Archive for the ‘business’ Tag

Wal-Mart threatens union with injunction over website

Wal-Mart threatens union with injunction over website

Retail giant Wal-Mart Canada has filed for a court injunction against a workers’ rights website over alleged trademark infringement, but the union operating the site says it is simply an attempt to thwart organizing efforts and stifle expression.

“This injunction request is an over the top assault on freedom of speech and on our ability to effectively communicate with Walmart workers,” said a statement from Wayne Hanley, national president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union.

The retail corporation filed the injunction with the Quebec Superior Court earlier this month in regards to the name, designs, slogans and images used on a UFCW website called walmartworkerscanada.ca.

“They recently revamped their site and in doing so we believe they have infringed on the Wal-Mart trademark,” said Andrew Pelletier, director of vice-corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Canada.

Specific complaints include phrases such as “Walmart Workers Canada” and “Union for Walmart Workers,” and photographs of people wearing blue vests – a uniform of Wal-Mart employees.

The injunction also seeks to stop the use of the website’s slogan “Get respect, live better,” which the corporation says plays on their new slogan “Save money, live better.”

Wal-Mart Canada is simply trying to protect its brand, Pelletier said, and denied it is attempting to thwart free speech.

“We are big advocates of free speech and open communications from the way we operate internally to the way we operate externally,” he said.

But the union strongly disagrees and launched a public awareness campaign this week in response to the injunction.

Sacked union convenor re-instated at Linamar Swansea

Sacked union convenor re-instated at Linamar Swansea

Rob Williams, the union convenor sacked at the Linamar plant in Swansea, has been reinstated just hours before plant workers were due to go on strike.

Workers at the Linamar (formerly Visteon) plant were due to begin strike action at 6am this morning. Workers had overwhelmingly voted in support of an indefinite ‘all-out’ strike, with the chief demand being the reinstatment of their fellow worker and union convenor. The vote had an 88% turn-out.

According to the Socialist Party, of whom Williams is a member, he has been unconditionally reinstated as convenor at the Linamar Swansea plant, effective today.

Man behind illegal blacklist snooped on workers for 30 years

Man behind illegal blacklist snooped on workers for 30 years

A private investigator who pleaded guilty today to running an unlawful blacklisting service on building workers has been snooping on trade unionists and political activists for more than 30 years, the Guardian can reveal.

Ian Kerr, of Stoke Heath, in the West Midlands, faces an unlimited fine or prison term after he admitted at Macclesfield magistrates court that he had illegally run a secret database of 3,200 workers, in breach of privacy laws, through an agency known as the Consulting Association.
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Building workers at the hearing applauded after the chairman of the bench, Adrian Long, passed the case up to the crown court because his sentencing powers under the Data Protection Act were “woefully inadequate”.

The prosecution was brought by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, after it emerged that Kerr, 66, sold the data to businesses including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O’Rourke and Costain, some of the UK’s largest construction companies.

Rise in use of drug tests to sack staff without redundancy pay

Rise in use of drug tests to sack staff without redundancy pay

Employers are increasingly using drug testing to get rid of staff without having to make redundancy payouts, as a way of ­cutting costs during the recession, a ­charity has said.

Release, which focuses on drugs, the law and human rights, reported a four-fold increase in calls to its drugs team about problems with workplace testing in the first three months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

In the first quarter of 2008, the team received 493 calls, with just 31 (6.2%) related to testing at work. In the first three months of this year, 548 calls were received with 145 (26.4%) about this issue.

In many cases callers have been getting in touch in a state of distress, having been tested for the first time after years in the same job. Often a programme of voluntary redundancies was announced, followed by workplace medicals for the remaining staff, including a drug test.

Sacking employees who test positive for illicit drugs allows employers to avoid making redundancy payouts. Cannabis, which can remain detectable for several weeks after use, is the substance causing the biggest problems for employees.

While drug testing in the workplace has been routine for many years in safety critical jobs, such as driving and machine operation, Release reports that many calls are coming from sectors they had comparatively few dealings with before such as office work, banking and commerce.

Previously the charity received regular calls from employers about how best to support staff with drug problems. These calls have dwindled to almost zero.

Blacklisting of union members by companies to be outlawed

Blacklisting of union members by companies to be outlawed

The government is to outlaw the use by companies of covert blacklists that have prevented trade unionists from getting work. Ministers have been forced to act after a watchdog exposed widespread blacklisting in the construction industry this year.

The move, due to be announced tomorrow by Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, follows pressure from trade unions and 100 Labour MPs.

It has been welcomed by Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, who said: “It is outrageous that unscrupulous employers have been victimising trade unionists through shady blacklisting practices that have no place in a democratic society.”

Blacklisting re-emerged as a political issue in March when the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, closed down a private investigator who had compiled an “extensive intelligence database” of 3,000 workers. Thomas accused 40 construction firms of buying personal data about workers they wanted to vet before employing them.

The firms were alleged to have paid the private investigator, Ian Kerr, to check his files for details of each worker’s trade union activities and conduct at work. The files were said to contain warnings about workers such as “ex-shop steward, definite problems, no go”, and “poor time-keeper, will cause trouble, strong trade union”.

Defeated Visteon offers former workers improved redundancy package

Defeated Visteon offers former workers improved redundancy package

After more than 30 days of protests across the country, the automotive parts company Visteon has finally cracked and offered its former workers what they deem to be an adequate redundancy package.

Nearly 600 jobs were lost at Visteon’s plants in Enfield, Belfast and Basildon just over a month ago, with staff being given less than an hour’s notice. The workers say they were given guarantees on pay and conditions when the company was spun out of Ford nine years ago.

Today Unite said a renewed deal, which goes beyond the Ford redundancy terms, had been accepted unanimously by the union’s convenors and shop stewards. The proposed settlement deal will see a considerable lift in the redundancy package offered to workers with long service and who previously worked for Ford.

Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate

Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate

For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.

Workers told to ‘think long and hard’ over union ballot

A better title would, perhaps, be “Autologic threatens workers with redundancy in anti-union move.”

Workers at a Northampton car firm have been warned to “think long and hard” about their futures as part of a battle between the company and the unions.

Drivers of car transporters who work for the Grange Park firm Autologic were sent a two-page letter earlier this month calling for union members to vote for de-recognition of the Unite union within the firm.

The letter, from the firm’s human resources director, Bernard Brown, has prompted a warning of possible industrial action.

It told workers: “You must decide what it is you want. We will not be able to offer job security and good futures unless existing practices are changed and the trade union stranglehold on this company is removed.

“The last thing we want to do is get into yet another punitive round of compulsory redundancies which in the event would dig deeper than ever before into remaining driver numbers and will not include enhanced terms, but if we do not get the changes we need we will have no alternative.”

The letter added: “The ballot choice is yours, but think long and hard about the economic climate outside of Autologic.

“Think long and hard about the lack of jobs available outside if you decide against de-recognition.

“Think long and hard about how you will continue caring and looking after your families and your dependents with no job.”

Village mob thwarts Google Street View car

Village mob thwarts Google Street View car

A spate of burglaries in a Buckinghamshire village had already put residents on the alert for any suspicious vehicles. So when the Google Street View car trundled towards Broughton with a 360-degree camera on its roof, villagers sprang into action. Forming a human chain to stop it, they harangued the driver about the “invasion of privacy”, adding that the images that Google planned to put online could be used by burglars.

As police made their way to the stand-off, the Google car yielded to the villagers. For now, Broughton remains off the internet search engine’s mapping service.

It was Paul Jacobs who provided the first line of resistance. “I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane,” he said. “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.”

He then ran round the village knocking on doors to rouse fellow residents. While the police were called, the villagers stood in the road, not allowing the car to pass. The driver eventually did a U-turn and left.

Laing O’Rourke and the blacklist database

Laing O’Rourke, a UK-based construction company, has a history of conflict with its workforce. In 2004, workers for the company in London took part in strike action which was met with support from a range of sources, including the anti-capitalist and direct-action movements. Industrial action has also occured at the company’s work on Heathrow Terminal Five.

It should not be surprising, then, to note that the company appears on the list of companies who made use of the “blacklist database” produced by “The Consulting Association” (a name truly gargantuan in its vagueness), which warned employers of workers who were active trade unionists, among other issues. Some of the comments on particular workers can be found here.