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General Secretary's letter from America

17 October 2017

I’m just back from the USA where I had the privilege to be the guest of our USA sister union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) from Thursday to Sunday. I want to thank President, James P. Hoffa and all the other people met in Washington DC met for their warmth and hospitality. We have been working with our colleagues in the IBT for several years assisting their organising efforts in companies like First and National Express (NE). IBT colleagues and I discussed ways of strengthening our collective responses to the challenges posed by multinational companies who sadly continue to increase their control of our public transport networks. Deregulation and privatisation are a global menace which can't be fought successfully in isolation. We need to coordinate our cross-border organising and campaigning efforts and learn from each other. That's why our international links are so important.

Just look at NE’s record in the States where they have recently deployed union busting tactics to try and deny US bus workers their right to union recognition. Frankly, their behaviour has been appalling and together with our UK sister unions we have been lobbying hard to get NE to change its ways. Some progress has been made and I’m delighted the IBT has recently successfully defeated NE's bully boy tactics by winning several ballots for recognition. However, the company's behaviour has no place in 21st century industrial relations. We will continue to work with the IBT until NE eradicates its union busting agenda. I am extremely proud that our union is playing its part in bringing to book multinational companies. Global solidarity trumps the bosses desire to exploit and deny workers’ rights. Next time round it could be us in need of the support of our sisters and brothers from abroad to stop an employer from inflicting damage on you.

I attended an IBT reception for trade union and civil society leaders from Canada, Mexico and the US seeking to influence the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Some deluded Tory Brexiteers believe we should join this trade block once we exit the European Union. They want to remove our star from the EU flag and attach it the star-spangled banner. So much for their patriotism! Pan-American trade unions are arguing for the creation of a "Labour Chapter’' as there are currently no NAFTA safeguards for workers. Our US brothers and sisters are seeking protection which close resemble the 'Social Chapter' within the European Single Market. Their fight should teach us to cherish the rights we have. Make no mistake, the free trade agreements which Tory Brexiteers cherish will, if they get their Brexit way be the equivalent of NAFTA on steroids - binning our current rights and more besides which is why our union is fighting tooth and nail to retain them.

I was also invited to attend an International Monetary Fund (IMF) event. Up for a bit of snooping on the direction of thinking of economic engineers of our enemy elite, I accepted. To say my jaw dropped when their spokesman dropped decades of economic orthodoxy and called for more taxation on the rich is an understatement. Even the IMF are now admitting that their trickle-down theory was always - as I am sure you have always known - a load of codswallop. I spoke to several economists and investment managers on the fringes of the IMF gathering and it is clear that there is a growing consensus that the biggest threat to our economic well-being is now rising inequality levels. Even capitalism’s engineers now admit the neoliberal age is coming to an end. In their consensus they add their validation to Jeremy Corbyn’s belief that capitalism isn’t working for the many. It’s why Jeremy's strong speech last Saturday to the Cooperative Party Conference was impeccably timed. Just like Thatcher in her day, his government will usher in a new economic settlement. Unlike hers, his will be for the many not the few. Following on from the policy popularity of Labour’s election manifesto, Jeremy’s showed Labour’s now got a confident, game-changing boldness not seen since 1945. His speech was also forward looking as it touched on the challenges of robotisation and the digital economy. And as I discovered in Washington, Jeremy’s views are now indeed mainstreaming and shared by none other than a capitalist economist, a Harvard Professor, who is arguing, like Jeremy, for the collective ownership of robots. When so many disparate voices come together, you can be sure the badly needed global economic and social change is on its way.

In international solidarity,

Manuel Cortes

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