Friday, December 10, 2010


Following consultation with co-ordinators, activists and supporters it has been agreed that the Workers Uniting Group will be wound up at the end of December.

As a progressive left organisation, many of the policies supported by the Workers Uniting Group are the policies of Unite the Union.

It is the considered view that the work of the Workers Uniting Group has now ran its course.

The members have spoken. Len McCluskey was elected by the membership as the new General Secretary by a considerable majority and he deserves and should receive the support of the whole of the union.

Unite faces significant challenges: the fightback against the Con-Dem cuts in the UK and the appalling austerity measures being forced through in Ireland; the need to grow the union through organising and building strong workplace organisation; the need to win back the Labour Party for our members and to win local elections, elections in Scotland and Wales and the General Election and to continue the fight against global capital in the UK and Ireland and with our comrades in Workers Uniting - the USW.

To win for our members, to campaign and fightback there is a need now to unify the entire union behind our newly elected General Secretary, Len McCluskey.

To this end we will need one progressive organisation to ensure that Unite remains a left union and isn't hijacked by those who would seek to take the union to the right or to the extreme left.

A number of comrades have indicated they would intend to support United Left, others have said they will personally support the General Secretary and unite behind him.

It is clear that the problems Unite faces cannot be addressed by having opposing left groups with broadly similar policies.

Therefore all Workers Uniting Supporters need to unite behind our new General Secretary and build unity for the future and in the best interests of the whole of Unite's membership.

The Workers Uniting Group website will closed down in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unite up in arms over Bakkavör cuts

Unite claims it is incompetence on behalf of international food company Bakkavör which is leading the firm to cut 170 jobs at its factory in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Bakkavör, an Icelandic company, announced this morning that following a consultation period it had decided to make 170 redundancies at its site in Bourne, near Spalding which are “essential in giving our business a future”. However, the firm said that by rearranging shift patterns and transferring some employees to other sites, it had managed to reduce its original reduction estimates from 375.

Unite, though, was left furious at the announcement, insisting that only yesterday the company agreed to engage in further discussions to look at cost saving measures to save jobs.

In addition, Bakkavör said it had improved its redundancy package and will not now be reducing pay for remaining employees, which Unite contests.

"We are particularly angry on behalf of the workforce that management has unilaterally announced the consultation is over when we still have meetings planned to look at alternatives to some of the proposals,” said Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food and drink.

"Moreover, Bakkavör’s statement implies they are making very few changes but nothing could be further from the truth. They have savagely cut earnings by up to £105 per week and they have slashed holiday pay and other premia. Yet management are protected from these cuts; yes there will be some redundancies but managers' pay and conditions remain intact.

"Bakkavör ought to be ashamed of themselves."

She said “a catalogue of management incompetence over several years” includes failing to allow for foreign exchange fluctuations and ill conceived commissioning of new machinery which is costing the firm money.

"They are not in a ‘make or break situation’ but are trying to terrify workers into accepting poverty pay,” she added.

Unite has organised a protest against the cuts in Spalding town centre on Friday December 17.

Bakkavör employs 20,000 people worldwide including 2,500 in the UK. There will be 700 remaining at the Bourne site, after these cuts, where the company makes salads, sandwiches, soups and sauces.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BA Cabin Crew Resume Talks This Week says Tony Woodley

Unite said it’s close to resuming talks to resolve a 22-month pay and staffing dispute as it prepares for a ballot on strike action in the new year.

Negotiations should take place this week under the auspices of Britain’s state-funded Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, said Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union, which represents the 11,000 flight attendants.

“It’s right and proper that we get together and try and solve what is one of the most difficult disputes for many a year,” Woodley said today in a telephone interview.

While British Airways and Unite have reached broad agreement on employment terms, the union wants concessions on the treatment of striking workers, including the immediate restoration of travel benefits suspended until 2013 and binding arbitration on all disciplinary cases related to the dispute.

Unite will meanwhile ballot members over further action, with the intention of announcing the result as early as Jan. 14, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified because the plan hasn’t been made public.

Heinz workers at Wigan factory vote to strike over pay

Unite members at the Heinz Baked Beans factory in Wigan have voted to go on strike in a row over pay.

Unite said its members backed industrial action by 9-1 in protest at a below inflation offer of 3.3%.

About 1,200 people are employed at the Greater Manchester factory, which produces beans, soups, pasta meals and baby food.

The union said it would hold a mass meeting on Saturday to decide its next move.

National officer Jennie Formby said: "This ballot result reflects what our members feel about Heinz's current attitude.

"Our members do not want to take strike action but have been left with no choice because they will not allow Heinz management to bully or fool its workforce into accepting its version of a 'fair' pay deal."

She added: "Workers at the factory feel completely let down by Heinz management.

"They want the opportunity to voice their anger at the way they are being treated and strike action will make the company listen."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fred The Shred Gets Off - FSA Bottles It!

The Financial Services Authority is facing criticism for closing its investigation into what went wrong at Royal Bank of Scotland without taking disciplinary action against any of the individuals involved, including the former chief executive Sir Fred "The Shred" Goodwin.

Amid questions about why the regulator had appointed external advisers from PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the 17-month review, Unite accused the City regulator of being unable to "hold the sector to account".

Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, was also tabling a question to demand a copy of the PwC review be placed in the parliamentary library after the City regulator said rules prevented it from making the report public. "This just won't wash," Oakeshott said.

The FSA blamed "bad" decisions rather than dishonesty for the events that led to the £45bn taxpayer bailout of the bank. The review by PwC – whose role as an auditor to a number of banks is being investigated by various regulatory bodies – analysed the events that led to RBS's takeover of the Dutch bank ABN Amro as the credit crunch was beginning in late 2007. PwC also looked at rights issues conducted by the bank in 2008, which are the subject of legal action by some shareholders who are concerned they were misled by the bank.

Rob MacGregor, national officer at the Unite union, described the conclusions as an outrage. "By failing to bring any formal charges against the RBS executives they have allowed some of the biggest villains of the financial crisis to go on enjoying their millionaire lifestyles whilst taxpayers experience cuts and staff face an insecure future," MacGregor said.

The FSA insisted the review concluded that "bad decisions were not the result of a lack of integrity by any individual and we did not identify any instances of fraud or dishonest activity by RBS senior individuals or a failure of governance on the part of the board".

The FSA insisted that PwC had been picked to conduct the review because it was not RBS's auditor. The regulator said it was prevented from publishing the PwC report by section 348 of the Financial Services and Markets Act.

Oakeshott said: "You can't refuse to publish the report – redacted, if legally necessary – on the worst train-crash in British company history. How can we learn the lessons if we can't read the evidence?"

The FSA warned that if former RBS directors reapplied to work in the City they could find their applications being barred or restricted to certain activities.

The watchdog's supervisory investigations into other banks that failed during the crisis, such as HBOS and Bradford & Bingley, continue.

RBS said: "RBS is wholly focused on our work to restructure the bank and rebuild value for shareholders. We welcome the

Friday, December 3, 2010

Unite Proposes National Strike In ireland

Unite has proposed a national strike to force the Irish Government to change its economic strategy.

It is also urging unions to lead a campaign of civil disobedience which could involve refusal to pay service charges or any new water or property taxes introduced.

Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said the union would put proposals for a national strike to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the weeks ahead and would seek support from other unions.

He suggested that such action could start with a half-day stoppage “and building on that to the sort of strike action that will affect the incoming government”.

He said the country would soon be moving into a phase when political parties would be seeking support to form the next government. He said the key question was how to influence the next administration. He said he was convinced strike action had to be part of such a campaign.

“We are absolutely convinced that marching in the streets for the rest of this year and into next year will not achieve the pressure that we need to put on those politicians. We are saying we need to look at the alternative which is taking strike action as part of the protest.”

Unite’s proposals for a national strike came as it unveiled plans for a four-year €15 billion investment in the economy under what it called an alternative “people’s budget”. The money would come from current cash assets held by the National Treasury Management Agency and the National Pension Reserve Fund. Among the projects they earmarked for investment are broadband, water and waste networks, a preventive health initiative and education. The plan also includes proposals for an end to regressive tax incentives and calls for tax increases initially on higher earning groups.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has already signalled that its focus following last Saturday’s march in Dublin will be on a campaign to oppose the Government’s move to cut the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance said yesterday while there was no formal scheme to allow civil servants to take a half-day shopping leave at Christmas, it was the custom in some organisations to allow the time off to some restricted grades. It said that this dated back to a time when shop opening hours were limited.

Earlier this week a member of staff in the Patents Office circulated an e-mail calling on all civil servants not to avail of this entitlement to Christmas shopping leave.

The email said it would be unacceptable in the current climate and would lead to further criticism from the media. The Department of Finance said that it did not know how many staff availed of the Christmas shopping leave.

Because it is not a formal arrangement, Christmas shopping leave does not feature in the reforms being proposed by management for the Civil Service under the Croke Park agreement.

Yesterday, the head of the implementation body for the Croke Park deal, PJ Fitzpatrick, said he was surprised such a practice could still exist.

In a separate move, the union representing lower-paid civil servants said it was not responsible for the row which has seen €20 million of electronic fingerprinting equipment unused for two years.

The CPSU said the Attorney General had now backed its legal advice that its members in the Garda National Immigration Bureau were not by law entitled to act as immigration officers.

The union said it had been informed by management that the equipment was to be used to track non-EU nationals making multiple applications in EU territories and to track international criminals using a link to Interpol data.

It said it had been advised at the time that CPSU members would be required to use data collected from the machine to scan Interpol and Garda lists to check for criminal records.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unions call for end to repression of unions in Mexico

Mexican trade unionist Juan Linares still jailed after two years; IMF, ICEM, ITF and UNI call for global mobilization in February 2011 demanding an end to government attacks on Mexico's democratic trade unions.

Ongoing abuses of trade union rights in Mexico will be highlighted on December 3, the day that marks the two-year anniversary of Juan Linares Montufar's arrest. Linares is a political prisoner, held illegally, without bond since his arrest. The sham charges against him all relate to the transfer of funds from a Trust created by his trade union, the National Union of Mine, Metal and Steel Workers (SNTMMSSRM) to the union. His detention is one part of the campaign of trade union intimidation and repression by the Mexican government.

Juan Linares is the President of the Oversight and Justice Council of the SNTMMSSRM, also known as Los Mineros. The sham charges against him relate to a trust created in 1988 as part of negotiations around the sale of a number of state-owned mines to Germán Larrea, the current owner of mining giant Grupo México. As part of the privatisation negotiations, 5 per cent of the shares of the companies were to be placed in a trust for the benefit of the SNTMMSSRM. In a 1990 ruling, the First Commercial Court in Mexico City confirmed that the union was the beneficiary of the trust. Linares was one of three trustees named by the union to administer the trust.

Los Mineros fought a 15-year legal and industrial action struggle to make the Larrea companies pay the agreed shares into the Trust. Agreement was reached on October 2, 2004, by which time the 5 per cent share was worth approximately US$55 million. In February 2005 the union decided to terminate the Trust and transfer the money to a bank account of the union.

In 2006 the Federal Attorney General filed criminal charges against Linares, SNTMMSSRM General Secretary Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and other union officials, in federal and state courts. All of the charges are based on a single argument: that the union did not have the right to terminate the trust because the trust existed for the benefit of the workers, not the union. The union officers reply that the transfer of the trust funds was perfectly legal under Mexican law; in addition to being a protected exercise of trade union autonomy under ILO Convention 87. So far, charges filed against Gómez in three state and two federal courts have been dismissed, as have two state charges against Linares. However, a federal charge against Linares is still being litigated, and the courts have denied him bail.

Ironically, while the government claims that its prosecution is intended to force the union to pay the Grupo Mexico workers, its charges actually halted the payments. Prior to the filing of the criminal charges, the SNTMMSSRM had already distributed almost $21 million to the workers. But when the government filed charges, it also froze the union's bank accounts, halting the distribution process.

Since his arrest, Linares has been held at the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City. He receives regular visits from his family, other Mineros leaders, and international trade union delegations from around the world. To all his visitors, Linares has one message: "I could walk out of this jail tomorrow if I were willing to betray my union. But I will never do that."

Juan Linares is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately.

This demand is part of a global mobilization that is being planned to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the deadly accident at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Coahuila on 19 February 2006. The global days of action, calling for an end to government attacks on Mexico's democratic trade unions, will be led by affiliates of four Global Union Federations: the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), and UNI Global Union. For more information go to:

German metalworkers to get 2011 increases early

Some 670,000 German metal and electronics workers to get 2011 pay rises early, reports IG Metall.

GERMANY: In a sign that the economic crisis has waned, at least in Germany, IG Metall reported that companies employing 20 per cent of some total 3.4 million metal and electronics workers in the country to date have moved the scheduled 2011 wage increase up from April to February. Companies and their Works Councils including Audi AG, Bosch GmbH, Siemens, and Voith, the paper machine and engineering manufacturer, have agreed to pay the scheduled 2.7 per cent increase in February.

Several more companies are expected to do the same in the coming weeks. The union said some 670,000 workers are now on schedule to get the raise in February. In collective agreements negotiated in February 2010, IG Metall agreed to a historic job preservation pact in exchange for two lump sum payments of €320 each in 2010 and early 2011.

The 2011 percentage increase was scheduled for April 2011, but according to the agreement Works Councils were given the authority to negotiate the 2.7 per cent sum effective two months prior to April 2011, but no later than two months after that date. The 25-month agreement last year also mandates that there will be no operational redundancies before 30 June 2012.

IG Metall credits the early raises to a strong economic recovery in the country.

Additionally, Siemens, in appreciation to its global workforce of 400,000 for exemplary performance throughout the crisis, announced earlier in November that it would grant a total of US$430 million in a "one-time special bonus." The pay-out, to be made between December and January, will amount to about €1,000 per worker, with German workers getting the bonus in January and the 2.7 per cent increase the next month.

Monday, November 29, 2010


From VSC:

Unite is amongst supporters of the annual Latin America Conference taking place this Saturday (December 4) at Congress House from 9.30am - 5.00pm.

Keynote speakers from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolviia, Honduras and Ecuador will address this must-attend event.

Please find below an article by former MP Colin Burgon - Vice-Chair of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign - on why at this time of economic crisis, our solidarity with progressives in Latin America is more important than ever.

Mass movements show the alternative to failed neo-liberalism

The recent election in Brazil of Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in the second round of the presidential elections was welcomed by those on the left all over the world
by Colin Burgon

Friday, November 26th, 2010 -

The recent election in Brazil of Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in the second round of the presidential elections was welcomed by those on the left all over the world.
Ms Rousseff won by 56 per cent to 44 per cent, with 55,752,483 votes, and will take office on January 1 as the first woman president of the country. Elections to Congress – and state legislatures – also produced welcome outcomes for the PT which, along with coalition allies, increased their representation and for the first time took control of the Senate.
This is the case not only in Brazil but elsewhere in the continent. There has been a steadying of support for the progressive coalition in Argentina.
In Bolivia, the governing Movement Towards Socialism led by Evo Morales won again in April’s regional elections.
And in Venezuela’s National Assembly elections while – against a backdrop of 12 years in power, worldwide economic recession and emboldened opposition – President Hugo Chávez’ PSUV did not poll as well as in some previous elections, it remained the party with the biggest support and a majority of seats.
Indeed, it was with the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 that the response to neo-liberalism was unleashed, subsequently creating a “pink tide” of governments throughout the region.
Around the world, the Washington consensus experiment failed the majority of people and this was especially clear in Latin America, where millions were thrown into poverty.
First, the Chávez government, and then others, put forward a different model, combining economic interventionism, control of natural resources and redistribution to improve people’s lives.
These changes were deeply resented by the previous ruling elites in those countries and by those forces internationally that support, and benefit from, neo-liberalism.
In 2009 and 2010, there have been signs that such forces are fighting back. In particular, the successful military coup against Honduras’ elected President Manuel Zelaya was a stark warning that social progress should not be taken for granted.
Forces hostile to the progressive government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador kidnapped and tried to oust (and kill) the president through a “police revolt” in September.
However, this time – as in Venezuela in 2002 – the plotters were not successful, with the people going onto the streets to demand the return of their president and sections of the army ensuring his safe release.
Although, when elected, Barack Obama professed the need for “a new start” to relations the United States has with Latin America, the actions of the US military indicate no clear break from the policies of the George W Bush years, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in particular hostile to the Chávez government.
The danger to progress in the region is therefore very real. The aforementioned coups also need to be seen against the backdrop of a new US militarisation of the region, including the resurrection of the US military Fourth Fleet.
In a time of global economic crisis, we should learn from the mass movements in Latin America that there is an alternative to neo-liberalism and develop practical ways of supporting them.

* Colin Burgon is chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela and vice-chair of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. He is speaking at the Latin America 2010 conference at Congress House on December 4, which Tribune is supporting. For more information and online registration:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Len McCluskey: Government 'wrecking UK'

The government has been accused of taking a "wrecking ball" to the country by its cuts in public spending.
Len McCluskey, newly elected leader of the Unite union accused the government of going "far beyond" what was needed to rebalance the economy.

He told a conference in London organised by the Coalition of Resistance: "The anger that is unfurling across our country is not mindless.

"It is the legitimate expression of a people who feel that this government is taking a wrecking ball to our nation, going far beyond what is needed rebalance our books.

"They are using a global financial crisis to terrify the citizens of this country into meek acceptance of a raid on our schools, hospitals, services, jobs - the very fundamentals of our communities built up over 60 years of our tax and toil."

Len McCluskey said communities would not allow the government to "hurl" the country back to the "wasted years" of unemployment and "destroyed" communities he said were the hallmark of the Thatcher years.

"We know there is an alternative, based on growth and tax justice, to the vandalism they are hell-bent on pursuing.

"In streets, schools, workplaces, universities and town halls up and down our country we will stand together against the senseless hardship they will unleash. We will not let them break Britain.

"And if this government ignores our alliance, then they will, deservedly, be run out of office."