Scotland’s Just Transition and the Gilets Jaunes

Today, the Scottish Government announced the first tranche of commissioners and the remit of the Just Transition Commission.  In our view it is unfortunate at best that the Government did not wait until it was in a position to announce the full membership of the Commission.  Perception is vital, and we are now busily allaying concerns about a ‘two-tier’ Commission.  We are assured that the final Commission membership will include trade unions and environmental groups, who lobbied for the body in the first place.  The sooner this becomes clear, the better.

We are however strongly welcoming of the Government’s support for a Just Transition Commission which we believe should endure well beyond its initial two years phase. In announcing its first three members in Poland today, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said “We are committed to achieving carbon neutrality while growing a sustainable economy that improves the opportunities, life chances and wellbeing of every citizen of Scotland, and I am absolutely determined that this will be done in a way that is socially inclusive.”   These are important ambitions which the STUC can fully support.  Achieving it will require a fundamental rethink of how such change can be delivered.

In the light of events in France, it has never been clearer that radical social and economic change, trade union and community organising, democratic ownership, and massive government intervention are all essential companions in the transition to a low carbon economy.

The cost of approaching climate transition without justice will be the failure of policy and a deepening environmental catastrophe.  The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, climate change will cause 250,000 additional deaths per year, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.  The majority of those deaths will be in the ‘developing’ world rather than on these shores.

The cost could also be the rise of the far right.  Donald Trump was quick to try to connect with Gilets Jaunes , tweeting that the French had come around to his skepticism about the Paris climate change agreement and the cost of fighting global warming.

Trump would do well to note though that the Gilets Jaunes are much more than a bunch of fuel protestors.  Indeed, had they been, Macron’s decision to scrap the tax on fuel should have seen the disintegration of the movement.  That this has not yet taken place, suggests that the movement addresses itself to much wider and deeper economic social issues.

Writing in the Jacobin Magazine, Auriele Dianara, describes the aims of the Gilets Jaunes thus: The main proposals formulated thus far are a general decrease in taxation and the creation of a “citizen’s assembly” to discuss the ecological transition, respect for citizens’ voices, the increase in purchasing power, and renewed value being attributed to labor. The assembly would also discuss such diverse measures as a ban on glyphosphate, the marketing of biofuels, the abolition of the senate, the organization of frequent local and national-level referenda, the increase in subsidies for the creation of jobs (and not precarious ones), respect for gender parity and equal treatment, an increase in the minimum wage, and the cutting of employers’ social contributions.

This is hardly, of itself, a coherent manifesto, but it is sufficient to banish any suggestion that the Gilets Jaunes is a movement of the far right and that energy prices and taxes are the sole driver for the upsurge in activity.

Yet, although energy and climate change are not the sole driver for the movement, it is likely that the issues of Just Transition to a low carbon society will continue to be a major source of dislocation between the elite centre of politics and citizens and workers.  This is true for France but also an issue across Europe and beyond.

Macron’s mission is to socially and economically transform France.  He is doing this through tax cuts for the rich, attacks on workers’ rights, welfare and pension cuts. This transformation is being resisted by organised formations such as the French trade unions but the protest has now spread and is sending panic through the French political system.

In a speech described by the Guardian as a “rare display of humility and deliberate empathy with the anger among voters living outside of France’s big cities, Macron conceded that he must avoid a “two-speed France” emerging, where workers in outer-urban areas felt left behind. However it is highly unlikely that he will rise to this challenge.  Indeed much of the centrist elite has attempted to attack the Gilets Jaunes. In a recent article ”Chaque personne qui insultait un gilet jaune insultait mon père” author Edouard Louis excoriates the media attempts to smear the participants as “country bumpkins” or stupid opponents of progress.

At the same time as denigrating the Gilets Jaunes, the same elite are scrabbling around for policies which will pacify the movement. This will not be possible whilst the elite moralises about the climate and business continues to make huge profits, meanwhile leaving the clean-up to the workers. It is simply wrong to categorise the protestors as not caring about climate change. What they care about is the rich getting richer, major companies paying little in tax,  while workers and citizens bear the brunt of transition.

These events might seem some way removed from the announcement of the Scottish Just Transition Commission.  However (as was recognised by the Scottish Parliament Energy and Climate Change Committee when I gave evidence to it recently) the question of ‘taking people with us’ is key.  And taking people with us has to mean far more than finding a few policies to pacify the masses.

Workers’ experiences of previous industrial ‘transitions’ has not been good.  In the 1980s, the closing of the pits, immiseration of heavy industry, privatisation of key utilities, all led to the loss of quality jobs and the destruction of communities.   The current transition to the ‘knowledge economy’ has been partnered with a rise of low wage, precarious jobs.  Automation has too often been a driver for poorer quality work rather than the improvement of working conditions and the paid reduction of the working week.

The energy transition thus far has seen thousands of high quality jobs destroyed and far too few created.  The biggest single contributor to Scotland’s most recent emissions reduction was the closure of the coal-fired power station at Longannet.  Decently paid, unionised jobs are being lost and not replaced. Emission cuts of 69% from energy and 73% from waste contrast with reductions of 28% from agriculture, 21% from residential, and just 3% from transport.

In addition much of these domestic emissions reductions, for example in agriculture, have been offshored. While much is made of the targets in Scotland’s Climate Change Act, Scotland’s emissions associated with consumption (e.g emissions generated at home and abroad in the production and transport of the goods and services that we consume) have only reduced by 8.6% between 1998 and 2014.

At the same time as this has happened energy prices have increased.  Over 2.5 million people in the UK are in fuel poverty and we are financing new development through charges on energy bills which disproportionately impact on the least well off.

In Scotland the strong progress towards onshore and offshore wind generation has seen overseas competitors snap up contracts while workers such as those at Bi Fab are idle. The much heralded jobs bonanza has not occurred.  Where jobs have been created they have too often been of lower quality than jobs lost and too often non-unionised.

The Just Transition Commission must have at its core, the purpose of an economic transformation which meets the aim of improving the opportunities, life chances and wellbeing of every citizen of Scotland.  Its levers may be limited (with key powers being held at Westminster), but it will be in a position to make recommendations based on an analysis of the current failures of Just Transition as well as the role of key institutions such as the Scottish National Investment Bank and the planned publicly owned energy company.  It can take a view about transport policy and infrastructure investment.  It should assess the jobs impact of transition and have Fair Work (including the importance of collective bargaining) as a key indicator and driver of success.

Alongside this, trade unions will campaign for public ownership, of transport and the utilities, for increases in wages across all sectors of the economy and for a progressive and redistributive tax system.  There will be no justice unless those who are responsible for emissions – namely multinationals and the better off in society who consume the most, are those who bear the brunt of the cost of transition.

The Scottish Government is right to point to the future opportunities that Just Transition can generate, but we will only get to that place if we find a way to start delivering justice now.

Dave Moxham

Deputy General Secretary

 

 

 

 

The Situation in Brazil – CUT: ‘Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. Free Lula!’

cutbrazil.pngWhen  the STUC recently met a delegation from CUT Brazil, we informed them of the St Andrew’s day march and rally and our intention to have speaker on the situation in Brazil. The CUT provided us with the following statement on the imprisonment of Lula da Silva.

Global Scholars for Brazilian Democracy to supporters of democracy and social justice throughout the world.

Three hundred academics and public intellectuals joined to launch a manifesto entitled “Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. #FreeLula!,” denouncing the detention of the former Brazilian president and current Presidential candidate Lula da Silva. The petition discusses in detail the arbitrary nature of the trial conducted by Judge Sergio Moro against Lula da Silva, stating that he is nothing less than a political prisoner. The document asserts that the international community should treat him as such and demands his immediate release.

Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. Free Lula!

We hereby manifest our deep concern about the circumstances under which the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva was tried and imprisoned. There is abundant evidence that Lula da Silva was a victim of lawfare, that is, the abuse of judicial power for political purposes. Hence, the international community should consider and treat him as a political prisoner.

Lula’s trial was conducted as part of the so-called Operation Car Wash, an investigation of the payment of procurement kickbacks to Petrobras officials and politicians, some of which took place while Lula was president. While critics claim that “Lula should have known” or “Lula must have gained something,” there is no evidence of his participation in the kickbacks. According to Brazilian laws and legal doctrines, corruption is a quid pro quo transaction. To convict Lula for corruption, the prosecution should prove that he had participated in the procurement frauds and that he had been compensated for such illicit acts.

In 2016, Lula was accused of receiving a rather modest apartment from OAS, one of the Petrobras contractors involved in the corruption scheme. However, no wiretapped conversations, bank transactions, transfer of funds or title deeds have ever substantiated the case against Lula. He never used or profited from the apartment. Worse still, it later emerged that the same apartment had already been used as collateral by OAS in a long-term loan transaction when the accusation was made that Lula was the owner.

The lack of incriminating evidence was disregarded by Sergio Moro, the judge responsible for the case against Lula. Moro based his decision on the “informal collaboration” (not even a formal plea bargain) that offered a substantial reduction of jail time if Lula’s codefendant pleaded guilty and produced incriminating evidence against Lula. The co-defendant was Leo Pinheiro, OAS’s owner. Pinheiro had already been sentenced to 26 years when he decided to “collaborate” and implicate Lula. He stated that the apartment was “meant to be given” to Lula, an accusation which contradicted 73 other depositions. But his statement was considered enough for Justice Moro to convict Lula da Silva. Pinheiro’s sentence, in turn, was reduced to three years, and he was released from prison during the day.

Besides failing to prove Lula’s ownership of the apartment, the Prosecution could not point to any specific action or omission that Lula had undertaken to benefit OAS. Lula had been accused of benefiting the co-defendant with three procurement contracts with Petrobras. After months of investigations, no material proof was found. Moro then convicted Lula for performing “indeterminable acts of corruption” that benefited OAS. This categorization shifts the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence and does not exist in the Brazilian legal system.

Inadvertently, Judge Moro himself admitted that he lacked jurisdiction over Lula’s case. When deciding a motion filed by the defense, he declared that he had “never affirmed, not would be required to prove, that the money used to build the apartment allegedly given to Lula originated from contracts between OAS and Petrobras.” If the case has no relationship with the Petrobras corruption, it should not have been reviewed by Moro.

Simply put, Lula’s process was one in which the trial magistrate chose his defendant and, acting as the investigator, prosecutor, and judge, convicted him of having committed “undetermined official acts of corruption.” Such a sentence, by its very wording, is legally and constitutionally unsustainable, including by Brazilian standards, given the reference to undetermined. A sentence referring to undetermined crimes fails all logic and reasonable legal scrutiny and is thoroughly Kafkaesque. Moreover, the reference to official acts is unreal, since the unfounded accusations motivating Moro’s sentence refer to a narrative beginning in 2013, well after Lula was out of office.

The lawfare against Lula also included tactics to keep his case under Moro’s purview at all costs. In March 2016, Moro leaked illegally obtained wiretaps of the sitting president,

Dilma Rousseff, regarding Lula’s appointment as Chief of Staff in her administration. He claimed, again without proof, that this appointment was meant to “obstruct justice,” since once appointed to the administration Lula would be judged by the Supreme Federal Court (STF) and not by Moro himself. Although Moro´s impartiality was questioned, the Federal Regional Court for the 4th Circuit (TRF – 4), the next tribunal to review Lula’s case in the hierarchy of the Brazilian judiciary, ruled that Operation Car Wash was “exceptional” and that “ordinary rules don’t apply.”

The Kafkaesque nature of Lula’s trial was reinforced when, in August 2017, the presiding justice of the TRF-4 declared that Moro’s sentence against Lula was “technically irreproachable,” while admitting that he had not even read the case. Meanwhile, his chief of staff posted a petition requesting Lula da Silva’s imprisonment on her Facebook page.

TRF-4 rushed its decision. The review of Moro’s sentence against Lula was placed ahead of 257 other cases that were pending. The reporting judge for TRF-4 took only six days to issue his findings for a case with literally thousands of pages of transcripts and hours of depositions. The TRF 4 panel took 196 days to decide. On average, it takes 473 days for similar cases. The TRF-4 also ordered Lula’s immediate arrest. Only 3 of the other 20 Car Wash defendants whose appeals were denied were sent to jail, and the incarcerations were implemented months after the decision.

Lula petitioned the Supreme Federal Court (STF), requesting a habeas corpus order against his immediate imprisonment because he still had the right to file appeals. According to the Brazilian Constitution, “no one can be deemed guilty until his or her last appeal has been decided.” Given this constitutional doctrine in Brazilian justice, it is important to note the following: the merits of Moro’s sentence against Lula, sustained and exacerbated by the TRF- 4 (extending imprisonment from 9 to 12 years), still have not been reviewed by the higher courts in the Brazilian judiciary system, including the STJ (Supreme Court of Justice) and the STF, the highest court in the country for constitutional questions.

In a tie-breaking vote denying the habeas corpus petition, a STF Justice declared that she would have voted otherwise if the Court had reviewed the constitutional doctrine in general, instead of its specific application to Lula’s case. The day before the vote, the Army’s Chief Commander tweeted out a message to the Court, saying that “the Army will not tolerate impunity.” For this thinly veiled threat, he got not a reprimand, but a “like” from the Twitter account of the very same TRF-4 that had confirmed Lula’s conviction.

The following morning, the judge presiding over the TRF-4 predicted that Lula’s detention could not occur in less than a month’s time, given all the legal proceedings still pending before the tribunal. In the afternoon, however, the TRF-4 requested Moro to order his arrest. It took Moro nineteen minutes to issue a decision that acknowledged that Lula still had the legal right to have another motion heard by the TRF-4, while declaring that this right to appeal was a “procrastinating pathology” that should be “wiped out of Brazilian laws.”

It should come as no surprise that a recent poll showed that 55% of the Brazilian respondents agree that “Lula is being persecuted by the Judiciary,” and 73% agree with the statement that “the powerful want him out of the elections” in which he still is the favorite candidate by far.

The abuses of judicial power over Lula da Silva are thinly disguised political persecution under a legal cover. Lula da Silva is a political prisoner. His detention tarnishes Brazilian democracy. The supporters of democracy and social justice in the East and the West, in the North and the Global South, should join in a worldwide movement to demand Lula da Silva’s release.

We demand: Free Lula, Lula Libre, Liberté por Lula, Freiheit für Lula, Lula Libero, حري ة , 释放卢拉, 룰라 석방하라!, חוֹפֶשׁ, フリーダム, Свободу Луле, Lula Livre!

Still We Rise: Come and Join the March and Rally!

Today is the moment in Scotland’s calendar when the trade union movement, communities, organisations, and individuals from across Scotland come and stand together against racism. Suki Sangha, Chair of the STUC Black Workers’ Committee, comments:

IMG_6767 (1)

The STUC wall: a symbol of the colours, unity and solidarity of our movement when Donald Trump visited Scotland this year.

This year we march under the banner “Still We Rise: Internationalism, Freedom and Justice”. The undertaking of anti-racist and anti-fascist work has never felt as important and urgent as it does in 2018. 

The far-right are becoming more visible in public life across Britain, Europe and beyond. From world leaders able to push harmful policies and practices, to the YouTubers with 1000s of followers pushing hate-filled agendas. The effects of these trickle down and into our lives, daily.

Years of constitutional, economic and political crisis have replaced hope with fear after fear. We know that racism is by-product of capitalism, we know who our real enemy is.

We need to learn and listen to what freedom and justice means for us all. Let us go beyond marches and build solidarity in every place we enter.

The news recently that the nine police officers involved in the death of Sheku Bayoh will not be prosecuted should not shock us. It should cause fury. How many times must we see black communities plead for justice?

But our anger means nothing unless we are willing to show Sheku’s family our upmost solidarity. Solidarity not just in name but in practice.

The world is increasingly becoming a scary place as seen with the recent election of a far-right candidate in Brazil;  showing solidarity with the Palestinians continues to be an urgent task for us all.

In today’s world being against racism is not enough, we need to be anti-racist and dismantle the systematic oppression that is limiting our lives, our access to decent work, and our access to justice and public services.

Join the march and rally on Saturday 24th November:
10.30 assemble at George Square
11.00 march off
12.00 rally at Adelaide’s Bath Street

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 5)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Our final guest blogger is Nicola Sturgeon MSP, leader of the SNP.


There is absolutely no place for racism or discrimination in Scotland. No matter their race, religion, ethnicity or nationality, people should feel safe and secure in their communities – and be able to reach their full potential.

We have come very far but clearly we should never be complacent. None of us can be a bystander –  it is the job of all of us to continue fighting against racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.

The STUC is to be commended for its hard work in sending out this unequivocal message.


 

Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Read part 3: Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Read part 4: Richard Leonard MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 4)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Richard Leonard MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party.


On Saturday 24th November 2018, we will come together in Glasgow for the annual STUC St Andrew’s Day anti-racist march & rally.

In the summer we came together and stood firm to say to Donald Trump no pasaran!

And there are challenges closer to home. The Tories’ hostile policy to immigration has also increased intolerance.

Failing to challenge this intolerance normalises it, and we must not allow such a culture to take root.

So in the summer, Glasgow challenged intolerance towards asylum seekers

The Glasgow community, trade unions and housing associations led protests against the planned evictions, alongside politicians, and this forced Serco to pause this morally unjustifiable action.

This is not the type of country we want to be in 2018.

And that is why Labour is clear that the entire hostile environment policy approach to immigration must go.

History teaches us that truth has to be fought for every step of the way.

And each generation has to fight the same battles over and over again.

To people experiencing racism or discrimination

We say to you that you do not stand alone. We stand with you. Your destiny is our destiny. Until you are free from injustice. No-one is free from injustice. In the words of that old trade union slogan: An injury to one is an injury to all.

This is not about right versus left. It is about right versus wrong.

We stand against the values of hate and intolerance, but we stand for hope and for common humanity. We stand for freedom of speech. We stand for an ideal of world peace.

We stand for the waging of a war on world poverty and inequality. 36 million people will die this year of hunger and yet the richest 500 increased their wealth by one trillion dollars last year.

Our modest goal is a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity and racial harmony, by breaking down barriers not building them up.

In the modern world the real test of democracy is not nationhood.

The answer to the challenges of our age is not nationalism: it is internationalism.

We know this as democratic socialists, trade unionists and co-operators.

The real test of our age is whether the mass of people who create the world’s wealth secure economic justice from the few.

So let’s work together to create a better society for all: let’s start in our own communities but let’s understand that we are part of a worldwide movement for real change.


Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Read part 3: Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 3)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.


The timing of this march and rally isn’t incidental. St Andrew himself is international. Treasured here and the inspiration behind the saltire flag, but also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Romania and Barbados. His relics have been scattered as far as Istanbul, Amalfi and Warsaw and he’s a famed figure in both Maltese and Georgian history. You might not have envisioned ties between Bridgetown and Buchan but this biblical figure has achieved just that.

St Andrew’s colourful life and the adventure his bones were taken on after his death teach us a fair few lessons about the close connections and overlaps we have with people around the world. The shared history, the similarities. That’s something we should all keep in mind.

Scotland is a warm, welcoming and embracing place. But let’s not kid ourselves that it is free of hatred and bigotry.

This summer the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple and a methodist church in Edinburgh were attacked. In May, Dunfermline Central Mosque was the target of a hateful act. Scotland still has a way to go with acceptance and tolerance. The STUC’s annual march is a chance for the progressive majority among us to show their unity in the face of persistent prejudice.

None of us can afford to be lax when racism or injustice continues to rear its head in the 21st century. We have a duty to march up the Royal Mile to protest Donald Trump’s visit, to condemn Aung San Suu Kyi and revoke her honours for the irresponsible leadership she’s shown in the face of Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya people, and to highlight the ongoing plight of the Windrush generation and Chagossian refugees.

The Liberal Democrats tirelessly make the positive case for immigration. We’re defenders of human rights and stand in resolute opposition to any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention. We’re brimming with ideas about how to improve diversity, care for and welcome refugees, tackle modern slavery and improve the lives of people living around the world through international development and standing up for liberal values.

If we go full circle back to St Andrew, it’s worth noting he is also the patron saint of fishmongers, singers, gout sufferers and those with sore throats. It seems he has a knack for bringing together the disparate and detached. This St Andrew’s day when the crowds  march against racism in Glasgow we should each take a leaf out of Jo Cox’s book and reflect on what unites us, rather than what divides us.


Read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party

Read part 2: Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here. 

St. Andrew’s Day Blogs (part 2)

In this series of guest blogs, we asked the leaders of the main political parties in Scotland to share their thoughts ahead of the annual St.Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March & Rally which takes place this Saturday. Next up is Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.


All of us in Scotland are rightly proud of our reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming society – one that values all people, no matter their colour, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Yet, while we have come a long way in tackling sectarianism and rooting out racist abuse, there is still much to be done.

It’s a hard truth, but to our collective shame, we still have pockets of intolerance in Scotland.

Our response must be to challenge these views directly — be clear that our communities are enriched by those who have chosen to make this country their home; that we are better for our acceptance of different faiths and the protections we afford to all.

And we must encourage others to follow our lead.

Next year, we begin the process of leaving the European Union. While I campaigned passionately to Remain – and understand the strength of feeling Brexit provokes – I recognise the result and that it must be respected.

But this does not mean that UK is about to turn its back on the world or that we will stop championing freedom and justice. Quite the opposite.

We have a proud history of standing up for the oppressed and supporting an international order that upholds human rights and the rule of law.

Brexit will not change this. Nor will it stop us from continuing humanitarian missions around the world or our international development work which, over the last few years, has supported over 11 million children in school, helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water and saved millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

So despite the flux, we must continue to act to ensure that cultural and racial diversity is seen as one of our nation’s great strengths. For this diversity is something which makes Scotland such an incredible place to live, work and call home.

The STUC has long shown an admirable commitment to challenging racism in all its forms and the Scottish Conservatives are proud to stand with you. Together, we will continue to defend the values we share.


You can read part 1: Patrick Harvie MSP, leader of the Scottish Green Party here.

Join us on Saturday at the biggest annual anti-racism event in Scotland: Find out more and let us know you are coming along here.