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Collective bargaining re-established for the graphic industry in Scotland

17 Sep

Hundreds of Unite members, covered by the Graphic Enterprise Scotland National Agreement, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of re-establishing the National Agreement with the Employers Federation.

Although the provisions of the agreement had remained in place, there have been no nationally agreed pay increases since 2008.

Steve Sibbald, Unite national officer who conducted negotiations, said of the agreement: “We are delighted that we have now re-established national collective bargaining with the Employers Federation in Scotland.

“Although the increase for this year is modest at two per cent, our members recognised that it was worth accepting a modest increase for this year in order to get national collective bargaining for the graphic industry in Scotland back on track.”

Norman King, Unite regional officer who also conducted negotiations, said: “This agreement will bring more stability in an industry in Scotland that has been suffering over the last three years and will help to prevent fragmentation that could potentially be damaging.

“It may be a vain hope, but perhaps this will send a message to the industry federations south of the border.”

The agreement will benefit over 700 workers and covers negotiations for wages, overtime premium, shift premium, holidays, and all other aspects of work.

ENDS

For further information contact Steve Sibbald on 07860 538537 or Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07980 224761.

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Looking for Growth!

16 Jan

The key issue facing our economy is how we can get elements of growth in the most sustained contraction since the 1930s. We now hear the constant mantra – or in political jargon, ‘the line’ – of how we can’t reverse the cuts; tough public spending rounds are here to stay; we need a fairer distribution of what is left in the ever-dwindling money-pot, and, we have got to stick to the vast majority of the Tory deficit plan no matter the social destruction this unleashes. This of course ignores the fact that this is a self-enforced deficit reduction straight-jacket!

The drip-drip effect played out in the media in order to be ‘credible’ means what’s left is debating an ever-narrowing number of options on the table of how we try to stimulate our economy. It does a massive disservice to those in unemployment, in poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

If we have the political will to face the root causes of the crisis, there are many potential solutions: a financial transaction tax; resisting the corporation tax cuts while companies hoard money in their accounts to the tune of up to £70 billion; addressing tax havens and evasion, and, applying constant bonus taxes on the Directors of companies who wrecked our economy until the debt they have caused is paid back.

There is an extensive list of potential taxes and levies which should be explored such as a Land Value Tax which can help to grow our economy. However, you don’t see this getting debated much because our political institutions and major parties seem wedded to accepting neo-liberalism or reigned-in capitalism.

A policy which has gained a lot of traction is a Living Wage. The gap between rich and poor has doubled in the last 30 years. It doesn’t take a genius to work out if there are fewer people in employment then those in employment must have higher wages in order to reflate the economy in order to consume products which in turn creates demand for production.

In Scotland the long-standing campaign for a Living Wage has intensified over the last year with the introduction of a Living Wage rate of £7.20p/h (uprated from £7.15) for all directly employed workers in Glasgow City Council and West Dunbartonshire Council. As part of their manifesto commitments Scottish Labour and the SNP pledged to roll-out the Living Wage.

Labour pledged to roll it out to all public sector workers while the SNP proposed to extend to all NHS and Government Agencies in addition to all Government workers who already receive it. An Inquiry is taking place in the Scottish Parliament at the moment on the Living Wage which our Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty gave evidence at in December 2011.

Statistics show that in 2009 there were 623,000 people employed in the public sector in Scotland, of which approximately 33,000 (5 per cent) were estimated to earn less than £7 an hour. By way of comparison, approximately 18 per cent of workers in the Scottish economy as a whole were estimated to earn less than £7 an hour during 2009. This shows why we can’t just restrict this policy to the public sector. We need to find ways to inflate the wages of workers across all sectors of our economy, thereby putting spending power back in people’s pockets and stimulating the economy.

The Scottish Government directly controls the pay packets of thousands of Scots through its various agencies, bodies and sub-contracting arrangements, yet they are failing to utilise the significant powers they have. There is no excuse for inaction. If the Scottish Government is serious about the Living Wage then they have got to lead by example. Otherwise, what hope have we got of the private sector following suit.

Unite Scotland’s ‘Making Devolution Work’ paper explores potentially how we can extend the concept of a living wage beyond the public sector where 77 per cent of all Scottish workers are in employment. Sectoral forums – the key strand of this strategy discussed at length on our website – also discusses how we can prevent public services being outsourced to the private sector. It would prevent private sector employers’ under-cutting their public sector counterparts paying the Living Wage.

I’ve never agreed with the London Mayor Boris Johnson in my life but I will make an exception, he said: “Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right – with the potential to massively reduce child poverty in London- but also it makes good business sense. What may appear to a company to be an unaffordable cost in a highly competitive market is more appropriately viewed as a sound investment decision.”

If a Tory Mayor can say this then it is time for the Scottish Government to get moving by introducing a Living Wage for the whole public sector and supporting sector forums to help extend it to the private sector – not today but yesterday.

 

Thousands taking on extra part-time work to make ends meet

27 Dec

Unite the Union – Scotland’s largest union – has today (Wednesday 28 December) released polling data which shows that thousands are taking on extra work to pay the bills.

The poll of 1501 Unite members discovered that twenty-four percent of those surveyed had been forced to take a part-time job to cope with the increased cost of living. The poll also established that ninety per cent of those who had taken on part-time work done so to supplement their existing salary.

The poll found that the group’s disproportionately taking on part-time work included people living in medium-sized and smaller towns who have very strong ties to their local area and families and couples in affordable homes in areas historically reliant on manufacturing.

The latest unemployment figures for Scotland illustrated that 8.5 per cent of the population were out of work – higher than the UK average of 8.3 per cent. Part-time work has increased from 624,000 (April 08-March 09) to 670,000 (April 10-March 11). This means an estimated 97,000 workers have a second job.

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said:

“The level of workers taking on a part-time job to make ends meet is astonishing. Due to the rising costs of living, entitlement reductions and real terms pay cuts tens of thousands of workers in Scotland are working round the clock to pay the bills and provide for their families.”

“This is the untouched story of the financial crisis. It’s clear from our poll findings that the Scottish and UK Government’s need to do something about the scale of this issue. If we do not, then we are going to have a workforce which is stressed, burnt out and with little time to spend with their families.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Andrew Brady (andrew.brady@unitetheunion.org) on 07810 157922 and Peter Welsh (peter.welsh@unitetheunion.org) on 07810 157931.

Protesting Youth in Greece

13 Dec

Alexandra Koronaiou, Alexandros Sakellariou Irini Chiotaki-Poulou and Vangelis Lagos, members of the Greek MYPLACE team at Panteion University Of Social And Political Sciences on the protesting Greek youth, the current socio-political crisis, memory and their relevance to the work of MYPLACE.

The Greek society has, for the past three years, been experiencing an unprecedented economic, social and political crisis that has profoundly affected both the majority’s living conditions and the functioning of the entire institutional apparatus. The deep recession and the harsh austerity policies that have been continuously implemented within this period have influenced all aspects of social life as large parts of the population have suffered great losses in their income and they have been living in a climate of insecurity, fear, anger and pessimism regarding the future. In this context, social conflicts have sharpened and protests, strikes, and clashes with the police have become an everyday phenomenon, some of the most impressive instances of which have been covered extensively by (inter)national and global media.

The social unrest had begun after the agreement between the Greek government, and the so-called E.C, ECB I.M.F troika regarding the first Greek bailout and the austerity measures announced by the socialist government in2010. Inthese protests participated people of almost all social groups, classes and age-groups, particularly the middle-aged. The protests included strikes, marches, the occupation of the Syntagma square in the centre ofAthensas well as the occupation of public buildings mainly by the public sector’s syndicates. Similar protests had taken place in other Greek cities too likeThessaloniki, Ioannina, Heraklion, etc. Young Greeks had been participating actively in these conflicts and protests, although no distinctive youth or students’ movements have emerged so far.

To read the whole article click here 

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

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 .

Yanis Varoufakis Interview Part 3 – The Modest Proposal

23 Sep

In the third part of our interview with Professor Yanis Varoufakis we discuss the ‘Modest Proposal’ developed by Yanis, along with Professor Stuart Holland,  for overcoming the European economic crisis.

As the economic situation rapidly declines in Europe against a backdrop of political inertia and with the folly of austerity increasingly exposed, the Modest Proposal offers solutions to save the Eurozone.

Keep an eye out for our fourth and final instalment of our interview next week.