Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Dutch union wants to ally with environmental organisations

In his New Year speech, chairman Ton Heerts announced that the Dutch union FNV wants to create a movement around social and environmental issues, in collaboration with other organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth:

On occasion, we already work with such organisations, for example on the Energy Agreement or in protesting the free trade agreement with the US, TTIP. Or on the Fair Bank Guide and in the Social Alliance. But we should strengthen our collaboration and jointly create a social and sustainable agenda, become a movement.

Further, he criticised the fact that the Netherlands is the European leader in job insecurity. “Flex jobs for all is equal too, but what kind of society will that result in? Back to the day labourers of 1900? We take a stand for real jobs, and we will increase our efforts the coming year.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Why American doctors unionise

When an American hospital threatened to outsource medical care, one of the doctors observed: “They can’t fire all of us — there are unions.” The doctors decided to unionise and affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, which already represented nurses at hospital. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times investigated and discoverd it’s not just about outsourcing, but also about bureaucratic efficiency measures:

If you talk to them for long enough, you get the distinct feeling it is not just their jobs that hang in the balance, but the loss of something much less tangible — the ability of doctors everywhere to exercise their professional judgment

“It can’t be all based on production,” one doctor said. “It has to be quality — safety, a good experience. If you’re the patient in the bed, it’s important to you that you’re treated as an individual, that your needs are being met.”

Monday, 4 January 2016

E-mail notifications

Some of you are receiving email notifications of new posts through a service called Feedblitz. Because of the adds Feedblitz includes in its emails, we’ve stopped using their service. Subscribers will therefore no longer receive email notifications. You can still get email notifications through the Blogger service by entering your email in the top-right box. Alternatively, you can follow this blog via Twitter or RSS.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Power and buzz: Where are trade union headquarters located?

Most trade unions in Europe have their headquarters within walking distance from the centre of political power. Some are in a lively neighbourhood, judging by the convenience store score. Read the details here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

‘Proud unionist’ leads Labour Party

On Saturday, the British Labour Party overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn as their new party leader. In one of his first public appearances in his new role, Corbyn delivered a speech at the TUC Congress in which he described himself as a ‘proud unionist’ and said: “I am, and always will be, an active trade unionist. That is in my body.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian suggests that Corbyn’s views may play a crucial role in the upcoming referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU. The Conservative prime minister David Cameron is negotiating a new deal with the EU, and “the prime minister has been under pressure from business to include changes to workers’ rights in his negotiation package” (which would seem consistent with his broader anti-union strategy).

The TUC has indicated it may revoke its support for staying in the EU if this means rolling down social and employment rights. As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady explained to the FT: “Those who are expecting the trade union movement to bang the drum for Europe should think very hard about whether they can in all good faith make that request and then attack our rights by the back door.”

According to the Guardian, there is ‘deep concern’ in the pro-European camp at the ‘growing Eurosceptic mood’. Corbyn hasn’t taken a stance yet but has said Cameron should not have a ‘blank cheque’ in his negotiations with the EU.

Below are some quotes from Corbyn’s speech at the TUC Congress.

International solidarity
“We need to stand in solidarity with trade unionists all over the world demanding exactly the same things as we have secured for ourselves and trying to defend for ourselves. Trade unionism is a worldwide movement, not just a national movement and we should never be ashamed to say that.”

Democratic labour movement
Referring to the people who participated in his own election: “But all those people coming forward to take part in this process came forward, yes, because they were interested, yes, because they were hopeful but, yes, because they wanted to be part of a democratic process where we make policy together. … I want everybody to bring their views forward, every union branch, every party branch and every union, so we develop organically the strengths we all have, the ideas we all have and the imagination we all have.”

The proposed Trade Union Bill
“They are threatening the right of peaceful protest by looking to criminalise picketing. They are even threatening the right to free speech by seeking to limit what a union member can say on social media during a dispute. Are we really going to have teams of civil servants or lawyers or police or somebody trawling through massive numbers of twitter messages, Facebook messages, to find something somebody said about their employer or about an industrial dispute? What kind of intrusive society are they really trying to bring about.”

“They call us “deficit deniers”, but then they spend billions in cutting taxes for the richest families and for the most profitable businesses. What they are as is “poverty deniers”. … Let’s be clear. Austerity is actually a political choice that this Government has taken and they are imposing it on the most vulnerable and poorest in our society.”

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Danish unions take on Ryanair

Danish unions are planning solidarity actions directed at the fiercely anti-union airline Ryanair, which started operating from Copenhagen last March. When baggage handlers, fuelers and other staff stop servicing Ryanair, it may become impossible for the airline to continue operating from the Danish airport Kastrup.

There is increasing opposition across Europe against what many perceive as unfair competition from the Irish low cost airline, which has been accused of social dumping. Ryanair claims it operates under Irish law and that it can ignore social legislation in the countries in which it operates.

Nowhere has the opposition against these practices been as strong as in Denmark. According to the Financial Times, Ryanair is facing ‘one of the biggest challenges to its low-cost model’. Governments have told their staff not to use airlines that don’t abide by Danish labour law and large investors are reconsidering their investments in Ryanair. In a response, ceo Michael O’Leary said “I don't care about investors who are waffling on about ILO conventions”.

The Danes are showing unions across Europe they don’t need to resign themselves to the erosion of labour conditions and labour rights. You can show them your support by liking their Luftens Helte Facebook page.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

US: ‘Trade deal defeat shows strength of unions’

Last Friday, the US House of Representatives voted against a ‘fast track’ procedure that would have given the president more power to negotiate a trade deal with pacific countries. According to an analysis in the New York Times, a coalition of trade unions and liberal activists played a key role in this outcome. Union members have held 650 events, made 160,000 phone calls and sent over 20,000 letters. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka:
We are very grateful for all the activists, families, community leaders and elected officials who worked so tirelessly for transparency and worker rights in international trade deals. This was truly democracy in action.
According to the NYT analysis, the campaign was successful because they started as early as 2013 and because of the broad support in the labour movement. A spokesperson of the Chamber of Commerce said was ‘mystified’ that even the SEIU supports the campaign, even though it represents many public sector workers: “None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports. Yet SEIU will be there, showing solidarity.”

Yet the support of SEIU makes perfect sense, the NYT explains: when the labour conditions of private sector workers are under attack, this will weaken the entire labour movement.

In the Netherlands, union federation FNV has taken a stance against TTIP, the transatlantic counterpart of the pacific trade deal.