Green Party Deputy Leader candidates respond to GPTU questions

your-party-your-voice-right-columnContenders for the Deputy Leadership of the Green Party have answered questions sent by the Green Party Trade Union Group, as voting begins in the party’s 2016 Leadership and Executive elections.

The Green Party Trade Union Group has asked each candidate to respond to a standard set of four questions, to gauge their attitudes to the Trade Union movement and how the Green Party should work with it. Their responses are set out below.

 


Amelia Womack

ameliawomack.co.uk

AMELIAWOMACKHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

With a Tory government, an opposition in disarray and a referendum result in favour of Brexit, it’s now more important than ever that we engage with all our allies to campaign for change. We particularly need to work with the Trade Union movement, which shares many of our most progressive aims and values on workers’ rights, equality and ending austerity.

I co-founded the Another Europe Is Possible campaign, the cross-party, grassroots campaign for a progressive Remain vote, and have represented the Green Party in the People’s Assembly. Through these campaigns, I  worked with leaders and grassroots activists from the Trade Union movement and got them involved in these campaigns. I would use this experience of working with Trade Unions to achieve common aims as a springboard – over the next two years, I want to kickstart more of this sort of campaigning alongside Trade Unionists and other progressive forces for our shared goals.

I would also like to work more closely with the Green Party Trade Union Group, who have gone from strength to strength in recent months – with perfect timing, given the importance of working with Trade Unions at the present time – and who have so much potential to build over the next few years.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

The Trade Union movement is essential to our society, as it campaigns for equality and dignity for all people, and for a society which puts people before profit. By promoting unions and enabling them to grow and become stronger across the UK, we are creating the conditions to realise our own progressive aims and values. And it’s no secret that I am a strong supporter of co-operative movements and worker ownership, as I believe people are better off when they are put in control of their own lives, and work in co-operation rather than competition.

The vast majority of UK unions supported a Remain vote in the recent EU referendum. They were integral to the Another Europe Is Possible campaign; not only did they campaign to protect EU workers’ rights, but many of them also shared our aims of protecting freedom of movement, championing the rights of migrants and safeguarding EU environmental protections. In the post-Brexit world, we need to work with the unions more than ever to campaign to salvage all of this.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

Many unions agree with us on environmental issues. Recently, for example, the NUT made a decision to campaign for a “carbon-zero economy;” RMT supports our aims on expanding public transport and improving air quality; whilst the TUC just this week produced a report calling for action to make the UK a leader in green jobs.

It’s true that some unions have taken an opposing approach on issues such as nuclear weapons, fracking or runways. We need to work with Trade Union leaders and activists on the many issues we do have in common; the more we do so, the more we will see an overlap emerge between Greens and Trade Union activists, which will help us to influence Trade Unions’ policies on environmental issues.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

The Green Party’s policies for working people and on Trade Unions are the most progressive of any major party. We in the Green Party are proud to call for higher wages and greater employment rights, to support Trade Union members in dispute and to call for greater freedoms for the Trade Union movement.

Minor changes or statements may need to be proposed to update our policies, such as responding to the recent Trade Union Act which is a major (and unwelcome) change to the law around Trade Unions. I’d also be keen to develop new policies around young people in work, particularly in those industries where young people are often exploited.

 


Shahrar Ali

electshahrar.co.uk 

ALISHAHRARHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

Greens believe in grassroots democracy and that includes the right to collective bargaining and strike action in the workplace. Whether Hunt’s extraordinary assault on junior doctors working conditions and pay or NUT and UCU rejection of casualisation of labour or counterproductive surveillance of students under the pretext of anti-terrorism, I have been vocal and active in those campaigns to protect these rights from my solidarity on picket lines to many speaking platforms. We need to better support the excellent work of our GPTU group in their outreach work and through sponsorship of trade union causes, whether through conference motions or joint campaigning. It’s real politics, just like the mobilisation of workers against zero hours contracts and other erosions that I’ve fought alongside on behalf of cleaners in my own university, to my support for the students on rent strike due to impoverished dwelling conditions.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the trade unionist movement today. In light of passage of the Trade Union Act 2016, rightly described as an ideological assault on workers’ rights, we must renew our resolve to protect basic rights in the workplace. Many of our initiatives for a fairer society recognise the role of public ownership and it is we who would renationalise the railways and safeguard a proper public NHS. Against the government’s austerity agenda, I’ve spoken at dozens of demonstrations from the people’s Assembly against Austerity in Manchester to a campaign for the protection of voluntary youth services in Parliament. We believe in ridding society of the ills of capitalism which would replace value with price and subvert value itself. Instead of the escalation in subcontracting of NHS services and reduced citizen rights under TTIP, we campaign for genuine socialism based on equal pay for equal work and public service ethos.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

Take our Green New Deal to reimagine jobs in renewable energy for the 21st century – advancing both investment in infrastructure and training and reskilling for genuinely sustainable jobs for all. We need to take those initiatives into the workforces that feel vulnerable to having the investment and jobs being cut from beneath them and negotiate a better future for all. I think the main challenge is to overcome the immediate pressures of making ends meet that most families will face to be able to make these long term solutions credible, whilst at the same time recognising that departure from business as usual is in everybody’s interest.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

We have outstanding policy in this area, genuinely progressive and visionary. I support a motion to conference seeking statutory right of access to workplaces of trade unions. I’m familiar with employees being disenfranchised through their employer’s failure to allow access to just their unions, when they were most needed. I would like to see us develop more robust policy on protection for workers who feel duty bound to blow the whistle under public interest disclosure and perhaps we also need to find ways of safeguarding the freedom of Information Act, which I have had cause to deploy in many a Green Party campaign.

You can read more about my candidacy at electshahrar.co.uk and facebook.com/Shahrar4Deputy/.

 


Alan Borgars

greensocialistalan.blogspot.co.uk

ALANEDMUNDBORGARSHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

I believe the Green Party’s relationship with trade unions is pretty good at the moment, but there needs to be a greater focus on helping trade unions understand the importance of environmental impact and making sure internal elections are genuinely free and fair and not dominated by certain cliques.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

Our trade union movement is important to address injustices that happen to employees, to make sure employees receive fair and decent wages/salaries, to give employees a voice in the workplace, and to play their part in making sure there is an actual balance between the rights and powers of employers and employees in all companies and cooperatives. In a green society, the trade unions will help act as mediators and negotiators in companies and cooperatives when employees feel for any reason unable to act for themselves in workplace disputes, and by making sure the power of directors and managers is moderated.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

The Green Party needs to highlight to trade unions that fundamentally there is no economy on a dead planet, that we are all dependent on our environment for basic needs and also our continued prosperity, and that they can gain respect from workers when they understand the importance of respecting environmental issues and finding solutions to them. The Green Party also needs to work with trade unions in particular sectors to find green technological ways forward to move on from reliance on non-renewable energy e.g. in the transport sector.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

For the most part, I agree with current Green Party Policy on trade unions and workers’ rights, although I would like to see a few key changes to make our policy more sensible and practicable. For example, I believe workers should only be able to buy out companies and turn them into cooperatives if those companies are about to go into liquidation and thus go bankrupt; I believe calling for a global or European living wage is not realistic since different countries and cultures have different needs and also because a universal basic income is supposed to provide a safety net already; I believe a maximum wage is only possible to implement if it is agreed to by employees from the bottom up and the decision to introduce a maximum wage, as well as how high this maximum wage should be in that specific company or cooperative, should be made by those employees and not by central or local government from above or any body of central or local government.

 


Andrew Cooper

andrew4deputy.uk

ANDREWCOOPERHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

The relationship between Labour and the Unions in recent years has been characterised by conflict often over fundamental differences in policy. Demonstrating where Green Party policy and trade union policy are in harmony would be one approach we could take . I would like to see Trade Unions to feel able to support individual Green Party Campaigns where they recognise that we have common cause e.g. RMT support for Caroline Lucas’s campaign. I would not however want a relationship with the unions on the same lines as that they have  with the Labour Party. Maintaining our one member one vote principle and not assuming support of millions of TU members for the Green Party would be important to me.  Approaches should be made by key members of Political Committee with appropriate Unions to see how we may best work together would be the approach I would favour. I also strongly believe that where we have the same objectives that we should join with Trade Unions in protests and marches to demonstrate that we recognise our similarities and back them up with action.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

With cuts occurring in the public and private sector Trade Unions are vital to protect the interests and working conditions of employees. In a Green Society we may expect to see more Workers Cooperatives, Employee owned companies and a greater role for the Public sector. That doesn’t mean Trade Unions won’t be needed but the likelihood of conflict should be diminished due to better communications with/between workers and greater involvement in the management of companies/cooperatives. Hopefully this will give opportunities for Trade Unions to play an important role in pastoral work with members looking after their welfare and personal development/education needs that may not be catered for by their employer.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

In some cases seeking to change Trade Union positions may be too deeply entrenched to change easily. Trade Union support for airport expansion, nuclear energy and Trident have been disappointing to say the least. It has to be recognised that the Trade Union movement is not a single cohesive body and that we may have different approaches to different issues with different unions. Demonstrating that there is a lot of work to do in a Green Economy  improving energy efficiency, renewables, more public transport would be a way of showing that the Green Party is a party that will generate work would be a good  starting point. Policies like the Citizens income would provide security for  workers (and non workers) alike and would strengthen power of workers and therefore unions in the workplace.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

I’ve read the policy and support it. An area I’d like to see explored more is the relationship between Unions and employee owned companies and cooperatives.  I’m happy to liaise and work with GPTU over any revisions to our existing policy.

 


Daniella Radice

daniellaradice.org

DANIELLARADICEHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

I think we need to continue to make positive contact with trade unions where we can. I have already facilitated discussion between Bristol Green Councillors and representatives of the PCS union which is not politically aligned, and sought their views on how we could campaign to support them as councillors. As a whole though, the link between most unions and the Labour party is very strong, so although we should develop cordial relationships between local unions and local parties, we should be strategic in where we put our efforts nationally.  I would want to wait to see what happens within the Labour party before making decisions on how to improve relationships with the unions, as many of them are strong supporters of Corbyn, as long as he is Leader unions are not going to be interested in allying themselves with us.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

Trade unions are hugely important in society in allowing workers to have a collective voice. As a whole unions have increased wages and improved working conditions over the past century and work hard to protect and support their individual members employment rights. I would like to think that in the very long-term, in a green society,  unions might not be necessary if we have a society where organisations are run democratically and so workers voices are heard as a matter of course and their rights are enshrined in the constitutions of organisations. In Bristol we have a very active tenants union called Acorn, and in the future I can see that unions might not be so allied to industry, but there will probably always be situations where collective action of the weak against those with economic power,  is effective and necessary.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

If we want trade unions to change their views, we need to recruit their members into the Green Party. Trade unions tend to try to represent what they believe their members want, and so will change if their members lobby for them to do so.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

I think our policies are OK as far as they go, as I support enshrining worker’s rights in law. I would be interested in a revision that looked at how to explicitly incorporate the labour theory of value into employment law and workers rights.

 


Katharina Boettge

facebook.com/KatForDeputyLeader

KatBoettgeHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

Currently this is a little more challenging than it might have been a couple of years ago when the unions showed their disengagement with Labour. I think we should encourage all levels of our party, from the membership, local and regional parties as well as from the national level to engage with unions. There are many areas where our policies are very compatible, on which more campaigning together would be beneficial. GP members who are also part of unions could be further encouraged to call from within for a wider, cross party engagement.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

Trade Union are extremely important at the moment, perhaps more so than ten years ago. Sadly the unions’ power has been systematically reduced again in recent years. Many workers are nowadays on zero hour contracts, often in short term contracts with diminishing rights. People, consequently, today appear to feel less protected by unions. We must be working together to protect workers’ rights. I would want to call on unions, grassroots movements and the wider left to work together, to move away from unions to support only one party ie Labour; but to work together, to mobilise the public and to campaign against austerity, the privatisation of public services and the diminishing of workers’ rights.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

First of all, to effectively oppose this government, we should move away from focusing on differences – and I mean that in the wider sense, not only regarding unions, but also Labour and other organisations. We must now unite, if we want to successfully protect our society from this unfair and profit driven neoliberal agenda and government.

However, to answer the question; unions are concerned about jobs, some of which are in industries that are environmentally unsustainable. The Green Party should make the case that we absolutely understand that jobs are important, but if an industry is environmentally, and like nuclear energy, economically unsustainable, fighting for these jobs and industry is too short term orientated. In the long term these jobs would not sustain. We have sound policies for a transition to a sustainable society. For example the Green New Deal would provide one million jobs. Solar energy, worldwide produces more jobs than the entire fossil fuel industry. Renewable industry would also bring money into the local economies, rather than just pushing profit to the top. I believe that this case must be made very clearly and thoroughly.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

I fully appreciate our strong values for the common good; we want to address causes rather than just symptoms. We understand that current problems for workers’ come from a systematic inequality, exploitative and neoliberal agenda to serve a few. We cannot solve individual problems effectively if we continue with this unfair set up. Additionally I strongly support our policies to democratise work places, which is obviously very compatible with unions. Furthermore our stance to encourage co-operatives and workers’ ownerships and/ or influences offer refreshing, fair and sensible solutions, which I believe would be very popular with unions.

 

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