Saturday, 27 November 2010

A World to Win: The Work of Global Unions


What better time for the a group of students from the international labour and trade union studies MA at Ruskin to explore the work of European and global trade union institutions than the same week of further student discontent in London and during the run up to protests in Dublin today directly attacking the government's austerit package as a result of the EU bailout.

The MA visit to Brussels allows students to investigate at first hand how national and European trade unions influence the work of the EU institutions. Similarly, meetings with global union federations (GUFs) enable a better appreciation of key global challenges to labour movements and the way in which GUFs respond.

Below is a sample of pictures from the four-day day and show (top to bottom): Isabelle Schomann (legal researcher at the European Trade Union Institute), Kathleen Walker-Shaw who heads the GMB's Brussels office, and in the final picture Duncan Smith (Education International) and Jim Baker (Co-ordinator, Global Council of Unions).

Given the proximity of the visit to national and Irish protest, which represent the phenomenon of fallout from the global recession, the student group had a perfect backdrop against which to assess how trade unions can respond to the continuity of neoliberal economic and political strategy and the way in which it is shaped and propelled by constituent agencies from the World Bank to the European Union.

A great time was had by the students and I look forward to their greater understanding of the work of unions at the European and global levels being evidenced in their written and seminar work.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Photos from the UCU/NUS Demo 10.11.10


I am pleased to say that the UCU branch of Ruskin College and the Ruskin Students Union were out in full force at the packed demo against the coalition HE education cuts today in London.

I have placed my photos on Flikr, see link below, and you can see a couple here.

I am trying to get my videos onto YouTube but it's not as simple as I had thought. Please try searching YouTube using my name or NUS/UCU demo.



Monday, 8 November 2010

Industrial Action at the ILO


This past weekend I ran the first residential workshop of the MA in international labour and trade union studies that I manage at Ruskin College.
During the Saturday session Dan Blackburn of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) delivered a session to the student group on the work of the ILO.

I happened to mention to the group that Ruskin maintained good working relations with the staff union at the ILO and that in the past the union had documented poor treatment of staff and an overall disregard for the role of the staff union.

By coincidence the staff union has taken the decision this week to undertake industrial action following a series of events where staff terms and conditions of employment were ruthlessly undermined and where the staff union were intimidated and felt that basic freedoms to collectively bargain were violated.

My colleague at the staff union Chris Land-Kazlauskas (President of the ILO Staff Union) has distributed the e-mail below today. Please do all you can to support the staff at the ILO.

Dear friends,

As many of you know, the industrial relations climate in many of our organizations – and in the Common System as a whole – has been eroding for some time. Of course, the International Labour Organization is not immune to this phenomenon. Censorship, strong-arm tactics, and even retaliation against staff representatives are becoming all too common in the international civil service.

Today, I am writing to inform you of an industrial action which will take place in the ILO – in headquarters and across the regions – beginning this week. An Extraordinary General Meeting will take place on Wednesday, 10 November 2010, where the Staff Union Committee will make proposals for specific industrial action. It is expected that the first action will take place immediately following the EGM, and actions have also been planned throughout the regions.

The ILO Staff Union Committee would appreciate any support you may wish to provide, and if you wish, participation in any events planned for your duty station. I am attaching some advance information to give you an idea of the situation.

Messages of solidarity would be welcome prior to the General Meeting on Wednesday. They can be addressed to Any letters you wish to address to the ILO Administration would also be welcomed. They can be directed to, with copy to

We will keep you informed. Once again, the future of collective bargaining and industrial relations in the UN System hangs in the balance.

In solidarity,

Chris Land-Kazlauskas
Christopher Land-KazlauskasChairperson, Staff Union Committee of the
International Labour Organization - ILO
4, route des Morillons CH-1211 Geneva 22Fax: +41.22.799.82.71
Tél: +41.22.799.7958
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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Power in Coalition: Strategies for Strong Unions and Social Change


On my first hearing of this new book from Amanda Tattersall I thought that it was the first tract (of many to come no doubt) proselytising on the virtues of the ramshackle coalition that fronts itself as the current government.

Actually what we have instead is a first class comparative analysis (US, Canada, Australia) of what it takes to make the intersection of labour movement growth and the achievement of wider social goals possible.

I have to honestly admit a usual disinclination on my part to read material on strategies to renew/revitalise labour movements when the message is from any one of the 3 countries covered by the new book, with a slight exception for Canada, but I am happy to give this the thumbs up.

My interest in the book stems firstly from the fact that the author brings a significant labour movement pedigree to the literature on social movement unionism, and that the case studies provide a long-term root and branch analysis of workers in long-term struggle in healthcare for example.

I won't go on at length about the book other than to say that you can get it from the labourstart bookstore using the link below and that there is a really good blog that Amanda runs - see link on right.