18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Unite challenger: ‘We have to focus on how to grow unions, not influence in Westminster

UNITED KINGDOM: Gerard Coyne fought his first battle on behalf of working people at the age of 17, when he was stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s supermarket in West Bromwich.
Union leader under attack for acting as Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘puppet master’
Read more

“Bad employers always make good recruiters for trades unions,” he says. “We had one particular manager who decided he didn’t want people talking on the checkouts. So I started organising. When we ended, I had the whole store unionised.”

Thirty-two years on, Coyne, 49, is embarking on a quest to become the most powerful figure in the British trade union movement. If he succeeds, it will have far-reaching implications for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

When we meet in a coffee shop next to King’s Cross station in London for his first newspaper interview since launching a challenge to topple Len McCluskey, 66, from the leadership of the super-union Unite, it is McCluskey who he now casts as the bad boss who does not have the interests of working people sufficiently at heart. The current Unite leader, he says at the outset, spends far too much time playing power politics and trying to “pull strings” at Westminster and not enough on the vital issues that affect his 1.4 million members.

He says he cannot remember an occasion in the past three years on which McCluskey actually appeared on site to back Unite members in an industrial dispute. By contrast, his general secretary’s numerous appearances on the media in support of Corbyn and his predecessor Ed Miliband are all too fresh in the mind. “Of course we want to see the election of a Labour government in 2020, but what I want is to get away from this pulling of the strings of the Labour party.”

It is not that Coyne thinks influence with Labour leaders does not matter. He knows it does. But he says the union will exercise even more if it can give better value for money to members and help them face the challenges of mechanisation and technological advance that are threatening their jobs. That, says Coyne, is the route to increasing Unite’s membership and enhancing its reputation.

“If we can grow and show we are playing a real, constructive role in the lives of working people, Labour would be mad not to listen to us. Every morning we have to wake up and think, what is it I do to grow the movement? Not – what is it I do to grow influence [at Westminster]?”
The stories you need to read, in one handy email
Read more

Mechanisation is a “massive issue”, he says. “We have not really grappled with the technological change that most of the world of work is going to be faced with, around manufacturing, food processing, transport. In the next 20 years we are going to be seeing such change … we need to explain it to our members and upskill them to be ready for it.”

The union also needs to “up its game” in promoting the interests of women in the workplace, doing more to push pay equality and flexible working. “We have to make sure we are relevant to women. At the moment these issues are on the back burner.”

Coyne is Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands, with more than 25 years of experience at senior levels in the movement. He is one of six brothers from a family of trade unionists and Labour activists. In 2005, he brokered agreements to get 6,500 Rover workers into new jobs after the company went into receivership.

The fast-changing world of work, he says, not only threatens traditional jobs but also the very future of unions. “We have so many challenges that apply to the whole of the British trade union movement. I fundamentally believe in trade unions absolutely to my core. But if we don’t get this right in this generation I fear for the future of the movement.”

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

TUC and businesses urge Theresa May to act on rights of migrants

LONDON: British business and the trade union movement have made an unprecedented joint demand to Theresa May to guarantee immediately the rights of European Union migrants to remain in the UK, warning that further uncertainty will inflict serious damage on the British economy.
The Brexit fallout for EU citizens in the UK, and Britons in the EU – Q&A
Read more

In a strongly worded letter to the prime minister, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), representing companies with a combined workforce of 5 million employees, and the TUC say that more delays will be bad for business, families, local communities, and public services, such as the NHS.

At an EU summit in Brussels last week, May told EU leaders that she wanted a decision about the rights of 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK, as well as the more than a million UK residents in other EU states, to be made as soon as possible – but only after formal talks are triggered in March next year.

However, in their letter sent to Downing Street on Saturday, the BCC and TUC demand that May “demonstrate leadership” with a “bold move” now that will end the worry and uncertainty for millions of people, and for companies, whose futures have been thrown into doubt by the 23 June Brexit vote. The BCC and TUC say that many EU citizens are already leaving the UK and more will follow unless a decision is made imminently.

They say that migrants should no longer be used as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations, but instead be given “the reassurance we would expect to be shown to UK citizens across the Continent”.

In their letter, BCC director general Adam Marshall and TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady say: “The business communities and workers we represent across the United Kingdom share a deep and abiding concern for the rights of EU citizens currently living and working in this country.”

They write: “Today, we urge you to break the deadlock – and give an unequivocal commitment that EU citizens working here will have a permanent right to remain in the UK.

“We recognise that this would be a bold unilateral move, particularly before the start of a complex Brexit negotiation. But it is the right move for these workers, for the businesses that employ them, for the Exchequer, and for the UK economy as a whole.

“It would also send a clear signal to our colleagues and to our European friends that Britain is committed to doing the right thing. Securing EU citizens’ right to remain would provide much-needed certainty for businesses, working people, their families and local communities.

“In addition, the government must hold to account the small number of unethical employers who exploit migrant workers to undercut pay and conditions of employment.”

This uncertainty is hugely worrying for working people and their families who have made Britain their home.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady

So far, the government has stuck to its line that it will not guarantee the rights of European Union migrants in this country until those of British citizens in other EU states are also confirmed.

O’Grady told the Observer: “This uncertainty is hugely worrying for working people and their families who have made Britain their home.

“It’s the right thing to do. But it’s also about what is right for Britain, too. Continued doubt about the status of workers from the rest of the EU is bad for business, and it puts services like the NHS at risk.

“The government must also crack down on the minority of employers who exploit migrants and undercut wages in the local community.”

Marshall said: “Business communities across the UK are deeply frustrated that ministers have declined to guarantee the residence rights of their EU employees and colleagues. Some firms are already losing key members of their staff as a result of this avoidable uncertainty.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.1 million EU nationals were employed in the UK in the first quarter of 2016 – 224,000 more than in the same period in 2015.

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Drivers’ strike halts all Southern rail services for third day

ON: Strikes by Southern train drivers have caused the cancellation of all services on the network for a third day, and the company warned of further severe disruption to come next week when conductors walk out.

About 300,000 passengers were left without their usual service as Southern cancelled all of its 2,242 weekday services on Friday.

An ongoing overtime ban by drivers in the Aslef union will compound the effects of a two-day strike by RMT conductors starting on Monday.
ScotRail commuters given free week of travel after disruption
Read more

Prospects for an imminent resolution of the long-running dispute appear remote after talks between Aslef and Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, collapsed on Thursday.

GTR said it had put a “practical offer” to the union for consideration to end the industrial action, but Aslef denied this. Its general secretary, Mick Whelan, wrote to members on Friday saying: ”I regret to advise that at no time during the course of discussions did the company make any kind of formal offer in relation to the substantive issues at the heart of the dispute.”

He added: “Aslef remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement as we have already done with ScotRail.”

GTR said the public would be “simply perplexed”. Its chief operating officer, Nick Brown, said: “We’re sincerely sorry that commuters’ work and family lives are being punished with this unjustified and unprecedented industrial action. The unions must stop the pain and suffering blighting passengers and commerce.”

The dispute has become focused on a move to driver-only operation of trains, which unions say has safety risks and could downgrade the number or quality of jobs in rail.

On Thursday night, a group of commuters marched in protest from Southern’s main London hub, Victoria station, to the Department for Transport to hand in a letter demanding action.

A spokesman for the Association of British Commuters said: “We have suffered a year-long nightmare because of the collapse of Southern rail. We have desperately called for government action and have been repeatedly ignored, even while many of us have lost our jobs or had to move house.”

Katy Davies, one of the organisers of the march, who commutes from south London, said: “This is not just about the financial impact of paying for a service that doesn’t work, but quality of life: people who are losing jobs, patients missing treatment, families who have to arrange emergency childcare, people thrown off trains that aren’t going anywhere late at night.”
The stories you need to read, in one handy email
Read more

She said Southern services had been unreliable every day, not just during the strikes, adding: “We’re at breaking point and want answers from Chris Grayling [the transport secretary]. If he fails to act, we’d call for his resignation.”

Data released by Network Rail shows that parts of the Southern network recorded their worst punctuality figures in years last month. Just 67.9% of its metropolitan services, operating in Greater London, arrived at their destination within five minutes of the scheduled time in the four weeks to 10 December – the poorest performance for that part of the route in publicly available records dating back to April 2010.

More strikes are planned over the new year period by conductors, while drivers plan a six-day walkout from 9 January, which would be the worst continuous disruption for decades.

National Express, which provided more than 3,000 extra seats on coach services in areas affected by the strike, said it had its busiest day ever recorded for coach travel on the London to Brighton route.

Meanwhile, season ticket holders on ScotRail, who have also suffered a year of disruption, will get a free week of travel paid for by the Scottish government. The compensation, worth £3m, comes after the franchise run by the Dutch firm Abellio has faced heavy criticism for late and cancelled trains.

26 Jan 2016 Ferado

THIRTY FIVE WORKERS WERE ARRESTED IN MARDAN

Thirty-five workers were arrested in the city of Mardan on January 6 for peacefully protesting the brutal instant termination of 141 employees at the Pakistan subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris International. Workers were informed of the mass terminations on November 21 when they arrived to work only to learn that dismissal letters would be sent to them by post.
With the support of the local union, whose President Abrar Ullah was among the arrested, workers launched a continuous round of protests at the factory gate after management refused to discuss the terminations and began pressuring workers to accept the illegal dismissals. To add to the pressure, police were called to the factory gate when the protest began.
On January 6, workers gathered with their union officers to present a Charter of Demands to management when police arrested 35 protestors under the Maintenance of Public Order law, which allows for up to 90 days detention without charges.
A solidarity delegation from the IUF-affiliated Pakistan Food Workers Federation (PFWF), which had hoped to meet with the workers demonstrated outside the police station following the mass arrests. The arrested workers were then shifted to Bannu Jail, some 250 kilometers from Mardan and notorious as a prison for incarcerating Taliban activists.
The PFWF and the IUF will continue to support and assist the workers, who have vowed to continue the fight. CLICK HERE TO SEND A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNMENT authorities calling for the immediate release of the workers and their union President.PICTURE FOOD

]

Thirty-five workers were arrested in the city of Mardan on January 6 for peacefully protesting the brutal instant termination of 141 employees at the Pakistan subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris International. Workers were informed of the mass terminations on November 21 when they arrived to work only to learn that dismissal letters would be sent to them by post.
With the support of the local union, whose President Abrar Ullah was among the arrested, workers launched a continuous round of protests at the factory gate after management refused to discuss the terminations and began pressuring workers to accept the illegal dismissals. To add to the pressure, police were called to the factory gate when the protest began.
On January 6, workers gathered with their union officers to present a Charter of Demands to management when police arrested 35 protestors under the Maintenance of Public Order law, which allows for up to 90 days detention without charges.
A solidarity delegation from the IUF-affiliated Pakistan Food Workers Federation (PFWF), which had hoped to meet with the workers demonstrated outside the police station following the mass arrests. The arrested workers were then shifted to Bannu Jail, some 250 kilometers from Mardan and notorious as a prison for incarcerating Taliban activists.
The PFWF and the IUF will continue to support and assist the workers, who have vowed to continue the fight. CLICK HERE TO SEND A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNMENT authorities calling for the immediate release of the workers and their union President.PICTURE FOOD

[/wr_column]