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Unmasking the State


Our latest blogs on trade unions

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The game is up already, Len
Len McCluskey, the leader of the union Unite, is sounding more than a little desperate. His lengthy campaign to influence Labour’s policies in advance of next year’s scheduled general election has yielded nothing. His latest warning – to cut funding from the party altogether – will predictably have the same result.


How Miliband called McCluskey's bluff
If Len McCluskey were an investment banker, he surely would have been fired a long time ago. Instead, his position as general secretary of the Unite union is secure even though the return on capital invested in Labour leader Ed Miliband is beyond measurement because it’s so low.


In case you missed it, here's hot news from the TUC
As tumultuous world events like the uprising in Ukraine, the direct democracy movement sweeping Bosnia, the Syrian civil war etc etc grab your attention, you may have missed a momentous announcement by the Trades Union Congress here in Britain. There is to be a mass demonstration in – wait for it – October!


Unite leaders pin their hopes on Miliband instead of fighting back
To engage in a battle with employers which then ends in defeat or a setback is no disgrace. To run up the white flag at the first whiff of grapeshot is shameful, however hard Unite leader Len McCluskey is trying to spin the Grangemouth debacle.


Grangemouth workers hung out to dry by Unite and SNP
The fate of jobs at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant now lies solely in the hands of a ruthless corporation that buys firms and then drives them back into profit at the expense of their workers’ wages and benefits.


Unions losing their 'voice' as Labour plans long goodbye
Frances O’Grady, the first woman general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, says “trade unions should have a strong political voice”. She’s so right because as things stand, their traditional “voice” in the shape of Labour is fading away.


Miliband follows in Tories' footsteps with opt-in plans
Whichever way he dresses it up, Ed Miliband’s plan for trade union members to opt-in to paying a subscription to Labour is an historic break with the organisations that formed the party and have since provided the bulk of its funds.


He who pays the piper doesn't always call the tune
The unseemly row between the Unite trade union and Labour over the selection of a parliamentary candidate could bring to a head the increasingly frosty relationship between the party and its single biggest funder.


Memo to McCluskey: you can't fight the ConDems with hot air
The second wave of austerity without end, if not halted, will mean the end of many public services, a huge increase in unemployment and huge subsidies for big corporations so they can cash in on infrastructure projects.


McCluskey lets Miliband off the hook
What are we to make of the spat between Len McCluskey, the leader of Britain’s biggest union and Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party who in large measures owes his very position to the man he has publicly castigated?


Separating rhetoric from reality over general strike call
Talk of a one-day general strike against ConDem policies is being floated, led by the Unite union. While any action against this most reactionary of governments is to be supported, we need to separate the rhetoric from reality.


McCluskey's sleight of hand is cover for Miliband
Go and read Len McCluskey’s lecture at the London School of Economics. It was tremendous and a breath of fresh air, I was told. So I did. Was I disappointed? Not really, because my expectations were not all that high to start with.


Unions should resist rail and fuel price rises with civil disobedience
Millions of people who commute to work are a just a few weeks away from a massive cut in incomes that will intensify the dramatic fall in living standards that the recession and austerity measures have already created.


Fear not, the TUC remains 'vigilant' as Osborne attacks rights
Chancellor George Osborne’s plan for workers to sell off their employment rights, making it easier and cheaper for bosses to sack people, might well have produced a tough reaction from a trade union leadership prepared to confront the despised ConDems.


Rhetoric and reality in TUC strike vote
The leaders of the Trades Union Congress will need to match rhetoric with deeds for a change if we are to take seriously the unanimous vote yesterday for co-ordinated strike action by public sector workers over pay and spending cuts.


Pensions strike challenges austerity
The third major one-day strike in six months in defence of public sector pensions has received tremendous support from trade unionists around Britain. Over 400,000 civil servants, lecturers, health staff and prison officers have joined the action.


They are all in it together!
The evidence of Labour’s collusion with the ConDem coalition has piled up so high that even Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, can no longer ignore it. “The real points of differentiation between Labour and the government on the economy are now very hard to identify,” he admits today.


TUC divides pensions fight
At the first whiff of grapeshot, the right-wing leaders of the Trades Union Congress, history will show, turned and ran straight into the arms of the ConDem coalition over cuts to public sector pensions.


Fight the great pensions betrayal
Only a rank-and-file revolt in defence of their pension rights stands between leaders of most public sector trade unions and what will surely rank near the top of a long list of betrayals.


Don't lose pension strike momentum
The commitment shown by at least 1.5 million workers in 29 unions who staged a 24-hour strike against attacks on pensions, and marched in cities and towns in their tens of thousands, is now in jeopardy.


Don't let the ConDems off the hook
Seldom has a government looked in such disarray as the ConDems do in the countdown to what is effectively a mini-general strike in defence of public sector pensions. All that keeps them from crumbling is the weakness of the opposition ranged against them.


Unions should block sanctions against unemployed
Thousands of unemployed young people are working for supermarkets without pay for months on end, with the constant threat of losing their measly benefits if they leave, while others are on enforced “mandatory work activity” schemes.


Pension strikers should go beyond resistance
Whatever the Murdoch press may say ("Union leaders are off their heads" – The Sun) it is pressure from members, rather than the not-so-steely resolve of union bosses, that forced the TUC to act over pensions.


Miliband takes union cash – and does a runner
In the summer of 2010, some union leaders met together and decided that they could buy their way to happiness by backing Ed Miliband’s campaign to become the new leader of the Labour Party.


Unison fiddles while health service burns
A 1,000 amendments later and the health bill that returns to Parliament today still contains the plan to deepen market penetration and competition in the NHS, building on the previous New Labour government’s handiwork.


12 weeks to pensions showdown
The pensions confrontation clock is counting down. Twelve weeks from now, at the end of October, the leaders of the trade union movement will either have to put up or shut up in the wake of yesterday’s provocation by the ConDem government.


ConDems will stand or fall over pensions
The largest and most powerful strike for a quarter of a century, in defence of public sector pensions, must lead to a movement to bring down the ConDem government or it will have no chance of success.


General strike is a defining moment
Union leaders threatening sustained and co-ordinated action if there is no agreement with the government on pensions, intend to use what would amount to a general strike simply as a negotiating ploy. That is a serious, fatal miscalculation.


How we can defend pensions
There is a common thread between the upcoming strikes in defence of public sector pensions in Britain and the slow-motion car crash that is Greek political economy. In both countries, the state is saying it can’t pay, won’t pay.


Market and capitalism go hand in hand
Bit of a shock to the system when I read a press release from the Trades Union Congress this morning that attacks “the embrace of market capitalism by successive governments”.


When marching is not enough
The contrast couldn’t be clearer. In Egypt, they gather in hundreds of thousands and strike with the aim of bringing down the Mubarak regime. In Britain, the leadership of the trade unions wants workers to walk through London at the end of March – and then go home.


Healthcare market already worth £29 billion
David Cameron claims the mantle of Tony Blair in defending the Coalition’s plans to impose market-driven changes in the National Health Service. He is absolutely right and that’s why trade union opposition to the government’s plans is reduced to a letter to The Times.


Let the sleeping giant speak in 2011
The leaders of the Trades Union Congress are not noted for dramatic statements or exaggerated, let alone rapid, reactions to political change. The TUC’s current general secretary, Brendan Barber, has spent his time in office promoting harmony between social classes and compromise not confrontation.


High stakes in firefighters’ strike
Firefighter union leaders Mick Shaw and Ian Leahair called for the support of other trade unions and the entire labour movement at a meeting called by the South East Region of the TUC.


TUC's shameful betrayal
The Trades Union Congress decision, to hold a national demonstration against the spending cuts to take place over five months after they were announced and on the eve of their implementation, is shameful.


All bark and no bite
There was dismay and anger amongst the several thousand trade union members who crowded Westminster Central Hall; some including a large number from the prison officers union, couldn’t get in to the TUC’s anti-cuts rally. People had travelled from Lancashire, Devon, Cornwall, Northamptonshire and around London to take part in the protest meeting and lobby of MPs.


Firefighters' union fights for its future
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which has consistently fought to defend the wages and conditions of its members, is about to engage in a momentous struggle in London that could well determine its very future as an organisation. So much is at stake that the FBU needs all the practical and active support it can muster from other unions.


For the TUC and Miliband, resistance is futile
As the coalition puts the finishing touches to next week’s budget cuts, which are certain to devastate services and jobs, you might wonder what the trade union leadership and the Labour Party are up to. Keeping their heads down, is the answer.


TUC faces both ways as crisis looms
That the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is even talking about taking action against the Con-Lib government’s planned spending cuts reflects the deep anger of public sector workers and their willingness to fight back. Most union leaders, however, clearly want to avoid a confrontation with the coalition.


Transport workers break the mantra
At last – a group of workers have broken through the mantra of There Is No Alternative, pumped out by the government and the mass media.


Time to defy anti-union laws
The High Court ruling against the planned British Airways cabin crew strike is not simply the outcome of a clearly partisan decision by Mr Justice McCombe. It is also the result of more than two decades of fearful inaction on the part of the trade union leaders.


The stakes couldn't be higher
The stakes are being raised in the confrontation between BA management and cabin crew members of Unite who are fighting to protect jobs and conditions. Coming a quarter of a century after the end of the biggest confrontation between unions and the state when the miners fought pit closures in a struggle lasting a year, the company’s reaction to the strike means it is more than just another industrial dispute.


Don't let BA cabin crew fight alone
As New Labour ministers lined up with the right-wing press over the weekend to condemn the strike by British Airways cabin crew, you had to ask yourself what had the national leaders of the Unite trade union done to prepare for a confrontation that the company had clearly planned for some time. The answer is not very much.


New Labour lines up with BA
There’s nothing like a looming national strike to bring out the true class credentials of the political parties, together with the baying hound-dogs of the media. The democratically-agreed industrial action by 12,000 BA’s cabin crew workers in defence of their jobs, pay and conditions is certainly having this effect.