pillar of Social Rights. The Commission is also publishing today a staff working document recalling the legal framework for each of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, with due regard to the respective competences of the EU and of the Member States, including the role of the social partners and recent EU-level actions in each area.

Next steps

European Labour Authority: In accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, this proposal for a Regulation will now be examined by the European Parliament and the Council. The ambition of the Commission is for the Authority to be up and running in 2019.

Access to social protection: This will now be examined by the Council, which can adopt recommendations on the basis of a Commission proposal in the areas of EU competence.

The Commission will present today’s package of initiatives to national Employment and Social Affairs Ministers at the Council meeting in Brussels on 15 March. At the European Council of 22 and 23 March 2018, Heads of State and Government will also come back to addressing the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Background

The Commission’s intention to set up a European Labour Authority was announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union Address on 13 September 2017. The European Labour Authority will complement and facilitate the implementation of ongoing initiatives to ensure fair mobility, including the reform of the Posting of Workers Directive, the Lex Specialis in the international road transport sector and the modernisation of EU rules for the coordination of social security systems.

Increased labour market flexibility and a growing diversity of forms of work have created new jobs and allowed more people to become professionally active, as recalled during the consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights and in the Reflection Paper on the Social Dimension of Europe. But they also led to some gaps in social protection coverage that need to be closed. The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection is a response to these changing labour market realities, in particular the new forms of work that have developed in recent years. The initiative was announced in April 2017 together with the European Pillar of Social Rights. It is part of the 2017 and 2018 Commission Work Programmes and follows a two-stage consultation of EU social partners.

These initiatives are part of the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which was jointly proclaimed at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg in November 2017. Delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights is a shared political commitment and responsibility and monitoring its implementation is essential for ensuring tangible progress on the ground. This is why in today’s Communication, the Commission takes stock of initiatives that it has taken to roll out the Pillar, including an initiative on work-life balance and proposal for transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Amidst “misogynist attacks on Jennie Formby” Jon Lansman withdraws from race for Labour General Secretary.

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Background:

Contest for job of general secretary widens rift between Unite and Momentum.  . Observer.

“Senior backers of Jennie Formby, the Unite union’s former political director and the frontrunner to become Labour’s new general secretary, are trying to reassure party staff that there are no planned overhauls should she secure the job.

It comes as senior party and union figures try to find a last-minute “compromise candidate” to take on Formby, with several sources warning she has had run-ins with some of the other major Labour-affiliated unions that have left them seriously concerned about her appointment.”

“The split between Lansman and Formby supporters has also spilled into an online battle, with tensions among a group of leftwing blogs and news sites that emerged to support Corbyn’s leadership. The Skwawkbox, which is seen as having strong links with the leader’s office, has been pushing for Formby’s appointment and has questioned Lansman’s decision to run, while Novara Media, another Corbyn-supporting outlet, has backed both the opening of the contest and a member-elected general secretary. The internal tension has also seen the arrival of the Red Roar, a more centrist blog that details the fights raging within the ranks.

Some moderate Labour MPs now believe the forces that brought Corbyn to power are dividing. The split has even been criticised by the Labour Party Marxists group, which said it was “at best, ludicrous and, at worst, irresponsible”.

Now since these, if obviously mischief making, are clearly not misogynistic attacks what could Lansman be referring t?

Look no further in the Observer:

Don’t look to Len McCluskey and his sorry ilk to defend workers’ interests. 

Apart from the ill-thought and condescending content, the tone of the last sentence sounds like a crib from Hancock’s Half Hour…. the Brave Hungarian Girl Magna Carta….

Cohen’s article also contains some words for this pair,

The Scottish aristocrat Andrew Murray (he’s descended from the earls of Perth and the kings of Navarre on his father’s side and the dukes of Norfolk on his mother’s) not only offers apologies for Lenin but Stalin too. He’s moved from Unite and the Communist Party of Britain to join Seumas Milne, another apologist for Uncle Joe, in Jeremy Corbyn’s office.

I did not notice Murray, the son of the  Slains Pursuivant  educated at a Benedictine independent boarding school in Sussex complaining about his coverage in the New Statesman recently  which cut out this aspect of his biography, and referred only to him leaving school at 16 with 4 ‘O’ Levels. Nor this – accurate – description ” Mr Corbyn’s most senior aide, Seumas Milne, was a Soviet Union sympathiser. Andrew Murray, the chief of staff of Unite and a consultant to the Labour leader, was a member of the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain until 2016 and expressed solidarity with North Korea in 2003. They hail from an authoritarian leftist tradition.”

This Blog is more concerned with Cohen’s attacks on UNITE. Apparently they and UNISON are “stale bureaucracies” with little interest in their membership’s day-to-day needs.

Against these  “old far-left-dominated unions.” Cohen advocates USDAW (whose new General Secretary Amy Murphy is a supporter of the ‘far-left’ Socialist Party), the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU), a section from the far-from-unbureaucratic Prospect union, and a small Independent Workers Union, whose origins lie in the (respected) far-left anarcho-syndicalist tradition of the  Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or the “Wobblies” which they left to form their own union, the  IWGB.

It is questionable if the “consensus” method of reaching decisions admired in the article, and made a rule in the Occupy movement,  and prevalent amongst those influenced by certain strains of “alter-globalisation” activism and anarchists, is an answer to authoritarianism. Critics point to the imposition of a consensus by the loudest voices and the unsuitability of this model for union activity which, however we wish to put it, involves controversy and strong differences of opinion – normally resolved by voting contests between opposed stands.

Cohen completely neglects the role of UNITE in organising the unorganised, and, above all, its ‘Community branches’ which campaign for the rights of those receiving benefits, for the disabled, and in coordination with those acting  against the injustice inflicted on women through changes in the state pension scheme (WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality) The union is at the forefront of protests for such ‘far-left’ issues as defending the NHS.

/campaigning/stop--fix-universal-credit/

UNITE also works for the day-to-day interests of workers across a range of sectors, areas perhaps not striking enough to attract the journalist’s attention.

The Lansman announcement was greeted with joy by Skwakbox, “We applaud Mr Lansman’s decision. ”

That alone, given Skwakbox’s involvement in fake news (from Greenfell ‘D’ notices, to the claim that all the disabled would receive a ‘sanction’ if they did not get a job within 2 years) is cause for concern.

But there is more, the ‘anti-Zionists’ of Labour Against the Witchhunt states,

LAW welcomes Jon Lansman’s decision to withdraw

We believe that Unite’s Jennie Formby would be the best choice for general secretary. As a supporter of the rights of the Palestinians people we think her election would send a powerful political signal. We hope that her tenure would mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt.

Steering Committee

But,

Labour General Secretary election to play for as many NEC members hold out for third candidate. Red Roar.

Analysis by The Red Roar shows that while Unite’s Jennie Formby has over three times as much support as her rival Jon Lansman in the race to become Labour’s general secretary, an equal number of NEC members remain undecided.

No one can claim to know how NEC members will vote, of course. This is not an exercise in mind-reading but an honest attempt to give as clear a picture as possible as to how the two main candidates for the job are likely to fare.

Backing Formby: 17
Backing Lansman: 5
Undecided: 17
Total: 39

More to follow……

Behind the Shawcroft Row: The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

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Image result for labour momentum a social movement

 

The Labour Party as Social Movement and Political Trade Unionism.

In one of his lesser-known works, L’Éternité par les astres (1872) the 19th century socialist insurrectionist Louis-Auguste Blanqui announced that there were millions of stars and worlds like our own. In each of them lived our personal doppelgänger. Those who have reflected on this discovery would deduce that our alter egos would each have minor differences, slightly different points of our view, that would end in distinct narratives about our existence.

Recent events in the Labour Party have brought similar differences about what has happened during a number of events, from goings-on at the National Policy Forum, to the National Executive Committee (NEC). The same meeting the same people, but very different takes on what took place.

The most recent, and, politically, the most important, is the latest NEC meeting. Christine Shawcroft’s dissatisfaction with a decision to submit allegations of anti-semitism to further disciplinary procedure has tumbled over into disagreement about the role of trade union representatives on Labour’s ruling body. She is reported to have expressed the view, amongst other things, that union delegates are unreliable allies of the left. Shawcroft suggested on social media that the Labour-union link should be re-examined. Those hostile to her intervention, and no doubt Momentum, in which the long-standing NEC member is a leading figure, have claimed that she called for a break with the organised working class. Since then everybody has united on keeping the union link (Labour unites behind trade union affiliation).

The row in the wake of these comments takes place against the backdrop of a contest for Labour’s General Secretary. This, a post, unlike, in other European parties (such as the French Parti Socialiste’s similar sounding position) has organisational and not directly political responsibility. The Secretary is appointed by the Party’s upper structure and is therefore, in principle, not an issue that involves the wider membership. But the different candidates, above all Jon Lansman, on the NEC but best known as a founder of Momentum, and Jennie Formby  from the union UNITE, have increasingly been seen in a political light. It is known that Lansman was not happy with a union ‘shoe in’ into the position. What is clear now is that UNITE’s leadership is unhappy with any questioning of their political weight in the party. These, and other issues about the candidacies, have been echoed amongst those Labour activists interested in the future direction of the party.

Momentum: Labour as social movement.

It should be clear that while there are no real differences about the primary need to campaign to get a Labour government elected, and to work out policies to achieve this, the dispute could be seen in the light of some important differences. For some Momentum is not just a pressure group to build support for Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is, grandly, a project designed for Labour to gain a “collective transformative” capacity. It may be seen, as Hilary Wainwright put it “having a creative capacity and transformative power” “distinct from (not opposed to) electoral politics”. As such as, “a party as a means of experimenting and prefiguring in the represent” “the relations we envisage in the future”. Less inclined to an extra-terrestrial discovery to rival Blanqui’s, Momentum is seen “grassroots politics” with activists, many of them youthful, pouring energy and enthusiasm into Labour’s campaigns. In this capacity – that is a means to help bolder the party’s capacity to root change in the wider society, – the group is highly welcome. (1)

Momentum’s own difficulties include an ‘on-line’ democracy that critics allege does not function, conferences and decision-making process which resemble the centralised aspect of the equally ‘social media’ and Web hub based La France insoumise (LFI) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In its defence it could be said that Momentum is not LFI, out to ‘federate the people’ by means of a virtual political party, but has become an auxiliary of one with the goal of helping Labour get elected. It has avoided becoming embroiled in the worst aspects of left in fighting and sectarian recruitment politics. Momentum, unless one reads Shawcroft’s NEC intervention in the most hostile possible way, has shown no inclination to indulge the – ultra-minority – strain of Judophobia that has become an issue in left politics.

These positive achievements do not prevent another set of concerns at the place of such a body in drawing up lists in local Labour Parties with the sole aim of getting approved candidates elected to internal positions and councillor selections. In some case, Haringey stands out, this is part of a justified and broader effort to change very wong council policies. But in others this polarising practice, right up to clashes over the most minor positions, many complain, overrides debate of policy issues.

Political Trade Unionism.

What has also come to light is that the trade unions have a distinct idea about their role in the Labour Party. The TUC and affiliated unions have always seen the party as a means to get legislation passed in their favour, most recently by some who give priority to restoring collective bargaining in negotiations. Apart from these classical demands some, above all UNITE, have their own ideas about “political unions”.

Andrew Murray, a key figure in Len McClusky’s circle, and a consultant to Jeremy Corbyn, argued in 2014, for rebuilding the left around the People’s Assembly. This national campaign against austerity, Murray noted, drew the unions, ant-cuts activists and left-wingers from Labour and a variety of small left parties, with the objective of creating “rooted movements for change” “re-establishing the basis for mass socialist politics”. Behind this, based on the working class movement, was a strategy to “reclaim Labour” for the left – a prospect Murray saw – in 2014 – that could be thwarted by the “Blairite undead”. (2)

Murray may have his own eccentric ideas about ‘anti-imperialism’, and the positive side of the Soviet past. But, Labour has been largely (not entirely) been wrenched from the Blair/Brown legacy. In this the importance of initiatives such as the People’s Assembly stands out. It was one of the factors that prepared the ground for Corbyn’s election. The alternative strategy, which his article thoroughly took to pieces, of various left electoral challenges, from Left Unity, to the (continuing) Trades Union and Socialist Alliance (TUSC) faded into oblivion.

The problem now is whether the trade union movement, dedicated to achieving goals through electoral power, can sustain a relation with those who see ‘Labour as a social movement’. This is not a just a matter of ‘control’, which unions do not have over Momentum. A central policy issue equally divides the left. Some still see the future in terms of a “People’s Brexit’. Some decades later, on another planet, Tony Benn’s call for “genuine national sovereignty” – is proposed by the Morning Star, and, in a souped up form, by the ‘revolutionary’ remnants of the People’s Assembly reduced to the mouthpiece of the groupuscule Counterfire (The why and what of a People’s Brexit). But it is unlikely that inside the party, in Momentum or anywhere else, apart from the far from dynamic minority of ‘patriotic Labour’ is attracted to this prospect. Many remain strongly opposed to Leave. A few respond to the demand for a new referendum. The compromise over the Customs Union is a stop-gap a more detailed set of policies on Europe remains to be settled.

The differences between Labour-as-a-social-movement and Political Trade Unionism are far from irresolvable. Those, like this writer, who rejoined Labour, are intensely conscious that for Labour to be elected compromises and a great deal of respect is due for those activists, councillors and MPs who have kept membership over the years. Their concerns focus on issues such as the funding for local government, housing, welfare reform and …Europe. It would be better if disputes took place over policy, in a collaborative fashion, and not over jostling for internal positions in the party.

*******

(1) Radicalising the party-movement relationship: from Ralph Miliband to Jeremy Corbyn and beyond. Hilary Wainwright. Socialist Register. 2017. Merlin Press. Beyond the Boundary, Momentum’s role in the #GE2017 Campaign, Puru Miah. Chartist. 277. July/August 2017.

(2) Left Unity or Class Unity? Working class politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register 2014. Merlin Press.

(3) On this aspect of Tony Benn’s politics see: Chapter 6 A Party with Socialists in it. A History of the Labour Left. Simon Hannah. Pluto Press. 2018

Christine Shawcroft in row over saying, “major trade unions are actively opposed” to Labour rank-and-file members.

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Shawcroft told HuffPost that she was not speaking on behalf of Momentum and had acted in ‘the heat of the moment’.

This story tends to confirm the well-informed opinion that Lansman’s Labour General Secretary challenge is aimed, not at trade unions as such, but  a ‘union shoe-in’ for their candidate for the post.

But before one expresses sympathy for Shawcroft.. (Huff Post)

Shawcroft is understood to have expressed her frustration with union ‘stitch-ups’ in the past, and in recent months told one Momentum meeting it was time to deal with the union issue once and for all.

Her outburst on Facebook came after fellow NEC member Darren Williams expressed his frustration that the disputes committee had voted on Tuesday – with union support – to refer several cases of alleged anti-semitism for a full disciplinary hearing.

And,

HuffPost understands that Momentum-backed NEC reps objected and wanted those accused to be issued with formal warnings rather than a route to explusion. But the rest of the committee heavily supported disciplinary inquiries.

On Wednesday, Shawcroft told HuffPost that she had been advised to take down her Facebook remarks because Lansman did not want Momentum associated with them.

She insisted that she was not speaking on behalf of Momentum or of Lansman.

It was just a bit of a heat of the moment thing, a personal one. Nothing to do with Momentum whatsoever. I’m just a committee member for Momentum, it’s not like everything I do or say has to be seen through that prism,” Shawcroft said.

“I don’t speak for them or tell them what to do. I’m just a member, same as anyone else.”

Shawcroft still faced a backlash for her remarks, with Unite’s Len McCluskey, GMB union boss Tim Roache  and Unison’s Dave Prentis all attacking her stance.

Responses:

More emerging now (Total Politics).

When Momentum founder Jon Lansman announced that he was challenging Unite boss Jennie Formby for the job of Labour general secretary, the battle lines could not have been clearer.

“The first major Unions/Momentum skirmish is already causing some disquiet within Labour’s ranks,” we noted in a piece on Lansman’s candidacy.

A week later that is starting to look like an understatement…

Writing on her Facebook page, veteran activist and senior Momentum official Christine Shawcroft said Lansman should be general secretary because “only someone from his tradition will support the rights of rank and file members in the CLPs”.

Going further, she claimed that the major trade unions “stick it to the rank and file members time after time after time” and even called for Labour to break its historic links with the trade union movement.

Naturally the comments from Shawcross – who is an ally of Jeremy Corbyn and has been on Labour’s ruling national executive committee for over a decade – sparked a furious backlash from union bosses after they were revealed today by PoliticsHome.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Christine Shawcroft is a member of the Labour party. The clue is in the name. We are the party of labour, founded by the trade union movement. Her proposals for disaffiliation aid the most backwards forces in our society and she should withdraw them.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis stated: “Christine Shawcroft’s comments are wrong on every count. Trade Unions are an integral and historic part of the Labour Party. This is no time for this kind of divisive nonsense – we need to focus on getting Labour elected.”

Also weighing in today was Corbyn’s former chief of staff Simon Fletcher, once described as “the linchpin of the Corbyn operation”.

He argued: “The Labour left advances most clearly when it builds an alliance of the CLP left and the unions. The demand to break the union link is longstanding goal of the right in British society. This intervention tips disorientation over into rottenness.”

 

Huffington Post more on the story.

More: 

EXCL Labour row erupts as Jeremy Corbyn supporter calls for party to break from trade unions

Veteran activist and senior Momentum official Christine Shawcroft claimed “major trade unions are actively opposed” to the party’s rank-and-file members.

Ms Shawcroft, who is head of Labour’s powerful disciplinary committee, is supporting Momentum boss Jon Lansman’s bid to succeed Iain McNicol in the powerful role.

He defied pleas from Jeremy Corbyn and his closest aides not to run in order to leave the way clear for Unite official Jennie Formby to take the post.

Ms Shawcroft, who has been on Labour’s ruling national executive committee for over a decade, launched her attack on Facebook in the wake of a fractious meeting yesterday of the disputes sub-committee she chairs.

Responding to one Labour member, she said: “Unfortunately, reviewing the disciplinary process is going to come too late for some of our comrades. This is why I am supporting Jon Lansman, or a woman in that tradition, for general secretary.

“Nothing would induce me to support a candidate from a major trade union, they stick it to the rank and file members time after time after time. It’s also time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour party. The party belongs to us, the members.”

In a post on her own Facebook page, she added: “I was supporting Jon Lansman for general secretary before today’s NEC sub committee meetings, but after today I’m even more determined.

“Only someone from his tradition will support the rights of rank and file members in the CLPs (constituency Labour parties). The major trade unions are actively opposed to us, a very cursory examination of trigger ballots in mayoral “selections” will tell you that. Look at their track records before you rush to support someone.”

Her comments are highly significant because she is a key supporter of Mr Corbyn and a major figure on the left-wing of the party.

Momentum has also enjoyed support from trade unions such as the TSSA, Unite and CWU.

Labour’s new general secretary will be chosen by the party’s NEC on 20 March.

Jennie Formby has already been forced to condemn “anti-Semitic” attacks on Mr Lansman.

A Momentum spokesperson said: “We’re very proud of the strong links Momentum has to the trade union movement.

“From running digital campaigns in support of striking McDonalds workers to making viral videos highlighting Tory cuts to public services with the CWU and the TSSA – we believe Labour is strongest when trade unions and member organisations work together closely.

“The unions were central to the formation of the Labour Party, and every day they represent millions of people fighting for better rights at work. We firmly support Labour’s trade union link, and hope to see more unions affiliate in the future.”

Yet more:

Update from The Clarion Edd Mustill.

This week comments made on Facebook by a prominent figure in both the Labour left and Momentum, Christine Shawcroft, have provoked fierce criticism and some alarm. Shawcroft appeared to call for the ending, or at least weakening, of the link between trade unions and the Labour Party.

However serious these comments are or whether they were made in the heat of the moment (it should be noted that Momentum quickly distanced itself from Shawcroft’s comments), it is immensely disappointing to see a prominent leftwing apparently advocating something that has been a fantasy of the party’s Blairite wing for a quarter of a century, albeit no doubt for very different reasons.

recently argued that any debate around how trade unions formally relate to the membership of a mass socialist party should be welcomed by Labour members. That said, any calls, from any wing of the party, to end or dramatically weaken the link should be robustly resisted.

COMMENT.

This looks a mess, and entangles many themes.

But, firstly, there is a problem with the ambitions of people, and unions, coming before both Momentum or UNITE’s goals, either a social movement or ‘political union’. This does not just refer to the most visible person in this case, as those in a position to know are aware of other individual’s projects at play.

Secondly, these are really pretty secondary affairs compared to Labour’s overriding need to win this year’s local elections and the next General Election.

Finally, Labour activists are not going to be pleased with this clash being acted out in public, either by union leaders or by Momentum. Since it is not principally important for the left who is a “reliable ally” of whom, but Labour policy and direction, the dispute is highly unwelcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2018 at 1:36 pm

The Weekly Worker and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: A Forgotten Love Affair.

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https://i.vimeocdn.com/portrait/18021464_300x300

Spooky but True: the Untold Tale of Weekly Worker AWL Unity.

Followers of the minutiae of the left,  and there are them, will know that no bitterer enemies exist than the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee CPGB-PCC). and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Both publish papers, which it has to be said, many on the left read, the former’s Weekly Worker for its articles on theory, socialist history its reports on Italy, Iran,  and some other European countries, curious letters, and serious book reviews. The AWL’s Solidarity has valuable – accurate – reports on trade union and welfare issues, the Labour Party, and covers the history of the left, and international topics. It  also carries good coverage of books.

The two groups are now locked in a never-ending battle.

“Social-imperialism” and  comparisons with ‘Stasi busybodies” are some of the milder terms used by the Weekly Worker to describe their foes in the AWL. The AWL dismisses the, admittedly groupusculaire  WW, and its key ally, the Monster Raving Geenstein Party.

Yet things were not always so….

It was in the year 2000.

Spring was coming. The world was full of daffodils and gamboling hares. And love.

Report of a partisan observer John Bridge and other Weekly Worker writers discuss the AWL 09.03.2000

Five observers from the Communist Party of Great Britain attended the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s 7th conference over the weekend of March 4-5. In general we met with a friendly reception. There was certainly a keen interest in our ideas, as witnessed by a sale of over 40 copies of the Weekly Worker. An impressive figure and much to the credit of the AWL – especially given that there were no more than around 80 of their comrades in attendance.

..

The AWL is a small organisation of serious revolutionaries – it has 110 full and a handful of candidate members – with a relatively long history in Britain’s Trotskyite milieu. Once they existed as a faction in Tony Cliff’s International Socialism organisation. That is, until they were bureaucratically expelled. Since then, led by Sean Matgamna, they have been through a labyrinthine series of name changes, primeval unities and fragile partnerships. However, what distinguishes the AWL from that which often falsely passes itself off as Trotskyism is its culture of comparative openness and a willingness to think.

..

We in the CPGB share and defend exactly that approach.

Love blossomed,

Rapprochement begins

Two representatives of the CPGB’s Provisional Central Committee and two representatives of the AWL’s National Committee met on Friday March 3.

Discussion began with Mark Fischer outlining the history of the PCC’s struggle for a reforged CPGB and why we put Partyism at the centre of our work. It was explained to the comrades from the AWL that we have no CPGB golden age. Our project is about the future, not the past.

We also discussed the importance of trade union bulletins and trade union work. CPGB comrades assured the AWL representatives that we had no objections to trade union work nor trade union bulletins. There was, however, the matter of priorities.

Blair’s constitutional revolution was raised, along with the national question in Wales and Scotland. One AWL comrade did not see why we were so concerned with such issues. This led on to what the CPGB’s PCC understands by economism.

The entry work the CPGB carried out in the SLP was praised and criticised by the AWL comrades. We replied that it was easy to criticise from the outside.

The commitment of the CPGB to a minimum-maximum programme was touched upon. CPGB comrades questioned the AWL about their project of a new Labour Representation Committee. We were told that this was for propaganda purposes and at the moment was of no particular importance.

The principles of democratic centralism were emphasised by the CPGB comrades, as was the need for a polemical communist press in the conditions of today. We stressed the necessity of engaging with advanced workers – ie, those susceptible to theory.

Both sides agreed to hold a further meeting in mid-March and to have a joint day school in early April on the Party question. The three headings of debate will be: economism; organising the class; party and programme.

Halcyon days!

CPGB-AWL rapprochement. 27.7.2000.

Representatives of the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty have been meeting to explore areas of difference and agreement between us. Over the coming weeks, we will feature edited minutes, starting here with those of the March 3 meeting. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

Agreed in conclusion: to put economism; organising the revolutionaries to revolutionise the labour movement; and Party and programme – minimum-maximum and transitional – on the agenda for a day school (date to be fixed). Next four-hander discussion: Friday March 17, to cover minimum-maximum and transitional programmes, and the nature of the ‘official communist’.

CPGB-AWL cooperation. 15.11.2001.

The Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers? Liberty are continuing to explore areas of theoretical difference and agreement, and are looking at the possibility of joint work. Representatives of the executive committee of the AWL and the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB met recently to discuss a number of issues of current practical concern and issues of ongoing debate between the two organisations.

Alas.

The dalliance did not last, as this document (January 2003) indicates.

Followed by,

By Paul Hampton
The CPGB, those pretentious squirrels of left-wing tittle-tattle, outdid themselves by chickening out of a debate with the AWL over Iraq.

They have sought in vain to manufacture mischief with some AWL comrades who disagree with the group’s position on Iraq. After a series of private e-mails demanding that the AWL minority agitate to “clear out the leadership of the scabs”, the CPGB invited David Broder to debate with them at their overinflated “communist university”, under the title: troops out – but when? David referred the matter to the AWL office, which generously put up Sean Matgamna to speak for our politics.

The Weekly Worker responded in the shape of a piece by a certain Ian Donovan.

Workers’ Liberty: Descent into cultism

Ian Donovan assesses the current trajectory of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Being “transnational Jewish bourgeoisie” Donovan one can imagine the angle he took on the Palestine Israel issue which divided the two groups.

Yet the vicarious-Zionist AWL has issued not one word of criticism or analysis of this ultra-reactionary phenomenon, which is one of the key, concrete manifestations of Zionism today.

He defended George Galloway,

the matter in hand is to defend Galloway against the bourgeois witch-hunt.

And,

Whether over Galloway, the question of the Iraq war, Israel-Palestine, the Socialist Alliance (where it has squandered an enormous opportunity to be joint initiators of a genuinely broad paper of a pro-party minority), the AWL is retreating headlong back into the most bizarre and unsavoury forms of sectarianism.

Our interest in this tale is waning, so I will end there, yet it remains etched on many a broken heart.

Alternative Models of Ownership: Cleaning the Augustan Stables of Public Services.

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Image result for New ownership mcdonnell

“Democratically owned and managed public services” at heart of Labour Policy.

It is hard for those who backed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during their terms of office to come to grips with the legacy of a “what works” policy that favoured private business involvement in public services and did not challenge the Conservative dismantling and sell offs of the nationalised industries.

During the Blair years, before and as Prime Minister, and under Gordon Brown’s term of office, there were however critics on the left who pointed criticised the outsourcing and privatisation policies they continued.

David Osler wrote in Labour Party PLC (2002),

Tony Blair transformed the relationship between Labour and the private sector to the point where Labour now claims to be the natural party of business. This new friendship has been cemented through a series of huge donations to Labour, from top business people and leading companies. Corporate supporters—including multinationals with questionable track records on union recognition, human rights, and the environment—have reaped the rewards of lucrative privatisation contracts.

Owen Jones observed in this context ten years later that (Independent 2012) ,

“Blair failed to establish a new political consensus. He accepted the fundamentals of the Thatcher settlement: low taxes on the wealthy, weak trade unions, the dominance of the market over all. His great departure from Thatcherism was a desperately needed boost to spending on public services.”

“Labour’s current opposition to what the Coalition is doing is hobbled by the fact that Blair laid the foundation for so much of it.”

Take the privatisation of the NHS. Under Blair, private sector involvement began to flourish and a commercial directorate was set up in the Department of Health. Gove is now expanding Blair’s Academy schools programme, and free schools are a logical extension of them. The Coalition trebled the tuition fees that Blair introduced. Across public services, Blair expanded the role of the private sector – though not as fast as he would have liked, thanks to internal party opposition. But Cameron is taking this “reform” (the Blairite and Tory code word for “privatisation”) ever further. “Public sector reform” has come up in the many conversations Blair has apparently had with Cameron, and I’m sure the ex-PM has had much advice to offer.

It seems as if a new approach, grounded on thought-out alternatives, is now being developed to the “private firms work best” policy.

Text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech today at the Alternative Models of Ownership Conference.

Labour List.

It is a pleasure to close today’s conference, which has shown once again that it is our Party that is coming up with big ideas.

And we’re not talking about ideas and policies dreamed up by corporate lobbyists and think tanks or the wonks of Westminster, but plans and policies rooted in the experience and understanding of our members and our movement; drawing on the ingenuity of each individual working together as part of a collective endeavour with a common goal.

Each of you here today is helping to develop the ideas and the policies that will define not just the next Labour Government but a whole new political era of real change.  An era that will be as John said earlier radically fairer, more equal and more democratic.

The questions of ownership and control that we’ve been discussing today go right to the heart of what is needed to create that different kind of society.

Because it cannot be right, economically effective, or socially just that profits extracted from vital public services are used to line the pockets of shareholders when they could and should be reinvested in those services or used to reduce consumer bills.

We know that those services will be better run when they are directly accountable to the public in the hands of the workforce responsible for their front line delivery and of the people who use and rely on them.  It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts.

That’s why, at last year’s general election, under the stewardship of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Transport Secretary Andy McDonald and Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, Labour pledged to bring energy, rail, water, and mail into public ownership and to put democratic management at the heart of how those industries are run.

This is not a return to the 20th century model of nationalisation but a catapult into 21st century public ownership.

The failure of privatisation and outsourcing of public services could not be clearer.

From Carillion’s collapse and the private sector’s chronic inability to run the East Coast Mainline to the exorbitant costs of PFI and the hopeless inability of G4S even to handle basic security at the London Olympics the same story is repeated again and again; costly, inefficient, secretive.

Unaccountable corporate featherbedding, lubricated by revolving door appointments between Whitehall, Westminster and private boardrooms as service standards and the pay and conditions of public service workers are driven down. This obsessive drive to outsource and privatise has been tried and tested to destruction.

Carillion’s meltdown is a watershed moment. We need to take a new direction with a genuinely mixed economy fit for the 21stcentury that meets the demands of cutting edge technological change. Public services that reflect today’s society and the industries of the future.

We need to put Britain at the forefront of the wave of international change in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, has said that the plan of the Labour party to bring services including energy, rail, and water under public ownership would be free of cost.

Report: ALTERNATIVE MODELS OF OWNERSHIP.

Finance Co.uk

At a conference that was held in London on “alternative models of ownership,” he told the audience that Carillion’s collapse attested that privatisation had failed.

McDonnell stated that taking essential infrastructure assets out of private ownership is “an economic necessity,” and could be achieved while not bring additional costs to the taxpayers.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, McDonnell stated: “It would be cost-free. You borrow to buy an asset, and when that asset is producing profits like the water industry does, that will cover your borrowing cost.”

In his speech, McDonnell also said: “The next Labour government will put democratically owned and managed public services irreversibly in the hands of workers, and of those who rely on their work.

“We will do this not only because it’s right, not only because it’s the most efficient way of running them, but also because the most important protection of our public services for the long term is for everyone to have and feel ownership of them.”

The Conservatives have since denounced the said plan, saying that it will cost billions of pounds and result to worse services. Meanwhile, the CBI, a business group, said that the cries for nationalisation “continue to miss the point.”

Neil Carberry of the CBI stated: “At a time when the UK must be seen more than ever as a great place to invest and create jobs, these proposals would simply wind the clock back on our economy.

“If Labour turns its back on good collaboration between the government and the private sector, public services, infrastructure and taxpayers will ultimately pay the price.”

John McDonnell also revealed the creation of a working group that is tasked to study how cooperatives and organisations that are owned and run by their members could be developed.

It continues,

Later in the said conference, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that nationalising energy companies was essential in order to avoid a “climate catastrophe.”

Corbyn stated: “People have been queueing up for years to connect renewable energy to the national grid. With the national grid in public hands, we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system.

“To go green, we must take control of our energy.”

However, the Centre for Policy Studies said that the suggestion of Corbyn that nationalisation was essential to encourage small-scale renewable energy “suggests that Labour will have to borrow billions more to pay for the necessary infrastructure, or else pass the cost on to consumers via their fuel bills.”

The director of the Centre for Policy Studies, Robert Colville, stated: “The shadow chancellor claims that nationalisation would be cost-free because the state would be acquiring an asset – repeatedly using the analogy of taking out a mortgage on a house. Yet who would buy a house without knowing its price?

“McDonnell dismissed our £86bn estimate of the cost of nationalising the water industry as ‘laughable’ – even when the Social Market Foundation came out with a near-identical estimate. Yet neither he nor any Labour figure has disputed the detail of a single one of our estimates.”

The Left is  now debating these important and, very welcome, policy changes.

Chartist Magazine.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 1:53 pm