ETUC - Divide and rule

A race to the bottom

fighting for you?ETUC fighting for you?

Strikes are breaking out across the UK in support of a mass walkout by energy workers at Lindsey Oil Refinery after French-owned Total gave a £200m contract to an Italian firm. Evidently there are no skilled workers in the UK able to do this work and it has nothing to do with wage levels! At last our union members are worried about their jobs and wages being undercut. No doubt Union leaders on vast wages have been keeping quiet and attending pan-European ETUC meetings and workshops at vast expense. However they, and at least some workers, have known that 'social dumping' has been around for some time.

In December 2007 the EU's highest court ruled that a Swedish trade union picket against cheap Latvian labour was illegal.The ruling said that Swedish unions had breached EU law when they forced a Latvian company to observe local pay deals in the Vaxholm case.There is now concern that the entire Nordic system of collective bargaining whereby employers and workers agree conditions for the workplace – including pay – could be undermined by the judgement. The collective system is seen as underpinning the 'flexicurity' social model in the Nordic countries, which combines easy hiring and firing with high benefits for the unemployed. See here. All national standards and collective bargaining rights are at risk in the UK. In the future teachers, civil servants and other professionals will face this 'competition' and won't like it either.

Migrant WorkersMigrant Workers
It has been happening for many years in less regulated and non-unionised work. Cheap labour is imported and workers live in cheap accommodation, several to a room (which encourages Rachmanism). Local British workers are said to be lazy and incompetent yet find that the wages are so low as to be much the same or worse than living on benefits. (The same happens in other countries eg cheap Ukraininan building workers replace Latvians working here.)

It is only when the well- paid and organised workers are hit that they find their union leaders have quietly led them into an impasse. Where were the union leaders when the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution was being discussed? No doubt discussing workers' rights and paternity leave in smoke-filled rooms in the Brussel's parliament (yes, you can smoke there) at an all- costs-paid junket. Did they ever mention guarantees on collective bargaining rights systems? Talk about smokescreens. See here.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, received £89,035 in benefits on top of his £105,217 salary in 2007 - giving him the largest package of any general secretary. His total pay and perks, including pension, housing benefit, employers' national insurance and car benefit, worked out at £194,252. The Times.

AND the EU Services Directive has not yet been fully implemented. BERR tells us that:

The EU Services Directive aims to break down barriers to cross border trade in services between EU Member States, making it easier for service providers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, to:

* set up business and offer services in other Member States; and
* provide services temporarily and/or at a distance in other Member States.

The final text of the Directive was agreed in December 2006 and EU Member States are required to implement by December 2009.

Brian Denny wrote an excellent pamphlet in 2006 called - The Services Directive - a race to the bottom.