Tony Burke

Tony Burke

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Tony Burke

Tony Burke

Tony Burke is Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union

Tony Burke

11% Of UK Manufacturing Workforce Are EU Migrants

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has issued a report showing EU migrants make up more than one in ten of manufacturing sector workers in the UK - averaging at 11% - confirming warnings from Unite, UK manufacturing companies and employers organisations that post Brexit the UK could a major skills shortage.
 
The Government has not set out how it will deal with the issue once EU free movement of labour rules no longer apply - apart from vague references to attracting the ‘brightest and the best’.
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One Million Brazilians Rise UP Against Attacks on Workers Rights And Pensions

More than a million workers across Brazil took part in protests on 15th March against massive cuts to pensions and social security planned by the deeply unpopular right wing government of Michel Temer.

The protests, organised by a coalition of Brazil’s trade unions along with homeless and landless workers’ movements, indigenous peoples groups and others, were accompanied by one-day strikes by teachers, workers from the metals, oil, transport and public sectors.

Temer, was installed by a parliament riddled with corruption after a political coup against democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. 

The right wing government has launched a brutal programme of cuts targeting workers before a new round of expected corruption cases threatens to bring the government down. 

In Sao Paolo, former President Lula da Silva addressed a crowd of 250,000 people, saying “although weak and unrepresentative, Temer has managed to assemble in Congress a political force that no other elected president has achieved. They are determined to impose a social security reform that will practically prevent millions of Brazilians from retiring. Poorer workers, especially in the rural Northeast, will retire with half a minimum wage.”

ITUC President João Felicio said, “On 15th March, Bazilian workers gave a demonstration of strength and courage. They reject these labour and social security reforms, coming from an unpopular and illegitimate government. International Support will continue to be extremely important for the resistance to these reforms, which punish the poorest people.”

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The consequences of hard brexit will stare the country in the face

If this weekend’s media is correct - the Prime Minister intends to ‘trigger’ Article 50 this coming week - giving notice to quit the European Union. The phony war may just be over, and the consequences of a hard brexit will stare the country and especially the Brextremists in the face.

The signs of the uncertainty Unite is encountering in the manufacturing and construction sector are appearing.

The fact that the economy is floating on a bed of unsustainable household credit has masked the uncertainty we have been seeing - at its most visible in our automotive sector, with recent statements by Nissan, BMW, Ford, and GM sounding the warning bells.

As the Budget unravelled over increased national insurance contributions for the self employed (and the PM kicked a final decision into the long grass), the Office For National Statistics announced that the UK’s industrial sector shrank in January, bringing the country’s annual growth rate sharply down after it hit a six-year high at the end of 2016. 

High-street sales also dropped to their lowest February figure since 2009, and the ONS reported that a 1.8% increase in construction output in December turned into a 0.4% decline in January, though the fall was expected.
 
Chris Williamson, chief economist of the reliable financial data firm Markit, said: “The sluggish growth indicated by the surveys and official data at the start of 2017 suggest that the economy is growing at only a modest pace in the first quarter, and looks susceptible to further weakening in coming months”.
 
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Introducing Brexit Check

As the UK moves inextricably towards triggering Article 50 in a few weeks time Unite has launched a new website and resource - BrexitCheck - which is designed to help Unite members get to grips with what is happening on Brexit and to sound the alarm if Brexit threatens their jobs, employment rights and living standards.

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Brazil’s Unelected President’s 20 year public spending freeze - Where’s the international outcry?

You may not have heard much about Brazilian politics at the moment. In fact, since the new unelected President took office earlier this year there has been surprisingly little international coverage of the mass demonstrations, strikes and occupations of schools that have swept the country against President Temer and his hard-line austerity policies in the fifth most populous country in the world.

For those of us following closely, the passing on Tuesday of a constitutional amendment for a 20 year freeze on healthcare, education and social welfare spending is only the latest in a long list of disastrous decisions from the unelected government, but with the constitutionally protected ‘access to free health care’ in the sites of the conservative coalition, Temer has gone a step too far for the Brazilian public.

Spending caps are a common (and largely unsuccessful) practice for right-wing Governments desperate to cut their deficits but they are mainly legislated with flexibility, something a constitutional amendment will not allow, and they are never set for such an irresponsibly long timescale.

Just look at the outbreak of the Zika virus just a year ago- a potentially disastrous health crisis can come at any time and will need serious funding to be combated properly.

Day to day healthcare is under threat from these cuts as well, as the Government has yet to outline how they will guarantee access to health care or maintain the health system.

It’s no surprise then that the fierce outcry at the PEC55 bill has come from all avenues of Brazilian society, including prompting 8 major trade unions to call for a national strike whilst mass demonstrations are being staged around the country regularly.

In response to the cuts in education, the country’s students have been leading the way: occupying over 1,100 schools and universities to get answers from the unaccountable government at a time where the public education system is already considered to be failing.

Brazil’s most popular politician, Former President Lula da Silva, has been a strong critic of the cuts, leading protests and inviting international figures like former Uruguayan President ‘Pepe’ Mujica add their support.

In fact, earlier this year I attended the IndustriALL global conference in Rio and was lucky enough to see Lula give a powerful speech addressing the problems facing the country today.

Some organisations are advocating a referendum on the issue but given this Government’s track record of bypassing the democratic process, this was never likely to happen.

President Temer, of the conservative PMDB party, took office earlier this year after a widely condemned ‘parliamentary coup’ was carried out against leftist President Dilma.

At the time polls showed that more than half the public favoured new elections, something Dilma herself advocated, rather than the promotion of vice President Temer and yet 62 senators voted to remove Dilma and overturn the will of 54 million voting Brazilians.

Since coming to power he has forced through a hard-line conservative agenda of privatisation and austerity that Brazil has consistently rejected at the ballot box for over 14 years leaving many to question whether democracy still exists in the country and what will be left of the social achievements of recent years by the time Brazilians can again elect a President.

 

Tony Burke is Assistant General Secretary of Unite and is writing on behalf of the No coup in Brazil initiative which has been active in campaigning against the removal of elected President Dilma Rousseff, and in solidarity with those now struggling for democracy and social progress in Brazil.

To find out more visit: https://nocoupinbrazil.wordpress.com/ and follow www.twitter.com/nocoupinBrazil  and https://www.facebook.com/nocoupinbrazil/

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