Speech delivered 20th June (NB: not the same as his piece in yesterday’s Guardian)
May I start by expressing Unite’s shock at the death of Jo Cox and our deepest sympathy to her family.
We can only hope that the outpouring of grief from across the nation will help Jo’s husband, Brendan and his family in these unbearable times.
Her death places in context what is really important in our lives.
She was, of course, a passionate advocate for the Remain campaign and would surely want political debate to continue.
Brothers and Sisters,
As this referendum campaign draws towards a close, I think everyone can agree on two things.
First, it matters. As we come up close to the moment of decision, this feels like one of the most important votes any of us will cast in our lives.
And second, this is close. The elite complacency of the start of the campaign, that this was just a quick canter to the winning post for REMAIN, has disappeared.
This could go either way.
For those two reasons, I wanted to speak out directly, both to and on behalf of the members of Unite, the biggest trade union in the United Kingdom, also as someone who can legitimately claim to know the hopes and fears of the working-class communities across the country, the sort of community I grew up in and have kept my roots in.
There is no need for a spoiler alert – Unite is fighting all the way for a Remain vote, and for Britain and British workers to build their future in unity with the rest of Europe.
But I have not come here to lecture or to patronise those working people who take a different view. Who can be surprised that in so many industrial areas, voting for the status quo is not exactly a popular option?
I am just asking all those people, including many Unite members, to reflect on their concerns, and whether they would be best addressed by staying in Europe, or by a Brexit.
And I want to flag up what I believe will happen to working people on the morrow of a vote to leave.
Let me turn first to the issue of IMMIGRATION:
Some pundits and commentators, like explorers returning from a visit to the deep unknown, are stunned to find that this has become an issue.
I for one am not in the least surprised. I understand those concerns. They are NOT, for the greatest part, anything to do with racism or xenophobia.
They are to do with the systematic attempt by our greedy elite to hold down wages and cut the costs of social provision for working people.
Let us be clear – what has been done in the last ten years is a gigantic experiment at the expense of ordinary workers. Countries with vast historical differences in wage rates and living standards have been brought together in a common labour market. The result has been huge downward pressure on living standards.
What happens when two hundred workers are competing for jobs where previously only ten did? Wages are frozen or cut.
What happens when workers can move from a country where a job pays £5 an hour to one where the same job pays £20? The answer is that many do so move, and the same job then ends up paying just £12 an hour.
That is why trade unions have never been in favour of a so-called free labour market. Control of the labour supply in an industry or across society has always been the core of our mission, to ensure that workers get their fair share of the wealth they create.
But let me be clear about something else. Pulling up the drawbridge against the rest of Europe is the wrong answer. Read the rest of this entry »
By Martin Thomas (also at the Workers Liberty website)
88% of six hundred economists surveyed for The Observer newspaper (29 May) reckon that Brexit would reduce economic growth in Britain.
Economists often get things wrong, and the gist of the economists’ opinion is that Brexit would disrupt the regular flows of the global capitalist economy, thus pushing down trade and investment into Britain.
Most enlightening is what the pro-Brexit minority of economists say. The “Economists for Brexit” group led by veteran Thatcherite Patrick Minford has produced a report.
As ardent free-market ideologues, they argue that a capitalist Britain outside the EU will do well because it will have fewer constraints on the rapacity of the free market.
They object to the EU because “the EU has pressed for social legislation (such as the 2003 Working Time Directive and the 2004 Gender Equality Directive) that adds to companies’ costs”.
Their list would probably also include the Agency Workers’ Directive, TUPE, and redundancy-payment laws.
They also object because “European governments have been more emphatic than the global average about the dangers of global warming” and so the EU has pushed Britain to “adopt the renewables agenda with greater zeal… Coal-fired power stations have been closed down, offshore wind farms built and so on…”
The Brexit campaigners disagree among themselves on what trade deals Britain should do on quitting the EU. The economists go for a radical option: “What other trade agreements do we need? My advice would be: none”. Not the Norwegian model, not the Swiss model, not the Canadian model, not even the Albanian model favoured by Michael Gove.
The pro-Brexit economists argue that Britain should scrap all barriers to imports, and seek nothing more than World Trade Organisation rules for its exports. In their calculations the benefit of cheaper imports outweighs the consequent job losses.
On immigration, the economists differ from the Ukip-minded majority of Brexit campaigners in that they want more non-EU immigration and less immigration from the EU.
There, spelled out clearly, is the second core Brexit argument after the basic Ukip “hate-migrants” case. It is an argument for Britain as an offshore, low-regulation, low-social-overheads, environmentally-reckless site for global capital.
Whether their scheme would “work” in its own terms is doubtful. That it represents the way Brexit points, socially and economically, is not.
The way to fight the neoliberal policies of the EU leadership is by starting from the limited integration across borders created by the EU, and working for cross-border solidarity around demands for social levelling-up, democracy, and more open borders.
Saturday’s TUC/Equal Opportunities Review Discrimination Law Conference was, as usual, a highly informative event.
The driving force behind this conference (an annual event) is Michael Rubenstein, editor of Equal Opportunities Review and widely regarded as Britain’s leading expert on both equal opportunities law and employment law (he also edits the Industrial Relations Law Reports): unlike a lot of legal people, he makes no secret of his sympathy with the trade union movement.
Amongst the other distinguished speakers was Karon Monagham QC of Matrix Chambers, on ‘Sex and race discrimination: recent developments.’ Anyone whose ever Karon speak will know that she makes no secret of her left wing stance and passionate commitment to anti-racism, equal opportunities and trade union rights – how she ever got to be a QC is a bit of a mystery …
Karon spoke with authority on her subject, concentrating upon:
- Judicial review of employment tribunal fees
- Proving disparate impact: the Court of Appeal decision in Essop
- Direct, indirect and associative discrimination: implications of the CJEU decision in CHEZ
- Justifying indirect discrimination: where the law now stands
Karon noted that, “As to recent decisions of the Courts and tribunals, they’re a mixed bag. We have seen some worrying recent case law challenging some of the prevailing orthodoxy around the concepts of equality under the EA 2010 and related matters. We have also seen some progressive case law, in particular in reliance on fundamental rights protected by EU and ECHR law.”
In the course of her presentation, Karon made it clear that the EU Equality Directives, case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, remain potent and effective tools for all those concerned with defending human rights and trade union rights.
In fact, although it did not appear on the agenda, a recurring theme of the conference was the EU and the possibility of Brexit. In his opening remarks, Michael Rubenstein asked “Do you think Brexit and the Cameron government, together, are going to be good or bad for human rights, equal opportunities and trade union rights?” He added, laughing, “That’s a rhetorical question.”
During the final Q&A session, the panel were asked what they though the impact of a Bexit would be on human rights and employment legislation in the UK: Rubenstein replied with a single word: “catastrophic.”
The idiot-left who seem to think that something progressive can be achieved by getting out of the EU need to take notice of people who know what they’re talking about.
- Comrade Coatesy adds:… Tendance Coatesy backs the Labour in for Britain campaign to Vote to stay in the European Union.We also support a number of broad pro-European left campaigns.Including this: Another Europe is Possible.
Who we are
Another Europe Is Possible is a campaign for a radical ‘in’ vote in the EU referendum.
We have come together as activists and campaigners to build a Europe of democracy, human rights, and social justice. We don’t believe a British exit from the EU offers a path towards the social, citizen-led Europe we so urgently need. That’s why we are saying ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’.
Our campaign is still in development and we will publish a list of supporters when we formally launch in February 2016. Our organising group are also currently working towards a founding conference later this year – watch this space for more info.
From Another Europe’s site:
EU debate: We need to stay in Europe to change Europe. The idea that a social Europe could emerge by quitting the EU is a delusion. There are no quick fixes for neoliberalism, writes Luke Cooper in Red Pepper magazine
My body my rights
Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all.
A woman is refused contraception because she doesn’t have her husband’s permission. A man is harassed by police because he’s gay. A teenager is denied a life-saving termination because abortion is illegal in her country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you have the right to live without fear, violence or discrimination. It’s your body. Know your rights. Act now.
Around 1.8 billion young people worldwide are at risk of having their sexual and reproductive rights ignored. Call on world leaders today.
Here’s something I’d hope we can all agree on:
Last October, people across the globe united to send thoughts of hope and love to a brave young girl fighting for her life in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai because of her strong voice in the fight for women’s rights and youth education. Their gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in front of her peers – but Malala survived and she hasn’t stopped fighting.
Last weekend we were reminded of the need to continue to stand behind Malala and her cause once again. 14 young female students were massacred as a bus taking them home from university in Quetta, in western Pakistan, was blown up by extremist militants.
On July 12 – less than a year after she was attacked – Malala will mark her 16th birthday by speaking at the UN. She’ll be delivering to the highest leadership of the UN a set of education demands written for youth, by youth.
Join in uniting for Malala – and for girls’ education – once again.
Bangladeshi soldiers use earth mover during rescue operation at site of factory collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013. At least 161 people were killed. / AP
Statement from Labour Behind the Label:
Labour Behind the Label today mourns the senseless loss of life, after an 8 story building in Savar, Bangladesh housing 3 clothing factories collapsed this morning (24.4.13). Over 82 workers [now known to be at least 161 -JD] were killed in the wreckage and 800 people injured, with the death toll set to rise as further bodies are found. Labour rights groups and trade unions in Bangladesh and internationally are calling for immediate action from international brands following the collapse.
The building contained 3 separate clothing factories, which locals say housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including C&A, Matalan and Wal-Mart.
This collapse follows the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. The speed of the garment industry expansion in the Savar area is an ongoing and pressing concern. Savar, just outside of Dhaka, has seen significant growth in garment factories in recent times, with factories being built on swamp land and without proper building regulations in place. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.
“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,” says Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label.
She adds: “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But shortly they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, will be without income and without support. Compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”
Labour Behind the Label is calling upon all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign the ‘Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement’ immediately to stop future tragedies from happening. The Clean Clothes Campaign, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations, has developed this sector-wide program that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. This transparent and practical agreement is unique in that it is supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.
Note to political cartoonists: time to revisit and update this:
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” -Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution
Whatever the merits of such notions about personal and national security (they are, to say the least, highly questionable in this day and age), it is important to note that the only kind of militia the Second Amendment expressly regards as consistent with security is a “well-regulated” militia. One may rationally and reasonably conclude that this applies both to an organized militia and an unorganized one. Otherwise, an armed citizenry consisting of men and women using guns for presumed high purpose according to their respective dictates of personal whim and political fancy is the stuff from which anarchy could result, and in turn the tyranny against which the private possession of guns is supposed to protect Americans.
The right to keep and bear arms (a term that connotes a military purpose) stems from the English common law right of self-defense. However, the possession of guns in the mother country of the common law was never an absolute right. Various conditions were imposed. Britain today has one of the strictest gun laws in the world.
There is nothing absolute about the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is not freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is not freedom to have multiple spouses, or sacrifice a lamb in the local park, as religiously sanctioned practices. Similarly, whatever right the Second Amendment protects regarding the private possession of guns, for whatever definition of “militia,” is not an absolute right. It must serve the overall public interest, including (from the preamble of the US Constitution) the need to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Whatever right there is to possess firearms is no less important than the right of every American, gun owners included, to protection against the possession of guns by persons who by any reasonable standard lack the crucial credentials for responsible gun ownership.
– From a 1977 article by David J.Steinberg, Executive Director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms Policy: “Does The Second Amendment Mean What It Says?”
– Socialists debate gun control here: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/4681
Some good news for the Chinese working class: Hu Mingjun is about to be released.
But with so much of the contemporary “left” noticeably keen on China (either as the inevitable future world superpower, or as the only realistic alternative to Western ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism), it’s important to remember that it is a highly repressive, anti-working class state-capitalist regime. The following is from
Hu was one of the leaders of the Sichuan provincial branch of the banned China Democratic Party. He was detained by police in early 2001 after offering to help striking workers at the Dazhou Steel Mill in Sichuan. Around 1,000 workers at the plant had earlier organised a mass protest demanding the payment of overdue wages.
Hu was initially charged with “incitement to subvert state power” but the charges were subsequently increased to “subversion.” Hu was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment by the Dazhou Intermediate People’s Court in May 2002.
Hu’s mother told Human Rights in China that after his detention, the family heard nothing from the authorities until months after his trial. She said, “We did not know that he had been sentenced to 11 years until August or September 2002, when the police brought the verdict to his father in a hospital room to get his signature. His father said, ‘I won’t be able to see my son again.’ He passed away a few months later.” She said that Hu Mingjun was suffering from frequent chest pains and nausea, and would faint from the smell of cigarette smoke. According to her, when Hu applied for permission to get a check-up in a hospital outside the prison, it took two or three years before he got the approval. The exam showed that his left ventricle was enlarged and he has needed medications ever since.
Hu was one several activists sentenced to long prison terms in the early 2000s for their role in helping workers seek redress for rights violations during the mass restructuring of state-owned enterprises at the time.
Courtesy of the Torygraph (believe it or not): here are the proposals (drawn up at Cameron’s request by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist, in conjunction with government officials and lawyers), for mor or less doing away with an employee’s right to claim unfair dismissal. This comes on top of the already enacted increase in the qualifying period of an employee’s service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim, from one year to two.
We’re told that Vince Cable the Lib Dems are resisting these proposals, but we all know what their “resistance” is worth.
Beecroft comments on unfair dismissal:
Four approaches are possible. First, the whole concept of unfair dismissal where discrimination is not involved could be removed from UK law (apart from a few provisions where employees are protected from dismissal under the EU-derived rights under the Working Time Directive, Fixed Term/Part Time Directives and T.U.P.E). There is no EU concept of “unfair” non-discriminatory dismissal, so there are no other EU constraints on what the UK can do in this area. Second, the period within which an employee can be dismissed without being able to claim unfair dismissal could be extended beyond two years. The exact period might depend on the size of the business concerned. A longer period could be allowed for smaller businesses that find the specialised processes for dealing with unfair dismissal harder to understand and follow than do larger businesses which can justify employing an HR specialist. Third, the process for proving that an employee is no longer up to the job could be streamlined. The burden of proff on the employer could be reduced, making it harder for the employee to cliam to a tribunal that the process was flawed. Reducing the burden of proof would also address the problem of employees that dismissal was for discriminatory reasons rather than performance reasons since if it is easier to prove that dismissal was for underperformance it is harder to say that it was for discriminatory reasons. The steps currently proposed to change the system, including the obligation to suggest ACAS conciliation, fees for employees starting the employment tribunal process and greater use of cost orders for frivolous complaints are all sensible steps in the right direction.
However if it is felt to be politically unacceptable to simply do away with the concept of unfair dismissal I strongly favour a fourth approach which allows an employer to dismiss anyone without giving a reason provided they make an enhanced leaving payment. New legislation would precribe that it is not unfair dismissal if the employer simply states that he is not happy with the employee’s performance and then consults, gives notice and pays a defined level of compensation linked to the employee’s salary and length of service. I am proposing for two reasons that the compensation should be that speicified in redundancy situations. First, these will typically be higher than those specified in the employee’s contract of employment, thus providing compensation for the no fault nature of the dismissal. Second, if the payments were different from redundancy payments there would be financial incentives for game playing as to which sort of dismissal was chosen. This type of dismissal could be known as Compensated No Fault Dismissal.
As well as this attack on the right to claim unfair dismissal, Beecroft also proposes:
• Delaying laws which will force companies to provide pensions for their workers from this autumn. The report states: “It is unclear why introducing from 2012 a measure that will costs employers £6 billion per year, individuals £7 billion per year and government £2 billion per year is sensible in the current economic climate”.
• Stopping the planned spread of flexible working to allow all employees to request changes to their standard working week. It recommends a new voluntary code of conduct rather than laws.
• A watering down of the TUPE rules that mean that a supplier taking over another’s firm’s contract and workers must respect the existing terms of employment for workers. This is a particular issue when private firms take over roles previously conducted by the public sector.
• Scrapping plans for firms to introduce equal pay audits.
• Allowing larger firms to make so-called “collective” redundancies where more than 100 workers are dismissed with only 30 days notice. This notice period is currently only available for smaller firms, which means that larger firms have to pay people an extra 60 days worth of wages.
• A new online immigration system which allows employers to check a potential worker’s legal employment status. At the moment, firms have to keep paper records for up to two years after an employee has left.
• “A modest amount of one-off work by the Home Office…would eliminate any risk of well-meaning employers fearing or facing prosecution for honest mistakes,” the report suggests.