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Trade Unionists Against the EU – “Former” Leading Communist Party of Britain Member worked with Arron Banks

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Worked Hand in Hand with Hard Right Millionaire Arron Banks.

Trade Unionists Against the EU was a key front for the Brexit left, supported by, amongt others, the Morning Star and the Socialist Party.

It is a strange beast, as today’s Unherd outpouring from their national Organiser Paul Embery illustrates,

…for those of us on the more traditional Left, the concept of family, far from being antithetical to our socialism, is the very essence of it. It is within the family unit that we first learn about obligation, sacrifice, loyalty, compassion and solidarity. It is one place where the common good will almost always transcend self-interest, where you are in every sense your brother’s keeper. What better example is there of socialism in action?

That’s why we socialists should defend the family unit against all-comers. And that means resisting not just the cultural war against it, but the economic one too. Austerity, low wages and poverty have all weakened family ties, as has the explosion in the number of families in which both parents go out to work, often not through choice but financial necessity.

..

Confucius had it right 2,500 years ago when he said, “When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.”

Why won’t our spineless politicians stand up for the family?

In a more traditional vein Trade Unionists Against the EU made much of their imaginary support amongst the European left.

It is true that some on the Continental  left – generally known as ‘sovereigntists’ and others who could be called anglophobes – resented the UK and some may have backed Brexit.

I recall one of the leading figures of TUAEU,  Enrico Tortolano, speaking loudly in public about his internationalism, and citing in evidence the ‘millions’ of Greeks who has stated that they wished the ‘Leave’ campaign would win.

Yet, as we known, the Greeks actually voted in a pro-EU left government, for all its faults, led by Alexis Tsipras.

The only concrete evidence of this pan-European  Lexit alliance,  came from a, they claimed at the time, a mass Paris Rally. In reality this was a hook up with the French trotskyist splinter (too small to stand in the most recent Presidential elections), the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique, (POID One of its best known members, Gérard Schivardi,was the last Presidential candidate (standing on a platform of backing for local Mayors’ power)  from this current, in 2007. He got  0,34 % of the vote.

Is this an “internationalist” movement?

POID is known for its support for reasserting  French National sovereignty against the European Union. The EU, they assert, has deprived Parliaments of their sovereign will, and reduced them to a subsidiary role to the EU  which imposes its will directly on nations. (“Parlements privés de toute velléité de souveraineté étant réduit à un rôle subsidiaire, les décisions de l’Union européenne s’imposent directement à toutes les nations. La Tribune des travailleurs).

That particular jamboree (2017) can be viewed here: LE GRAND MEETING INTERNATIONALISTE DE PARIS PORTE DE CHARENTON’ en 20 minutes et version sous-titrée:

 

More recently Trade Unionists Against the EU has developed a good rapport with the Spiked-on-Line linked Sovereigntist, grouping, the Full Brexit, which includes Murdoch’s Man in Brussels “The founding statement of a group called ‘The Full Brexit’. Good to see the statement signed by some well-known figures in the labour and trade union movement.” (5th of July): Trade Unionists Against the EU

Yesterday John Rogan  published:

Lexit and Brexit collaboration-what did the Morning Star know?

One long standing Lexiter is leading Communist Party of Britain member Brian Denny (also of the RMT union who backed Brexit). He has written extensively on the need to get out on the CPB’s website (“Trade Unionists need to take the lead against the EU”14 Aug 2015) and was a co-ordinator for NO2EU (Lexit electoral alliance), organiser for the (“Eurosceptic Labour Movement”) Campaign Against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) and a founder of Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

Image result for Brian Denney rmt and arron banks

Denny’s contributions also take up some space (see here)  on the Trade Unionists Against the EU site.

Rogan continues,

Denny (CPB) and Banks (Ukip) worked together to maximise the Leave vote. Here’s an extract from Arron Banks’s “Bad Boys of Brexit” (28 Jan 2016) where Banks saw Labour voters as key to winning and the need to fund an anti — TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) leaflet produced by Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

Here is some evidence of the collaboration between the leading Communist and the far-right Brexiteer.

Rogan Notes,

Arron Banks is currently under investigation by the Electoral Commission for funding of Trade Unionists Against the EU (£54,000) and other organisations. Some more background to this can be found here and here.

So far we have heard nothing from those accused of collaboration with the hard right.

Brian Denny, meanwhile, regularly retweets Spiked-on-Line….

 

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Britian’s Biggest Union, UNITE, on Brexit, “open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal.”

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UNITE on Brexit, ” open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal….”

The Guardian reports,

Britain’s biggest union has left the door open to another referendum on the government’s Brexit deal.

Unite, Labour’s most generous donor, also said it was highly unlikely that Labour would vote for Theresa May’s deal on leaving the European Union.

The development is being interpreted by some observers as an incremental move towards accepting a second referendum, and could increase pressure upon Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

It also makes it clearer than previous statements that Labour may well vote against the EU withdrawal agreement. Earlier this year, senior frontbench figures including the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, were arguing that it was likely that Labour would vote in favour of the deal.

In a statement issued at the union’s annual conference in Brighton, the executive said: “It remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour frontbench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

“At such a moment, Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the EU and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances.

It is understood that Corbyn’s office insist they are relaxed about Unite’s policy development.

By contrast the pro-Brexit Morning Star, with links to the hard-right Arron Banks Funded Trades Unionists Against the EU (such as its chair, Doug Nichollsgave this report,

 

UNITE threw its might behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today, vowing to get him into No 10 as the union said No to a second referendum on Brexit.

Speaking at the union’s biennial policy conference in Brighton, general secretary Len McCluskey took aim at the media misrepresentation of the union’s position on a second referendum, telling delegates: “Let me be clear – we are not calling for a second referendum.

“Our decisions are made by our conference, not by any unrepresentative opinion polls commissioned by God knows who.”

His attack was aimed at a poll briefed to the press last week by anti-Brexit organisation Open Britain, which claimed that a majority of Unite members do not trust Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit and desire a second referendum.

The union’s executive statement condemned the government’s “abysmal” handling of Brexit negotiations and advocated Britain’s “barrier-free” access to the single market as well as securing a customs union with the EU.

As it remained “highly unlikely” that the final Brexit deal negotiated by the Tories will satisfy Unite members, the union’s priority will be to “force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government” which could “reach a better deal with the European Union” and improve British-European relations.

Mr McCluskey warned of the dangers of a no-deal “cliff-edge” Brexit and said that the British people voted to leave the European Union, not for increased unemployment or the erosion of social rights.

People voted leave, said Mr McCluskey, because they “wanted control over political decisions to be returned to our elected politicians in Westminster” and “as democrats we respect that vote.”

Mr McCluskey condemned the “shadow of job losses” hanging over the heads of Unite members and criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s “nightmare of uncertainty” in her Tory Brexit plan.

“Theresa May has lost all authority, she has lost all capacity to make decisions, or all power of initiative,” he said.

“She is being held prisoner by the dogmatists and fantasists of the far right.

“These people see in Brexit the chance to turn Britain into the low-wage, deregulated, race-to-the-bottom society of their dreams.”

Reiterating Mr Corbyn’s calls for Britain to stay in a customs union and access to, rather than membership of, the single market, Mr McCluskey said that “staying or leaving the EU matters less than getting Jeremy in office.”

Delegates engaged in debate over several hours about their attitude towards a Britain outside of the European Union.

This was the occasion for the Morning Star to give a voice to those who agreed with its pro-Brexit policies.

Nabila Ahmed, a Unite young member from Watford, expressed her concerns that a second referendum “would give a boost to the far right” and claimed that the “ultimate agenda” of “Europhiles” demanding a second referendum would be to “break Jeremy Corbyn.”

Damian Bailey, chair of Unite’s north-west young members’ committee, told conference that that “the most important thing for young members is not to re-enter the European Union, but electing a Corbyn government.”

He told delegates that “union members should not be grateful for the meagre rights the European Union gives us” and that “we should have unions fighting for us, like Unite.”

Mr Bailey warned delegates to ignore the fearmongering spread by employers, highlighting that “the same people who threaten to move our jobs abroad after Brexit are often the same people who would threaten to move our jobs abroad if a Labour government gets elected.”

But Mick Graham, convener of the Land Rover plant in Solihull, also reminded delegates that “we are internationalists, and we must reaffirm our commitment to solidarity across all borders.

“Defending our members and communities has to be our priority.”

Contrasting with the statement made by the Lexit leaning Morning Star Unite’s official statement says (as the Guardian notes),

 it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the European Union and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances. Within these principles, the Executive Council has authority to respond as it thinks best to a fast-changing political situation.

Unite policy conference 2018 – Executive statement on Brexit

UNITE’s criteria for an acceptable deal include the following,

  • 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.
  • protect the integrity of Gibraltar and the right for Gibraltarians to determine their own future.
  • grant the immediate and guaranteed right to remain for 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.

And, ” it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.  At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal”.

So in other words, Brexit is a disaster. UNITE policy is not that of Trade Unionists against the EU and all the other Lexiters’ who say, “Embrace Brexit and Shape the Future”.

Opening up to a possible challenge to the whole process of leaving the EU, and negotiating new world trade deals with the such as Donald Trump, is bound to be complex.

But as commentators have remarked, this statement reflects a ” a shift in tone” away from a pure and simple acceptance of Brexit as a fact.

As does the reminder that the union is not going down the path of a national go-it-alone ‘Lexit’ (left Exit).

As Unite says, “The global trade union movement must respond to these historic challenges by renewing our fundamental principle of internationalism, while offering working people a genuine route for taking control of their own lives, in the workplace and beyond.

Unite will always reject malign and reactionary right-wing nationalism. We will resist any attempts to divide us. Instead we must recommit ourselves to this eternal truth: we are internationalists or we are nothing.”

The immediate issue is how to best oppose the way Brexit is unfolding within the context of the need to elect a Labour Government.

Not at all the ringing rejection of a new Referendum that the Pro-Brexit Morning Star would wish.

 

 

Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. The Must-Read of the Year.

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Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. Atlantic Books. 2018.

Over the weekend it was reported that last year there were just 79 strikes, the lowest number since 1893. Union membership continues to decline.

The GMB, meanwhile, stated that ambulances had been called to Amazon warehouses at least 600 times in the last 3 years. On half of these occasions patients had to be taken at hospital. The union put some of the blame on the severe working conditions that company enforces on its employees.

James Bloodworth begins Hired in an Amazon warehouse – the size of ten football pitches – in Rugeley, “a place with the atmosphere of what I imagined a prison would be like”. Feel-good slogans were plastered on the walls saying that everybody was having a wonderful time. The workers, mostly Eastern European, were brought there by agencies, who hammered home that they could be sacked the instant they made any trouble. The work as “pickers” – in hard shifts – meant, “dashing around”. There was no real contract and no there were no real rights. People were under a full-time “cloud of suspicion”. Wages – for the author £227 a week but regularly underpaid, or involving tax shambles – barely kept up with ordinary expenses. Not to mention the rent to rapacious landlords.

Bloodworth got to know some of the migrants, from Romania. Life in their country was “bullshit”. If they were slaves in the UK, they still had money. These “anonymous foreign drudges” were like H.G.Wells’ Morlocks, while the customers dwelt, like the Eloi, enjoying cheap products.

Hired  is about  a world in which very few people are real Eloi. In Blackpool working for a company supplying care workers as council services have crumbled over the years, Carewatch, Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

The home caring job with the elderly came with heart-rending incidents. A colleague who told of having to deal with a client “with basically her bowels hanging out”. Payments, as with Amazon, were again a problem. Some migrant workers employed found the English needed for the job near impossible.

South Wales.

Bloodworth explores the Welsh Valley based Call Centre Admiral in cafés and drinking in Ebbw Vale Wetherspoons he hears the rancour of people left behind by the closure of the mines. As in Rugeley there is fear of migrants, and the targeting of Europe for the “pain inflicted over recent decades.”

Hired comes across many Leave voters. But “taking back control”, was not just a product of resentment at migration, unemployment, precarious jobs, and minimum wages. It was, we could note, promoted by the Sovereigntists of the left, and those who considered it a “transitional demand” to install the chaos that would lead to a left Brexit (Brexit). This was not just against the interest of the South Wales communities, whose remaining social projects were funded by the EU. For many workers, and all the major unions, this disruption would snarl up the supply, production and distribution chains that keep what is left of the country’s industry going. The present state of Brexit proves the case for Remain. The right-wing nationalists, who were its real promoters, have drowned any Lexit  (Left Brexit) voice out.

The book concludes with first-hand experience with the ‘gig economy’ of Uber and others in London. Here the workers, in the shape of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) were fighting back, establishing a collective bargaining agreement with Deliveroo.

Trade Unions.

A major theme in Hired is the contrast between the strength of the trade unions before Thatcher and today’s deregulated (that is, regulated by the managers of companies) labour market. Perhaps the example of former mining communities is too strong tot transport to London. My friends in 1970s London worked for cleaning agencies where conditions were not too far off today’s poorly paid posts under heavy surveillance. And the gig economy is not that new. I myself spent a Christmas period as an (illegal) stallholder flogging puzzle rings in Oxford Street., paid cash in hand. Nor were unions that powerful. A shop-steward friend of my parents got sacked from a big engineering company in the Lee Valley for union militancy. The AEU did not get his position back.

The book is the first I have read about modern Britain that talks about the world I live in. It speaks about people I know working in warehouses, to those catching what they can in short term jobs, the experiences of care-workers, the treatment of the out-of-work, to the lives of migrants.  There are cheap stores, like B & M, both where people work for another group of grinders and where we often shop. Bloodworth maps up the incomes and costs of how people get by, the constant worries and the little hopes and pleasures that keep them going. If he is perceived as an outsider, he has clearly touched ground. To those who might question how Bloodworth knows the details of their difficulties one can only say: this is what people talk about.

In low-wage Britain problems do not comes from an “ill educated working class” – terms that, given the intelligence of my mates, would make them laugh. Increased social mobility, meritocracy, is not the answer. The heart of the inequalities generated by the economy has to be tackled. They are fostered by deliberate political choice. The first response lies in exactly the daily grind of trade union politics, for rights, for good conditions, and, above all, for solidarity between diverse groups in their common interest. A Labour government would have to begin by strengthening union power. 

I expected Hired to be good. 

It exceeds that.

It is the essential read of the year.

Every trade unionist and socialist should get hold of it.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 4, 2018 at 11:29 am

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

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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.

As Corbyn attacks EU “cheap agency labour”, Europe creates new Agency to End ‘Social Dumping’ and Protect Workers.

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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