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ISSUE 61 page 2

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Victory for unions as ‘Robin Hood tax’ to go ahead but U.K. still left out
  THE LONG-AWAITED AND LONG-CAMPAIGNED FOR FINANCIAL TRANSACTION TAX, also known as the Robin Hood tax in the U.K., looks to finally be coming to fruition. In September 2011, after campaigns by trade unions and pressure groups, basing their plans on proposals first put forward by economist James Tobin in the seventies, the European Commission suggested a tax of 0.1% on share and bond deals and 0.01% of derivatives if either party is based in the EU. However opposition from some Member States including Britain prevented its adoption by the EU as a whole. Now the Council of Ministers has agreed that  eleven countries can go ahead with the measure. Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain aim to institute it before the end of next year and, under the ‘enhanced co-operation’ procedure, other EU countries can join at any time. However the U.K. coalition government is still resolutely
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Debate will now centre on how the revenue from the new tax, estimated at €37 billion annually is to be spent. France has indicated that 10% of its share will be allocated to development aid in the third world pleasing global advocacy organisation ONE: ‘All countries signing up to the EU FTT must ensure the poorest in the world benefit’ insisted a spokesperson. Originally the President of the Council of Ministers Van Rompuy intended that two-thirds of each participant’s FTT money would go to the EU, reducing their national contribution by the same amount. Hugely indebted Euro-zone nations such as Greece and Ireland may also be in the queue. The President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergei Stanishev called the agreement ‘a significant step in redressing some of the injustices of the financial crisis. Five years after the crisis first rocked global markets, we have a tax that directly targets the speculators whose greed had such catastrophic consequences

The U.K. is isolated once again on controlling the ‘animal spirits’ of the markets

against its adoption and even abstained in the vote to allow those willing to go ahead.  Newly-elected TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented ‘Centre-right and centre-left governments across Europe have united to do the right thing .... It is a shame that our government is putting its friends in the City ahead of the interests of the British people once again’.

 
‘Best practice’ public procurement a step closer
ONE OF MANY HARMFUL EFFECTS OF THE string of adverse EU court judgements in recent years (see Vaxholm, Viking etc, in past issues) was that on public procurement  by the Rüffert and Luxembourg cases. They both went against the idea that public authorities could enforce labour and environmental standards in contracts with private firms bidding for work. In order to correct this trade unions, and now the Socialist and Democratic (S & D) group in the European Parliament, have sought to adapt proposals from the European Commission to make it easier for small businesses (SMEs) to tender for public work (see issue 57). Their aim is to use social and environmental criteria when selecting contractors so that the ‘'most economically advantageous tender', taking into account such factors as sustainability and collective bargaining, is chosen rather than the lowest priced offer.
At a recent European Parliament committee meeting MEPs voted in favour of excluding any company

Tarabella, T.

Marc Tarabella MEP

that does not comply with environmental and labour legislation from the bidding process. To help SMEs they want to enable public authorities to split any contract over €500,000 into lots and to make sub-contractors responsible for the compliance of the next firm in the chain. Bidders will have to be worth at least twice the value of the work that they are bidding for, rather than the three times proposed by the Commission. In all 89 amendments were approved by the Internal Market committee which voted 23 to 8 in favour of the package proposed by S & D MEP Marc Tarabella. He commented ‘We want a public procurement market in Europe that serves European citizens. We also want to make sure that public money is spent in a more socially responsible way’. The changes, which aim to modernise and simplify the existing public procurement directive, must now be passed by the entire parliament and the Council of Ministers.

 

Bargaining round-up

MINING FOR URANIUM MIGHT SEEM to be a hazardous occupation at the best of times but in Romania insult was added to possible injury by the freezing of wages since 2009. This year employers at the Botusana mine, which the state runs as a supplier for a nuclear power station, offered 7-8% in response to the workers’ claim of 30% plus improvements in the hazards and radiation benefits and provision of free meals and gift vouchers. Miners decided to protest by staying underground in galleries where humidity was high and temperatures below 10ºC. While management supplied the protesters with food and water, negotiations between the workers, supported by the National Mining and Energy Federation, and the ministry concluded with a 15% pay rise and an increase in the hazard benefit from €45 to €56. However job losses are likely to follow the deal as experts believe that the uranium deposits are running out. 
DUTCH TRADE UNIONS FNV AND CNV have reached an agreement with employers in the haulage industry which should result in substantial pay rises for migrant workers. A contractor, Remak, at a major power station construction site on the coast were employing Polish nationals at 5% to 20% lower rates than those stipulated by the relevant collective agreement. The new deal, signed in June, included specific provision for hired-in workers to be paid the same as locals as well as a 2% wage increase for all. This followed a successful court case brought by FNV against Remak. The unions hope that the agreement will be extended by the government throughout the haulage sector where a recent survey found some eastern European drivers being paid 30% to 40% below union rates.
IN SWEDEN TEACHERS HAVE WON what might seem like a comprehensive victory in pay negotiations but large numbers of union members remain unsatisfied. In recent years their annual salaries have slipped behind other sectors leaving Swedish rates some €7,000 below the international average in a country where GDP per person is significantly higher than the mean. Trade unions LR and Lärarförbundet say that the social standing of the profession has been affected and recruitment to teacher training courses is waning. They calculated that a rise of €1.160 per month was needed to put things right, far above the 2012 private industry norm which is usually used as a benchmark. The employers’ offer of 4% was rejected and strike action threatened. However, just before the strike warning period ran out a 4.2% rise, which had been suggested by the mediator, was accepted. Next year it is agreed that the rise must match the industry norm and the following two years will see pay negotiated at local level. Immediately LR members registered their dissatisfaction in a newspaper article calling the increases average and maintaining that local deals always resulted in very small rises. It seems that the clause allowing cancellation of the deal after two years may well be invoked especially as there are scheduled national elections in 2014.

 




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