Solidarity Magazine » Europe http://solidaritymagazine.org Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 TRANSPORT UNION RMT announced today that it is launching an unprecedented challenge to the UK’s anti-trade union laws in the European Court of Human Rights http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/05/transport-union-rmt-announced-today-that-it-is-launching-an-unprecedented-challenge-to-the-uk%e2%80%99s-anti-trade-union-laws-in-the-european-court-of-human-rights/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/05/transport-union-rmt-announced-today-that-it-is-launching-an-unprecedented-challenge-to-the-uk%e2%80%99s-anti-trade-union-laws-in-the-european-court-of-human-rights/#comments Mon, 24 May 2010 16:59:20 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=616 Continue reading ]]> Papers on behalf of RMT will be lodged with the European Court today by the union and its solicitors. RMT will argue on behalf of its members that its ability to organise industrial action to protect its members is restricted by UK law in a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The union will be represented in the Court by RMT’s standing counsel John Hendy QC and Marcus Pilgerstorfer, instructed by Thompsons Solicitors.

The cases that RMT are challenging at European level are the EDF Energy court challenge and Hydrex dispute. These involved two groups of RMT members who balloted for industrial action last autumn – details of the cases in the editors notes below.

The RMT is putting forward arguments about two restrictions imposed by UK legislation in respect of the EDF and Hydrex cases which it says are incompatible with Article 11 of the Euopean Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. They are as follows:

1. the statutory requirement for the union to serve on an employer a notice which must fulfill onerous conditions such as providing the identification of the specific job descriptions of the intended voters; and

2. the absolute prohibition on unions organising solidarity industrial action (even where the secondary employer is closely associated with the primary employer in dispute).

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

The shackles that the anti-trade union laws have thrown around workers in this country seeking to take industrial action in defence of jobs and working conditions have got tighter and tighter in the past year and the EDF and Hydrex cases last autumn were pivotal with ramifications for the entire trade union movement.

RMT is in no doubt that the fundamental human right to withdraw labour has been systematically undermined. This is clearly shown by the EDF and Hydrex cases and we have no option but to take these matters to the European Court in a bid to protect the rights of our members and of working people in Britain.”

NOTE TO EDITORS:

1. On 23 October 2009 EDF Energy Powerlink Limited was granted an injunction by the High Court against the RMT restraining members from taking industrial action. The grounds for this decision was that the notice of ballot had not sufficiently particularised the job descriptions of the members who were to be balloted. The consequence of this decision was that the union were denied the right to take strike action.

2. In August 2007 approximately 20 RMT members were transferred from Jarvis PLC to a company called Hydrex Equipment (UK) Limited. In September 2009 Hydrex sought to impose new terms and conditions on these members which were less favourable than those they had enjoyed when they worked for Jarvis PLC. The members organised industrial action, and the union wanted to call out its members at Jarvis PLC who had continued to work closely with the Hydrex members following the transfer. However UK law absolutely prohibits a trade union calling industrial action by members other than those employed by the employer directly in dispute. As a result the members at Jarvis PLC were denied the right to take strike action in solidarity, the members at Hydrex were denied the support of their colleagues and the union was denied the chance to take what would have been the most effective strike action for the purposes of protecting its members’ interests.

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http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/05/transport-union-rmt-announced-today-that-it-is-launching-an-unprecedented-challenge-to-the-uk%e2%80%99s-anti-trade-union-laws-in-the-european-court-of-human-rights/feed/ 0
The right to strike under threat – a European Taff Vale? http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/the-right-to-strike-under-threat-a-european-taff-vale/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/the-right-to-strike-under-threat-a-european-taff-vale/#comments Mon, 26 Apr 2010 15:36:55 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=592 Continue reading ]]> SOLIDARITY Editor Martin Wicks examines the implications of two recent injunctions against strike action by UNITE and the RMT. This is a SOLIDARITY discussion bulletin which can be downloaded here db1210410.

The recent injunctions issued against strike action by UNITE and the RMT have grave implications for the whole trade union movement. They place a question mark over the right to strike. There were two main parts to these judgements: ‘irregularities’ in the balloting process and a new concept of ‘proportionality’ (which has no precedent in UK law) based on European Union law and judgements by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) relating to the Laval and Viking cases.

Postal ballots

One of the changes in employment law which Thatcher introduced in 1993 was the obligation to carry out a postal ballot for industrial action, to render it legal. Under this legislation the unions had to provide to the employer a list of members they were balloting, in order that they (the employer) could ‘prepare for strike action’. Whilst a union might not necessarily want to give an employer a list of members, check­off (or paybill deduction of union subs) was the most common means of paying them. It was a simple process. A union had to hand over a list of names and NI numbers.

When New Labour came to power in 1997 they amended the balloting regulations. Most unions considered the ending of the obligation to provide the names of their members to an employer as a gain. However, in its place a union had to provide a list of grades and numbers being balloted, as well as workplace locations with the numbers of staff in each grade at each location. This was a real sting in the tail. New Labour’s amendment of employment law has worsened the situation and opened unions to the increasing threat of injunctions to prevent strike action because of balloting ‘irregularities’.

If your membership is on check­off (paying subs from their wages) then a union can simply provide a list of members and NI numbers. Today, however, it is more common for unions to offer the choice for their members to pay either by check­off or by Direct Debit. These means there is more scope for ‘irregularities’.

In the recent case of UNITE at British Airways, the injunction was issued, in part because they had balloted members who had been made redundant. The regulations say that only those who qualify to be balloted should be.

Redundant staff do not. However, the judgement did not take any account of the fact that the numbers involved could not have had any material impact on the outcome of the ballot since over 90% of staff voted for strike action.

Section 232B of the 1992 Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act says that when a union makes “accidental mistakes” in terms of those who are balloted, on a scale unlikely to affect the outcome, this will not invalidate the procedure.

In the case of the RMT, the injunction, again, was in part issued because of ‘irregularities’ in balloting. Network Rail said that because the RMT had provided inaccurate information on workplaces and grade numbers then people had been balloted who should not have been. Since the ballot result was close there was more scope for Network Rail to suggest that ‘irregularities’ could have produced a No vote.

The rail operator (Network Rail) argued that the closeness of the vote meant that the votes of just 112 of 4,556 signallers balloted could have changed the result. The company presented a string of alleged irregularities including 11 “phantom” signal boxes that should not have featured in the ballot.”

In addition 23 workplaces were supposedly “excluded from the vote”, 12 were “included where there are no RMT members”, and at 67 locations the RMT “balloted more members than there are employees”. This was patently absurd. The inaccurate information could have no bearing on the outcome of the ballot since the union balloted members at their home addresses. It cannot ballot people who aren’t members. Moreover, Network Rail does not know which of their staff pay union subs by Direct Debit, so how it could have known there were ‘no RMT members’ at 12 locations is a mystery.

Hence, whatever the motivation behind the change in the balloting regulations they have made it more difficult to take strike action without falling foul of the law, even when the information a union has to provide does not impact on the outcome of the ballot.

In real life some members who should get a vote do not, and some who should not do. All it requires is for a member to fail to inform a union of a change of grade, or a change of address. In the case of the RMT the locations and numbers are irrelevant to the conduct of a ballot, accept insofar as the provision of this information is a hoop through which the union has to jump.

Of course the difficulties that a union may face in overcoming these hurdles will depend on the industry their members work in and whether it is a local or national dispute. What is clear now is that a national strike is more and more difficult because the information that a union has to provide is more complicated. In the case of Network Rail, signal boxes are small workplaces, around 1,000 of them (according to its 2007 Business Plan), usually with a small numbers of workers in each of them. To keep accurate information up to date is, as Bob Crow has said, like painting proverbial the Forth Bridge; the job is never finished.

It is high time that the unions recognised that the change in balloting regulations by the New Labour government has presented a big problem for us; one which has to be addressed. Notwithstanding the labour movement campaign for the repeal of the anti­union legislation as a whole, there is an urgent need for an amendment to these balloting regulations so that trades unions do not have to provide such detail. It should be sufficient that they inform a company of the grades/categories of staff they are balloting. Any management knows who these are. Moreover, a trade union should not have to provide information in order to assist a management in undermining a strike.

‘Proportionality’

If the balloting regulations constitute a major problem, especially in relation to strikes on a national scale, the two judgements lost by UNITE and RMT, indicate an even greater obstacle to the organisation of industrial action. The judgement in relation to BA, as far as I am aware, marks the first time that a British judge has issued an injunction in part because the action proposed by a union (it had said it would organise a 12 day strike) was deemed to be ‘disproportionate’. Mrs Justice Cox said:

A strike of this kind over the 12 days of Christmas is fundamentally more damaging to BA and the wider public than a strike taking place at almost any other time of the year.”

Likewise in the judgement on Network Rail’s application for an injunction against the RMT’s strike, the question of proportionality was one of the grounds on which the injunction was granted.

“Charles Bear QC, the lawyer for Network Rail, convinced the High Court to intervene with the injunction by saying that the industrial action would cause a lot of damage to the already stricken economy. He explained that it was needed to prevent unlawful action, which would have the same effect as cancelling 80% of Britain’s rail services. Bear continued that this would damage businesses that depend on rail services for transport and freight, adding that it would also damage the claimant itself and train operating companies.”

In fact in British law there is no precedent for a judge to rule on the legality of industrial action on anything other than whether it constitutes a ‘trade dispute’ (a very narrow definition introduced by Thatcher) and whether a union has followed the balloting regulations. However, as a result of the Lisbon treaty the Charter of Fundamental Rights has to be applied in Britain. Any contradictions within the Charter, or questions of interpretation are subject to determination by the ECJ. The British government, it should be remembered, opposed the right to strike being a ‘fundamental right’! Readers may recall the ECJ judgements known as the Laval and Viking cases (see box). In these, the ECJ was considering the apparent contradiction between two Articles in the Charter.

Article 15 reads:

Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.”

Article 28 refers to “the right of collective bargaining and action”.

Workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action.”

It is the apparent conflict between the right to strike and the “right of establishment and to provide services” which the ECJ considered.

The focus in the media and in the trades unions on these cases was on the implications for the employment of foreign labour as a means of undermining national agreements. Imported contract labour was being paid at rates lower than other workers in the country in question. Obviously the trades unions were concerned to ensure that the ‘rate for the job’ should be paid regardless of the nationality of the workers. However, the Posted Worker Directive offers no more protection than the minimum wage rate of the country into which a worker is posted.

What did not receive much attention, however, was the fact that in the Laval judgement the question of the ‘proportionality’ of the strike action was one of the reasons for the action being ruled as illegal. Whilst it is more general in European countries to have the legal right to strike, enshrined in law, this right is dependent upon whether the proposed action is judged to be ‘proportionate’ or not. The ECJ has held that unions have a fundamental right to strike under European law, but industrial action may have to be “justified” by “balancing it against employers’ rights to the freedom of movement and goods”.

British judges are now taking into account ECJ judgements in determining whether or not to grant injunctions to stop industrial action .

The BALPA case

Prior to the BA and RMT injunctions, in March 2008 BALPA members voted for strike action against British Airways decision to set up a subsidiary based in Europe. BALPA sought to prevent the company undermining wages by employing pilots on lower wages that BA paid their staff in the UK. BA sought an injunction based on the argument that the action would be illegal as a result of the Laval and Viking judgements. BA claimed that, should the work stoppage take place, it would claim damages estimated at £100 million. Under these circumstances, BALPA did not follow through with the strike, stating that it would risk bankruptcy if it were required to pay the damages claimed by BA. So the threat from BA was not tested in court, but it was sufficient to make BALPA back down.

As a result BALPA submitted an application to the International Labour Organisation concerning the British government’s failure to meet the requirements of ILO Convention 87, which covers the right to freedom of association and the right of unions to organise workers.

The UK Government response to BALPA’s application said that it was “misdirected and misconceived because any adverse impact of Viking and Laval would be a consequence of the European Union law, to which the United Kingdom is obliged to give effect, rather than of any unilateral action by the United Kingdom itself”. The Government also said that that BALPA’s application was “premature because it remains unclear what, if any, impact the Viking and Laval judgements would have on the application of trade union legislation in the United Kingdom”. The Government added that these judgements were not likely to have much effect on trade union rights because they were only applicable where the freedom of establishment and free movement of services between Member States were at issue. This has proved to be false.

The ILO committee of Experts had this to say in considering BALPA’s application:

The Committee observes with serious concern practical limitations on the effective exercise of the right to strike of the BALPA workers in this case. The Committee takes the view that the omnipresent threat of an action for damages that could bankrupt the union, possible now in the light of the Viking Laval , creates a situation where the rights under the Convention cannot be exercised. While taking due note of the Government’s statement that it is premature at this stage to presume what the impact would have been had the court been able to render its judgement in this case given that BALPA withdrew its application, the Committee considers, to the contrary, that there was indeed a real threat to the union’s existence and that the request for the injunction and the delays that would necessarily ensue throughout the legal process would likely render the action irrelevant and meaningless. Finally, the Committee notes the Government’s statement that the impact of the ECJ judgements is limited as it would only concern cases where freedom of establishment and free movement of services between Member States are at issue, whereas the vast majority of trade disputes in the United Kingdom are purely domestic and do not raise any cross-border issues. The Committee would observe in this regard that, in the current context of globalization, such cases are likely to be ever more common, particularly with respect to certain sectors of employment, like the airline sector, and thus the impact upon the possibility of the workers in these sectors of being able to meaningfully negotiate with their employers on matters affecting the terms and conditions of employment may indeed be devastating. The Committee thus considers that the doctrine that is being articulated in these ECJ judgements is likely to have a significant restrictive effect on the exercise of the right to strike in practice in a manner contrary to the Convention.”

It therefore recommended to the UK government that:

In light of the observations that it has been making for many years concerning the need to ensure fuller protection of the right of workers to exercise legitimate industrial action in practice, and bearing in mind the new challenges to this protection as analysed above, the Committee requests the Government to review the TULRA and consider appropriate measures for the protection of workers and their organizations to engage in industrial action and to indicate the steps taken in this regard. ”

The British government, of course, is a signatory to the ILO Conventions.

Whilst the British unions have been forward in praising and relying on European legislation as progressive, and a means of pressuring a British government to carry out legislation in line with European law (especially in relation to ‘social rights’), what we have here is European law being imposed in such a way that the very right to strike is under threat. Daniel Ornstein and Herbert Smith (Employment Lawyers Association), in line with the ILO assessment, are right when they say:

These two rulings impose substantive new restrictions on the lawfulness of industrial action and require the UK courts to adopt a new approach to the grant of injunctive relief, at least where there is a direct international element. Moreover, they may also apply where there is very little or even no direct international element. There is therefore every reason to conclude that Viking Line and Laval have provided employers with a potent new weapon with which to oppose industrial action.” (Our emphasis)

Those unions that supported the Lisbon treaty will see their members now paying the price in relation to employment law. Underlying the Laval and Viking judgements is the fact that the Lisbon treaty enshrines in law the predominance of the market, and open competition. Industrial action can be deemed a restraint on trade, on the “right of establishment”. The UK government, as we know, refused to allow its people to vote on whether or not to accept the Lisbon treaty. So fundamental changes in law were pushed through without any democratic mandate.

The defence of the right to strike, therefore, requires that we campaign against any determination by judges of the economic impact of the action taken by workers. Strike action is a means of economic pressure on a company. To accept the institutional and ideological concept of ‘balance’ means to accept perpetual interference by judges when workers have balloted for industrial action. An application for an injunction, once not very common, would become a usual occurrence.

2008 TUC

At the TUC Congress in 2008 a composite resolution on the ECJ judgements expressed the view that with these judgements EU law was “subjugating fundamental collective rights, including collective bargaining and to take industrial action, to the rights of employers and business”.

Derek Simpson, moving a Composite resolution on this issue, was certainly right when he said at the 2008 TUC Congress, referring to the Laval and Viking judgements:

It now transpires that the most recent judgements by the European Court of Justice cause, perhaps, the biggest challenge to the trade union movement in a century, far worse than Thatcher’s laws, striking at the very heart of collective bargaining, damaging unions’ abilities to fight for improvements in working conditions and making it not only preferable for employers but giving them legal protection to introduce cheap labour into any sphere, any sector and any corner of the economy.

…unless we reverse the European Court of Justice’s decisions, we are back in the dark days.”

In the same debate Bob Oram from UNISON said:

UNISON believes that the ECJ is unaccountable. We believe it is politically driven. Its recent decisions undermine our collective ability and collective rights even further than the disgraceful Thatcher attacks which are still on the statute books.

The situation is quite simple, comrades. The EU is committed to extending the internal market. That is privatisation to you and me. The Court, through these rulings, has seriously undermined our ability to defend our members against further attacks. The employers’ right to freedom of establishment trumps the right to strike leaving us defenceless against the EU’s drive to liberalise markets and institutionalise social dumping.”

The Composite resolution called on the General Council to:

i) develop a strategy and take action to counter the impact of these decisions;

ii) take urgent steps to meet with UK government ministers to obtain their support for legislative changes which

ensure more comprehensive protection for social rights in Europe;

iii) work with the ETUC to maintain pressure on the EU to bring about legislative change; and

iv) organise a mass lobby of MEPs to secure support for legislative change.

At the 2009 Congress reaffirmed its opposition to the ECJ rulings and reiterated that the Lisbon Treaty “exacerbates attacks on trades unions by handing greater power to the ECJ to interpret disputes concerning the Charter of Fundamental Rights.” But there was nothing in the General Council report on this, or on the implementation of the 2008 resolution. If indeed we are “back in the dark days” and collective trade union rights have been “subjugated…to the rights of employers and business”, what happened to the campaign?

The European TUC response

In the wake of the Laval and Viking judgements the ETUC has called for changes in European law to overcome the impact of the Laval and Viking judgements. In a speech to the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, ETUC General Secretary John Monks said:

We are now left with not knowing what is “proportionate” action and what is not. Presumably a court will define “proportionality” in the context of each case, so creating intolerable uncertainty for unions involved in virtually any case of industrial action over migration and free movement, a naturally growing area for disputes as Europe integrates its labour and services markets. In some member states, the right to strike is a first rank constitutional right and this is now at risk. So, generally, is trade union autonomy.

So we are being told that the right to strike is a fundamental right but not so fundamental as the EU’s free movement provisions.”

In response to these judgement the ETUC has called for “A social protocol confirming that the single market exists to serve social progress, that fundamental social rights have priority, that enterprises cannot circumvent national laws and practices in order to engage in unfair competition on pay and working conditions …”

In October 2008 the European parliament voted through by a large majority, a report drafted by Jan Andersson (European Socialist Party) on challenges to collective agreements in the European Union. With this report the EP “expressed deep concerns” about the rulings of the ECJ in the Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxembourg cases.

The EP said that economic freedoms, such as the freedom to provide services, are not superior to fundamental rights, such as the right of trade unions to take collective action. Furthermore, it emphasised the right of the ‘social partners’ to ensure non-discrimination, equal treatment, and the improvement of living and working conditions of workers. The EP called on the Commission to prepare the necessary legislative proposals which would assist in preventing conflicting interpretation in the future and for a “re-assertion in primary law of the balance between

fundamental rights and economic freedoms”, in order to help avoiding a race to lower social standards.

John Monks said:

This vote shows clearly that the EP has succeeded in finding a compromise that allows for safeguarding the European Social Model and for protecting the industrial relations systems in the Member States, and I thank all those Members of the EP that understood the importance of this issue for the future of Europe and worked hard to get this report adopted. Fair competition between companies and respect for collective bargaining is an interest and concern that all trade unions share in Europe, be it in the ‘old’ or the ‘new’ Member States. I particularly welcome the fact that the EP is looking at ways to re­establish an adequate balance between fundamental social rights and economic freedoms. The ETUC renews its call to the EU institutions to give serious and urgent consideration to the adoption of a social progress protocol to be attached to the EU treaties.” (Our emphases)

There is, however, a fundamental problem with this approach. The single market was conceived as a means of Capital in Europe competing in the global market place. Moreover, the ‘free market’ foundation of the EU leads in the direction of turning public services into commodities, for they restrict the right of private businesses to enter these ‘markets’. (The Blair/Brown government, of course, has sought to remedy this by creating a ‘health market, where none existed, to invite private companies in.)

Since Monks and the ETUC’s position is coloured by the illusion that the ‘single market’ can serve ‘social progress’, it is no surprise that they views the purpose of such a protocol, which the ETUC wants to be legally binding, to be to “restore balance between economic market freedoms and fundamental rights”.

What exactly does “balance” between ‘social rights’ and ‘economic freedom’ mean? The very idea of ‘balance’ is a recipe for judicial intervention in the determination of whether a strike is legal or not. What right has a judge to determine whether or not workers who have voted for strike action should take it? The unelected judiciary is overriding the democratic decision of workers, who in any case have the cards stacked against them.

The EU and the ETUC accept that unions and employers have interests in common. The ‘European social model’ is based on the idea of ‘social partnership’. Trades unions that support such an outlook accept that the unions have an interest in helping their employers to compete successfully in the ‘single market’ and the global market. The concept of ‘balance’ between social rights and economic freedoms has a similar foundation. Support for social partnership marked an abandonment of the idea of class struggle and the fundamental conflict of interests between unions and the employers. For trades unions to call for ‘balance’ means accepting the right of judges to determine the legality or otherwise of industrial action on criteria which is rooted in a free market outlook.

A European Taff Vale?

As a result of the criteria of ‘proportionality’ and the threat of being liable for damages, we have potentially been thrown back to the Taff Vale judgement; a potential European Taff Vale. The Taff Vale judgement of 1903 involved the fining of the ASRS rail union for striking against the Taff Vale Railway Company. The fine was to recompense for the cost of the strike to the company. Whilst the judgement did not dispense with the right to strike it meant that the formal right to strike was worthless because unions could be prosecuted for executing that right, and fined for the cost of their action to the employer. They could potentially be bankrupted for taking any strike action.

In 1906 the Liberal government introduced legislation which created immunity from prosecution which meant that the right to strike could be used without fear of a union being bankrupted. The legislation was implemented as a means of the Liberal Party fending off the electoral threat of the young Labour Party, whose growth was given impetus by the Taff Vale judgement. The judgement had deepened the break of the unions with the Liberal Party.

The legislation was a concession to the electoral base of support which the Liberals had had amongst sections of the working class. Since then immunity from prosecution has remained the historic protection of the right to strike in Britain, whilst there has been “no positive legal right to strike”.

The parallel with Taff Vale is this. Then the formal right to strike was of little use if a union could be bankrupted for taking advantage of this right. Now, the right to strike is threatened because the concept of ‘proportionality’ enables employers to seek injunctions on such grounds when a group of workers has voted for strike action. Truly ‘a potent new weapon’ against the unions.

What use is the right to strike if you cannot exercise it because a judge determines that your action would be illegal because of the impact it would have on the employer and the economy and ‘consumers’ of goods and services? Mr Beard for Network Rail said that the action of the RMT was disproportionate because of the impact of the action in the context of a recession. What about the impact of a strike by UNISON on patients in the health service, or by the FBU, given the risk of fires? What of the threat of BA to sue BALPA for £100 million? There has been talk of the Tories bringing in legislation to ban strikes in ‘essential services’. In fact they would not need to, for an effective ban could be implemented on the basis of ‘proportionality’.

What the trade union movement faces, therefore, is the biggest challenge since Taff Vale. It needs to mobilise a campaign to defend the right to strike, to change the balloting regulations so they are not onerous for the unions, and to seek to build a European campaign to challenge the concept of ‘proportionality’ in law.

Neo-liberalism was marked by the attempt to subordinate society to the imperatives of ‘the market’. ‘Proportionality’ is nothing other than attempt to subordinate employment rights to ‘the market’. At stake is the democratic right of workers and trades unions to defend their interests and to challenge the tyranny of their “subjugation to the rights of employers and business”.

Appendix

The Viking Case

The Viking Line shipping company tried to re­flag the ferry Rosella to replace its Finnish crew which cheaper Estonians. The Finnish seafarers union and the ITF organised a boycott of Viking. The company claimed it was a breach of its right to the freedom of movement of goods and service. The ECJ held that although the right to take collective action is a fundamental right it can constitute a restriction on the freedom of goods and services so must be justified.

The Laval case

A Latvian building company won a contract to build a school in Sweden and brought in Latvian workers. The Swedish union blockaded the firm in order to get them to sign up an agreement to bring their wages up to Swedish levels. The ECJ said that the right to take collective action is a fundamental right but it must not go beyond what is suitable for attaining objectives. Furthermore, it held that action to give workers rights beyond those already given by the Posted Workers Directive cannot be justified. The PWD means that workers can be employed for the minimum wage in a country, even if this is in breach of local agreements negotiated by unions and employers.

The Ruffert case

In the Ruffert v Land Niedersachsen, a German company won the contract to build a prison. The contract specified that wages were to be paid at the level collectively agreed for the region. However, the German company sub -contracted the work to a Polish company which paid their workers less than half of the German workers on the site.

On discovering this, the company terminated the contract and imposed financial penalties. The ECJ decided that the requirement for a minimum salary level was capable of constituting a restriction on trade and was not justified on the grounds of protecting workers or protecting the independence of trade unions. In addition to Article 49 (freedom of establishment) the Posted Workers Directive prevented the requirement for higher wages on contracts for public work where there was no corresponding requirement for private sector contracts.

The Luxembourg case

In July 2006, the unelected Commission of the EU brought an enforcement action against Luxembourg in which it claimed that Luxembourg had failed to fulfil its obligations under the PWD and under Article 49 and 50 concerning the freedom to provide services. Luxembourg sought to impose better conditions than the minimum level under the Posted Worker Directive. This was declared illegal.

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Rail unions rally to defend safety rules http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/rail-unions-rally-to-defend-safety-rules/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/rail-unions-rally-to-defend-safety-rules/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 16:08:54 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=581 Continue reading ]]> by John Millington in Lille, France

Transport unions from across Europe have held a mass rally of thousands of railway workers in Lille, France, to protest against the EU-driven privatisation of the industry.

The huge mobilisation brought together 20 unions from across Europe and was supported by the World Federation of Trade Unions.

Basking in the warm spring sunshine, railway workers began the day by blocking roads, lighting red flares and blowing horns as a podium was erected outside the European Railway Agency (ERA) headquarters.

The workers were in Lille to deliver a letter calling on the ERA to give a “clear commitment to rail safety” and assurances that jobs will not be lost “in the interests of competition and profit.”

Unions have expressed widespread concern that increased liberalisation and marketisation of rail services under the auspices of the “undemocratic” Lisbon Treaty will lead to more accidents on networks throughout Europe.

Union representatives were present from Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greek, Cyprus and the Basque country.

A special mention of solidarity was given to the Hungarian trade unionists who had made the arduous trip to Lille from Budapest.

Scandinavian countries also sent messages of support as did Britain’s firefighters’ union the FBU.

General secretary of RMT Bob Crow, who headed the largest delegation, said that Britain had been used as “a guinea pig” for rail privatisation.

“To me ‘liberalisation’ means ‘free’ – but the only people who can afford to run the railways are big business,” he said.

Mr Crow sparked deafening applause and shouts of support when he added: “Today should not be the end of the rally, brothers and sisters. We should be organising industrial action across the length and breadth of Europe.”

Sister transport union TSSA assistant general secretary Manuel Cortes warned that accidents in Britain such as those in Potters Bar and Hatfield would happen elsewhere through “the pursuit of profiteering instead of safety.

“Profit and safety don’t mix,” said Mr Cortes.

“We have to fight a common enemy with a common voice.”

Portuguese railway workers trade union CGTP-IN national co-ordinator Manuel Alexandre Cruz hailed the day’s action, pointing to the Lisbon Treaty as part of Europe’s “anti-social policies.”

And he insisted that “trade union organisations from different countries must join efforts to fight neoliberalism.”

Mr Cruz said that rail travel was an important social service and that the highest safety standards must be implemented.

“In this moment, in Portugal, the offensive against the public railway and railway workers is getting worse.” he said.

“In Portugal, we are struggling, as you are struggling here today in this European mobilisation, to affirm that the struggle continues.”

Spokesman for German railway rank-and-file group Bahn von Unten (Railways from Below) Hans-Gerd Oefinger declared that the only way to ensure safety was “workers’ and democratic ownership of the entire railway system.”

From the Morning Star

From the Morning Star

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Irish Voters drive stake through the heart of the Lisbon Treaty http://solidaritymagazine.org/2008/06/irish-voters-drive-stake-through-the-heart-of-the-lisbon-treaty/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2008/06/irish-voters-drive-stake-through-the-heart-of-the-lisbon-treaty/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2008 12:10:05 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=177 Continue reading ]]> This is an analysis of the No vote in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty. It is by John Meehan from the International Viewpoint website.

Voters in the Republic of Ireland drove a stake through the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, a rewrite of the European Union Constitution, in a Referendum which took place on June 12 – The result was announced on Friday June 13 2008.

No campaigners made this a memorably unlucky date for EU boss Jose Manuel Barroso and his gang of privateers and wannabe military adventurers – a ruling class élite still smarting from its 2005 European Union Constitution referendum defeats in Holland and France.

The No side won with 862,415 votes (53.4%) against 752,451 (46.6%) for the Yes of the 1,621,037 people who voted (turnout was 53.1%).

Formally the treaty is de facto dead, expired, late and extinct – just like the Monty Python parrot. However, dracula-style revival measures are possible.

The treaty cannot achieve life unless each EU state ratifies it. The Nice Treaty survived because Irish voters were asked for their verdict not once, but twice.

Can the Irish ruling class risk that operation a second time?

New York was “so good” they had to name it twice. In 2001 Ireland experienced “Nice 1” and voted No. In 2002 voters said Yes to “Nice 2”.

Holding a second referendum this time around will not be so easy.

Ask yourself : was the EU constitution killed by the French and Dutch referendums of 2005?

The answer is Yes.

Was the process killed? – the answer is No.

The Lisbon Treaty is a child of the EU Constitution, but is different in some respects. (Bertie Ahern correctly said the treaty contains ninety per cent of the [dead] constitution).

Here’s a vital difference : Only citizens of the Irish state could vote on the treaty – parliaments ratify in every one of the other 26 member states. Barroso and company were determined there would be no repeat of the French and Dutch referendum rejections.

A week before voters marked their ballot papers, an opinion poll published in the June 6 2008 Irish Times predicted, for the first time in the campaign, a clear victory for the No Side.

This poll estimated a No vote share of 35 per cent – the Yes trailed behind on 30 per cent, and undecided voters made up the remaining 35 per cent.

Discounting the “Don’t know” category, this implied a result of No 54 per cent against a Yes of 46 per cent – a deadly accurate prediction.

For this reason No campaigners should pay detailed attention to the findings of this and similar polls, as the information will be needed to guide us forward in the months ahead.

The Yes side strained every nerve for a reversal of the poll prediction in the final days – but, it is now clear, its goose was already cooked.

The final result is a remarkable event, since the odds were stacked so high in favour of the Yes Side.

160 members of Dáil Éireann (the Dublin Parliament) supported a Yes Vote – only six TD’s [1] supported the No Side. Just one Dáil Party (Sinn Féin) called for a No Vote on June 12.

The governing Fianna Fáil/Green Party/Progressive Democrat coalition Government elected in May 2007 was joined on the Yes Side by the biggest opposition parties – the right wing Fine Gael and the Labour Party (a social democratic organisation which has embraced Tony Blair style neo-liberalism).

Sniffing danger, all of these machines – which normally run their own shows, taking pot-shots off each other – started to combine forces during the last week of May.

The “Alliance for Europe” – fronted by former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn TD – alone has a budget of €750,000.

For the first time ever the employers’ organization IBEC (Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation) directly campaigned in a referendum with its own posters and publicity material.

By contrast the main left-wing campaign, the Campaign Against the EU Constitution (Vote No to the Lisbon Treaty) – a coalition of 14 different organisations and independent activists ( www.sayno.ie ) – had a budget of less than €10,000.

Towards the end of the campaign, after months of hesitation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Executive recommended a Yes, but for the first time in many years revealed deep internal divisions. The motion was carried by fourteen votes to five, with eight abstentions. A few months earlier a Yes proposal would have sailed through with little discussion.

UNITE , the state’s second biggest union, and the Electricians’ Union voted No – the Campaign Against the European Union Constitution office was located in the UNITE headquarters. The large Unions with big private sector membership, SIPTU and MANDATE, abstained.

The neo-liberal drive of the European Union in the last few years has alarmed many workers’ organisations. Recent European Court of Justice rulings in the Laval and Viking cases – which allow employers to hire people at minimal rates of pay, destroying existing collective agreements negotiated a state level, are consistent with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

Shaky Fianna Fáil

The coalition Government is shaky (Fianna Fáil) and vulnerable (Green Party).

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern stepped down early from office in April this year, allowing the then deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Brian Cowen, to take over the top Government job.

Ahern, for the last two years, has been trying to explain away the receipt of large sums of money to a Tribunal investigating Payments to Politicians, directed by Judge Alan Mahon.

Negative headlines were replaced by a month of media praise for the departing leader. Words of worship rained like cats and dogs – again and again the Irish public was reminded that since Ahern was elected Taoiseach in June 1997 :

1. The Fianna Fáil leader played a major role in the “peace process” (which terminated the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, ushering in a “power-sharing” Government between Unionists and Nationalists, headed by the rabble-rousing far-right preacher Ian Paisley [2] – Ahern was feted around the globe. He was invited to make a long speech to a special joint session of the USA Senate and Congress, which was broadcast live back in Ireland, followed by acres of fawning newspaper coverage.

President Bush was paying a small price – the Fianna Fáil led Government allows the USA military to use Shannon Airport for transporting troops weapons and torture victims back and forth between Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and other locations on the American continent.

2. Bertie’s period of office coincided with a historically unprecedented economic boom in the 26 County Republic of Ireland (the years of the Celtic Tiger)

Government poll ratings improved, new leader Brian Cowen basked in the reflected glow – and a temporary opinion poll boost was delivered to the Yes side of Lisbon Treaty debate.

But current reality collided with spin – the Lisbon Treaty crash-landed, and Brian Cowen’s short honeymoon is over.

Ahern is back in the Mahon Tribunal – a tortuous comic affair, as one clever piece of deception after another gets unravelled by legal investigators on the trail of intentionally complex financial wheeling and dealing.

One week before the referendum, for example, the former Taoiseach was in the witness-box, unable to answer Tribunal Counsel Des O’Neill’s statement that “of the 86 lodgements to Mr Ahern’s accounts during 1993 and 1995….there was no evidence to show the source of “99.99%” of the money” (Irish Times, June 6 2008). A total of at least £62-79,000 Sterling has so far been uncovered for these two years alone. The former Minister for Finance claims he had no bank account between 1987 and 1993, and saved cash in a safe.

Vulnerable Green Party

At a special Green Party conference delegates voted for the Treaty – but by less than a two-thirds majority, meaning the party was unable to publicly campaign for either side in this campaign.

Panic set in at top levels. Minister Éamonn Ryan warned of “chaos” if the Treaty is rejected. One of the party’s six TD’s, Ciarán Cuffe, bitterly complained that the debate has been taken over by “Spuccers and Trotskyites” (!).

Ciarán Cuffe and his colleagues are very intimate with the left-wing case against the Lisbon Treaty – before the Greens entered Government with Fianna Fáil in May 2007, the party was associated with the CAEUC.

In one public debate on Development Issues and the Lisbon Treaty a former CAEUC member, Green Party Yes campaigner Senator Deirdre de Búrca, declared that if her party was not in Government it would be campaigning for a No vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

To ensure there was no doubt, this writer double-checked, asking the Senator for confirmation of her statement – Deirdre repeated herself – my ears were working fine that evening.

This exchange occurred on Wednesday May 7, during a discussion about the Treaty’s provisions on development issues – see these links for a CAEUC Statement distributed to all who attended, and a full report of the meeting written by Liz Curry .

De Búrca also argued for a Yes Vote because we must tackle climate change – a No campaigner pointed out that the Treaty contains precisely six words on this subject.

Some weeks later Green Party leader and Government Minister John Gormley stated that even if he was in opposition, he would be recommending a Yes Vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

A fool might bet that the Green Party will sit on the government benches after the next General Election (scheduled for June 2012 at the latest) – a wiser punter would wager that Gormley’s party will be lucky to survive electoral contests in the next couple of years.

A leading spokesperson on the No side was former Dublin Green Member of the European Parliament Patricia McKenna. She will be again seeking the party’s nomination in forthcoming polls – the big question will be : should the Greens remain in coalition with Fianna Fáil? Odds are that Gormley’s party will stay in government .

In that case, the fate of the Progressive Democrats (PD’s) looms large for the Green Party : the PD’s are a well-financed right/neo-liberal party which returned only two TD’s in the May 2007 General Election, a disastrous drop from eight. Its leader Michael McDowell lost his seat and promptly resigned from public life.

Its single minister, Mary Harney, directs a root and branch privatisation of the Department of Health, and has generated a mounting campaign of public demonstrations against her policies.

It is only a matter of time before most Progressive Democrat components are assimilated into Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael – maybe fragments will drift into the Labour Party or the Greens.

CAEUC activists worked with Health campaigners during the referendum campaign, successfully persuading key activists from this sector to vote against the Lisbon Treaty.

Why Did the Lisbon Treaty Lose Ground?

In January 2008 the Irish result seemed a shoo-in [3] Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, scrambling with words to explain monstrous amounts of sterling in bank accounts he had “forgotten” about, now says he won the money by betting successfully in England on horse races….. – A Red C Opinion Poll estimated a Yes / No split of 43 to 25 per cent discounting a high “Don’t Know” score of 32% – meaning a likely 64/36 result on the referendum day. At the start of April the gap narrowed to a Yes/No share of 35 to 31 per cent – making the likely result too close to call – it was within the margin of error.

The numbers then moved back towards the Yes Side – coinciding with the decision of Bertie Ahern to vacate the job of Taoiseach.

Worrying trends for the Lisbon Treaty showed up in a May 25 Sunday Business Post Opinion Poll : the Red C Company headlined its report “Yes camp struggles to gain a clear lead” – the No Side was gaining ground, undecided voters were breaking in a ratio of 5:3 against the treaty.

Then a decisive swing against the Lisbon Treaty swept away the Yes side – why?

Using hindsight, reading reliable reports from CAEUC activists on our e- mail list, and public sources such as the website www.sayno.ie , tell-tale signs of a momentous victory jump out at the reader.

An unusual feature of this campaign was that at several public meetings, even those called by the Yes Side, most of the audience tended to favour a No Vote.

Some examples :

The Labour Party called a public meeting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on April 14 – six platform speakers, including party TD’s and an MEP, spoke for the treaty. Reliable reports indicated that at least 70 per cent of the audience (numbering about 80 people) favoured a No Vote.

In Limerick City on May 15 a CAEUC inaugural meeting directly clashed with a public debate organised by the Oireachtas (Houses of Parliament) European Affairs Committee. Naturally, the Oireachtas meeting was much better-financed, and therefore was more heavily advertised. The CAEUC meeting attracted an attendance twice the size of the Oireachtas Committee Event (65 people versus 30). The parliamentarians, once they had finished praising the Lisbon Treaty from the platform, discovered that every single person in their audience was voting No. So, it was established that 95 people in Limerick City intended voting against the treaty, feeling strongly enough about it to attend two clashing public meetings.

The Limerick East constituency result

No

21191

54.0%

Yes

18085

46.0%

Turnout

 

51.4%

On June 4 the Community and Workers’ Action Group (CWAG) organised a debate in the Dublin South-Central constituency between the Yes and No sides. The independent socialist councillor Joan Collins (CWAG) and Brendan Young of the CAEUC spoke for voting No. Their opponents on the Yes Side were representatives of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Charlie Ardagh (Fianna Fáil) and Ruairí McGinley (Fine Gael). When the debate ended the 70 people attending were asked to raise their hands for a Yes or a No – all seventy people in the audience voted No.

The Dublin South-Central constituency result

No

25624

61.0%

Yes

16410

46.0%

Turnout

 

51.6%

The Irish Government had to run two referendums on the Nice Treaty – at the first time of asking the proposal was defeated in 2001 (Nice 1).

After that the state set up a “National Forum for Europe”, with relatively democratic rules allowing for equal time shared between Yes and No speakers. Research demonstrated that many people had voted No in the Nice 1 referendum because they objected to a lack of information about the issues. A “democratic deficit” was addressed, without doubt helping the state to gain a Yes victory in the 2002 “Nice 2” referendum.

Turnout for Nice 2 was 49.5%, significantly higher than Nice 1, 34.8% .

But this time around the turnout for the Lisbon Treaty Referendum was even higher, 53.1%.

This means that a revote on the Lisbon Treaty, like the Nice 2 operation, is not a good option for the Yes side.

Writing in the Guardian (June 14) the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole (a left-liberal supporter of Lisbon) correctly observed that “In the first Nice referendum, the turnout was so low that the government could just about get away with asking people to vote again. The turnout for Lisbon was much higher, so repeating the exercise would simply feed the perception that voters are being bullied.”

In 2008, in general, a significant majority of people attending forum meetings indicated they were voting no.

The “democratic deficit” factor worked in favour of the No side.

The Lisbon Treaty is a tough read, and is very hard to understand – not surprising when one its main supporters said :

“The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable [...] The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.” Karel De Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister, Flanders Info, 23 June 2007

Here too are the words of the document’s main author, ex-President of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing :

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly … All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.” Le Monde 14 June 2007 and Sunday Telegraph 1 July 2007

I showed these and other similar quotes to one voter who immediately asked (very reasonably) if De Gucht was on the No side.

Both these quotes, and a few other gems from similar high-ranking politicians, are contained in a 32 page CAEUC pamphlet calling for a No Vote on the treaty – we distributed 10,000 copies during the campaign. They are also published on the website.

Time and again activists read out these quotes, and then concentrated on unravelling key provisions of the text – for example those which provide for further privatisations of public services. The Lisbon Treaty is written in the style of George Orwell’s 1984 “Newspeak” : “Public Services” are renamed “Services of General Economic Interest”.

When Yes supporters claimed to be defending the State’s traditional policy of military neutrality, CAEUC activists directed people to provisions which require an increase in military spending – and contrasted this active wording with the absence of any measures to, for example, increase public funding for health services.

A growing mood of puzzlement threatened the Yes side of the Lisbon Debate.

Fianna Fáil has a big popular base and takes pride in staying in touch with its “grass roots”. The new Taoiseach Brian Cowen is no fool – he admitted he had not read the 440 page labyrinth, with its confusing set of protocols, amendments to amendments, obscure and deliberately baffling language, and so on.

The June 6 Irish Times report of its opinion poll said “Not knowing what the treaty is about was cited as the main reason for voting No in the referendum, with 30 per cent giving it as the reason for their decision.”

No campaigners sympathised with the state leader’s dilemma, knowing their point had hit home big time.

Yes organisations like Fianna Fáil used slogans like “Yes to Europe”, “Good for Ireland” and so on – without discussing the Treaty’s actual text. They presented it as an administrative tidy-up job, reducing the number of commissioners, giving the European Parliament extra powers, making the expanded machine work more efficiently to accommodate 27 states.

In the final days of the campaign Cowen and his allies accused the No side of failing to discuss the treaty’s contents, spreading false information, and warned that Ireland would suffer from a No decision. This was an unconvincing change of tune from a campaign which for months has sung hymns of praise to the Irish Celtic Tiger, a “success” linked to membership of the EU.

Media supporters of the Yes side – especially those with a left-wing past, or who currently support the Labour Party – inflated the profile of far-right wing opponents of the Treaty, and minimised the opposition campaign mounted from the left.

A notorious example of this was an Irish Times “story” that French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen might come to Ireland to campaign for a No vote. Pro Lisbon Treaty journalists from this newspaper could not find anyone in Ireland willing to invite the French fascist – several No campaigners indicated they would in fact protest against any such visit.

True to form, on the day after the count, most mainline media organisations gave significant pictorial coverage to far-right No campaigners associated with “Youth Defence”, which is militantly anti- abortion.

The imbalance prior to the vote has been carried over into the post mortem. On talk shows and press pages the losing side debates with itself on what went wrong, what are “we” going to do next, how could the people have done the wrong thing and what is “Europe” going to do in retaliation?

The discourse assumes that a way must be found to fit the result into “the other 26” countries’ determination to go ahead with Lisbon and to overlook the simple result of the vote (in Ireland, France and the Netherlands): that the Lisbon Treaty is legally and morally dead.

The overwhelming dominance of the defeated side –– in the national debate and in the corridors of EU power (where the EU elite is overlooking the result and putting enormous pressure on the Irish elite to get a ‘solution’) – means there is only one thing that can prevent the Irish majority being left out on a limb. That is the remobilisation of the French ‘No’ movement, rekindled by the Irish vote, to demand a final end to Lisbon or, at least, a French referendum on it. The Irish, French and Dutch stands need to be internationalised.

Debate within the CAEUC and beyond should focus on alternative visions to the doomed Lisbon Treaty / European Union Constitution Project. One approach is set out here, “The Europe We Stand For”.

This contrasts with the main line advocated by Sinn Féin, which is looking for a “better deal” to be negotiated. Wily politicians such as Brian Cowen will be happy to offer some minor concessions – such as keeping an Irish Commissioner, maybe tinkering with a few vetos – but keeping the neo- liberal substance of any new Treaty/Constitution intact.

People in Sinn Féin who doubt this should take on board the fate of the Green Party – once they entered Government with Fianna Fáil former radical policies went out the window. Sinn Féin’s welcome opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, along lines that were generally progressive, collides with any perspective of being “ready for government” – the party’s headline policy in the May 2007 General Election.

The ‘No’ right may set out to provide the political alternative and stand in the coming European Elections in June 2009.

A thing very badly needed is better coordination of the ‘No’ side on the left.

The victory, in the light of the far from ideal, but real, left unity during the referendum campaign, has returned regroupment to the agenda of the left.

Key players here are the Socialist Party (its best-known representative Joe Higgins did tremendous work, co-operating very well with the CAEUC as well as promoting his own party); the People Before Profit coalition, whose main component is the Socialist Workers’ Party; the Community and Workers’ Action Group, whose main spokesperson is the Independent Socialist City Councillor Joan Collins; the trade union UNITE; and various other activists.

Local Government Elections take place at the same time, and all sectors of the “real left” need to run a united campaign in both contests – you can’t have one without the other.

Organisations trade unions and activists which, at a minimum :

* Oppose the neo-liberal assault on public services

* Are in favour of equality measures such as ending the notorious 1983 constitutional ban on abortion

* Which unconditionally refuse any governmental coalition deals with bourgeois parties such as Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael

have another opportunity to get their act together, with the emphasis on ‘together’.

 

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RMT statement to European conference of rail trades unionists http://solidaritymagazine.org/2008/06/rmt-statement-to-european-conference-of-rail-trades-unionists/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2008/06/rmt-statement-to-european-conference-of-rail-trades-unionists/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2008 18:03:21 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=176 Continue reading ]]> We congratulate participants attending this conference and contributing to this vital discussion. We welcome the support this initiative has received from the European Transport Workers Federation.

We send solidarity to all trade unionists fighting privatisation and liberalisation.

We hope that all participants at today’s conference and those who could not attend will continue this dialogue and cooperation in appropriate forums in the near future so that we maximise the exchange of information and coordinate our future activities.

We believe the consequences of rail privatisation, liberalisation and fragmentation are:

  • Attacks on rail safety, pay, conditions, pensions, trade union organisation and collective bargaining

  • The abandonment of the social railway in favour of a railway run solely in the interests of big business and where the profit motive becomes the only criteria for delivering rail services.

  • A more expensive, less efficient railway, where profit comes before the needs of the community.

We therefore condemn:

  • Those EU directives, including the various railway packages which are increasingly leading to the privatisation of Europe’s railways and a so-called liberalisation process that is leading to less democratic accountability and the growth of private rail monopolies.

  • Those Governments, EU Institutions, the World Bank and other financial institutions which are increasingly making privatisation, liberalisation and fragmentation of the railways a condition of funding.

We believe that, unless effectively challenged, the employers’ attacks on workers through liberalisation and privatisation will be assisted by the recent Viking, Laval and Ruffert judgments in the European Court of Justice which represent a fundamental attack on collective bargaining and the right to strike.

We therefore support and urge the ETF to call a European wide demonstration by trade unions representing rail workers before the end of 2008 and during the French Presidency of the European Union. The purpose of the demonstration will be to:

  • Protest against the privatisation and liberalisation of our railways

  • Argue for publicly owned railways that put people before profit

  • Protest against social dumping and call for the defence of trade union rights and national collective bargaining.

To achieve this end we agree to:

  • Coordinate our activities and work together to maximise participation by rail workers’ trade unions in an ongoing discussion about the effects of EU rail liberalisation policies.

  • Work with other progressive organisations and social movements that share our aims.

London, 17 June 2008

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GMB Calls On Labour Government To Honour Election Manifesto Pledge To Hold Referendum To Ratify EU Reform Treaty On The Constitution http://solidaritymagazine.org/2007/07/gmb-calls-on-labour-government-to-honour-election-manifesto-pledge-to-hold-referendum-to-ratify-eu-reform-treaty-on-the-constitution/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2007/07/gmb-calls-on-labour-government-to-honour-election-manifesto-pledge-to-hold-referendum-to-ratify-eu-reform-treaty-on-the-constitution/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2007 12:22:02 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/2007/07/03/gmb-calls-on-labour-government-to-honour-election-manifesto-pledge-to-hold-referendum-to-ratify-eu-reform-treaty-on-the-constitution/ Continue reading ]]> GMB European Committee endorse ETUC position “No Charter of Fundamental Rights – no EU Treaty” 

There was a meeting today of the GMB European Committee which discussed the agreement reached by the EU Council of Ministers over the weekend 22/23 June 2007 in Brussels on a new draft of the EU Reform Treaty on the Constitution. Following the meeting Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said,  

“It is now clear that the legal work to give effect to the agreement reached at the end of June 2007 on the EU Reform Treaty on the Constitution will begin right away with the target of getting the new draft agreed by the Council of Ministers in December 2007. The plan is for each nation state to ratify the agreement during 2008 and for the new Reform Treaty on the Constitution to come into effect on 1st January 2009. There will be a referendum in Ireland. Bertie Ahern, the Irish Taoiseach, has conceded that 90% of the content of the previous Constitution is included in the new Reform Treaty on the Constitution.

The Labour Party General Election manifesto pledged that the UK electorate would be given the final say, in a referendum, on the ratification of the Constitution. The Labour Party should honour its pledge and hold a referendum in 2008 on the ratification of this new Reform Treaty on the Constitution. The pledge was right at the time of the election and it is right now. Europe can only be developed with the whole hearted support of its citizens. GMB is a strong and a firm advocate of the benefits that a Social Europe brings to the people of the UK, while guarding against proposals that would undermine the hard won rights of UK workers. A Reform Treaty on the Constitution without the Charter of Fundamental Rights is for a business Europe and GMB did not sign up for this. This position was reaffirmed today by the GMB European Committee.”

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