Archive | October, 2011

Kilmarnock manufacturing contract loss disappointing but sustainable

27 Oct

Unite Scotland members in Kilmarnock manufacturer Mahle Engine Systems have expressed their deep disappointment at the loss of an estimated £4 million a year contract with car giants Ford, potentially impacting over 60 jobs.

It was confirmed this afternoon that the long-standing business relationship between both parties would be phased out by 2012/13 after Mahle indicated price increases for its products would be necessary due to the turbulent economic climate.

The Kilmarnock plant, which employs some 580 local workers in skilled engineering and administrative roles, manufactures high-quality engine components for a wide range of clients in the motorsport and motor vehicle markets.  However, the trades union believes this latest development can be absorbed without any further implications due to the site’s profitable world-class productions base.

Unite Regional Officer Jim Winter said, “The loss of the Ford contract is a blow to Mahle but it should be sustainable. Management have informed us this could impact some 60 jobs but we will do everything we can to mitigate redundancies.

There is no reason why this should have a wider impact on the business.  Mahle is enjoying increasing profitability from the Kilmarnock plant, particularly from its hi-spec bushings production which attracts significant global investment, courtesy of a niche skilled workforce. The site is primed to deliver long-term profitability with or without Ford – management know this as do our members.

Unite has a scheduled meeting with Mahle senior management representatives next Thursday. We will discuss the Ford contract but also seek commitments that continued investment will keep world-class manufacturing secure in Kilmarnock for years to come.”

The East Ayrshire economy has suffered deeply since the 2008 financial crash.  Major manufacturers such as Diageo and Vesuvius have wound-down their operations with a significant impact on local employment.

ENDS

Notes to Editors: For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter on 07739654856 or Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 07810157931.

 

 

Unite concern over Shell health & safety cuts

21 Oct

Unite Scotland has expressed major public health and safety concerns following proposals by Shell to reduce skilled repairs and maintenance (R&M) jobs by 80% at three of its Scottish gas processing sites.

Sub-contractors Cape and the Wood Group currently employ 180 R&M workers at the St Fergus plant in Aberdeenshire and at Mossmoran and Braefoot Bay in Fife, which play vital roles in Shell’s North Sea gas processing operation.  Shell recently announced their intention to implement new working practices that would see 80% of these posts shifted from full-time to seasonal positions, resulting in redundancies.

However, the trades union has hit back after a meeting with the sub-contractors in Glasgow this morning and is now calling for an urgent meeting with Shell representatives.

Unite Industrial Officer Rab Sherry said, “It’s clear that Shell have tried to by-pass Unite on this matter and not without reason – the reality of the situation is not something a global oil and gas giant like Shell would want publicised.  

The three sites in Aberdeenshire and Fife are extremely precarious places of work, handling sensitive natural gas liquids.  Health and safety is absolutely paramount and our members who are employed in a wide range of skilled construction roles maintain the plants – some of which are over thirty years old – to the highest standards.

Given that Shell has failed to consult Unite and our members of their plans, have they also failed to inform the heavily populated adjacent communities of Peterhead, Cowdenbeath and Dalgety Bay that they are cutting health & safety investment?

Shell is a multi-billion pound corporation making eye-watering profits year-in, year-out. In a time where we should be sustaining skilled employment and increasing health and safety standards, Shell seems to be doing the opposite.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:  For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer Rab Sherry on 07904057405 or Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland campaigns Unit on 07810157931.

 

The Occupy Movement comes to Scotland

19 Oct

In almost 2,000 cities across the world, people have been occupying their city centres in protest at the way a debt-run financial system, driven by unaccountable bankers, has caused economic devastation across the world.

The Movement started with Occupy Wall Street on 17 September, and in late September, the occupiers released a Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, to communicate their ideas to the wider community. The protests spread rapidly to other cities. In the US, the unions have come out in support of the occupy movement.

Current the occupations don’t have a clear political objective, and are intended to bring people together in their opposition to the financial crisis and the political failure that allowed it to happen. In this way, it is similar to the  Indignados in Spain and the Syntagma Square movement in Greece. The participants hope that by bringing people together in the city centres, they can open the debate and help to coordinate an international movement for a fairer future.

Last weekend, the occupations arrived in UK cities, including Scotland. There are currently occupations in George Square in Glasgow, and St Andrews Square in Edinburgh. For more information, visit the Occupy Glasgow and Occupy Edinburgh websites.

If you are in the city centre, go down to the occupation and talk to the occupiers. It is important that we build a coalition with everyone opposing the austerity agenda, not just in the UK but across the world.

There is a general assembly at 6:30 each day that is open to all; Occupy Glasgow is also holding a special meeting at 3pm on Saturday.

UK Government should match Scotland’s commitment to asbestos sufferers

19 Oct

Scotland leads the UK in rights to justice for victims of the “deadly dust”

Unite the Union along with victims campaigners are calling for the UK Government to match Scotland’s commitment to asbestos sufferers.

The call comes after last Wednesday’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court which ruled that the Scottish Parliament was within its rights to pass a new law restoring pleural plaques victims’ right to compensation after the House of Lords controversially decreed the condition was harmless.

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court rejected insurance companies’ arguments that the new Scottish law breached their human rights.

Scotland leads  the UK in recognising the rights of asbestos sufferers to compensation.  Wednesday’s landmark ruling means a total of four pieces of legislation have been passed since 2006 by the Scottish Parliament which reinforces the rights of asbestos sufferers and their relatives to redress for exposure to the “deadly dust” north of the border.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 and now the Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 all enshrine additional rights for asbestos sufferers and their loved ones to seek compensation for the devastating effects the dust causes (see notes).

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said:

“Wednesday’s decision was a victory for progressive politics.  Scotland has set the standard for the rest of the UK.  The government at Westminster must match Scotland’s commitment to asbestos sufferers.

“Pleural plaques are recognised by medical experts as a sign of irreversible damage to the lining of the lungs and can be caused by a history of exposure to asbestos which itself carries an increased risk of deadly diseases like mesothelioma.

“Over the last five years, Scotland has overtaken the rest of the UK in recognising that workers exposed to asbestos and those close to them deserve the fullest possible redress for the suffering caused by this deadly dust.  It’s now time for the rest of the UK to match that commitment.”

Phyllis Craig, senior welfare officer at Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said:

“The decision of the Supreme Court has resoundingly reasserted the right to pursue compensation in Scotland for Pleural Plaques.

“Much progress has been made in Scotland to ensure that the victims of asbestos have better rights.  This should serve as an example to the UK Government.

“Asbestos sufferers across the UK deserve these rights.”

Bob Dickie Chair of Clydebank Asbestos Group who represents around 200 pleural plaques victims said:

“These are the kind of rights asbestos sufferers deserve across the UK.

“I hope the UK Government can tear themselves away from the arguments of the major insurers and see sense.

“If they can do it in Scotland, why not England?”

Laura Blane, from Thompsons Solicitors, who handle 90% of the estimated 1200 pleural plaques cases in Scotland, said:

“Whether it’s through the courts or through our campaign work, Thompsons Solicitors is constantly committed to fighting for the rights to proper redress for those exposed to asbestos.

“The Rights to Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 and now pleural plaques legislation are a few examples of just how much Scotland leads the rest of the UK in this area of law.

“The progress made in Scotland should serve as an example to the rest of theUK.”

 ENDS   

 

Notes to editors:

Key asbestos legislation developments in Scotland:

The Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007- This ended the heart-wrenching choice mesothelioma sufferers faced of either seeking damages themselves while alive or not pursuing a claim so that their family could get the full compensation their family deserved.

Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006- This Act was introduced to extend the distribution of compensation to family members who had previously been unable to claim for the loss of a loved one.  In the past, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren of the deceased did not have any legal right to claim and were offered no recognition or compensation for their loss.  The introduction of the above Act on the 4th May 2006 now means that more family members and loved ones have the potential to claim.

Damages (Scotland) Act 2011– This Act overhauled the rules on the level of financial support that families are entitled to in law, through the compensation process, when a family member dies as a result of a wrongful death caused through accident, injury or disease.  Before the Act, the law was completely out of date, based on a model from a by-gone era when families only had one bread winner, discriminating against modern families where both partners work.  The Act ensures that families receive proper and full compensation when they need it most and will also ensure that it is without the need for unnecessarily long court cases.

The Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009. This Act finally gives pleural plaques sufferers access to compensation.

ENDS  

 

Destruction as salvation or treating countries like private businesses?

19 Oct

“My basic aim, in this difficult period, [is} every family to have at least one working member” the Greek PM announced during the Thessalonica International Fair official opening last September.  He also assured everyone that his greatest concern is the country’s economic development. The striking irrationality generated by the Greek PM’s self-contradictory discourse (that fantasizes the possibility of development without employment, echoing the charlatanism of the “jobless recovery”), reveals the dramatic failure of the international policies imposed on the Greek society during the past two years or so.

If even a first year economics student knows that there is no development without employment, how is then possible for the Greek PM not to understand such a simple truth? In my view, the answer must be sought to the combination of three main factors: a) the extreme irrationality that characterizes European policies regarding the current systemic crisis, b) the Greek government’s flop to combat tax evasion and to tax wealth where it has been mainly concentrated, that is, in banks and large businesses and c) the absolute indifference of the national and inter/supra-national elites toward the productive rebooting of the Greek and the European economy, combined with an extremely anti-social obsession with the privatization of public property (infrastructure and resources), the deconstruction of public services and institutions and the abolition of all labour rights.

The first one forces an over indebted and productively stripped country to massively increase debt as well as unemployment at the same time, within a severe systemic destabilization. The formula is destined to fail, since it drains all sources of public and private income by bringing down the aggregate demand.

The second one inflates public deficits and passes the crisis burden on to the weakest parts of society, namely the wage earners and pensioners, the unemployed and the poor, who suffer the gravest consequences of the long-lasting and ever-hardening austerity.

Finally, the third one negates every possibility for a counter-recession policy, leaving the Greek economy to sink into the misery of its marginal position within the European division of production, while sharpening the overall contrast between importers and exporters within EU. Instead of planning and allocating resources to developmental processes, the EU and Greek neoliberal obsession with treating countries like private businesses, has condemned Greece to a postmodern rightwing “withering away of the State” that deprives society from infrastructure, institutions, resources, rights and services. The systematic dismantling of the Greek state institutions and the privatization of public property are now opening the door for the revitalization of colonialism within Europe.

Download the full paper here.

By Vangelis Lagos,   Sociologist, in Athens for Unite Scotland.

Yanis Varoufakis Interview – Part 4

13 Oct

 

Unite Scotland’s fourth and final instalment in the Varoufakis series puts focus on the failings of social democratic political parties, the lessons we need to learn from history and the urgent need for a collective European left-wing response.

Yanis pulls no punches in a frank and brutally honest assessment of how social democratic politicians in Greece contributed to the unfolding European crisis; arguably actions that were or still are consistent in all self-styled social democratic parties across the European continent, including the UK.

We believe this is a fascinating interview crystallising why a collective left wing response across Europe,  pursuing a new social democratic agenda, is absolutely crucial to avoid making the same mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s.

We do hope you have enjoyed our interviews with Professor Varoufakis and that they have provided some serious food for thought.   You can continue to follow Yanis and his work via his personal blog or on Twitter @yanisvaroufakis .

Supreme Court backs Scottish asbestos law

12 Oct

Unite Scotland has welcomed the UK Supreme Court’s decision to throw-out the AXA Insurance-led appeal against Scottish legislation which can award damages to victims of asbestos exposure.

The insurance industry has continually attempted to kill-off the 2009 Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, which itself overturned a 2007 House of Lords ruling stating damages could not be claimed for sufferers of pleural plaques.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said, “It’s a great relief that the Supreme Court has rejected the UK insurance lobby’s shameful attempts to deny people exposed to asbestos the right to seek justice.

The devastating legacy of asbestos is widespread in the communities of the Clyde and the Forth where it was routinely used in the shipbuilding and petro-chemical industries.  It’s right that negligent employers who exposed workers to asbestos should be made liable for the horrible legacy they have left.

Today’s ruling is a victory for people, not profit, and restores some much needed faith in our justice system.”

Pleural plaques are recognised by medical experts as a sign of irreversible damage to the lining of the lung caused by a history of exposure to asbestos which carries an increased risk of malignant diseases such as the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

ENDS

Notes to Editors: For further information please contact Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 078101 57931.