NUJ: Murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia must be investigated

October 18, 2017 at 5:03 pm (assassination, blogging, campaigning, corruption, crime, Europe, journalism, media, posted by JD, unions)

Statement from the National Union of Journalists (UK):

The NUJ joined the European and International Federations of Journalists in condemning the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb on 16 October in the town of Bidnija, near her family home.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed
© Running Commnentary

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was known for her investigative journalism and her blog Running Commentary, which was one of the most widely read websites in Malta.

The journalist had been sued many times for her blog posts in which she revealed several corruption scandals involving Maltese politicians. In 2016, she was named by Politico as one of “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe”, after being the first to break news of Maltese politicians’ involvement in the Panama Papers leak.

In February this year, The EFJ denounced the freezing of her bank accounts and libel suits filed against her by Maltese economy minister and his consultant, following a report revealing that both men visited a brothel during an official trip in Germany.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ president, said:

“We are appalled by yet another killed journalist in Europe. This killing and its circumstances must be swiftly and thoroughly investigated. It reminds us that the safety of journalists must still be considered a priority in the European Union.”

According to a media report, Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a police report 15 days ago saying she was being threatened.

Tweet Justice for Daphne at  #DaphneCaruana

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Clarion: review of Labour conference 2017

October 4, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Brexit, campaigning, Cuts, democracy, Europe, health service, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, unions)

The world (partly) transformed:

By Maisie Sanders (Lewisham Deptford youth delegate, pc) and Sacha Ismail (Clarion editor)

Lots of people have been saying that Labour Party conference was a huge step forward for the left. They are right, as long as you add that there is a lot of work now to do and that it won’t happen automatically or through just pushing further down the same road.

There were many more delegates, something like 1,200, and they were much more left-wing, with a clear majority of Corbyn-supporters. Apparently 13,000 people attended some meeting to do with the conference – the conference itself, official fringes, The World Transformed and other fringe events.

The average delegate or observer was much more “scruffy” than in previous years – lots of people with badges, etc, many of them young. Of course many Clarion supporters and people we know were delegates. Getting into discussions, selling the magazine (the conference special we produced as well as issue 9) and promoting left-wing causes was easy. With determined effort but not back-breaking exertion comrades collected £1,370 for the Picturehouse strike fund.

The Clarion supported and our editor Rida Vaquas spoke at a packed fringe meeting about fighting unjust expulsions and suspensions put on by Stop the Labour Purge. We held a joint social and produced a bulletin with Red Labour supporters

Anecdotal evidence as well as reports in the press suggest that the Labour right is extremely demoralised. Many MPs and members of the House of Lords did not even bother to attend the conference.

Moreover we are seeing the beginnings of a living Labour Party democracy again.

Things in Brighton were in many ways wonderful, but at the same time a mixed bag, reflecting the wider situation on the left. The atmosphere was sometimes celebratory to the point of being unthinking – one minute conference was cheering calls for dismantling the border regime, the next minute cheering Mi5 and Mi6 (literally). The conference was a mix of left-wing and stroppy and a bit back-slapping, uncritical and “follow your leader”. Thus:

• More time had been allocated to policy discussion, with pointless external speakers eliminated and speeches from shadows ministers, etc, squeezed. To some degree this time was used well. There was some interesting and inspiring discussion and contributions. More left-wing motions got submitted and passed – on the NHS, on the right to strike, on housing and other issues. On three occasions (over stopping and reversing benefit cuts, NHS privatisation and democratic control of schools) delegates used their newly established right to say that bits of the National Policy Forum reports were not left-wing enough and refer them back.

• A clear majority of CLP delegates voted to reject the Conference Arrangements Committee report after complaints about virtually all emergency motions being ruled out of order (though the CAC was saved by the union vote). Even the finance report caused a delegate to get up and ask how much is being spent on the Compliance Unit!

• The bulk of the motion promoted by The Clarion on trade union rights made it through compositing, with the result that the conference voted unanimously for a strong position on workers’ rights, including support for the Picturehouse, McDonald’s and other strikes and the demand to repeal the 1980s/90s Tory anti-union laws. That is a major advance. Momentum NHS did something similar with policy on the health service.

• Hots on the heels of the left’s victory in the Conference Arrangements Committee elections, left candidates Anna Dyer and Emine Ibrahim easily won the elections for places on the National Constitutional Committee (which are elected by conference). This could potentially be important in raising, stopping and reversing unjust expulsions and suspensions of left activists.

• The two democratic rule changes proposed by the National Executive Committee – to expand the number of elected members’ representatives on the NEC from six to nine, to reduce the nomination threshold for leader from 15 to 10pc of the parliamentary party, both passed easily with little fuss. (So did the rule change on dealing with racist, anti-semitic, etc, behaviour.)

• Corbyn, McDonnell and other’s speeches were more left-wing than previously, for instance in terms of cancelling PFI contracts and supporting strikes (though not without ambiguity).

However:

• Delegates voted, at the instigation of Momentum and CLPD, to deny themselves the right to discuss Brexit and stand up for free movement. In some ways this discipline and ability to totally dominate the conference agenda was impressive – but it was also a total abdication of responsibility. In keeping these issues off the agenda, the “official” left did exactly what the right did last year! It would be interesting to know who made the decision that Momentum opposed discussing Brexit.

• Despite an increased number, there were relatively few motions on the agenda. That is in large part because of the procedural barriers to doing it, including large numbers ruled out. However it also seems to reflect relative lack of interest among some left activists (and certainly a lack of leadership from Momentum – see below).

• Some delegates seemed more comfortable making speeches about themselves, their experience, how bad the Tories are, how great Jeremy Corbyn is than about the motions on the agenda or specific ideas, issues and demands (to be fair, the way the conference is still organised, with many motions discussed at once, leant itself to this).

• Leading figures seemed not bothered about what is passed or not passed. At the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom fringe meeting, for instance, not a single speaker mention the motion on union rights going to conference that afternoon. A shadow minister said at the same meeting that he supports the right to solidarity strikes but it is not party policy – when in fact it was passed unanimously in 2015.

• As a result of the NEC’s call, all democratic rule changes except the ones the NEC had proposed were remitted to the forthcoming democracy review. The exception was a rule change from Brighton Pavilion on removing the need for motions to refer to “contemporary” events – the CLP’s delegates did not not accept remission and instead it was voted down. Not exactly a model of bottom-up democratisation and a stalling of the pace of reform…

The Momentum office’s role in the conference was mixed. It was more together than last year, when they had almost no intervention at all. In justice it must be said that Momentum played an important role in some of the successes described above – for instance the left victory in the NCC election and organising delegates to refer back sections of the NPF report. But again, with the exception of Momentum NHS, which is an autonomous campaign with a different political bent, they seem to have got no motions submitted and discouraged discussion of motions in their pre-conference delegates meet ups (and did not discuss it publicly anywhere else); they did not help delegates caucus and discuss, with even the daily briefings promised not seeming to materialise; and they actively prevented discussion on migrants’ rights.

Mobilising people to attend and linking them up to an app telling them how to vote is good, but no substitute for democratic organisation and serious political discussion and intervention.

The World Transformed fringe featured many interesting and useful sessions and speakers, with some real highlights, as well as showcasing many important struggles. Once again its team should be congratulated for a good event. But there were some rather glaring and it seems politically-determined gaps – what we should advocate about Labour council and cuts, for instance, and the Russian Revolution! Some of the sessions would have benefited from having more left-wing grassroots activists and fewer medium-sized names who just waffled generalities.

So, real and enormous progress, but a lot more to change to achieve even quite limited goals in terms of reviving the labour movement, let alone socialist advance. In particular:

We need a wide-ranging discussion and a big fight around democratic reforms, with the fundamental aim of a sovereign conference. The review announced by the NEC should be approached positively but not trusted. There is a real danger that it will be tightly controlled by the leadership and the big unions, with more radical proposals excluded and thus made much more difficult to pass at conference. As part of democratisation, we need a renewed fight to prevent further expulsions and suspensions, reinstate expelled and suspended comrades and create a transparent, accountable disciplinary and membership system.

We also need to push the new, left-led CAC for much more immediate and easier reforms to how conference itself functions – basic things like clear standing orders, motions being published in advance, speeches for and against, proposers getting a chance to respond.

We need a focus on policy. Clearly the leadership is becoming bolder, but before you get to the much wider questions of how to challenge capitalism or even “big” policy problems like ownership of the banks and free movement, there are still numerous gaps and inadequacies. On union rights, the NHS, social care, council housing, public sector pay and more, either the policy passed is not adequate or there is evidence it will be at least partially ignored or softened. This is not a matter of denunciation or nitpicking, but of applying pressure and seeking to firm up and develop things. Again, we need to insist that it should be conference that decides what Labour Policy is.

We need a serious discussion about what Labour councils should do to fight the funding cuts which are now reaching crisis level.

We need to build constituency-level Young Labour groups and campus Labour Clubs as vibrant centres of discussion and campaigning. There was almost nothing about this at the conference, except what Clarion supporters raised.

We need to mobilise the party, at every level, to actively support workers’ struggles, linking this to Labour policies for higher wages, security at work and, now, abolishing the anti-union laws.

Let us know what you think. Write a reply here at Shiraz and/or at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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The Brexit hypocrisy of Labour’s ‘moderates’

September 27, 2017 at 8:23 am (democracy, Europe, labour party, left, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism, unions)

From The Clarion:

By Rick Parnet

Leading people on the right or self-styled “moderate”* wing of the Labour Party are making a fuss about Momentum, in defence of the leadership, keeping the Brexit/free movement debate off this week’s conference agenda.

It is understandable why left-wing delegates who did not want Corbyn to suffer a defeat went for this, but Momentum (and CLPD) were wrong to do it, both because the issues of Brexit and migrants’ rights are so important (and the leadership needs correcting on them) and because conference has been denied the opportunity to debate this hugely important issue (sure, with its own consent). Left-wing activists should organise to call those who made this decision to account and challenge them politically.

However, it would be foolish to think that most of the leading “moderates” are either genuinely concerned for party democracy or sincere and consistent on the issues. On both most of them display large elements of anti-Corbyn opportunism. (What I describe here largely concerns the leading people on the right, not necessarily everyone sympathetic to some of the things they say, especially on this issue.)

Dominating the conference till this year, the right specialised in keeping controversial issues it feared losing on off the agenda – and by far less democratic methods than winning a prioritisation vote. In fact, even this year, the out-going, right wing-led Conference Arrangements Committee has ruled out numerous motions – on nationalising the banks, for instance, and on stopping arms sales and military support for Saudi Arabia. It ruled out 24 of 26 emergency motions, including all 23 from CLPs – and, please note, TSSA’s emergency motion on Brexit and free movement.

Much of the left leadership’s record on democracy (for instance in Momentum) is poor, but the idea that we need lessons from those who have spent thirty years attempting to suppress every spark of independent life in the Labour Party and labour movement – and are continuing to do so, though with less and less success – is absurd.

On the substantive issues too, people on all sides have short memories.

It was only last year that the right, then much more in control of the conference, worked to keep Brexit and freedom of movement off the agenda, because it feared that delegates would vote to defend free movement! Like Momentum and CLPD this year with eg rail, last year the right championed the uncontroversial issue of child refugees – helpfully put in a different subject area by the CAC – precisely in order to stop free movement being discussed.

This was when Jeremy Corbyn was still standing tough in defence of free movement – before he gave in, after many months of right-wing and Stalinist and media pressure and with no support from Momentum as its office, directed by Jon Lansman, ignored its democratically agreed policy.

Remember the arguments during last year’s leadership election and still being made now – that Corbyn was “soft on immigration” and so couldn’t appeal to “working-class voters”. No doubt many “moderates” genuinely believe in migrants’ rights and are happy to take a more liberal position. But the idea that their leaders are consistent advocates or reliable allies in this struggle is wrong. Note that their motions for conference on the single market did not mention migrants’ rights or free movement (unlike the motions from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement). The right pitched these issues only when they wanted to appeal to people on the left.

In the coming arguments it would be absurd to rule out temporary and limited tactical alliances with people on the right of the party who are willing to stand up for free movement. But the left needs to maintain fierce independence and hostility at all times, including by exposing the right-wing leaders’ real record and motives, and to seek to take the lead in this fight.

* Apparently we are no longer allowed to say “the right” because it offends people. On one level I don’t care what we call them. But

i) Whinging about being called “the right” (which clearly means the right of the Labour Party), from people engaged in a determined campaign of name-calling, lying, cheating, bullying, expulsions, etc, is a bit rich.

ii) Their conduct is far from “moderate” and so are many of the positions they spent years defending, ie privatisation, PFI, growing inequality, “flexible labour markets”, etc – not to mention migrant-bashing – under Blair. I am proud to be “extreme left”, but what the Labour right have promoted and are still reluctant to break from is not moderate social democracy but a fairly extreme version of neo-liberalism.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply btl here at Shiraz and/or at  theclarionmag@gmail.com

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Brum bin workers win first round against redundancy plans – council humiliated

September 21, 2017 at 9:04 pm (Brum, campaigning, Cuts, Jim D, labour party, Liverpool, Socialist Party, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

 Len McCluskey addresses solidarity rally last Sunday (Image: Birmingham Mail)

Refuse workers in Birmingham are celebrating a major victory and Unite has suspended strike action after a high court judge issued an interim injunction to block redundancy notices sent out by the Labour council.

A full court case in November will rule on the underlying legal dispute over the council’s bid to shed staff and change working patterns.

Workers who attended the two-day hearing hailing the ruling as “fantastic” and a “massive victory”.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said the ruling left the council’s “unfair and unjust plans in tatters”.

Beckett said: “This judgment will be a huge relief to Birmingham’s bin workers, who in just a matter of weeks were facing losing their job or pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year.

“As part of the ruling, Unite will suspend its industrial action until the matter is put before a full court hearing at a later date.”

The union also repeated calls for Stella Manzie, the council’s chief executive, to resign. This follows an deal reached on August 16 at ACAS between the council’s then-leader, John Clancy, and Unite. As a result, the union then suspended strike action and issued a statement saying plans to abolish 120 grade 3 (supervision) jobs had been dropped, and no redundancies would take place.

Then, out of the blue, the agreement broke down with council leader Clancy even trying to make out that there never had been a deal – a bare-faced lie that ACAS publicly disputed. As a result, Clancy was forced to resign as leader of the council

To be clear, the pressure on Clancy from fellow Labour councillors was not for having reneged on the deal, but for having reached it in the first place. It has also became apparent that the driving force behind aborting the deal was interim chief executive Manzie, a bureaucrat with a long record of driving through cuts at various local authorities: at the high court, Mr Justice Fraser read out an email sent on 15 August from Manzie to Clancy saying the council could not look weak and “as if it’s being walked over”.

Referring to the dispute between Clancy and Manzie, Fraser said: “Neither party comes out of this sorry saga with any credit at all – I could use the words remarkable, extraordinary and more.”

It seems that one of Manzie’s arguments against Clancy was that the deal would open up the council to a wave of equal pay claims – something that Unite’s legal team strongly disputes. Howard Becket says that the equal pay issue was not put to Unite by Manzie’s legal team during discussions and it was not raised by the council during the high court hearing.

Immediately following the council’s repudiation of the ACAS deal, redundancy notices were issued to 113 grade 3 workers – a provocative move that resulted in Unite’s successful high court action.

Unite is confident of winning at the full court hearing in November, but there can be no doubt that the refuse workers (who voted 94% in favour of resuming their strike after the ACAS deal broke down) are prepared to return to the picket lines if it proves necessary.

A relatively minor, but politically interesting, aspect of the dispute has been the stance of the Socialist Party (SP). They have been commendably active in their support for the workers, but noticeably embarrassed over the council’s issuing of redundancy notices. After all, this was exactly what the SP’s forerunner, Militant, did when they ran Liverpool council in 1985.

The SP has always proclaimed Liverpool council’s record to have been exemplary and refused to countenance any criticism of the decision to issue redundancy notices – until now. In an attempt to explain the difference between Liverpool council issuing redundancy notices in 1985, and Birmingham doing exactly the same in 2017, the SP now describes the Liverpool decision as “a mistaken tactic to buy time”. However, it was OK really because:

“[T]he council made clear to the workforce that not one single worker was to be made redundant – and none were”.

The trouble with this excuse is that Birmingham council are saying pretty much the same thing:

None of the Grade 3 leading hands who are being made redundant need to lose their jobs with the council. Alternative Grade 3 posts, at the same salary in other parts of the council, are available for all those affected leading hands. No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay”.

So perhaps a minor, but valuable, by-product of the dispute will be to force the comrades of the SP to make an honest re-assessment of their own tendency’s record when it ran Liverpool council.

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Brexit bonfire of workers’ rights

September 12, 2017 at 9:36 am (Anti-Racism, campaigning, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, Migrants, posted by JD, scotland, solidarity, TUC, unions, workers)

 


Published in the Morning Star, Saturday 9th Sep 2017
As Brexit moves closer to Brexit, protecting workers’ rights must be foremost in our minds, says LARRY FLANAGAN

AS THE reality of Brexit moves ever closer, concern continues to grow within the trade union movement about the implications for employee rights.

With many of the rights and protections afforded to workers in this country deriving from EU legislation, questions arise about what will change once the UK is no longer bound by European directives.

Little comfort is gained from Tory government claims that its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will seamlessly repeal EU laws and replace them with new versions which will become incorporated into UK statute.

Recent experience of other prominent attempts to simultaneously “repeal and replace” major pieces of legislation suggests that the loss of binding EU commitments will place many aspects of employment law at risk, subject to the political whims of government.

Post-Brexit, important gains in employee rights — such as health and safety protections, rights for temporary workers and paid maternity and paternity leave — are ripe for attack by right-wing politicians.

Britain has not always been at the forefront of initiatives to improve employment protections, particularly in comparison with the rest of Europe, so it is difficult to see an emboldened political right suddenly changing tack once EU safeguards are removed.

Britain has long had some of the most obstructive anti-trade union laws in Europe, and the obstacles facing unions grew even more daunting with the Tory government’s 2016 Trade Union Reform Act.

This highly restrictive Act, disingenuously portrayed by the right as a progressive piece of reform, is a politically motivated attack on the ability of employees to campaign through their unions.

In the context of Brexit and the Westminster government’s attack on trade unions through the Trade Union Act, it is essential that unions organise and that members are fully informed and engaged in the work of their own union.

The Educational Institute of Scotland will shortly launch a ballot on the renewal of its political fund — another restrictive aspect of British trade union law that obliges all unions which wish to campaign, on any political issue, to operate a distinct fund for the purpose and to ballot on its retention every 10 years.

Given the current political climate, union campaigning is perhaps more important than at any time this century so it is vital that the EIS, and other unions, maintain this political campaigning role. One slightly unexpected positive of the government’s Trade Union Act is that it has placed a spotlight on the value of unions, led by an active membership base, in protecting employee rights.

Although the government’s intent was to weaken union effectiveness, the legislation has provided a jolt and reminded members of the importance of being active in their union.

A key issue for the movement must be the rights of people from other EU countries who have chosen to come to live and work in Britain.

These continue to be at risk as a result of Brexit, despite some attempts to assuage concerns on this issue.

It is deeply distressing that many people who have chosen to make Britain their home, and who have made a positive contribution to many aspects of society, are being treated as pawns in political posturing and Brexit-induced haggling.

The fact is that many of these workers are fulfilling vital roles in our society and in our economy, including in our public services such as health and education, and do not deserve to be treated in this way by our government and demonised as they are by many in the tabloid media.

From the perspective of Scotland, migration is essential to the future economic prosperity of the country.

This year’s Trade Union Congress provides an important forum for unions and members to work together to stand up for employee rights, and to send a message that we will continue to fight for our members in the run-up to Brexit and beyond.

  • Larry Flanagan is general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

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Musicians must be free to travel in Europe

September 11, 2017 at 7:40 am (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, culture, Europe, Human rights, internationalism, music, posted by JD, unions, workers)


published in the Morning Star

Saturday 9th Sept 2017

Freedom of movement in Europe is a vital concern for performers who tour, writes HORACE TRUBRIDGE


THE fact that most unions here at the TUC Conference have put forward motions on Brexit shows just how important the issue of leaving the EU is to workers.

At the Musicians’ Union (MU), we have some very specific concerns that go right to the heart of what our members do and how they work.

Most professional musicians and performers rely on touring and travelling as part of their careers. Many of the MU’s 30,000 members work in Europe either on a freelance basis with orchestras, touring as an individual or group or working for theatre producers or orchestras on touring productions.

Some performers can be working in several different European countries over the course of a few days, and gigs or tours are sometimes arranged at very short notice, so the possible introduction of work permissions and/or visas for British performers touring and working in Europe could be extremely detrimental. Individuals without representation or financial backing are likely to struggle the most with the extra costs and admin that this might entail.

The vote to leave the EU is already having an impact in this area: the European Union Baroque Orchestra has already left the UK for Antwerp, in part due to concerns over restricted freedom of movement for working musicians.

In a post-Brexit Europe will a European festival find it easier to give the gig to a French band rather than a British band? That is my fear.

The MU is campaigning for reciprocal free movement for musicians and performers across the EU’s 27 member states, in the form of an exemption from visa and work permit rules for performers.

Over the past couple of months, we have been asking MPs and peers to sign up to a pledge — to ensure that professional musicians and performers continue to be able to travel easily across Europe post-Brexit for time-limited activities such as touring and performing with minimum administrative burdens.

To date, more than 80 MPs and peers have signed up to our pledge and we will be working with them to help ensure that musicians continue to be able to do their jobs post-Brexit.

Of course freedom of movement is not the only concern that we have associated with Brexit. The majority of copyright law that protects performers’ rights is enshrined in European law, and although we have had assurances that the government does not intend to reduce copyright protections post-Brexit, there are as yet no guarantees on that front.

Equally, the arts currently receive a great deal of funding from the EU. The loss of European Social Funds for arts organisations is going to hit particularly hard.

There are a number of regional music organisations that have been sustained by European Social Funding (ESF) that will see that money cease with very little chance of the shortfall being picked up by local authorities or central government.

During 2014-2020, the ESF and European Regional Development Fund were due to invest around €11.8 billion across the UK. How much of that money we will still receive remains to be seen.

The MU was vehemently against Brexit right from the start, not just for the reasons I have listed so far, but because Brexit threatens the whole culture of our country.

Music, and the performing arts more generally, rely on exchange of ideas and interaction between performers of different nationalities. Music flourishes in an open world with no borders — not a closed-off island that looks inward on itself.

Many of our members are themselves European citizens who have chosen to base themselves in Britain. They contribute massively to the culture and the economic success of our country. What does the future hold for them?

I haven’t even touched on the more general concerns about workers’ rights that we share with our brothers and sisters from other unions; concerns which I am sure will be discussed at length over the course of this conference.

The future looks bleak. And at the MU we would dearly love to see more MPs fighting against what most seem to have accepted as an inevitability. But musicians have faced many great challenges in the past, and we will meet this one just the same. My only hope is that we are able to reach an agreement that does not leave musicians, and the culture of our country, poorer.

  • Horace Trubridge is general secretary of the Musicians’ Union.

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Patriotic, pro-Tory Morning Star obliged to publish anti-Brexit views … to keep afloat

September 10, 2017 at 8:57 pm (Anti-Racism, CPB, Europe, immigration, Migrants, nationalism, posted by JD, unions, workers)


The lineup’s changed a bit since 1975, but the Morning Star/CPB remain staunchly little-England

After having backed the Tories against Labour over Brexit, and siding with David Davis against the foreign menace, it must have come hard for the loyal, patriotic and thoroughly nationalist Morning Star (second only to the Daily Mail in anti-European fervour), to have to publish some pieces opposing Brexit.

But the Morning Star’s difficulty is that, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it depends upon the union bureaucracy to keep afloat: and that means publishing what they say, even when it goes against the patriotic stance of the Morning Star‘s political masters, the Communist Party of Britain, which hates Europe and all things European.

So, in Saturday’s Morning Star there were four pieces by union leaders (Horace Trubridge of the MU, Larry Flanagan of the EIS, Manuel Cortes of the TSSA, and Gail Cartmail of Unite), all of which oppose Brexit.

I’m sure the Morning Star won’t mind us republishing their articles, starting with Manual Cortes‘s:

If we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people, says MANUEL CORTES


BREXIT ain’t the route to socialism in one country. Still less to world revolution. Disagreements over the best option for our class has split sections of the left since the referendum was announced.

Sadly, many have been slow to get to grips with the realpolitik, continuing to rehash the 1970s anti-joining positions without much regard for how 30 years of neoliberalism have changed the balance of forces for our side.

Those who thought that the referendum outcome would be Remain weren’t the only ones who failed to anticipate the Leave vote.

Neither did Nigel Farage or the three muppeteers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox, who are committing political hara-kiri on Britain’s behalf on a daily basis.

The trouble is, if we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people.

Just like when Labour helped to prosecute the war with Iraq, we must oppose Tory Brexit because it’s “not in our name.”

Our union was resolutely in favour of remaining. Not because the EU offers any road to a socialist nirvana. But because we feared, rightly, that in Tory hands, Brexit would do more harm than good to working people.

Handing the Tories carte blanche for Brexit and subsequent trade deals is like TTIP on steroids, which ain’t good class politics. Not for ours, anyway.

From the perspective of TSSA members working on Eurostar, acquiescing to Tory plans to restrict free movement is to conspire with those in the boss class who seek to divide worker from worker by accident of birth.

Socialists shouldn’t be resurrecting borders that lock workers out of Britain or, for that matter, confine ours to our soil. Never mind one that could reignite a volatile situation in Ireland where our union organises workers from Cork to Belfast.

Looking at restricting free movement is already damaging our living standards and public services as EU citizen workers head elsewhere.

It is a sad fact that some of the people most concerned about immigration — those left behind by globalisation — are the first to be impacted by the flight of EU workers.

In less than a year the rate of EU nurses coming to work in the UK has fallen from 1,304 to just 46 this April.

The Health Foundation said there was a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone, adding that the NHS could not afford such a drop.

Last year we hosted some 85,000 seasonal workers through the autumn but now fruit is already withering on the vine and the price of homegrown produce is rising because 26,000 fewer agricultural workers are coming from eastern Europe.

Recruitment agencies report being hard-pressed to come up with half that number for this coming season.

The University and College Union is worried about the impact in education. Short-term employment contracts already make higher education a precarious employer so EU nationals, uncertain about their settlement rights, are now choosing to work elsewhere in Europe. Care homes are also in recruitment crisis and unable to access the labour force needed for our old folk.

Brexit is an economic disaster in the making as inflation is already rising and real wages are falling.

Worse is yet to come if we end up having to import even more food if there aren’t enough workers to pick and process food on our shores. And a Tory dog-eat-dog immigration policy will simply let the forces of reaction triumph. Building on the For The Many pledges in Labour’s 2017 manifesto we must continue to signal Labour’s route map to a new economic settlement which ensures noone is left behind.

Let’s put down those shameful “immigration control” mugs and refuse to let migrants be the scapegoats for the many ills we are facing.

The Tories’ “post-Brexit” plans for immigration will make our country poorer and even more divided. Wages will go further down because as the TUC has already warned, “illegal immigration” will rise, leaving more workers with no rights and no minimum wage.

Tory Brexit cheerleaders want to create a US-style labour market, where millions of so-called “illegals” toil hard to keep the biggest economy in the world motoring.

They have no rights and the fear of deportation means they can’t take on their bosses. The authorities pretend to clamp down, but in effect they turn a blind eye as the US economy will collapse without them. This is illegality by design which only benefits the bosses.

Morning Star readers know that the Tories really don’t give a monkey’s about immigration provided it gives capital a pool of cheap labour to boost their profits.

So far they have partly achieved this through deregulating our labour market. Brexit is them seizing their opportunity to create an underground economy in which workers don’t stand up to bosses because the penalty is deportation.

It’s time to call the Tories out on their intentions. Their leaked immigration policy, though a dogwhistle for xenophobes, is clearly in the economic interests of capital. Time now to stop shadow boxing and get stuck in.

The antidote to the Tories’ freemarket craziness is not restriction of free movement but an end to workers’ exploitation through labour market regulation, a living wage of at least £10 an hour and a trade union in every workplace.

The Tories seek to divide us. Our job is to create unity and build on Marx’s original vision of a world without borders where workers of all lands unite!

  • Manuel Cortes is general secretary of transport union TSSA.

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Defend Reza Shahabi and all detained Iranian trade unionists

September 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm (Human rights, Iran, LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, thuggery, unions, workers)

The following report is based upon information received from the Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign, dating from 31 August 2017. Presumably, the situation will now be even worse:

After 24 days on hunger strike Reza Shahabi’s health is deteriorating. His condition is now said to be serious.

Reza Shahabi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company, was ordered to return to prison on August 8th. According to a report by this trade union, Mr Shahabi began his hunger strike protest on August 8th as he entered Rejai Shahr prison in Karaj. He is protesting about the legality of his case and prison conditions.

On August 12th the Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company issued a statement regarding the return of Reza Shahabi to prison, saying that the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office acted against the law in not considering Reza’s medical leave as part of serving his sentence and also building a made-up case against him while he was in prison. As a result this labour activist has been sentenced to a further year in prison: “Even though medical leave is counted as part of a prison term, the Prosecutor’s Office is considering this jailed toiling worker’s five months’ medical leave, which had been approved by the medical authorities previously, as absence. In addition, while serving his prison term, through building a made-up case, the court sentenced Shahabi to a further year’s imprisonment to follow immediately after the previous conviction and Shahabi must be held in prison for another year and five months, until January 8th 2019.”

Reza Shahabi is now said to be suffering from numbness in various parts of his body. According to reports, in recent days, due to the increased physical and psychological pressures of the hunger strike, he is losing, or has lost, sensitivity in his left side. This problem is more pronounced in the fingers of his left hand.

According to the prison infirmary, where Mr Shahabi was examined during recent days, his loss of sensitivity needs to be examined by a specialist. Rejai Shahr prison neither has any doctor with this specialism nor have any steps been taken to take him to a health centre outside the prison.

Reza Shahabi is part of a large number of political prisoners in Rejai Shahr who are on hunger strike as a protest against conditions inside this notorious jail. Other hunger strikes whose health is deteriorating include: Saeed Masouri, Saeed Shirzad, Shahin Zoghitabar, Reza Akbari Mofared, Abolghasem Fouladvand, Hassan Sadeghi, Mohammad Nazari, Payam Shakiba, Mohammad Banazadeh, Amir Khizi and Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri.

Already many labour organisations have supported Reza Shahabi and demanded his release. These include five French trade unions and confederations: Confédération générale du travail (CGT), Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT), Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes (UNSA), Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques (SUD) and Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU).

The International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF) has also demanded that Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Madadi, a fellow Vahed activist, be released.

Free all jailed workers and labour activists now!

Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign
31 August 2017

Source: Harana News Agency and Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company

Add your name to Labourstart‘s campaign, here

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Labour must help McDonalds workers win!

September 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm (campaigning, Human rights, labour party, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers, youth)

By Maisie Sanders (Lewisham Young Labour) and Gareth Lane (Bakers’ Union) at The Clarion

On 4 September, McDonalds’s workers in the UK will go on strike for the first time.They are striking for £10 an hour, secure contracts with guaranteed hours and union recognition.

Forty members of the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers’ Union at McDonald’s branches in Cambridge and Crayford in South East London have voted to strike for these demands, as well as grievances over bullying of union activists by management — with over 95% in favour.

Labour, committed to scrap zero hours contracts and a £10 an hour minimum wage, must rally round the strike and help spread its example.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have both said they support the strike and will be there on 4 September. Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner has pledged to join the picket line and other MPs have stated support, including former McDonald’s worker Laura Pidcock of North West Durham. But we need more, from the whole party and labour movement.

According to Cambridge McDonald’s workers, a third of workers there have recently had their hours cut without warning, leaving many unable to pay their rent. As Tom Halliday, a Cambridge worker, put it: “McDonald’s is a multinational corporation with unacceptable working conditions. We are asking to be treated with dignity and to be paid a decent wage, and for our right to form a union to be recognized by our employer. We believe it is our right to ask for a fair treatment for the hard work we perform”.

Fast food workers are terribly treated all over the world – but their fight is global too. BFAWU activists have taken inspiration from the ‘Fight for $15’ strike campaign in the US, as well as New Zealand fast food workers’struggles. Strikes in New Zealand doubled the minimum wage and forced the government to ban zero hour contracts, and won $64 billion in pay rises for three million workers. Global capital can move from country to country quickly, and trade unions need to do the same: workers’ solidarity must be international, and we are more likely to win against multinational corporations like McDonald’s when we coordinate action across borders.The first strike date coincides with Labor Day in the US, and a Fight for $15 national day of action.

Workers in the fast food industry, and in precarious private sector jobs generally, are often seen as impossible to organise. There is a high turnover of staff, workers are often young, significant numbers are migrants, and many live in poverty due to low wages and precarious contracts, working irregular shift patterns and faced with bullying by management.The struggles described above, as well as the recent victories by outsourced, mainly migrant cleaners at SOAS and LSE, prove that precarious, low paid workers can organise themselves into a force that can fight and win.

These workers are the force that, organised and mobilised, can revive the labour movement. These struggles also provide a huge opportunity for organising among the millions of young people who were inspired by Labour’s election campaign, drawing them into the unions, into Labour activism and into socialist politics, and and giving them the confidence and tools to fight back at work.

Young Labour groups and activists, local Labour Parties and Momentum groups should do everything they can to support the strike. Organise fundraisers, invite speakers, put motions for support and donations, go to your local McDonald’s and start to talk to workers so we can spread the strike, and discuss organising in your own workplaces too.

Clarion supporters are raising the issue with motions to both the Labour and Young Labour conferences, but the most important thing is to get activity and links on the ground in as many places possible.

We must build links and solidarity between this dispute and the Picturehouse strikes, cleaners’strikes and as many others as possible.

Meanwhile the Labour left must double down on pushing the party to campaign for repeal of not just the Trade Union Act, but all the antiunion laws, and to restore our right to strike and picket effectively, including in solidarity with others workers. This issue cannot be allowed to drift any longer.

Unless the labour movement wages a serious campaign for free trade unions and a strong right to strike, we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back.

• To contact the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers Union: phone 01707 260 150 or email info@bfawu

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Macron launches labour “reforms” – protests already planned

September 2, 2017 at 4:13 pm (Andrew Coates, France, protest, solidarity, unions, workers)

Andrew Coates, who follows French politics very closely, reports at his blog Tendence Coatesy:

First Demo Against Macron’s ‘Reforms’, 12th of September.

Macron’s government unveils controversial labour reforms.

France 24.

After meeting with trade unions on Thursday, the French government unveiled President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial labour reforms, vowing to “free up the energy of the workforce” by making it easier for employers to hire and fire.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud met with trade unionists on Thursday before publicly unveiling the labour reform measures, which are detailed on some 200 pages.

The highly anticipated and controversial labour reforms, a centerpiece of Macron’s election pledge, are aimed at creating jobs.

The changes will be implemented via executive order, allowing Macron to avoid a lengthy parliamentary debate. The overhaul will be adopted by the government in September and must then be ratified by parliament, where the president’s La République en Marche (Republic on the Move) party has a large majority.

Criticism from trade unions

Right after the announcement of the reforms, some unions voiced criticism, denouncing measures that they perceive to be more favourable to companies than to employees.

Philippe Martinez, secretary-general of the CGT trade union, lashed out Thursday, saying, “All our fears have been confirmed and the additional fear is obvious and has been written: It’s the end of the working contract.” He qualified the reform as “old recipes which will not change the lot of the people.”

The communist-backed CGT has opposed the changes outright and is set to mobilise its supporters on September 12 for a street protest. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader of France Insoumise (Unbowed France) and a fierce opponent to Macron, is organising another protest on September 23.

France’s biggest private sector union, the CFDT, declared itself “disappointed” but said it would not be calling its members to join the CGT’s planned street protest on September 12.

Nevertheless, the CFDT is unhappy with the level at which dismissal awards in France’s labour courts will be capped, and unhappy with a section of the reforms in which employers will be allowed to negotiate directly with staff in companies with fewer than 20 workers.

The boss of the hard-left Force Ouvrière (FO) union, Jean-Claude Mailly, said he disagreed with some of the changes, but like Berger suggested he would not recommend his members join street protests.

Meanwhile, François Asselin, president of France’s confederation of small and medium-sized companies, the CPME, has praised the reform for being “particularly pragmatic”.

The CGT wants their Day of Action and Strikes  to be the occasion to begin a serious moblisation against Macron’s ‘reforms’. (La CGT veut faire du 12 septembre la journée « contre la réforme du code du travail »)

To the lack of support from the two other main union federations  there is also  this.

La France insoumise (LFI), 17 deputies strong, to repeat, is organising its own demonstration on the 23rd of September, without the unions and any other group on the leftJean-Luc Mélenchon appelle à un “rassemblement populaire” contre la réforme du travail le 23 septembre à Paris.

Macron has already seized on this to declare that Mélenchon   is claiming not just to be the only real opposition to the President but also to be a “rival to the trade unions”. (Mélenchon à la tête de l’opposition ? Une chance, selon Macron.  Le président de la République estime que le leader de la France insoumise se pose en “rival des syndicats” sur la réforme du Code du travail. RTL)

Whether this division exists, or whether the LFI march will have any impact, is not at all sure.

A few days ago the Parti communiste français PCF, which has 11 MPs, and close ties to the CGT,  expressed reservations about this division amongst left parties. Their  leader Pierre Laurent contented himself with noting a “lack of respect” (manque de respect) in the way LFI operates (le Monde. 26.8.17). A young member added, ” that for LFI “everything is built around his personality and his inner circle (tout est construit autour de sa personne et de sa garde rapprochée – literally his “bodyguard”).

One thing is clear: the serious campaign will be launched by the Unions.

By contrast LFI declares that they are leading the movement, ” «Nous proclamons en septembre la mobilisation générale contre le coup d’Etat social»” – we declare in September that there will be a mobilisation in September against the social coup d’Etat by Macron.. La France insoumise suggests that Mélenchon may soon be called for government if Macron is defeated, and they are ready to govern is need be. ” Jean-Luc Mélenchon affirmait ainsi : «Nous sommes prêts à gouverner demain s’il le faut” (Des «élections anticipées», nouveau credo de La France insoumise. Libération).

In the meantime…

For the best analysis of these reforms seems Gérard Filoche:  Leurs mensonges sont énormes, Ils font le pire, ils ont passé le code du travail à l’acide

VIDÉO – Besancenot met en garde Mélenchon : “Personne ne pourra jouer solo”

Nobody can play alone.

As Olivier says, 1) the claim that LFI are the “only” opposition to the government, however much they have wind in their sails, is not the case, and 2) He will not be at the LFI demo since he is not part of LFI and 3) a united social front is what is needed.

http://www.lci.fr/politique/video-besancenot-met-en-garde-melenchon-personne-ne-pourra-la-jouer-solo-2062929.html

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