Unions Must Fight Back Against Mainstream Media Bias

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Unions play a vital role in ensuring that the rights and interests of workers are protected. However, in order for unions to be effective, they must be able to communicate their message to the public. Unfortunately, relying on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions can be problematic.

One major issue with relying on the mainstream media to put union message across is that the media often presents a biased perspective on labour issues. Mainstream news outlets are often owned by large corporations, which have a vested interest in portraying unions in a negative light. As a result, the media often focuses on stories that highlight conflicts between unions and management, while downplaying the positive contributions that unions make to the economy and society.

Another problem with relying on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions is that the media often oversimplifies complex issues. For example, the media may portray a labour strike as a simple dispute between management and workers, rather than as a complex struggle over economic and political power. This oversimplification can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of support for union efforts.

Given these issues, it is essential that unions do not rely solely on the mainstream media to put their message across. Instead, unions must support efforts to build a counter media that can provide a more accurate and nuanced perspective on labour issues. This might include supporting alternative news outlets, such as labour newspapers or online publications, that are more likely to be sympathetic to union issues. Additionally, unions can use social media and other digital platforms to communicate directly with workers and the public, bypassing the mainstream media altogether.

Unions play an important role in protecting the rights and interests of workers. However, to be effective, unions must be able to communicate their message to the public. Relying solely on the mainstream media to disseminate information about unions is problematic due to bias and oversimplification of complex issues. Therefore, Unions must support efforts to build a counter media that can provide a more accurate and nuanced perspective on labour issues. This will help to ensure that the public has a better understanding of the vital role that unions play in our society.

Solidarity’s is assisting with Union News, a weekly podcast, and it’s a great example of how unions can support the development of a counter media. By assisting this podcast, Solidarity helps reach a wider audience, and provide a platform for discussing important labor issues in a more engaging and accessible way than traditional news outlets.

In addition to Union News, supporting established ventures like the Morning Star daily newspaper and Workers magazine is also important. Both of these publications have a long history of providing a pro-labour perspective on news and issues, and they can serve as valuable resources for union members and supporters.

New Anti-Strike Legislation: A Direct Attack on Workers’ Rights and Democracy

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The government’s new anti-strike legislation, which aims to enforce “minimum service levels” in key public sectors including the NHS and schools, has met with fierce opposition from unions and criticism from experts.

The proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is being seen as a direct attack on workers’ fundamental human rights and an affront to parliamentary democracy. The Bill will apply to strikes in six essential sectors: health services, fire and rescue services, education services, transport services, nuclear decommissioning, and border security. These are the same six services identified in the previous Trade Union Act 2016, which already imposed strict requirements for strike mandates to have the support of at least 40% of those eligible to vote as well as a majority of those voting.

The Bill goes even further, however, by removing the requirement for minimum service levels (MSLs) to be negotiated by agreement between trade unions and employers, and instead gives complete discretion to the Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, to set the MSLs in each of the six services. This means that the MSLs can be set at such a high level that any strike will be rendered largely ineffective.

Furthermore, the Bill is a worrying symptom of how the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has become not only the friend of employers but also an instrument of the coercive state. Despite the government’s claims of respecting the right to strike, the Bill effectively renders the right to strike to be nothing more than a right to make a meaningless protest. The Bill also includes disproportionate sanctions to ensure obedience to the will of the state, further undermining workers’ rights.

Under the new law, bosses in health, education, fire, ambulance, rail and nuclear commissioning will be able to sue unions and sack employees if minimum levels are not met. Union members who refuse to work under the minimum service requirement could lose their jobs. The new law will also back employers bringing an injunction to prevent strikes or seeking damages afterwards if they go ahead.

This Bill is a dangerous and undemocratic attempt to silence workers and deny them their basic human rights. It must be opposed by all those who value democracy and workers’ rights. Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, has pledged to repeal the anti-trade union legislation if Labour forms the next government.

Defend Workers’ Rights

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Liz Truss has been urged to “come clean” over her plans to attack workers’ rights.

Earlier this week, The Times reported that Truss was considering a review of workers’ protections.

Among the protections to be reviewed by the Truss will be the laws covering the 48-hour working week, adopted as part of the EU working time directive. The strike ballot support threshold may also be raised to 50% of all eligible voters and the strike notice may be extended from two to four weeks.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said Ms. Truss should “come clean” about any such plans.

“Liz Truss’s number one priority should be to help families pay their bills this winter,” Ms. O’Grady said.

“Threatening hard-won workers’ rights is the last thing the country and working people need.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for United Voices of the World, said:

“These measures are designed to try to shut us up and shut us down. But we won’t be intimidated. Britain already has the most stringent anti-union laws in Europe and here workers’ rights are regularly violated according to The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global ranking. We will resist and defeat these attempts to shackle us and turn this country into a worker’s gulag. We urge every single worker out there who is not yet unionised to join us so we can fight as one and win.”

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

Unions exist to defend the rights of workers. Attacks on these rights will be defeated by the union movement and our small union will play its part.”

PRO-BREXIT FIRE UNION OFFICIAL UNFAIRLY SACKED

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Pro-Breixt fire union official unfairly sacked, tribunal finds

Paul Embery has won a claim for unfair dismissal against the Fire Brigades Union – FBU.

He was sacked in relation to a speech he gave in a personal capacity (not as an FBU representative) and in his own private time to a pro-Brexit rally outside parliament in 2019.
Norwich Employment Tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed after a “witch hunt” with a pre-determined outcome.

The tribunal heard there had been regular disagreements between Mr. Embery and FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack over the issue of Brexit. Mr. Embery was warned of reprisals and at one point accused of siding with the ‘far right‘.

The conflict appeared to come to a head as Mr. Embery planned to attend the Leave Means Leave rally in Parliament Square.

Before the rally, the tribunal heard Mr. Embery was told by FBU President Ian Murray that he should not attend as a speaker and that to do so could breach the union’s policy against Brexit, which passed in 2016.

Mr. Murray was also said to have suggested it could contravene a statement prohibiting FBU officials from campaigning with political opponents during the referendum campaign.

Mr. Embery believed Mr. Murray was wrong, and that the policy had lapsed once the referendum was held, the tribunal was told.

The activist was introduced at the rally as an organiser of Trade Unions Against the European Union and used a speech to describe a battle to defend the principle of democracy, after a majority voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

Mr. Embery said in the speech that the “message to the leaders of my movement is, if you want to stay relevant, then it’s about time you put yourself on the side of the people over the establishment and big business, and you better do that damn quickly“.

This is a great victory – on a personal level – for Paul Embery. It’s also a great victory for democracy and the right of ordinary workers & trade unionists to openly speak their minds. Whatever union policy is members and officials should be able to publicly disagree as long as they make it clear that it is their personal view and that they are not speaking on behalf of the union.

All workers deserve rights

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The Court of Appeal has ruled that Deliveroo drivers cannot have collective bargaining rights because they are not workers.

The judgment again highlights the need for one category of worker, “worker” with all enjoying the same rights to paid holidays, sick pay, and collective bargaining (to mention just a few rights).
The Deliveroo case was brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents many Deliveroo drivers. The IWGB had applied for but that was rejected in 2017 on the basis that because riders can pass a job on to a substitute they should not be classed as workers.


After the High Court also ruled in favour of the company, the union appealed, claiming that the denial of collective bargaining breached the couriers’ human rights.


IWGB president Alex Marshall said: “Deliveroo couriers have been working on the front line of the pandemic and, whilst being applauded by the public and even declared heroes by their employer, they have been working under increasingly unfair and unsafe working conditions.
“It appears that when Deliveroo talks about flexibility and being your own boss, it is talking about the flexibility of choosing when to make poverty wages and work in unsafe conditions.”


Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Unions will continue to organise within Deliveroo, Amazon, and those others who seek to block them. Increasingly unions are mobilising public opinion behind their campaigns for workers’ rights. We will see in the coming years that companies who fail to give rights to their workers will be penalised by consumer boycotts and political action.”