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Greek election a blow to austerity

9 Feb

By Mike Treen, Unite National Director

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) election in Greece has opened up enormous opportunities to turn the tide against the anti-working class austerity policies that have been imposed in that country above all but also elsewhere in Europe. This small European country of less than 12 million people is becoming a world leader.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, left, with Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the leftwing Podemos party in Spain

Following the world recession of 2008-10 the capitalist institutions dubbed “The Troika” (The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) used the crisis to impose austerity policies on all European countries as a condition of receiving the financial support they needed to “save” the banking system of each country and prevent a further decent into chaos. Essentially the bank debts were taken over by the the public and made a public liability. Servicing the increased public debts of course required cuts in other government expenditures. Austerity became the order of the day. Europe has been mired in economic stagnation virtually ever since.

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Continuing crises are what this system is about

10 Nov

By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The decision of the US Federal Reserve to end its programme of “Quantitative Easing” signals a desire for a return to monetary “normalcy” in capitalist policy circles. The announcement was made on October 29, the anniversary of the 1929 crash on Wall Street—triggered by a previous series of monetary tightening measures by the U.S. central bank that ushered in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But the world capitalist economy today stands at a critical juncture that is far from normal.

Stagnation is the order of the day across Europe. Output remains two percent below the peak reached in 2008 before the financial crisis and great world recession. Investment remains 15 percent below 2008 levels. The European central banks and governments are now instituting their own forms of monetary loosening after years of austerity in an attempt to jump-start the economy and escape a deflationary spiral. A similar picture exists in Japan.

A classic crisis of overproduction

The world economic crisis of 2007-09, a classical capitalist crisis of overproduction, was by far the worst since the crisis 1929-32. Like all such crises it was preceded by an explosive growth in credit as the capitalists sought to escape the basic laws of economics and produce more commodities than the market could absorb. But in the end, interest and principal must be paid and when it cannot interest rates rise, the bubble bursts, credit contracts and the economy enters a new recession. Capitalism has had this process repeat itself regularly for nearly 200 years, and yet the pro-business economists and media commentators always seem surprised.

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Poverty pay isn’t inevitable. Look to the hotel cleaners of New York

10 Sep

By Aditya Chakrabortty

The Guardian, Monday 8 September 2014

In the US, the workers are organised. In Britain, even within the same hotel chain, earnings are lower and job insecurity higher

‘In London between 2% and 4% of all hotel workers are in a trade union. About 70% of New York City staff are unionised.’

Back to school time, so let’s start with a quick quiz. The minimum wage in Britain is £6.31 an hour, while in New York it’s $8 an hour, or £4.93. So who do you think’s better paid: a hotel cleaner in London or one in Manhattan? You at the back: stop Googling. At the heart of this question lies one of the most important issues in economics and politics today – who gets paid what, and how. And the answer: New York City wins.

A cleaner on London’s Park Lane will almost certainly be on or around the minimum wage, say £6.31 for each hour. Her counterpart (because, let’s face it, it’s almost always women doing this physically punishing work) on New York’s Park Avenue is likely to be on nearly three times as much: an agreed hourly rate of $28.50, or £17.66.

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TPPAwatch Another trade deal that threatens democracy – TISA

20 Jun
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TISA – the secret treaty to destroy public services

Recently we wrote you about two giant investment treaties being secretly negotiated between governments and corporations, the EU-US TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Our brochure Trade Deals That Threaten Democracy exposed the corporate power grab behind these two mega-treaties and the huge impact they would have on our lives and on future generations. We asked for your support to expose and defeat these instruments for enforcing corporate rule.

TTIP and TPPA are not the only treaties being cooked up secretly. A new report from our sister organization Public Services International exposes the threat to public services in the secret negotiations around the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) driven by a group of countries calling themselves "The really good friends of services" whose rich core includes the US, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Korea.

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Unions, Climate Change & Socialism

2 Dec

By Mike Treen

Reprinted from The Daily Blog

The continuing pretense that the world governments will do anything about climate change was exposed once more at the latest round of climate negotiations held in Poland November 11-22. This was the 19th round of annual negotiations.

It is 21 years since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Emissions are 60-70% higher than they were then. Global warming has proceeded at an accelerating pace. As a great article by economic historian Richard Smith notes:

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.

2013 is looking like it will be the seventh warmest since records began to be collected in 1850. The ten warmest have all occurred since 1998.

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Final days to sign TPPA secrecy petition – closes 12 Nov

11 Nov

Please make sure you have signed and encourage everyone to get us up to 25,000 – we are almost at 24,000 now

REMINDER: SIGN THE PETITION FOR RELEASE OF TEXT NOW
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FINAL CHANCE TO SIGN TPPA SECRECY PETITION – CLOSES 12 NOV

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Sign the petition here at www.itsnotright.org.nz

We now have over 23,000 signed up in several places, but want a final push to get as close to 25,000 as we can.

Thanks!

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Naomi Klein: Unions should fight for a green labour revolution

4 Sep

Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine” speaking to Canadian union congress

This article was originally published by the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM).

By Martin Lukacs

Naomi Klein urged members at the founding convention of Unifor in Toronto to take the lead in ushering in a green labour revolution, setting out a bold vision to reverse the damage of the neoliberal era and create just and dignified work while simultaneously protecting the environment.

The best-selling author argued that climate change is not a threat to jobs, but is instead the most important tool and argument against the austerity agenda that is working neither for people nor the planet.

“If Unifor becomes the voice for a boldly different economic model, one that provides solutions both to the attacks on working people and the attacks on the earth itself, then you can stop worrying about your continued relevance,” Klein said.

Workers in Canada are facing a classic example of the tactic Klein documented in her book, The Shock Doctrine, whereby right-wing interests systematically exploit crises — whether economic shocks, natural disasters, or wars — to impose pro-corporate policies. These policies — deregulation, cuts to social spending and privatization — do not solve underlying problems but only enrich a small elite.

Mass mobilizations responding to austerity in Canada and in Greece, Spain, and the United States have unleashed a more radical imagination, mobilized massive numbers, and developed new kinds of democratic organizing, but have had difficulty achieving their aims.

“We’ve occupied Wall Street and Bay Street and countless other streets. And yet the attacks keep coming,” Klein said.

These movements need the durability that only organized labour can provide, she argued.

“They need your institutional strength, your radical history, and perhaps most of all, your ability to act as an anchor so that we don’t keep rising up and disappearing again,” Klein said. “We need you to be our fixed address, our base, so that next time we are impossible to evict.”

Klein said that alliances with community groups and social movements — already initiated by the CAW at Port Elgin last November 2012, when a hundred activists from across the country met and dialogued with labour representatives — is an important start. But Klein said that rejecting the neoliberal agenda is not enough — the labour movement needs a compelling vision of its own.
“We can’t just reject their lies. We need truths so powerful that their lies can’t survive contact with them. We can’t just reject their project. We need our own project.”

Klein called Stephen Harper’s main project “extractivism,” a single-minded natural resource extraction agenda for which he has sacrificed the manufacturing base of the country and attacked worker’s most basic collective rights.

Klein’s argument is that climate change is an argument vividly demonstrating the failutre of this logic of continual extraction and profit.

“[Climate change] is a powerful message — spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts — telling us that we need a whole new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability,” Klein said.

She suggested that solutions to climate change are already at the heart of many of the labour movement’s existing demands and in fact “vindicate much of what the left has been working towards for decades.”

Addressing climate change will require a revival and reinvention of the public sphere, with clean and affordable transport, energy efficient housing, major investment in infrastructure — a transformation that could create millions of new, high-paying jobs.

It would also require expanding those sectors of work that are low carbon, like personal care, sanitation and service sector workers.

Klein cited a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report that compared the public value from a $5 billion investment in a pipeline — like the Enbridge Gateway — to the same amount of money invested in green industrial development.

While the pipeline might offer short-term construction jobs, it would also lead to big private sector profits and devastating public costs for future environmental damage. But spending that same money on public transit, building retrofits and renewable energy would create at least three times as many jobs — as well as a safer future.

To achieve this would require “breaking every rule in the free-market playbook.”
She suggested a key demand could be “energy democracy,” which would entail the creation of new crown corporations in energy and a democratically controlled, decentralized energy system operated in the public interest.

She encouraged union members to consider direct action, rather than waiting for the government to act.

“Next time they close a factory making fossil-fuel machinery — whether cars, tractors, or airplanes — don’t let them do it,” she said. “Do what workers are doing from Argentina to Greece to Chicago: occupy the factory. Turn it into a green worker co-op. Go beyond negotiating a last, sad severance. Demand the resources — from companies and governments — to start building the new economy right now.”

Klein also stressed the importance of alliances with Indigenous communities who she called the “biggest barrier” that Harper faces to “his vision of Canada as an extraction and export machine – a country-sized sacrifice zone.”

If Unifor can achieve the social unionism promised in its new constitution, Klein said that it would be an inspiration to many and be a force to be contended with.
“You will be on the front lines of the fight for the future, and everyone else — including the opposition parties — will have to follow or be left behind.”

Martin Lukacs is a Montreal-based journalist.

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