18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Tata Steel reaches pact with unions over Port Talbot plant

INDIA:Unions and politicians welcomed Tata Steel’s accord with unions which entails the steel giant derisking its pension liabilities and committing to secure jobs at its Port Talbot plant in Wales, at least until 2021.

The deal also includes plans to invest for a further five years.

Questions over the precise future shape of the plant and its 4,000 employees had hung over the firm since earlier in the year when Tata Steel stalled plans to sell the facility and began potential merger discussions with German steel producer ThyssenKrupp over its existing European assets.

“This is good news that secures the future of steel-making at Port Talbot for at least 10 years,” Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said on Thursday. “Earlier this year, I was very pessimistic about what the future might hold for steel-making. This agreement was achieved by a lot of hard work by everyone involved.”

“This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and brings serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steel works across the U.K.,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community Union, said following the announcement of the deal on Wednesday evening.

The union said that it was a “significant shift” from Tata Steel’s opening offer, which didn’t include any commitments regarding jobs and Port Talbot’s two blast furnaces.

5-year commitment

Under the agreement reached, Tata Steel has agreed to keep both blast furnaces at the site open for at least five years, and will invest 1 billion pounds over a 10-year period to support steel-making, and it will avoid making compulsory redundancies for the next five years, similar to the one reached with workers in the Netherlands.

Crucially, the company has launched a consultation on replacing its defined benefit British Steel Pension Scheme with a defined contribution scheme, with maximum contributions from the company of 10 per cent and employees of 6 per cent. That shift had been considered previously but did not take place after unions and the company agreed on changes to the terms of the existing scheme last year. Union members are due to be balloted on the latest proposals regarding the scheme in the New Year. “This is not the end of the process and it will be for all our members to now vote on this proposal,” said Rickhuss.

Tony Brady of the Unite Union welcomed the “step in the right direction” but called for more steps from the government, specifically an industrial strategy, and a pledge that they would “hold Tata to their word.”

Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director of Tata Steel and Executive Director for European business, said the changes would create a “sustainable” future for British steel in unprecedented times for the industry, while the changes to the pension arrangements would help de-risk the company and help achieve long-term sustainability.

“The delivery of Tata Steel U.K.’s transformation plan and generation of free cash flows will be the key enabler for the future sustainability of the business and we are very encouraged by early signs of the delivery of the plan,” he said.

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Trade unions want budget 2017-18 to create more jobs and Employment.

New Delhi: The Union Budget for fiscal 2017-18 should create more jobs and employment opportunities, trade unions said in a representation to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“The budget should help in creating more jobs and employment opportunities. The minimum wages should be increased to Rs 18,000 per month, and same wages for same work even for contract labour,” said the Finance Ministry in a statement here on Saturday.

In a joint memorandum, the unions urged the minister to raise the minimum personal tax exemption to Rs5 lakh and increase pension for all workers to Rs 3,000 from Rs 1,000 per month.

“The budget should focus on social security schemes for the workers, especially those working in the unorganised sector,” the statement said.

Other suggestions include credit to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector at 4 per cent interest rate as it generates more jobs, mobile banking facility in rural areas and revised rates for emergency treatment under the Central Government Health Scheme.

“Ensuring the benefits of the social security schemes to every section of workers, including those in the unorganised sector, is a major priority of the government,” said Jaitley on the occasion.

Admitting that making the schemes accessible to the workers in the unorganised sector was a major challenge, he said the government was keen to address the issue as the sector was growing at a faster pace.

Noting that the social security framework was structured for different groups spanning organised, unorganised and unemployed or below poverty line, Jaitley said there was a need to ensure a convergence of benefits for all the groups.

Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and Labour Bureau Director General Rajan Kumar were present at the meeting.

Among the trade union representatives were Tapan Sen (CITU), Vrijesh Upadhyay (BMS), Ashok Singh (INTUC), D.L. Sachdev and V.S. Giri (AITUC), Harbhajan Singh Sidhu (HMS), Sankar Saha (AIUTUC), S.P. Tiwary (TUCC), Manali Shah (SEWA), Rajiv Dimri (AICCTU) and Deepak Jaiwal (NFITU).

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Union leader under attack for acting as Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘puppet master’

ON:Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful union ally, Len McCluskey, has been bitterly attacked by the man seeking to end his six-year reign in charge of Britain’s biggest union, Unite.

In his first newspaper interview since announcing that he will challenge McCluskey in an election, with huge potential repercussions for Corbyn and for Labour, Gerard Coyne accuses the Unite general secretary of meddling too much in Westminster politics, and of neglecting the crucial issues facing working people.
Unite challenger: ‘We have to focus on how to grow unions, not influence in Westminster’
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“I just don’t think that ever again the general secretary should be the puppet master of the leader of the Labour party,” Coyne – Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands – told the Observer. “There is an opportunity for change, for a fresh start, for members to get their union back.”

The battle for control of Unite is being seen at Westminster as a proxy war for control of the entire Labour party. Many Labour MPs see Coyne’s challenge as a chance to break the alliance between Corbyn and the leftwing Unite leadership and restore it to the centre ground.

In July, McCluskey accused MPs who plotted to oust Corbyn of “being seduced by sinister forces”. At its annual conference, Unite then called for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in a move which many saw as the start of a purge of moderates by the hard left.

Labour MPs have since said that Unite activists have been organising in their constituencies in an effort to boost memberships and tip the balance in favour of deselections in future ballots.

Coyne says he, as much as anyone, wants a Labour government and that he fully endorses the commitment in Unite’s rulebook to back the party. But he claims McCluskey has made politics too much of a priority at the expense of fighting everyday battles on behalf of Unite’s 1.4 million members.

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’
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“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]?”
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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
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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.