Brexit, workers’ rights and inequality

The question of workers’ rights is a recurring theme in the debate around Brexit. For the most part trade unions in Britain and Ireland are concerned that a hard or no-deal outcome would threaten a regression in the rights and living standards enjoyed by workers across these islands. But, argues Dave Gibney, there is a more complicated set of factors to take into account.

 

Economic inequality is now higher in the UK than any time since the 1960s. Real wages have been falling since the UK joined the EU in 1973. Coincidently, the regions of the UK with the lowest median incomes are also the regions that voted to leave the EU in the strongest terms.

Hyndburn, Torbay and West Somerset have average median incomes of £17,000, £16,900 and £16,900 respectively. Those constituencies also voted Leave by margins of 66.2 percent, 63.2 percent and 60.6 percent. Hyndburn also rejected the two main political parties of the Conservatives and Labour in the recent European elections, choosing instead to vote for the Brexit Party by a margin of 39.1 percent, Labour receiving 25.5 percent and the Conservatives 8 percent.

To some, it might be difficult to see the connection between low incomes and Brexit, but nevertheless, it is there. Juxtapose the above with the highest income constituency in the UK, London City, which has an average mean income of £58,300 per year and recorded a Leave vote of only 25 percent.

For many communities, membership of the EU has been fruitful. For others, there is a sense that it has provided very little. This helps to explain why those who have the least to lose were among the strongest supporters of Brexit.

Integration within the EU has occurred in an increasingly neoliberal fashion. The ‘four freedoms’ of the single market — freedom of movement for goods, services, labour and capital — without strong collective bargaining provisions, access for trade unions to the workplace and the protection of effective collective actions serves to exacerbate economic inequality, undermines working conditions and results in a reduction in living standards.

The EU: A worker’s paradise?

The dominant narrative is that the EU has been great for workers’ rights. In Ireland it is often said that the EU provided workers with lunch breaks, annual leave and protection against discrimination at work.

Much of this may be true. But, we need to look at where those individual rights came from in the first place.

When Britain and Ireland joined the EU in 1973, almost half of all workers in the European Union were members of trade unions, with a 46 percent density level. However, that figure has now halved and is currently at only 23 percent. Organised worker power is no longer a dominant force within the EU, if it ever was, with corporations and wealthy individuals dictating policies to a much greater extent.

Individual vs collective workers’ rights

The progress made on workers’ rights on the back of strong trade unions within the EU is laudable. However, most of those workplace improvements are in the area of individual rights. The EU has delivered virtually nothing in terms of collective rights. This is evidenced most clearly by the Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxemburg rulings. These rulings prioritised economic freedoms and the movement of services over the right to collective action, undermining workers’ conditions of employment and reinforcing the unequal power relations and economic inequality that have grown in Britain, Ireland and across the continent. Furthermore, in recent years, the EU Commission has undermined collective action in Greece and other peripheral countries. The Commission’s agenda has resulted in a decline of workers covered by collective agreements from 83 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2013.

Obviously we should welcome measures which protect workers against discrimination based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other spurious grounds. Yes, workers should be entitled to annual leave, maternity leave and lunch breaks. And of course workers should be entitled to basic health and safety provisions at work. However, these individual rights are the minimum we should expect in the twenty-first century, and certainly shouldn’t be seen as a trade-off for collective rights.

Is the EU anti-worker?

The EU does not ban industrial action outright, nor does it prevent workers from joining trade unions. Its anti-union policies are much more subtle. It incentivises privatisation and ‘competition’, in the knowledge that the private sector is much better positioned to undermine trade unions and workers’ rights.

Privatisation is encouraged through economic rules, such as those contained in the Fiscal Treaty (though the UK is not included in this) and the Stability and Growth Pact. When a country’s debt to GDP ratio is above 60 percent, or the state is running a deficit of more than 3 percent, the government of the day is incentivised into moving important public services ‘off-balance sheet’.

What this means can be illustrated through the case of Ireland. When domestic water charges were introduced in 2015, one of the key reasons cited by government was to move expenditure on water services ‘off-balance sheet’. In order to do that, the utility (Irish Water) had to receive 51 percent of its funding through end-user charges. That required a metered water system. Of course, once an income stream is established through charges, it makes it easier to privatise in the future. The fact the EU tried to force Greece and Portugal sell their water utitlies wasn’t lost on water protesters in Ireland.

Once privatised, the EU’s rules prevent monopolies, dictating that there must be competition in the market. As usual, with competition comes a race to the bottom in terms of working conditions.

Public sector employment is often the antidote to this race to the bottom and provides upward pressure on conditions of employment. The moves towards privatisation can be seen in the decline of public sector jobs. In 1992, more than 23 percent of all workers in the UK were in the public service, whereas today that figure is 16 percent — a 30 percent reduction.

While the blame for this may not be entirely at the door of the EU, many see it as a contributory factor.

EU leaders out-of-touch with workers’ reality

In her acceptance speech to the EU Parliament, the newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, 500 million Europeans live in freedom and prosperity.” The fact that 22.4 percent of all citizens living within the EU are at risk of poverty is lost on her. That’s more than 100 million people who have just been informed that they are prosperous, while they make the difficult decision about whether they feed their children or turn on the heating this week.

These myths about EU prosperity don’t stack up. The mainstream media consistently reports that the EU is great for jobs and workers’ rights but this is not the lived experience of workers across the EU.

In the post-war era up until the UK joined the EU (1945–1973), the average unemployment rate was 2.3%. In subsequent years up until the Brexit vote (1973–2016), the UK’s average unemployment rate was 7.3%. It more than trebled. Ireland’s figures are similar. Average unemployment between 1960–1973 was 5.5%, whereas during the period between EEC membership and 2016 the average unemployment rate has increased to 10.5%, almost doubling.

This high rate of unemployment is part and parcel of the EU’s demands for low inflation, while a large supply of reserve workers also serves to keep wages low.

The fact that inequality in the EU has been growing for forty years is not a coincidence. It’s structural. The EU and its rules ensure the top 1 percent of the population accumulates obscene wealth, and in most countries, this is facilitated further by national governments.

Who decides?

Sovereignty was cited as the second most important reason UK citizens voted for Brexit. The perception among many Leave voters is that the EU dictates certain rules within which governments must operate.

For example, it is extremely difficult to renationalise an essential industry under EU rules. It would be virtually impossible for the UK to renationalise its rail network operations inside the EU because of the Fourth Railway Package, a new piece of legislation which will introduce market competition into rail systems, requiring countries to introduce privately operated routes. This comes into effect in 2023 and we can expect workers’ pay and conditions of employment to deteriorate as companies begin to compete with each other for lower costs.

On the road to self-destruction

The 2016 Brexit vote has made it much more difficult to be critical of the European Union. Dare question EU policies in this environment and run the risk of being branded an ill-informed idiot, a racist or a Nigel Farage supporter.

This portrayal of those with opposing views to the prevailing mainstream position as backward Neanderthals is ideal for the anti-democractic forces within the EU. It’s also extremely dangerous, because without critique, they can double-down on the very practices that contributed to the Brexit vote in the first place, such as: the promotion of the worst excesses of capitalism and privatisation; increases in economic inequality and reductions in living standards; the expansion of the EU’s imperial project, including the creation of a European army; and the financialisation of everything we need to survive, even water.

The problem the EU has, and which has been illustrated throughout the Brexit debacle, is that the privatisation agenda and the four freedoms valued so dearly — free movement of goods, services, labour and capital — are likely to result in the self-destruction of the EU unless there is something done to tackle economic inequality.

The future of the EU?

This requires much stronger collective bargaining rights, including a fundamental right for trade unions to access workplaces and undertake inspections on workplace compliance, the outlawing of union busting activities with strong penalties as a deterrent and uninhibited collective action protections. It is clear from past experience that the EU institutions are not on the side of labour in this endeavor, and even if they were, it would require the collective agreement of 27 member states to implement the necessary reforms to address these issues. Looking at the overall composition of national governments and the results of the recent European elections, the prospect of this seems more distant than ever.

About the author: Dave Gibney is the communications officer for Mandate trade union, the main retail union in the Republic of Ireland, and joint coordinator of the Right2Water campaign.


Originally published at https://www.brexitblog-rosalux.eu on July 25, 2019.

 

NIPSA Members – Strike Monday 23 December 2019-Friday 3 January 2020

NIPSA members employed in the Mail Opening Unit, Department for Communities, Coleraine and Limavady will be taking strike action commencing at 11 am on Monday 23 December 2019 and will run until Friday 3 January 2020.  Picket lines will be in place each day from 8 am until 2 pm.  Members will welcome the support of other NIPSA members who can call at the picket lines throughout the day.  This will be particularly welcome during the holiday period.

The addresses for the picket lines are as follows:-

  • Mail Opening Unit – 9 Connell Street, Limavady
  • Mail Opening Unit – Coleraine Jobs and Benefits Office, Artillery Road, Coleraine

I am sure you will join me in congratulating these brave members who are striking in support of all NICS members as part of the ongoing pay, terms and conditions dispute.

Alison Millar

General Secretary

The Dialectic of Sex:

In the workplace as in every facet of society women have and are been descrimated against. It is our job to put a stop this and to understand what needs to be done.  Recently this blogger came across this wonderful piece of writing from Shulasmith Firestone. Please read it.

Sex class is so deep as to be invisible. Or it may appear as a superficial inequality, one that can be solved by merely a few reforms, or perhaps by the full integration of women into the labour force. But the reaction of the common man, woman, and child – ‘That? Why you can’t change that! You must be out of your mind!’ – is the closest to the truth. We are talking about something every bit as deep as that. This gut reaction – the assumption that, even when they don’t know it, feminists are talking about changing a fundamental biological condition – is an honest one. That so profound a change cannot be easily fitted into traditional categories of thought, e.g., ‘political’, is not because these categories do not apply but because they are not big enough: radical feminism bursts through them. If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution – we would use it.

Until a certain level of evolution had been reached and technology had achieved its present sophistication, to question fundamental biological conditions was insanity. Why should a woman give up her precious seat in the cattle car for a bloody struggle she could not hope to win? But, for the first time in some countries, the preconditions for feminist revolution exist – indeed, the situation is beginning to demand such a revolution.

The first women are fleeing the massacre, and sharing and tottering, are beginning to find each other. Their first move is a careful joint observation, to resensitise a fractured consciousness. This is painful: no matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper. It is everywhere. The division yin and yang pervades all culture, history, economics, nature itself; modern Western versions of sex discrimination are only the most recent layer. To so heighten one’s sensitivity to sexism presents problems far worse than the black militant’s new awareness of racism: feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature. Many women give up in despair: if that’s how deep it goes they don’t want to know. Others continue strengthening and enlarging the movement, their painful sensitivity to female oppression existing for a purpose: eventually to eliminate it.

Before we can act to change a situation, however, we must know how it has arisen and evolved, and through what institutions it now operates. Engels’s ‘[We must] examine the historic succession of events from which the antagonism has sprung in order to discover in the conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.’ For feminist revolution we shall need an analysis of the dynamics of sex war as comprehensive as the Marx-Engels analysis of class antagonism was for the economic revolution. More comprehensive. For we are dealing with a larger problem, with an oppression that goes back beyond recorded history to the animal kingdom itself.

In creating such an analysis we can learn a lot from Marx and Engels: not their literal opinions about women – about the condition of women as an oppressed class they know next to nothing, recognising it only where it overlaps with economics but rather -their–analytic method.

Marx and Engels outdid their socialist forerunners in that they developed a method of analysis which was both dialectical and materialist. The first in centuries to view history dialectically, they saw the world as process, a natural flux of action and reaction, of opposites yet inseparable and interpenetrating. Because they were able to perceive history as movie rather than as snapshot, they attempted to avoid falling into the stagnant ‘metaphysical’ view that had trapped so many other great minds. (This sort of analysis itself may be a product of the sex division, as discussed in Chapter 9.) They combined this view of the dynamic interplay of historical forces with a materialist one, that is, they attempted for the first time to put historical and cultural change on a real basis, to trace the development of economic classes to organic causes. By understanding thoroughly the mechanics of history, they hoped to show men how to master it.

Socialist thinkers prior to Marx and Engels, such as Fourier, Owen, and Bebel, had been able to do no more than moralise about existing social inequalities, positing an ideal world where class privilege and exploitation should not exist – in the same way that early feminist thinkers posited a world where male privilege and exploitation ought not exist – by mere virtue of good will. In both cases, because the early thinkers did not really understand how the social injustice had evolved, maintained itself, or could be eliminated, their ideas existed in a cultural vacuum, utopian. Marx and Engels, on the other hand, attempted . a scientific approach to history, They traced the class conflict to its real economic origins, projecting an economic solution based on objective economic preconditions already present: the seizure by the proletariat of the means of production would lead to a communism in which government had withered away, no longer needed to repress the lower class for the sake of the higher. In the classless society the interests of every individual would be synonymous with those of the larger society.

But the doctrine of historical materialism, much as it was a brilliant advance over previous historical analysis, was not the complete answer, as later events bore out. For though Marx and Engels grounded their theory in reality, it was only a partial reality. Here is Engels’s strictly economic definition of historical materialism from Socialism: Utopian or Scientific:

Historical materialism is that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all historical events in the economic development of society, in the changes of tile modes of production and exchange, in the consequent division of society into distinct classes, and in the struggles of these classes against one another-. (Italics mine)

Further, he claims:

… that all past history with the exception of the primitive stages was the history of class struggles; that these warring classes of society are always the products of the modes of production and exchange – in a word, of the economic conditions of their time; that the economic structure of society always furnishes the real basis, starting from which we can alone work out the ultimate explanation of the whole superstructure of juridical and political institutions as well as of’ the religious, philosophical, and other ideas of a given historical period. (Italics mine)

It would be a mistake to attempt to explain the oppression of women according to this strictly economic interpretation. ‘The class analysis is a beautiful piece of work, but limited: although correct in a linear sense, it does not go deep enough. There is a whole sexual substratum of the historical dialectic that Engels at times dimly perceives, but because he can see sexuality only through an economic filter, reducing everything to that, he is unable to evaluate fit its own right.

Engels did observe that the original division of labour was between man and woman for the purposes of child-breeding; that within the family the husband was the owner, the wife the means of production, the children the labour; and that reproduction of the human species was an important economic system distinct from the means of production.

But Engels has been given too much credit for these scattered recognitions of the oppression of women as a class. In fact he acknowledged the sexual class system only where it overlapped and illuminated his economic construct. Engels didn’t do so well even in this respect. But Marx was worse: there is a growing recognition of -Marx’s bias against women (a cultural bias shared by Freud as well as all men of culture), dangerous if one attempts to squeeze feminism into an orthodox Marxist framework – freezing what were only incidental insights of’ Marx and Engels about sex class into dogma. Instead, we must enlarge historical materialism to include the strictly Marxian, in the same way that the physics of relativity did not invalidate Newtonian physics so much as it drew a circle around it, limiting its application – but only through comparison – to a smaller sphere. For an economic diagnosis traced to ownership of the means of production, even of the means of reproduction, does not explain everything. There is a level of reality that does not stem directly from economics.

The assumption that, beneath economics, reality is psychosexual is often rejected as ahistorical by those who accept a dialectical materialist view of history because it seems to land us back where Marx began: groping through a fog of utopian hypotheses, philosophical systems that might be right, that might be wrong (there is no way to tell); systems that explain concrete historical developments by a priori categories of thought; historical materialism, however, attempted to explain ‘knowing’ by ‘being’ and not vice versa.

But there is still an untried third alternative: we can attempt to develop a materialist view of history based on sex itself.

The early feminist theorists were to a materialist view of sex what Fourier, Bebel, and Owen were to a materialist view of class. By and large, feminist theory has been as inadequate as were the early feminist attempts to correct sexism. This was to be expected. The problem is so immense that, at first try, only the surface could be skimmed, the most blatant inequalities described. Simone de Beauvoir was the only one who came close to – who perhaps has done – the definitive analysis. Her profound work The Second Sex – which appeared as recently as the early fifties to a world convinced that feminism was dead – for the first time attempted to ground feminism in its historical base. Of all feminist theorists De Beauvoir is the most comprehensive and far-reaching, relating feminism to the best ideas in our culture.

It may be this virtue is also her one failing: she is almost too sophisticated, too knowledgeable. Where this becomes a weakness – and this is still certainly debatable – is in her rigidly existentialist interpretation of feminism (one wonders how much Sartre had to do with this). This, in view of the fact that all cultural systems, including existentialism, are themselves determined by the sex dualism. She says:

Man never thinks of himself without thinking of the Other; he views the world under the sign of duality which is not in the first place sexual in character. But being different from man, who sets himself up as the Same, it is naturally to the category. of the Other that woman is consigned; the Other includes woman. (Italics mine.)

Perhaps she has overshot her mark: Why postulate a fundamental Hegelian concept of Otherness as the final explanation and then carefully document the biological and historical circumstances that have pushed the class ‘women’ into such a category – when one has never seriously considered the much simpler and more likely possibility that this fundamental dualism sprang from the sexual division itself ? To posit a priori categories of thought and existence – ‘Otherness’, ‘Transcendence ‘Immanence’ – into which history then falls may not be necessary. Marx and Engels had discovered that these philosophical categories themselves grew out of history.

Before assuming such categories, let us first try to develop an analysis in which biology itself – procreation – is at the origin of the dualism. The immediate assumption of the layman that the unequal division of the sexes is ‘natural’ may be well-founded. We need not immediately look beyond this. Unlike economic class sex class sprang directly from a biological reality: men and women were created different, and not equal. Although, as De Beauvoir points out, this difference of itself did not necessitate the development of a class system – the domination of one group by another – the reproductive functions of these differences did. The biological family is an inherently unequal power distribution. The need for power leading to the development of classes arises from the psychosexual formation of each individual according to this basic imbalance, rather than, as Freud, Norman O. Brown, and others have, once again-over-shooting their mark, postulated, some irreducible conflict of Life against Death, Eros vs. Thanatos.

The biological family – the basic reproductive unit of male/female/infant, in whatever form of social organisation – is characterised by these fundamental – if not immutable – facts:

(1) That Women throughout history before the. advent of birth control were at the continual mercy of their biology – menstruation, menopause, and ‘female ills’, constant painful childbirth, wet-nursing and care of infants, all of which made them dependent on males (whether brother, father, husband, lover, or clan, government, community-at-large) for physical survival.

(2) That human infants take an even longer time to grow up than animals, and thus are helpless and, for some short period at least, dependent on adults for physical survival.

(3) That a basic mother/child interdependency has existed in thus has shaped some form in every society, past or present, and the psychology of every mature female and every infant.

(4) That the natural reproductive difference between the sexes led directly to the first division of labour at the origins of class, as well as furnishing the paradigm of caste (discrimination based on biological characteristics).

These biological contingencies of the human family cannot be covered over with anthropological sophistries Anyone observing animals mating, reproducing and caring for their young will have a hard time accepting the ‘cultural relativity’ line. For no matter how many tribes in Oceania you can find where the connection of the father to fertility is not known, no matter how many matrilineages, no matter how many cases of sex-role reversal, male housewifery, or even empathic labour pains, these facts prove only one thing: the amazing flexibility of human nature. But human nature is adaptable to something, it is, yes, determined by its environmental conditions. And the biological family that we have described has existed everywhere throughout time. Even in matriarchies where woman’s fertility is worshipped, and the father’s role is unknown or unimportant, if perhaps not on the genetic father, there is still some dependence of the female and the infant on the male. And though it is true that the nuclear family is only a recent development, one which, as I shall attempt to show, only intensifies the psychological penalties of the biological family, though it is true that throughout history there have been many variations on this biological family, the contingencies I have described existed in dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, all of them, causing specific psychosexual distortions in the human personality.

But to grant that the sexual imbalance of power is biologically based is not to lose our case. We are no longer just animals. And the kingdom of nature does not reign absolute. As Simone de Beauvoir herself admits:

The theory of historical materialism has brought to light some important truths. Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis – in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action.

Thus the ‘natural’ is not necessarily a ‘human’ value. Humanity has begun to transcend Nature: we can no longer justify the maintenance of a discriminatory sex class system on grounds of its origins in nature. Indeed, for pragmatic reasons alone it is beginning to look as if we must get rid of it (see Chapter 10).

The problem becomes political, demanding more than a comprehensive historical analysis, when one realises that, though man is increasingly capable of freeing himself from the biological conditions that created his tyranny over women and children, he has little reason to want to give this tyranny up. As Engels said, in the context of economic revolution:

It is the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the division into classes. [Note that this division itself grew out of a fundamental biological division.] But this does not prevent the ruling class, once having the upper hand, from consolidating its power at the expense of the working class, from turning its social leadership into an intensified exploitation of the masses.

Though the sex class system may have originated in fundamental biological conditions, this does not guarantee once the biological basis of their oppression has been swept away that women and children will be freed. On the contrary, the new technology, especially fertility control, maybe used against them to reinforce the entrenched system of exploitation.

So that just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility – the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of child-bearing and child-rearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud’s ‘polymorphous perversity’ – would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of. either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally. The division of labour would be ended by the elimination of labour altogether (through cybernetics). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.

And with it the psychology of power. As Engels claimed for strictly socialist revolution: ‘The existence of not simply this or that ruling class but of any ruling class at all [will have] become an obsolete anachronism.’ That socialism has never come near achieving this predicated goal is not only the result of unfulfilled or misfired economic preconditions, but also because the Marxian analysis itself was insufficient: it did not dig deep enough to the psychosexual roots of class. Marx was on to something more profound than he knew when he observed that the family contained within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later develop on a wide scale within the society and the state. For unless revolution uproots the basic social organisation, the biological family – the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled – the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated. We shall need a sexual revolution much larger than – inclusive of – a socialist one to truly eradicate all class systems.


I have attempted to take the class analysis one step further to its roots in the biological division of the sexes. We have not thrown out the insights of the socialists; on the contrary, radical feminism can enlarge their analysis, granting it an even deeper basis in objective conditions and thereby explaining many of its insolubles. As a first step in this direction, and as the ground work for our own analysis we shall expand Engels’s definition of historical materialism. Here is the same definition quoted above now rephrased to include the biological division of the sexes for the purpose of reproduction, which lies at the origins of class:

Historical materialism, is that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all historic events in the dialectic of sex: the division of society into two distinct biological classes for procreative reproduction, and the struggles of these classes with one another; in the changes in the modes of marriage, reproduction and child care created by these struggles; in the connected development of other physically-differentiated classes [castes]; and in the first division of labour based on sex which developed into the [economic-cultural] class system.

And here is the cultural superstructure, as well as the economic one, traced not just back to economic class, but all the way back to sex:

All past history [note that we can now eliminate ‘with the exception of primitive stages’] was the history of class struggle. These warring classes of society are always the product of the modes of organisation of the biological family unit for reproduction of the species, as well as of the strictly economic modes of production and exchange of goods and services. The sexual-reproductive organisation of society always furnishes the real basis, starting from which we can alone Work out the ultimate explanation of the whole superstructure of economic, juridical and political institutions as well as of the religious, philosophical and other ideas of a given historical period.

And now Engels’s projection of the results of a materialist approach to history is more realistic:

The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man and have hitherto ruled him now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real conscious Lord of Nature, master of his own social organisation.


In the following chapters we shall assume this definition of historical materialism, examining the cultural institutions that maintain and reinforce the biological family (especially its present manifestation, the nuclear family) and its result, the psychology of power, and aggressive chauvinism now developed enough to destroy us. We shall integrate this with a feminist analysis of Freudianism: for Freud’s cultural bias, like that of Marx and Engels, does not invalidate his perception entirely. In fact, Freud had insights of even greater value than those of the socialist theorists for the building of a new dialectical materialism based on sex. We shall attempt, then, to correlate the best of Engels and Marx (the historical materialist approach) with the best of Freud (the understanding of inner man and women and what shapes them) to arrive at a solution both political and personal yet grounded in real conditions. We shall see that Freud observed the dynamics of psychology correctly in its immediate social context, but because the fundamental structure of that social context was basic to all humanity – to different degrees – it appeared to be nothing less than an absolute existential condition which it would be insane to question – forcing Freud and many of his followers to postulate a priori constructs like the Death Wish to explain the origins of these universal psychological drives. This in turn made the sicknesses of humanity irreducible and incurable – which is why his pro posed solution (psychoanalytic therapy), a contradiction in terms, was so weak compared to the rest of his work, and such a resounding failure in practice – causing those of social/political sensibility to reject not only his therapeutic solution, but his most profound discoveries as well.


Strike action begins in Six counties

RCN members working within Health and Social Care (HSC) services in Northern Ireland today go on strike for the first time in the College’s 103-year history. 

There are currently 2,800 vacant nursing posts in the HSC and nurse pay has fallen by 15% in real terms in recent years. Nurses in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid in the UK.

Today (Wednesday), nursing staff will join picket lines at 21 locations across Northern Ireland to demand that measures be taken to address the unsafe staffing levels and deliver pay parity.

The strike action follows three days of industrial action, short of strike, which took place earlier in December. If there is no resolution, further strike days are planned in January, February and March 2020.

Some areas during the strike will be derogated meaning nursing staff will continue to work to support life-preserving services such as intensive care, palliative care and chemotherapy services.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “This is a moment every nurse wishes had never come, but faced with an abject failure to tackle unsafe staffing levels and severe pay inequality with colleagues in the rest of the UK, our members in Northern Ireland are saying enough is enough.

“Nurses are taking a stand for their patients, and also for their colleagues. It is about time the powers that be finally sit up and take notice because the crisis in the HSC cannot be allowed to continue.

“To every one of our members in Northern Ireland taking this stand, I want you to know that the RCN, and its entire membership, are right behind you.” 

RCN Northern Ireland Director Pat Cullen said: “Our members who are taking this historic action have been left with little choice. Patient care is being compromised by unsafe staffing levels and nurses’ pay has been left to dwindle and fall behind that of colleagues elsewhere in the UK. 

“When 92% of those balloted said they would take strike action to protect patients last month, it should have kick-started the Department of Health into finding a solution, but it hasn’t.

“With around 2,800 vacant nursing posts in the HSC, record levels of money being spent on agency staff to plug gaps and nurses’ pay sliding further and further behind the rest of the UK, our members have had enough. The concerns of nurses were raised again and again over a number of years, but this has continued to fall on deaf ears.

“Today, our members in Northern Ireland are making clear to those in power that they and their patients will not be ignored and this crisis allowed to worsen. 

“To patients we say that this is action that we hoped we would never have to take, and our members have committed to ensuring essential life-preserving services are not affected.

“The future of the HSC is now at a crossroads and we all wish to see a rapid solution to the patient safety crisis and the stark pay inequalities between those in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. However, this will not be secured by trying to blame nurses for the consequences of the decisions made by those in power. Our members, the health service workforce, and the people of Northern Ireland deserve so much better.”

 

International Solidarity: Philippines:

Letter to Philippines President Duterte condemning State arrests of trade union leaders

12 Dec 2019

Hands Off Trade Unions

The General Secretary of Congress Patricia King has written to President Duterte of the Philippines condemning the recent raids and arrests of trade union leaders and labour organisations in the Philippines.

In her letter, the General Secretary urged the government of the Philippines to stop attacks on legitimate trade union organisations, implement the recommendations concluded by the Committee of Applications of Standards of the ILO in June 2019 and accept the High-Level Tripartite Mission of the ILO to visit the country.  Patricia King said “the ICTU stands in solidarity with its affiliates in the Philippines and is closely monitoring the trade union and human rights situation in the country. 

Standing with human rights defenders in the Philippines – #StopTheAttacks – ITUC Calls for urgent action

The international trade union movement is calling attention to the alarming attacks on human and labour rights defenders in the Philippines. The government’s targeting of trade unionists has been ramped up recently with fresh waves of arrests and violence. The international trade union movement is united in calling on the government to stop the attacks.

The government is targeting labour activists through a practice known as red-tagging. By falsely identifying people who speak out against the government as associated to armed militia groups, the government purposely targets them with harassment and arrests and exposes them to violence and even murder.

Just this past 31 October, coordinated police raids saw over 40 people were arrested on charges of illegal weapons possession, 21 of whom were bus workers, who had been attending a meeting of their trade union. Over the last three years, 43 union members and officials have been killed by extrajudicial violence. To this date, the government has failed to pursue the perpetrators. The ITUC calls for an urgent independent investigation into these cases.

“Ever since the start of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in 2016, extrajudicial killings have been given a free pass and an ever-increasing number of murderers are walking free. Those estimated to have been killed in this way number a staggering 27,000‘Tokhang’ – the dreaded night-time knock that precedes many of these killings by both police and armed militia groups – should sound the alarm to the international community of this affront to the rule of law,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has resolved to send a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation, but despite the urgency, the government has yet to receive the Mission. The international labour movement is undertaking solidarity events across the world to demand an end to the human rights abuses and the targeting of trade unionists. The ITUC has requested to meet with the representative of the Philippines to the EU on Human Rights Day and has outlined three key demands:

  1. Stop the attacks and red-tagging of legitimate trade union organisations and labour activists;
  2. Implement the recommendations concluded by the Committee on the Application of Standards of the ILO in June 2019;
  3. Accept the High-Level Tripartite Mission of the ILO to visit the country at the soonest possible time.

#StopTheAttacks – send a tweet or a Facebook post, or see our action page to find out how else you can show your support.

Follow the live updates as trade unions stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines:

https://www.ituc-csi.org/Human-Rights-Day-Philippines

Show Respect for Retail Workers Over the Festive Season

Show Respect for Retail Workers Over the Festive Season

Friday 13 December 2019

Mandate Trade Union launched our membership led Respect Retail Workers campaign ten Christmases ago. Once again, we wish to make a renewed appeal to all retail customers to remember to treat workers, at what is the busiest time of the retail year, with courtesy and respect over Christmas 2019.

In our most recent online survey we asked Retail workers to provide us with any instances, and more specifically their own personal experiences, in the retail trade of customers verbally abusing them. Mandate received 628 responses from members outlining a variety of verbal abuse ranging from targeted profanity to horrific instances of aggressive and threatening behaviour.

The union is now calling on all Christmas shoppers to please be mindful of the pressures retail workers are under and to think twice before verbally abusing staff members.

Mandate’s National Coordinator of Campaigns, Brian Forbes said, “The Christmas period is a very stressful time for all concerned, particularly in the current economic and social environment. Many people are struggling to survive on lower incomes while trying to provide their loved ones with Christmas presents, and this can prove difficult at times. However, it is important that consumers recognise that retail workers are experiencing their own pressures too and consumers should continue to afford them the dignity and respect they deserve while they are in their place of work.”

Mr Forbes stated that a majority of reported incidents of abuse towards shop workers are based around issues which are completely outside of their control such as company policies on returning items, continuing Mr Forbes said, “There is simply no excuse for abusive behaviour towards retail workers and it is incumbent upon us all to do more to challenge employers and Irish legislators to ensure an environment in Irish retail where abusive behaviour, violence and the threat of violence against retail workers will not be tolerated under any circumstance.”

The vast majority of customers behave in a courteous and respectful manner towards retail workers and to each and every one of you Mandate wishes to extend our sincere seasonal greetings and hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous New Year.

Human Rights Day 2020

Human Rights Day 2020

10 December is Human Rights Day — marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Workers rights are human rights!

Please take a moment to show your support for these active campaigns on LabourStart:

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Fórsa wins leave standardisation deal

A number of HSE grades, including environmental health officers, biochemists, and pharmacy and clinical measurement grades, are to get enhanced annual leave arrangements thanks to a deal painstakingly negotiated by Fórsa. The new arrangement will standardise their leave, bringing it in line with other health professional grades.

The agreement also aligns the leave of similar voluntary hospital staff, who missed out on an earlier standardisation deal that aligned leave with the HSE.

Under a deal brokered by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the improved leave is to be backdated to 2015 on a “cost neutral” basis in both the HSE and the voluntary hospitals.

Formal ratification of the standardisation arrangements was delayed for over a year after employers’ body Ibec, which represents voluntary hospital management in the talks, sought clarification on how it would be implemented, particularly for recently-promoted staff. However, the HSE wrote to Ibec on 27th November confirming that an agreement had been reached, and approved voluntary hospitals to proceed to implementation stage.

This story was first published in the Forsa Health & Welfare news bulletin on Thursday 5th December 2019. You can read the full story HERE, and the news bulletin is available to read HERE.

Trade Unionism Article

A very interesting article on the role of Trade Unionism

 

“Trade Unions are the schools of socialism. It is in trade unions that workers educate themselves and become socialists, because under their very eyes the every
day struggle with capital is taking place.”—Karl Marx

This pamphlet contains some excerpts from the extensive work that Lenin wrote on Trade Unions. It is hoped that they will provide a basis for discussion around the current position and issues of today’s trade union movement.Trade Unions are suffering from the fallout of Thatcherism including anti-trade union laws and the effects associated with partnership and privatisation. The social consensus of the Post World War Two period has been systematically eroded by global capital, this erosion has intensified and capitalism has gained new confidence since the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Political activists working within the trade unions are often faced with hostility, a reactionary leadership, bureaucracy, careerism and ineffectual or non-existent organisation and education strategies. A move towards servicing ‘clients’ rather than carrying out the democratic decisions of the members is seriously affecting the ability of the trade unions to organise, lead and educate the working classes. The excerpts of Lenin’s work are intended to look at why we must continue to work in this area, what we have to gain from this and also look at how the economic struggle cannot be our only focus. We need also to continue to struggle and build our influence within the social, cultural and political sphere if we are to build a base from which to raise the consciousness of the working class .

 

Study of Dublin waste services welcomed

Fórsa today (Tuesday) welcomed the allocation of €75,000 to investigate the feasibility of bringing Dublin City Council’s refuse and waste management services back into local authority control. The decision, which is included in the council’s 2020 budget, comes on foot recommendations by a working group on remunicipalisation of the service, which was privatised in 2011.

The council will now seek tenders for a research project in partnership with a third level institution. It is expected that the duration of the project will be between a year and 18 months, which means it will report within the lifetime of the existing council.

The council working group responsible for the remunicipalisation of waste services recommended that Dublin City Council should use the research to develop a roadmap to a new waste management system for the capital.

 

Earlier this year, a waste management proposal was put to the council by the working group – made up of councillors and union representatives – on foot of a cross-party composite motion, which called for the remunicipalisation of household waste services. The motion was passed last July.

The council working group responsible for the remunicipalisation of waste services recommended that Dublin City Council should use the research to develop a roadmap to a new waste management system for the capital. Other recommendations included examining the challenges that face the project and ensuring that people with the necessary expertise are included in its planning and execution.

Peter Nolan, who heads Fórsa’s Municipal Employees’ and Local Government divisions, said the current system of unregulated private waste collection had led to a chaotic market, increased costs and a huge growth in illegal dumping in and around the capital. “Given the evidence, it is clear that a public waste collection service will provide a more efficient service to the citizens of Dublin. We need a new approach that expands the scope and quality of refuse and waste services so that Dublin can reach its full potential as a place to live, work, visit and do business,” he said.

The current system of unregulated private waste collection had led to a chaotic market, increased costs and a huge growth in illegal dumping in and around the capital.

 

Fórsa and other unions in the local government sector, which collectively represent over 30,000 council staff, have been campaigning for increased local authority powers and functions, and for directly-elected mayors and restored and expanded town councils. Their More Power to You campaign calls for substantially increased revenue and funding powers for local authorities.

They have published research that shows Irish councils have less autonomy from central government than their counterparts in 39 European countries, that only 8% of Irish public spending occurs at local government level compared to an EU23 average of over 23%, and that a quarter of the Irish spend is not fully under local authority control. With just one city or county council for every 148,507 people, Ireland has far fewer local municipalities than similar-sized European countries.