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Why Climate campaigners should support the rail unions

By Paul Atkin and Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

What is the link between climate action and stopping the decline of public transport?

From the RMT: “We want a transport system that operates for the interests of the people, for the needs of society, and our environment – not for private profit”.

This government is failing on the climate crisis. It has no integrated transport plan, is not realising the need to address aviation and motoring and to prioritise public transport. It favours private companies which make vast profits rather than making transport affordable and our air breathable.

Why are our railways being subjected to a ‘managed decline’ just when we need them the most?

From the TUC “Network Rail plans to cut annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 rail maintenance jobs. RMT analysis of Network Rail data finds that this will lead to 670,000 fewer hours of maintenance work annually. Network Rail responsibilities include track maintenance – essential to avoiding fatal accidents like Hatfield, which was the result of the metal tracks fatiguing”. 

The government is committed to following free market ideology, the ‘logic’ of which produces a managed decline of much-needed rail services, imposing a 10% annual cut to the running costs of the railways (and even more on the buses in London, with 20% of services threatened).

Meanwhile £27Bn is planned to be spent on roads. This can only increase car use, with negative effects on air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, accidents, inhibition of active travel and hitting commuters hard in the pocket while boosting the profits of the fossil fuel companies.

No Climate Justice Without Workplace Justice!

By Tahir Latif Secretary, Greener Jobs Alliance - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

The industrial action currently being taken by the RMT is a source of hope and inspiration for workers across the country. But it is also action aimed at a more sustainable transport system that works for people and planet. The Greener Jobs Alliance fully endorses the statement set out here, produced by the Climate Justice Coalition.

“The Climate Justice Coalition stands in solidarity with RMT members taking industrial action to protect their pay, jobs and working conditions, and the wider fight to protect a public transport system for people – social need – not private greed. Billions are being cut from our transport system at a time when we should be increasing investment to ensure a fully public, affordable, and integrated transport system. Rail is critical to decarbonising the transport sector; £27 billion for more new roads and cutting duty on domestic aviation is the wrong way round.

Our railways are already being impacted by the effects of climate change, putting additional demands on a stretched workforce providing an essential public service. This action by the Government is symptomatic of their disregard for the concerns of climate, environment and workers.

As a coalition representing groups within climate and environmental campaigns, faith, race and social justice groups, and trade unions, we call on you all to support this struggle. This includes adding our voices to resist the anti-trade union and worker narrative being driven by the Government in the mainstream media and publicise that it is their inaction and behaviour that is detrimental to people, not workers seeking justice.

Inaction on climate change is harming innocent people across the globe. Protecting the rights of workers and living standards must be a priority for the climate justice movement in fighting for a Just Transition to a zero-carbon economy.

We stand with the RMT to fight for their aims, and to campaign for a better deal for workers and a fairer, climate just, society.”

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

Egypt can't deliver a just transition at COP27 while workers' rights are on the line

By Anna Markova - Trades Union Caucus, June 10, 2022

As Egypt prepares to take over the COP27 presidency and countries gather for the Bonn Climate Conference, trade unions are calling for Egypt to end its repression of workers, trade unions and activists.

How is a just transition or safe climate future to be agreed in Sharm El-Sheikh in November while the Egyptian government imprisons thousands of trade unionists, journalists and civil society organisers? 

The TUC is calling on the UK government and specifically the outgoing COP26 President Alok Sharma to use his influence to seek assurances for the freedom and safety of Egyptian trade unionists and human rights activists prior to COP27. This should involve immediate action to secure the release of British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, currently on hunger strike

Egypt has regularly ranked in the lowest categories of the ITUC’s Global Rights Index when it comes to trade union rights and freedoms. In the ITUC’s 2021 Global Rights Index Egypt was listed in the worst ten countries for workers.

Shell sends ‘thug’ to stop industrial strike action on Prelude FLNG, says labor union

By Damon Evans - Energy Voice, June 2, 2022

In response to the formal notice served by lawyers representing the Offshore Alliance, a labor union, as well as the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), issued on 30 May, Shell has “now resorted to industrial thuggery in a desperate effort to try and stop protected industrial action on Prelude,” the Offshore Alliance claimed in a post on Facebook today.

“One of the Shell leads, who has been parachuted onto Prelude, is throwing his weight around like he’s some sort of big king dick…this self-styled hero tough guy has been doing his best to intimidate some of the younger female tech’s by demanding they tell him whether they are in the Union and whether they intend to take Protected Industrial Action,” claimed the Offshore Alliance.

“Shell’s senior management need to pull this idiot into line as the Offshore Alliance will bang both him and Shell into the Federal Court for breach of Freedom of Association provisions if he doesn’t pull his head in. Pull off your management thugs, Shell,” added the union.

A Shell spokesperson told Energy Voice that “Shell recognises the entitlement of all workers to exercise their rights, including the right to participate in industrial action.”

The Offshore Alliance has listed 19 activities that will be banned at various times from June 10 to June 21, as part of their plan to implement “rolling stoppages of work and work bans.”

“Shell have had two years to sort out our key bargaining claims and nothing less than tier 1 rates and conditions and job security are going to cut it,” said the union, which combines the industrial and organisational resources of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), to provide effective representation of offshore construction, maintenance, catering, and rig workers in Western Australia.

Multiplying Labor's Power

A shorter workweek may increase worker productivity: but that’s not why we need one

By Robert Raymond - Sharable, May 19, 2022

Studies show that a shorter workweek is healthier for people and the planet — but much of the conversation is focused on its impact on worker productivity or efficiency. This is a big mistake.

With the average worker in the United States clocking 47 hours a week, Americans are among the most overworked populations in the world — in fact, they work more hours per year than workers in almost any other industrialized country. 

Advocates of a shorter work week had a brief moment of excitement in California last month when state Democrats proposed a bill that would have required private-sector employers with more than 500 employees to pay hourly workers overtime after logging more than 32 hours a week

Unfortunately, the proposal didn’t make it very far through the legislative bill-making machine before it stalled out in committee. For the foreseeable future, the bill will remain in legislative purgatory. 

However, despite a disappointing outcome, the mere existence of the proposed bill in the state legislature is an important step toward shortening the Californian workweek — something that would be a boon to workers.

There are many benefits of working shorter hours. One that has been particularly compelling to employers is the fact that shorter hours have been linked to increased worker efficiency and productivity. For example, a 2021 study from Japan empirically determined that “when long working hours are reduced, individual productivity increases, and fewer mistakes are made at work.” 

Studies have also shown that working fewer hours actually increases worker happiness — leaving employees feeling more energized and giving them more free time to pursue their interests outside of work. 

I’d hazard a guess that the majority of us would drool over the prospect of fewer hours of wage labor and more hours in our day for rest, leisure, or — as the 19th-century slogan of the 8-hour day movement advocated — more hours to do with “what we will.

In fact, re-framing this discussion around the needs of labor rather than the needs of employers is critical for getting us on a path towards a healthier, more sustainable world where workers thrive.

Rally Against New Attendance Policy

Solidarity with the Workers at Kavala Oil

By Staff - Earth Strike UK, May 8, 2022

A joint statement initiated by Earth Strike UK, IWW Environmental Committee and the Pan-Hellenic Energy Federation (PEF).

Διαβάστε τη δήλωση στα ελληνικά: www.earth-strike.co.uk/kavala-solidarity-greek

Kavala Oil, owned by London based Energean, owns and operates the only oil field in Greece. In April 2021, Energean announced a unilateral restructuring program which in mass layoffs with the intention to replacing highly skilled and experienced permanent workers with unskilled contract workers. Energean also announced €6 million cuts in workers’ salaries and allowances. All of this is despite company received €100 million of Covid relief funding from the European Union specifically to maintain employment during the pandemic.

In December 2021 the Greek State chose to side with the employer and sent riot police to attack the union workers, who remained at the facility to defend their jobs and ensure the safe operation of the site. Police dangerously used flash grenades at an oil facility – one of the grenades hit a power supply and caused a power cut at the site. Seventeen workers were arrested.

In January 2022, the workers went on work retention (a form of strike) against the insufficient safety measures taken by the company and against the mass layoffs. Despite the incredible effort of the union workers, the layoffs have continued and all 185 workers at the plant have now been dismissed, leaving the facility unstaffed.

The Union of Workers of Kavala Oil have continuously pointed out the dangers arising from the unacceptable decisions of Energean’s management, which lead to unsafe operation of the Facilities with impacts on employees and the local community as well as on the environment. Energean refused to listen.

The workers’ fears about safety proved to be well founded. On Saturday the 9th of April 2022, an explosion occurred, and a large fire broke out in a tank of the Kavala Oil facilities, which contained water and residues of oils and petroleum products. It took the firefighters more than 5 hours to extinguish the fire. The facility was not in operation and fortunately there were no injuries. The fire confirms the union’s concerns that without the necessary and qualified workforce; the safe operation of the facility cannot be achieved, risking not only the safety of the staff but also the environmental contamination.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels is necessary if we are to halt the climate crisis. But it must be a just transition, based on fundamental principles of justice and prosperity for workers and communities, maintaining jobs through education and retraining where required. A Just Transition must be lead and carried out by the Unions and the workers themselves. The sacking of 185 workers is not a just transition! Energean themselves admit they will only end oil extraction once it stops being profitable.

The sacking of 185 highly skilled and experienced workers is not a just transition. It does nothing to protect the environment and in fact only creates further danger. These layoffs only serve the interests of the bosses, whose goal is to boost profit and break the power of the union. It is against the interests of all for these workers to be dismissed and their experience wasted.

We stand in solidarity with the workers of Kavala Oil and call on all workers and environmental activists to support their struggle! We demand the re-employment of the 185 skilled workers with many years of experience who were illegally dismissed, to ensure the safe operation of the facilities at Kavala Oil. An injury to one is an injury to all!

USW Striking Oil Workers And Supporters Speakout For Health And Safety At Tesoro Refinery

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, April 30, 2022

In an act of solidarity with Chevron workers fighting for a new labor contract as executives boast of a record-breaking quarter, Greenpeace USA campaigners joined United Steelworkers Local 5 union members on Friday to expand the picket line onto the waters of San Francisco Bay.

Nearly 500 workers from Chevron's oil refinery in Richmond, California have been on strike for more than a month in what USW Local 5 vice president B.K. White calls "a movement of working people rising up to challenge a corporation." 

Chevron announced Friday that its profits surged to $6.3 billion during the first three months of 2022—four times as much as the fossil fuel giant pulled in over the same period last year, as Common Dreams reported. That prompted fresh calls from progressives for a windfall tax to prevent further price gouging and war profiteering by Big Oil and underscored one of the reasons why workers are demanding better pay.

"What's the answer to corporate greed?" Greenpeace asked on social media. "Solidarity!"

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