January 22, 2021
Energy unions in France are continuing their fight against the break up and part privatisation of energy giant Electricité de France (EDF).
Four unions, FNME-CGT, CFE-CGC Énergies, FCE-CFDT and FO Énergies et Mines, held a day of action on January 19 to oppose what is called “Project Hercules”. They held previous protests in November and December last year to try and halt the restructuring.
The unions argue that EDF is a vital national asset, and that privatisation will remove democratic accountability and social dialogue from energy transition.
In a joint statement, the unions said: “The dismantling of EDF…would be an economic, industrial and social disaster, and would mean the end of EDF’s very purpose in serving the general interest.”
IndustriALL Global Union has written to the unions to pledge its support.
“Energy is a public good and a strategic sector. There can be no strong and sustainable economy without energy independence and infrastructure development,” said IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches.
Google workers in the US have formed a union, following years of organising and activism.
The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), named in reference to Google’s parent company, was announced on 4 January. Its key demands include inclusive, fair conditions; accountability for discrimination, harassment, and abuse; freedom to decline projects they morally object to; and access to equal benefits regardless of employment status. Roughly half of Google’s employees are contractors, according to UNI Global Union.
The forming of the union comes after repeated employee action, including a global walkout protesting alleged sexual harassment.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said the announcement was an inspiring start to 2021. “Tackling structural problems requires structural solutions like unions, and the 20 million members of UNI stand behind AWU as its members reclaim their power to make the company live up to its original motto: don’t be evil.”
UNI affiliate Syndicom has also been helping Google employees in Zurich organise.
Christina McAnea has been elected as the new General Secretary of UNISON – the first woman to take the top job at the UK’s largest union.
Christina takes up her post on 22 January. She replaces Dave Prentis, who is retiring after 20 years in the post.
Currently one of UNISON’s five Assistant General Secretaries, Christina has worked at the union since its formation in 1993, having previously joined local government union NALGO as women’s officer in the late 1980s.
“Supporting public service workers through the pandemic, securing an early pay rise for NHS staff and ensuring the government backs down on its plans for an ill-judged pay freeze will be my immediate priorities,” Christina said.
“Pushing for the funding and the political will to create a quality, affordable national care service, where staff are respected and paid fairly, comes close behind.”
The global union IUF has criticised attempts to make poultry workers in the US process meat faster following research showing it could increase the risk of Covid transmission.
Poultry plants that slaughter 175 birds per minute are 10 times more likely to have Covid-19 cases than plants that slaughter 140 birds per minute, the IUF has reported.
This is because on a faster line workers are standing “elbow to elbow and inevitably bump each other,” it explains.
Despite this, the outgoing Trump administration said it had wanted faster line speeds made permanent. In response, the IUF has said its affiliate, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) plans to work with the new Biden administration to prevent processing becoming faster and protect meat and poultry workers during the pandemic.
“Excessive line speeds are a hazard which exposes workers to increased risk of infection and injury, including repetitive strain injuries,” IUF President Mark Lauritsen said.
UK retail trade union Usdaw has clinched a groundbreaking £10 an hour pay deal for shopworkers at supermarket Morrisons.
The offer is 50p an hour above the voluntary Living Wage Foundation rate.
Usdaw said the deal is also a major step forward for its New Deal for Workers campaign, which calls for a £10 minimum wage for all workers, and other terms such as better sick pay and a ban on zero-hours contracts.
The pay offer will go out to ballot although has been recommended by Usdaw.
Joanne McGuinness, Usdaw National Officer, said the deal shows that Morrisons is prepared to invest in staff to help grow the business.
“The new consolidated hourly rate is now the leading rate of the major supermarkets, which is paid every hour and removes the uncertainty of a bonus payment.”
She added: “It’s been a tough time for food retail staff who have worked throughout the pandemic in difficult circumstances. This offer is a welcome boost.”
Data shows that women in Europe are still being paid less than men for doing a job that requires the same level of skill and effort – despite over 45 years of EU equal pay legislation.
In Germany, women in the white goods sector doing manufacturing jobs of equal value to men in the car industry are paid on average €865 per month less (gross). In Romania, that figure is €244 (net).
The examples were provided by IndustriAll Europe, an affiliate of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). Both organisations are calling for the EU to put in place “binding measures on gender pay transparency” so workers and trade unions can access information on how pay levels are decided upon and better negotiate equal pay.
ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said: “We need the European Commission to deliver on their promise of a pay transparency directive.”