work&life THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS
ISSUE 4 • SPRING 2009
IN YOUR DREAMS What the critics want us to think about public servants.
PROS AND CONS OF OPEN PLAN MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR WORK TIME SPECIAL PEOPLE, SPECIAL NEEDS YOUR FINANCIAL MAKEOVER MEN IN CLOTHES
ALSO INSIDE PROTECT YOUR PAY PACKET. AWFUL TUNES. BLUES-BUSTER. BETTER COOKING. SPRING GARDENS. OSCAR NIGHT. WORLD-CLASS ART. CECILIA AHERN INTERVIEW. ALL THE NEWS. YOUR LETTERS. COMPETITIONS. www.impact.ie
In this issue
work&life – Spring 2009 COVER FEATURES
IN YOUR DREAMS NIALL SHANAHAN looks at how some hardworking public servants are coping with the barrage of criticism.
SPECIAL PEOPLE, SPECIAL NEEDS
TIME ON YOUR SIDE
PULL YOUR SOCKS UP
YOUR FINANCIAL MAKEOVER COLM RAPPLE puts you through your New Year financial paces.
Win Win Win…
TRAVEL AND TRIPS
SPORT KEVIN NOLAN predicts 2009’s winners and losers.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
41 41 41 42 42 43 43
IN THE KITCHEN Not a celebrity diet in sight as MARGARET HANNIGAN suggests five easy changes that will help you look and feel better this year.
BOOKS CECILIA AHERN talks about her latest offering.
KAREN WARD outlines a holistic approach to dealing with the start-of-year blues.
TRISH O’MAHONY has a word for the wise guys about looking good at work.
Great art on your doorstep.
MUSIC RAYMOND CONNOLLY uncovers some horrible musical secrets.
RIGHTS AT WORK
Women and work. Pay and public services. Well-heeled has-beens.
Better time management can help you shine at work.
What to do when your boss messes with your pay packet.
DON’T FENCE ME IN MARTINA O’LEARY looks at the ups and downs of open plan office life.
AT THE MOVIES MORGAN O’BRIEN on the Oscar contenders.
The Donegal biker who’s helping staff deal with council job threats and raising money for the local hospice.
Ireland’s special needs assistants have won respect for their important work with children. Now they’re looking for professional status.
GREEN FINGERS Growing your own can make a lot of sense, says JIMI BLAKE.
EQUALITY IN EDUCATION AER LINGUS DEAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT CUTS THE ECONOMY PUBLIC SERVICES HSE WOES EQUALITY AUTHORITY
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WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 3
THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS
work&life Put a spring in your step IN CASE you were in any doubt, the budget claw-backs that appeared in your first 2009 pay packet will confirm that this is going to be a difficult year. If that’s not convincing enough, just look at our news pages (41-43) and you’ll get the picture. Our main feature looks at how the economic recession has prompted many politicians and commentators to redouble their unfair – and sometimes ludicrous – attacks on public services. Niall Shanahan spoke to some public servants to get their take on the criticisms. And Colm Rapple advises on how to start getting your personal finances in order in these troubled times. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Margaret Hannigan writes on how you can start a kitchen makeover to save cash and make you look and feel better, a theme taken up by Karen Ward in her wellbeing column. Martina O’Leary explores how better time management can ease your stress and improve your career prospects, and we’ve got an uplifting piece on the fantastic work of Ireland’s special needs assistants. We can’t wait to hear your verdict on Martina’s take on open plan office life. Let us know whether you’re feeling sociable – or would you prefer to brick yourself up in your own office until it all goes away?
Work & Life is produced by IMPACT trade union’s Communications Unit and edited by Bernard Harbor. Front cover picture by Conor Healy. Photo features Shaun Elebert. Contact IMPACT at: Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. Phone: 01-817-1500. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Designed by: N O’Brien Design & Print Management Phone: 01-864-1920 Email: email@example.com. Printed by: Boylan Print Group. Advertising sales: Frank Bambrick Phone: 01-453-4011. Unless otherwise stated, the views contained in Work & Life do not necessarily reflect the policy of IMPACT trade union. Work & Life is printed on environmentally friendly paper, certified by the European Eco Label. This magazine is 100% recyclable.
Trish O’Mahony’s popular fashion column puts the lads under the spotlight and recommends ways to improve your workplace look. And we’ve got all your favourites on sport, gardening, books, travel and trips, and films (who’s down for an Oscar?). By the way, Raymond Connolly’s music piece is going to cause a few red faces around this office. Ouch! Keep your letters and comments coming. They really are helping us improve Work & Life and ensure that it’s hitting the spot for over 60,000 IMPACT members. Times may be tough, but there’s still a bit to smile about.
IMPACT trade union IMPACT is Ireland’s fastest growing trade union with 60,000 members in the public services and elsewhere. We represent staff in the health services, local authorities, education, the civil service, the community sector, aviation, telecommunications and commercial and non-commercial semi-state organisations. Find out more about IMPACT on
Work & Life Magazine is a full participating member of the Press Council of Ireland and supports the Office of the Press Ombudsman. In addition to defending the freedom of the press, this scheme offers readers a quick, fair and free method of dealing with complaints that they may have in relation to articles that appear on our pages. To contact the Office of the Press Ombudsman go to www.pressombudsman.ie or www.presscouncil.ie.
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You read it here first!
THE BUDGET was brutal, but at least Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is learning from Work & Life. You’ll remember that, in our first issue last May, we featured the benefits of commuting by bike. In our piece, ‘the revolution will not be motorised,’ we also carried details of Britain’s biketo-work tax incentive scheme and wondered why the Irish Government didn’t do something similar. Lo and behold! In a rare bit of positive news, last October’s controversial budget included a new benefit-in-kind tax relief for buying bikes for work. Needless to say, it’s been reasonably well received. Available details suggest that it will be similar to the UK model, which has boosted the number of people cycling to work each year. In Ireland, the budget makes provision for up to 400 people to avail of the scheme in 2009. It’s a modest start. But over the next few years it should create a steady and sustainable growth in the number of people cycling to work. This will help to reduce traffic congestion and fuel consumption, and alert more people to the health benefits of cycling to work. Remember, you heard it here first!
That was then... 10 years ago The Euro makes its debut in January 1999. Still going strong!
The Polish communist party votes to legalise Solidarity trade union in January 1989. Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is shot dead by loyalists the following month.
30 years ago The tax marches bring 200,000 people onto Dublin’s streets in March 1979. Similar protests take place throughout the country, including a march by 40,000 workers in Cork.
50 years ago In February 1959, unions vote to end the 15-year split in the Irish trade union movement. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is formed from the merger of the Irish Trade Union Congress (founded in 1894) and the Congress of Irish Unions (founded in 1945).
100 years ago Author, playwright and co-founder of the Abbey theatre, John Millington Synge dies in Dublin aged 38 in March 1909, a few months after Jim Larkin becomes General Secretary of the newly formed Irish Transport and General Workers Union (now part of SIPTU) in December 1908.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
A walk on the mild side
Partnership co-ordinator and acting staff welfare officer PATSY McHUGH helped put together a photo competition for Donegal County Council staff last year. The winning pictures now grace a 2009 calendar, which is being sold to raise funds for Donegal Hospice. Work & Life found out what keeps his wheels turning. How would you describe yourself? As an individual and a people person. I like the work I do because it involves people. I’m an intuitive sort of person. I can be diplomatic, but I can also be very impatient. I facilitate and attend a lot of meetings, but I am shy and find it difficult at times. I’m scared stiff before I go, but I’m okay once I get going. What are your interests? Biking. If I’m not on the bike when the weather’s good, I’m tinkering with it in my mother’s shed in Glenties. What’s it like working for Donegal council? These are difficult times with almost 230 job losses feared. As acting welfare officer I have to deal with the people who are affected. I’m a people person. I care very much. These are all friends and it’s personally heart breaking. It is busier from a staff welfare point of view because people are distressed. And morale has taken a big hit in the organisation. It’s difficult to deal with all that.
“Just before my father died I was thinking of buying a Harley Davidson. He said: ‘Buy the bike if you want it. Life’s too short.’ The message was to enjoy life while you can.” ” But overall it’s become a better place in the nine years I’ve worked here. The county manager that came into Donegal some nine years ago was much more embracing of unions. Michael McLoone gave unions respect, particularly when big projects like decentralisation, restructuring and Better Local Government were happening. The degree of consultation was alien in many ways, given the much more adversarial approach before he came. It’s not perfect but it’s a big step in the right direction.
What helps you when the going gets tough? I speak to people. I don’t bottle it up like I used to. I’m a depressive by nature, but find that if you talk about difficulties and talk to people it’s a big, big help. I think you should be ready to accept mistakes and accept advice as well. What’s the best advice you ever received? It was just before my father died in 2007 in the Donegal Hospice. He was there for a number of weeks and at the time I had sold an old bike and I was thinking of buying a Harley Davidson. He said: “Buy the bike if you want it. You always wanted it. Life’s too short.” This came from someone who died a few weeks later. The message was to enjoy life while you can. What music do you like? I like American folk music, particularly Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. Their music is politically left wing. The whole movement around Guthrie and Seeger, is interesting. It has shaped the way I think. What’s your favourite movie? The Shining. I love The Shining and, of course, Schindler’s List. It’s difficult to choose between the two. They are both classics. Have you had any other interesting jobs? I took a career break and worked in Germany and the UK for a few months. I worked in a bacon factory and installed digital cabels for a while. My father worked in Scotland for a wee while and I wanted to see what life had been like for the many who had to leave home to find work. I found it pretty tough going. Labouring was
helP THE HOSPICE
These excellent 2009 calendars are for sale in all Donegal County Council offices and Donegal Hospice. Payments can be made directly to the Donegal Hospice. Make cheques payable to Donegal Hospice and send to Isobel Doherty, Donegal Hospice, Knocknamona, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.
hard work. I also worked in Donegal forests planting trees during a cold damp January. That was really tough.
went through. I felt I needed to visit it, and was pretty honoured to do so.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? I would go to is to visit Auschwitz concentration camp. I went to Mauthausen camp in Austria a few years ago. It was the only camp that the guards left in working order. They didn’t destroy it and the gas chamber was still working. It was a shrine to those who
Who would you like to have a pint with? Muhammed Ali. I was born in 1960 and grew up watching boxing on TV. I loved his intelligence, not to mention his boxing skills. I admired him so much for refusing to go to Vietnam at the time. I thought it was very brave. What really annoys you? Thoughtless car drivers. Mistakes by car drivers are dangerous and if you’re exposed to them when on a bike they can be fatal. Have you had much involvement in IMPACT? Some time ago I was the Donegal County Council chair and also did a stint on the branch committee. But I can’t be involved in the union now as I’m the partnership facilitator and I must be impartial. Did you like working in the union? It was just brilliant. I found something I loved doing and that I was reasonably good at. I think I always did my best and put the members first, though I was far from perfect. Tell me about the calendar In 2007 we arranged a photo competition in the Council’s Christmas staff newsletter The Grapevine. The response was so good that we decided to do it again. A colleague of mine suggested we do something with the photos, make a calendar and give the proceeds to charity. The editorial team chose Donegal Hospice. The logic behind this decision was that many people nowadays are affected or touched by the death of family or friends who were cared for in the Hospice during their final days. It was a charity dear to our hearts. What would you like to be remembered for? For having done my best for the welfare of people l Interview by Martina O’Leary.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Public servants under attack
Here’s one we made up earlier The latest chorus of insults directed at public servants may have been a softening up exercise for staff cuts. But it’s unfair on the workers who are doing their best to provide services in difficult times. NIALL SHANAHAN found out how they are bearing up. YOU ARE bloated, lazy, inefficient, overpaid and underworked. You’re a “plump state hen” and should be taken out of your taxpayer-funded golden cage of job security and big fat pensions. Let’s start by getting rid of 10% of you. Better yet, let’s make that 30%. And impose a wage freeze. Better still, let’s make that a wage cut. That’ll teach you a lesson, whip you into shape, and make you share the pain. Anything less and the economy is doomed. Sound familiar? These are just some of the choice terms and cheap theories trotted out by an army of critics who have been enjoying another severe bout of public service bashing over the last couple of months. The recession has sharpened their knives and public servants could be forgiven for believing that they’re responsible for the current economic crisis. They aren’t. To separate fact from fiction, a 2008 OECD study said the Irish public service was not overstaffed. While staff numbers have grown, the OECD says this represents us “playing catch-up” from an historically low base. A host of other factors have contributed to a global recession that’s made its unwelcome presence felt in the Irish economy. Everyone is running around like headless chickens. And some of those headless chickens are looking for scapegoats. And some of these scapegoats are described as sacred cows. And this is where you, the public servant, comes into the dysfunctional farmyard analogy.
IMPACT member Eimear Ging works in administration for the Endoscopy clinic in Dublin’s Saint James’ hospital. I asked her how the constant stream of criticism affected her. “It makes me very angry and very frustrated to be presented as a negative thing, a burden. In my experience, the members of the public who come here to access services are generally appreciative about the work we do. And they are often very vocal in their appreciation,” she says. Tony Martin is a materials manager in Tallaght Hospital where talk about media–bashing of public servants is common amongst his colleagues. “We work in a caring environment. We’re not here to turn a profit. Most of the criticism comes from TDs who are paid extremely well themselves. People here take pride in their work and they are sick to their stomachs of
“I just thought ‘how dare you?’ I don’t know of one person where I work who hasn’t gone the extra mile to get the work done, because they know at the end of everything that they do there’s a patient who needs treatment.” the constant criticism. In my hospital we’re dealing with the cuts to come and the cuts we’ve already suffered. We have an estimated 100 unfilled vacancies,” he says. Eileen Byrne, who works in medical records at Beaumont Hospital, says the criticism is wearing her colleagues down. “It provokes anger and fear. Anger, because people take it personally. They know how hard they are working to keep things going. And fear because in the current environment, where we seem to be experiencing a backlash against public servants, people are afraid they will lose their jobs.” But isn’t there a case for reform? Eimear believes there is, and that public servants are willing participants. “I think there is a very strong case for an imaginative and constructive approach to reforming public services and improving them. There is a lot of goodwill among public servants for positive change,” she says.
But Eimear feels that reform isn’t really what’s planned. “I would have very little confidence that there is any political body willing to approach it that way. All that anyone seems willing to deliver is cuts, and the political lines in the sand have already been drawn.”
Photo: CONOR HEALY
Tony agrees, “We are constantly calling for reforms like the extended working day. Most of the staff are in favour of it. There isn’t any resistance among my colleagues to the idea of change. If anything it’s the opposite.”
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Public servants under attack
Soon after I spoke to her, the Government announced the establishment of the ‘Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes’ which will be looking at spending in all government departments and recommending cuts by the middle of the year. IMPACT’s campaign in action.
Eimear was quite right, the lines have been drawn, which is why this ‘special group’ includes the phrase ‘public service numbers’ in the title. Its existence was announced as the government published the report of the task force on public service. That task force was formed to make recommendations based on the OECD findings – but the OECD had concluded that the problems of our public service weren’t due to overstaffing or overspending. So what’s changed since the OECD published its findings? Well, the economy and public finances took a huge dive, which in turn intensified the criticism levelled at the public service. The commentators who were already obsessed with cutting numbers became obsessed with cutting pay.
The government is also well aware that the opposition parties have adopted a far more bullish attitude to public service reform, so perhaps they are hoping the ‘special group’ (or ‘An Bord Snip Nua’ as the media has dubbed it, in memory of its 1980s predecessor) will give them the sharpened axe to satisfy the bloodlust for public service cuts. It does not bode well for public services. IMPACT national secretary for communications, Bernard Harbor, has been vocal in the union’s campaign for some honesty when it comes to talk of cutting numbers. “The OECD’s study did not call for staff reductions. That’s because Ireland spends proportionately less on its public services, and employs proportionately fewer staff, than similar countries. This doesn’t make it any easier to balance the books now that we’ve entered a recession and the public finances are in crisis. But it does prove that there is very little ‘fat’ to cut. Staff reductions will mean worse services,” he says. Harbor admits that the union struggles to get its message across in the growing clamour of criticism. “We are constantly putting the case for the defence, but we’re usually a lone voice and it’s hard to get a word in edgeways because the attacks are so loud and so sustained,” he says.
Meanwhile, union members overwhelmingly backed the new
social partnership agreement, which includes an 11-month pay pause for public servants.
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There’s no doubt that the critics have cleared the political way for deep cuts in important services. It’s even the subject of debate in social situations and Eileen says she sometimes gets a hard time. “More in jest rather than in a serious way,” Eimear adds. “People roll their eyes and laugh if I say I work in public service administration. But when you talk to people you discover that the actual reality of their experience is generaly positive,” she says. Tony’s experience is similar, but there’s a serious side to it. “You get comments like ‘Wait until I tell you about the 25 hours I spent in A&E. That sort of thing. But I find that when people listen, they do realise that people working in public health are put to the pin of their collar. They are not sitting around scratching their head in an office - they are working flat out to help deliver a frontline service.” Eimear Ging says morale is falling as staff start to believe some of the criticism. We are a community of workers, and it feels as though we are a community under threat. What I find especially troubling is that people who work here are starting to believe what they hear in the media, despite their daily experience. People have got used to the criticism and have got used to feeling bad about having a permanent job or having a pension, she says. Eileen dislikes the suggestion that public servants are somehow isolated from the reality of economic problems. “We have families too, some of whom have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their jobs. We are not isolated from it, it does affect everyone,” she says. The staff I spoke to had different opinions about how criticism from TDs might affect the way they vote in an election. But all expressed anger at the tone that some of the more strident criticism has taken in recent months. “I watched a politician make a speech recently and he referred, more than once, to the ‘horror’ of our health service. I just
thought ‘How dare you?’ Of course there are areas that need improvement, but I don’t know of one person where I work who hasn’t gone the extra mile to get the work done, because they know at the end of everything that they do there is a patient who needs treatment,” says Eimear. In the run-up to the last general election, IMPACT launched a public information campaign that aimed to put politicians on the spot if they casually criticized public servants. Using images of real staff, its “Frontline Quality, Backroom Dedication’ message sought to set the record straight on the generally positive performance of our public services and the willingness of staff to deliver better quality. Bernard Harbor says it may be time to re-launch the initiative. “Next June we’ll be in the heart of the recession and politicians will be looking for our votes in local and European elections. There are about 350,000 public servants, and they all have families. Properly organised, that should be enough of a political force to make politicians think twice before they casually undermine the important work we do as public servants,” he says. The union has also pledged to go on the offensive by developing its own proposals for public service reforms. Last May, delegates to the IMPACT biennial conference backed the plan, saying that management and Government initiatives had failed to really improve services for people on the ground even though they demanded significant changes for staff. Yet unions have tended to simply respond to management reform proposals. The union hopes to draw on experiences of other European trade unions who have developed community and workerfriendly reform projects. It’s hoped that initiatives like this will help convince ordinary people that public servants are serious about change that really improves services for people and communities on the ground. Maybe that will help to shift public opinion and silence the critics l
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Photo: CONOR HEALY
Tony Martin says his colleagues are sick of unfair criticisms. “There isn’t any resistance among my colleagues to the idea of change. If anything, it’s the opposite,” he says.
Photo: Dylan Vaughan
“The job changed my life in more ways than one.” Glyn Carolan and Louise, both SNAs, met at work. They are pictured here with their family. Left to right: Amy (11), Glyn, Louise, Amy (19) and Cory (15).
Cherishing children equally NIALL SHANAHAN describes how special needs assistants are winning support for their vital service.
THE LAST decade has seen a small but significant change in how children with special needs are educated in Ireland. Like many things about the late lamented economic boom, it’s not all happy endings. But for lots of kids and their parents, there’s more reason to hope. Official figures say 10-15% of the population has special educational needs. Special needs assistants (SNAs) provide classroom support to pupils with severe learning, physical or behavioural difficulties. They help pupils improve their independent living skills, support them in social activities, assist with therapy treatment and take care of their physical needs.
In 1996, there were just 600 SNAs employed exclusively in special needs schools. Today there are 12,000 providing this unique service to a similar number of children, mostly in mainstream schools.
“The best part is finding out what kids are capable of when given the chance. Amazing things can happen.” The huge rise in SNA numbers has come about largely because of the 2004 Special Education Act, which obliges schools to provide mainstream access to children with special needs. Geraldine Lawlor has worked as an SNA
for seven years at the Holy Family national school in Dun Laoghaire. Before that she was a nanny. Like most SNAs, Geraldine works with just one child. “A cousin of mine who’s a teacher suggested I apply for an SNA position. I’ve worked with Nicole from the start, when she started in junior infants. She’s a very outgoing child and we got used to each other very quickly,” she says. Nicole is now in sixth class and faces the big jump to secondary school in September, a move that Geraldine will find difficult. “But it will be great for her development. I’m trying not to think too much about that – we have confirmation to get through first!” ®
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 13
Photo: Susan Kennedy, Lensman.
Special people One of the few male SNAs, Glyn Carolan has worked in Kilkenny’s Saint Patrick’s school since 2001. “It all came about by chance really. I was a single parent at home with my fouryear-old daughter Amy, and looking at how to get back into the workplace. FÁS sent me to the school and I assumed it was caretaking work or something like that.” Glyn subsequently met his wife Louise, also an SNA, at Saint Patrick’s. “The job changed my life in more ways than one,” he says. Both Glyn and Geraldine talk very passionately about their work, and seem to enjoy a great rapport with the children. “The kids are hysterical. They come out with some priceless comments. What’s also nice is that they see me as providing some continuity, especially when they get a new teacher each September,” says Geraldine. Glyn says the best part is finding out what kids are capable of when given the chance. “Amazing things can happen. One of the things we’ve done is introduce football. The training has been a big hit, especially the warm-up exercises. There is huge joy and excitement when the kids are playing matches. The enjoyment and reaction of the parents is another reason I love the job,” he says. Both SNAs are active IMPACT members. And both are very aware that the experience of SNAs throughout the country is very varied.
“The kids in the class gave me a card at the end of last year. Their message said ‘without you, our friend Nicole wouldn’t be able to come to school’. That blew me away. Why can’t the Department of Education see it like that?” “Sometimes SNAs are valued and integrated into the school community. But in extreme cases they are not. There is a lack of acknowledgement from other professional bodies outside our working environment. Sometimes, through inexperience I think, therapists and psychologists overlook the SNA and only engage with the teacher,” says Glyn.
Geraldine Lawlor has cared for Nicole since she started junior infants.
The role has developed considerably. At first, many teachers and managers didn’t really know what to do with SNAs. But that has changed and many schools have embraced the SNA role. However, problems remain and some are still tempted to assign every odd job to the SNA. The service costs €300 million a year and it’s currently undergoing a value for money audit with a report expected in late 2009. IMPACT official Philip Mullen says the branch welcomes the process. “SNAs deliver excellent value for money, as long as they are allowed to focus on their work with the children,” he says. IMPACT’s 3,000-strong SNA branch – currently the fastest-growing in the union – is now working to achieve recognition as education professionals. “The care they provide is undervalued and not reflected in the pay. But we’re interested in more than pay and conditions. Professionalisation is also about improving the service to children,” says Philip.
While the struggle for proper recognition continues, Glyn reflects on what the service has delivered in its short life. “We’ve opened up the classroom to children who were too severely disabled to go into it before. Children have been integrated into the school community. Many schools will fight tooth and nail to retain the service because they realise the value of it,” he says. Unpopular budget cuts in education make this a worrying time and won’t help the push for professional recognition. But it’s promising that, outside the education department, more and more people understand and value the SNA service. “The kids in the class gave me a card at the end of last year. Their message said ‘without you, our friend Nicole wouldn’t be able to come to school’. That blew me away. Why can’t the Department of Education see it like that?” asks Geraldine G
A special IMPACT education seminar on the theme of equality and disadvantage in education takes place on 29th January 2009 in Dublin’s Helix. The seminar is open to all members working in the education sector, but registration is essential as places are limited. To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or get more details from www.impact.ie. 14
Photo: Moya Nolan
Don’t fence me in
Most office staff now operate in open plan environments. MARTINA O’LEARY went to find out if those wide open spaces really work for you. HSE worker Karen Hanley is happy sharing an office with five others.
THE TERM open plan can conjure up frightening images of workers corralled into dingy cubicles in noisy and overcrowded rooms. The 1970s originals often came with poor ventilation, dim lighting, inadequate facilities and top-notch snooping capacity. But is that today’s reality? Before I went to HSQ, Eircom’s new headquarters near Dublin’s Heuston station, the sceptic in me thought I could never work in a place so big and open – its six floors will eventually be a home-from-home to almost 1,600 staff. But after two visits, chats with staff, and a grand tour with deputy HR director Jim Foley, I changed my perspective. But first a health warning. This is a state of the art facility, and I’m not sure it’s typical of open plan as you know and love it. But more of that later.
David Rafferty was pleasantly surprised. “Before the move I had reservations, but it works really well. The thing I like about it is that it’s totally democratic. People who were like gods before are much easier to see and speak to. You realise they are people just like yourself,” he says. The bottom line is that it’s easier to do business. “Before I used to waste a lot of time going between buildings. Now most people I need to meet are here. It is much more efficient,” he says. Karl McGee from the company’s information technology department says he was used to working open plan and the move held few fears for him. “Coming in here didn’t really have any particular concerns for me. There are a few niggling things in a building like this, but they have been put right. It’s an inherently healthier environment than some of the old buildings that have been informally re-jigged for open-plan work,” he says.
Back at HSQ everyone works open plan, from the chief executive down. The building has fresh-air ventilation and lots of natural light. Each floor is divided into seven zones with up to 38 workstations and low-level dividers. You get a drawer, some filing space and a place to put your jacket. Everything else is communal, including printers and rubbish bins.
I hoped the three IMPACT members I met would dish the dirt on what it’s really like to work there. But they came up with precious few negatives.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Shay Farrell says good design meant initial concerns over noise levels were unfounded, even though 1,300 people work there. “People actually talk quieter than they used to,” he says. His memory of an overheard conversation sums it up. “Before we moved I heard a girl say, ‘I went up to see [HSQ] fully determined to hate it, and you know it’s not bad’. When you get in, it is very hard to criticize the surroundings,” he says. But do people feel they are on view to the world and its mother? Shay told how he moved a smaller group here. “We have moved from a smaller office and there were a lot of fears among the team about what we were getting into, particularly from those who hadn’t worked in open plan. It took a lot of reassurance including reassuring people that visibility goes both ways. It isn’t just everyone looking at you. You can look at everyone else!” With so many bodies there have to be some compromises and it’s obvious that people modify their behaviour to suit the environment. There aren’t any radios or speaker phones and nobody shouts or raises their voice. Everyone respects the people around them. And if you need to have a private or lively phone call, you can go into one of the small offices available on each floor. David is chair of IMPACT’s Communications branch, so he’s the one who deals with complaints. “The biggest single concern members had was location. The office accommodation is smashing but the location is a little isolated. Others have complained about relatively
“Each floor is divided into 7 zones with up to 38 workstations and low-level dividers. You get a drawer, some filing space and a place to put your jacket. Everything else is communal, including printers and rubbish bins.” minor issues and we will be raising these with the company through the Partnership process,” he says. Other open plan workers might have more to complain about. The HSE offices I visited in Dublin’s Rathdown Road are far from purpose built. Constructed in the 1800s, they were a women’s prison in a former life. But grade III Karen Hanley seemed happy with her lot. There is no date attached to plans for relocating the staff and, now that cuts are back in vogue, any move could be some way off. So Karen will continue to share a small space with five others for the foreseeable. “We are a little tight but it’s fine. I wouldn’t like to be in an office on my own because I like company. But if it’s too open plan, with too many people and a lot of noise, it might get a bit much,” she says.
Compared to Eircom’s HSQ there’s very little integration in the complex. “There are offices all over the place. You see people in the corridor that you won’t even know.” But there’s clearly a great atmosphere within the four small walls. “We all get on very well together. I suppose it would be a different story if we didn’t, but we get used to each other’s ways and it’s about compromise,” says Karen.
“The thing I like about it is that it’s totally DEMOCRATIC. People who were like gods before are much easier to see and speak to. You realise they are people just like yourself,” says David Rafferty.
Her administrator has gone to a lot of trouble to improve the environment, which suffers from the fact that the building is so old. For Karen, problems with dirt and cluttered corridors seem to have been consigned to the past. However, that can’t be said for other parts of the building, which are now unused and condemned because of problems with pigeons, mice, flies and damp. I asked Karen if she could see herself in a big open plan office like Eircom’s. “Personally I could because I’m a good mixer. But I know a lot of people that wouldn’t like to work where everyone was in the one space. But it would be an improvement on the building we have,” she says. Like many things at work, a lot comes down to personal preferences. For me open plan works if it’s well designed and staff are involved during the planning process. The more familiar approach of cramming as many desks as possible into the existing office space and hoping for the best is too much for me. Eircom have certainly moved on from there l
Eircom: State of the art: Eircom’s full open plan HSQ has gone down a treat with most staff.
Open Plan On the plus side • It’s good for staff
integration and people get a better understanding of what their colleagues do.
• It’s much easier to communicate because your colleagues are close at hand.
• It can save time as you don’t have to move between buildings to meet others.
• You can usually accommodate more people in less space. • It’s flexible. You can easily change the office layout if need be.
On the other hand
• It can get rowdy unless the office has been planned to restrict noise levels. • All the visible coming and going can be distracting. • Personal space and privacy can be a problem, especially if you have no access to smaller spaces when you need to meet people privately or make difficult calls. Photo: Moya Nolan
• There can be resentment if senior staff get individual offices, while herding the hoi polloi into open plan.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Pagerights title at work Your
Hands off my cash
We’d all love to get paid more. But most of us take it for granted that, come pay day, the right wages will go into the bank account. Here MARTINA O’LEARY looks at the legal protection available to workers who find all is not as it should be with their pay packet. EVERY NOW and then a case of overpayment hits the headlines and questions are raised about whether and when the money must be paid back. Remember the honest HSE worker who immediately gave the money back after she was overpaid €1 million? In these and similar situations, workers are protected by strict laws covering what can – and cannot – be deducted from their pay packets. And all employers are obliged to give you a pay slip detailing your gross pay and all the deductions.
In short, employers are entitled to claw back money if you’ve been overpaid. But case histories suggest that notice and agreement about how overpayments are refunded are required. There are restrictions on what employers can deduct from your pay unless the deduction is authorised by statute (eg, PAYE and PRSI), authorised by a term in your employment contract (eg, pension contributions), or made with your prior consent (eg, VHI or union subs).
There have been some famous cases where ruthless employers have deducted money for rent, food, or even the cost of flights from the wages of migrant workers. Again, it’s legal to make such deductions if your employer has incurred the costs and you’ve agreed that they can be repaid direct from your wages. But they can’t simply assume that you’ve given your permission. ®
In one case involving migrant workers, an equality officer found that an employer was entitled to recoup money, but not without written authorisation. The equality officer found that “the translated contract of employment specifies that cost of flights and accommodation will be deducted from wages, but at the time the complainants were engaged no such translation was available.” She ruled that the workers had suffered racial discrimination by virtue of having unlawful deductions made from their wages. In another case, unlawful deductions were made from a worker who failed to give full notice when she changed jobs. She was contractually obliged to give one month’s notice
when she was leaving employment. She was offered a new job, but had to start within two weeks and gave less than two weeks notice. Her boss deducted a month’s pay, plus her bonus for the previous month, from her final pay packet. But the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) said this was illegal because the contract did not specify the sanction of withholding pay if notice was not given. If you think you’ve had unlawful deductions from your pay, you should take it up with your employer or ask the union to take it up on your behalf. Ultimately, you have the right to complain to a Rights Commissioner, so long as you do so within six months of the alleged breach of the Act G
This article is for information only and is not a legal interpretation. Find out more on www.impact.ie
Legal protection THE PAYMENT of Wages Act 1991 contains protections for workers and your employer can be fined for breaching it. Its provisions include:
Underpayment or non-payment
The right to a readily negotiable mode of wage payment
The right to a written statement of wages and deductions (a wage slip) which must be treated with confidentiality
Non-payment of wages, or failure to pay the correct amount, is illegal unless the reason for the mistake was a computational error.
Protection against unlawful deductions from your wages
Specification of legal forms of payment
Restrictions on deductions from your pay.
Deductions Your employer is not allowed to make any deductions from your wages, or receive any payment from you, unless: G
The deduction or payment is required or authorised by statute or law (eg PAYE and PRSI)
The deduction or payment is required or authorised by a term in your employment contract (eg, pension contributions)
The deduction is made with your prior consent (eg, union subs).
Overpayment Your employer can deduct money in cases of overpayment if the amount deducted does not exceed the amount due to the employer. But case histories suggest that notice and agreement about how overpayments are refunded are required.
Complaints You should contact your wages department if you think there’s been an unlawful deduction or that your employer took an unlawful payment from your wages. If you get no joy, you should contact you IMPACT representative. And you can complain to a Rights Commissioner within six months of the alleged breach of the Act.
Restrictions on deductions Your employer can’t make any deductions for ‘acts or omissions’ (like breakages) or for goods and services supplied to you unless: G
It is required or authorised in your contract of employment
It’s a reasonable and fair amount having regard to all circumstances, including the amount you get paid
You’ve been given written details of the terms of your contract of employment that govern the deduction at some time prior to your ‘act or omission’ or the provision of goods or services
You’re given written particulars of the proposed deduction, and the reason for it, at least one week prior to the deduction
A deduction for compensation does not exceed the amount of the loss or the cost of the damage.
The deduction is made within six months of the act or omission.
Employment law info For further information on the Payment of Wages Act and other employment legislation you can go to www.impact.ie or www.employmentrights.ie. The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) established in 2008 under the social partnership agreement Towards 2016 provides information to employees and employers on employment rights. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS
GIS Ireland is a trading name of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Ireland Limited which is regulated by the Financial Regulator.
Time is on
YOUR side These days we’re all being told we must do ‘more with less’. But there are only so many hours in a day. MARTINA O’LEARY says effective time management can help you shine – and get the best out of your working day. TIME IS a precious thing and we never seem to have enough of it. We’re constantly under pressure to balance work, time with family and friends, hobbies and courses, or even our chores at home. If only there were 25 hours in a day! That’s why good time management can help in our personal lives as well as making us more efficient and effective at work. It helps you to examine how you spend your time in an honest and structured way – and to assess whether you’re spending it where you really need and want to. Start by looking at how you currently spend your time and examine what you are happy and unhappy with. For instance, do you procrastinate or find it hard to delegate or say no. Do you frequently get sidelined into doing something that really should have waited? ®
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 21
Your career It’s got to stop because it means you end up putting off more urgent jobs, which puts you under pressure and ultimately risks making you look bad as deadlines for those time-urgent jobs approach. I recently did a time management course and saw the light. There was a lot of common sense involved with simple tips like setting goals, keeping a diary, preparing your ‘to do list’, prioritising the jobs you need to do, and thinking about more efficient ways of doing things. It also majored on learning to avoid distractions and getting sidelined. Believe me, it can all help to ease stress and get through the work quicker and more smoothly.
“Do you frequently get sidelined into doing something that really should have waited? It’s got to stop!” I’ve started to write my ‘to do list’ last thing before I go home. It’s really simple but it helps focus the mind. Part of being more efficient means typing your list instead of writing it out. Then the next day you can cut and paste and delete the jobs you’ve finished. The next thing is to prioritise. Training consultant Fabia Gavin told me that, when deciding what task to tackle next, you should distinguish between what’s important and what’s urgent and prioritise accordingly. So start with the important things – make lists and prioritise them. What is most important? What must be done now? What can wait? According to Fabia we often waste valuable time procrastinating about tasks we don’t enjoy, mundane jobs or activities that take us away from our comfort zone. “Take the first step and learn to recognise your work avoidance tactics. Often we make that unnecessary call or fourth cup of coffee in order to avoid starting that task,” she says. “Make one decision – do it now or defer it until later. If you decide to defer, think carefully what you need to do later and make a task list so you know what’s next. Careful planning of your task list will throw up all the steps 22
The clock’s ticking Fabia Gavin’s top 10 time management tips
1. Take time out to recharge. Sometimes a ten-minute walk or a short change of scenery is all you need. 2. Make a to do list and update it daily. Include urgent and nonurgent tasks so you'll never forget or overlook anything again. 3. If you struggle with decision-making, get help from a manager, colleague or friend. They might help with the objectivity you were lacking. 4. Do the tasks you avoid or dislike at your most productive time. You’ll get them done quicker and with less fuss!
required to complete the big task and may trigger thoughts on how to do things better and faster. The heart of time management is planning,” says Fabia. So, time management involves a little soul searching. Ask yourself what jobs you find it difficult to finish and start. Be honest about where you spend too much time and the things you never seem to have time to do. And prioritise, prioritise, prioritise! If you recognise a real problem with your time management, you should think about doing a short course. Maybe your boss will help meet the cost.
5. Allocate your time. Include an estimated time frame for each action point and the date by which the task must be completed. 6. Set and respect realistic deadlines. 7. Use your time wisely. Consider accessing your e-mail only at certain times of the day and let your voice mail pick up your calls to give you an uninterrupted hour or two. Don’t open your mail until you have time to take action on it. 8. Learn to delegate. 9. Learn to say no. 10. Remember, regret for wasted time is more time wasted.
It’ll be good for your career in the long term, as well as improving your life outside work. Life can become more organised and efficient – and that can help you shine at work while feeling less stressed. One final piece of advice from Fabia is that a tired and emotional brain is not best placed to make decisions. Try to keep your mind alert and objective by keeping your energy levels up and your stress levels down G
Diploma in Mediation & Conflict Intervention Masters in Mediation & Conflict Intervention
Training consultant Fabia Gavin can be contacted at:
Dept. Business & Law NUI Maynooth For further information go to: Business.nuim.ie or visit http://business.nuim.ie/Diploma MediationConflictIntervention.shtml
Your say R STA R TE LET 0 €5
ance with articles such as Surviving Christmas by Karen Ward (issue 3), which underpins the need to plan, delegate and anticipate.
A recent Irish Times headline read “Majority of voters back pay cut for public servants.” To some extent, this was a distortion of what the article was actually saying, but headlines such as this do not help IMPACT members, who are responsible for the provision of essential – not optional – public services.
Joan O’Rourke Agri-Labs Branch Cork
Let’s remember, too, that there are many low paid workers in the public sector as well as in the private sectors – something that the press often turns a blind eye to.
Why must the media, or the general public, distinguish between public and private sector employees? Most of us work hard for a living, particularly these days, no matter who employs us. Why not target those in both the public and private sectors who are highly paid and get very large performance related bonuses on top of their salaries, often regardless of their performance? It really is time that public and private sector employees stood together and supported each other in tackling low pay and saying that bonuses to the highly paid should be stopped in these hard times. Edwina Jones Dublin Hospitals’ Branch Dublin
Women and work Did you know that 75% of the members of IMPACT are female? That amounts to almost 45,000 women. It is currently fashionable to look back to the 1980s and it’s interesting to learn that in 1988 there were 366,900 women in the workforce compared to 921,600 in 2008. This is an increase of 66% in women in the workplace in the past 20 years. A Nexus report commissioned by IMPACT informs us that ‘time commitments’ top the list of hindering factors for the well-being of both men and women. ‘Work factors’ came second for men but it was ‘family commitments’ for women. It is important that a union is broadly representative of it membership base and, subsequently, its publications should address the concerns of its target audience. The recently launched Work & Life magazine is a welcome addition as it raises our awareness of work-life bal-
Well-heeled has-beens It was with particular pleasure that I read Raymond Connolly's excellent article in the last edition of Work & Life (‘Cash Rich Cellar Dwellers’, Winter 2008). I always enjoy Mr Connolly's acerbic views on the latest musical releases, and his pinpoint accuracy in bursting the egotistical bubble of those living in the rock star firmament (you know who you are, Bono). It seems his move to Work & Life has put a pep in his step and no sacred musical cow is now safe.
I was compelled to write this letter after reading his outstanding exposé about the shamelessly extortionate prices for the big name 'has-beens' who played concerts in Ireland last summer (Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Kraftwerk, Eric Clapton, et al). This latest coruscating flourish from Mr Connolly suggests that he has raised his game, sharpened his quill, and is of a mind to take no prisoners. It was entertaining, informative and championed the ordinary punter like myself. I am now close to destitution after a summer standing in muddy fields sipping warm and overpriced beer from plastic cups, listening to the back catalogue of fading rock stars who really ought to be at home tending their organic farms. Mr Connolly's article, had it appeared earlier in the year, might have saved me the cost and trench foot I have endured as a result. I do not know what the editor is putting in Mr Connolly's tea but, please sir (or madam), more of the same! Daniel Devery Dublin
You never write, you never phone... Work & Life pays €50 for the best letter published each issue and €30 for the rest. Let us know what you think about the magazine or the issues it’s covered. Come to think of it, let us know your views on anything at all! Get out your pen and paper today. And don’t forget to keep it nice and short. Write to Roisin Nolan, Work & Life, IMPACT Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1. Or email email@example.com.
We only publish signed letters. Work & Life may edit your letter for size.
Work & Life Work & Life is the magazine for members of IMPACT trade union. IMPACT members can have it mailed to them by contacting Work & Life at IMPACT, Nerney’s Court, Dublin 1 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call Roisin Nolan on 01-817-1544. IMPACT also produces a monthly e-bulletin with more detailed information about the union’s activities and campaigns, and developments in your workplace. Sign up via the website on www.impact.ie. IMPACT is Ireland’s largest public sector union with members in health, local government, the civil service, education, the community sector, semi-state organisations, aviation and telecommunications. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 23
Pull your socks up lads
Follow the three Fs – Flatters, Fits, and Finances. Regardless of fashion trends don’t buy anything that doesn’t flatter your shape. Be realistic about your body shape and dress to enhance.
TRISH O’MAHONY says blokes must try harder to look good at work.
“IRISH MEN are a fascinating group. They are charming, and charm for a man is like being well dressed as a woman.” That’s according to fashion designer Paul Costello, who has just introduced a menswear collection in House of Frazer in Dublin’s Dundrum shopping centre. We all know clothes and manners don’t make the man. But, once he’s made, they greatly improve his appearance. The impression you give with the clothes you wear can make all the difference to your chances of getting what you want. Don’t forget that 55% of first impressions are based on appearance alone! Us females notice and appreciate when our male colleagues make an effort to look their best at work. And we tell them if their tie is nice, or their suit looks good. So if you’re not getting the compliments from the women in the office, you might need to draft in the help of a personal stylist! Besides, it’s easier to make decisions if you bring a friend along.
According to Louis Copeland, a lot of men suffer from fluctuating weight, especially as they get older, but insist of wearing the suit they bought on a slim day. Develop a style that best suits you and the image you want to
Develop a style that best suits you and the image you want to portray. And, if you want to succeed, don’t wear clothes that are louder than you are. portray. And, if you want to succeed, don’t wear clothes that are louder than you are. Nowadays, mean are much more fashion conscious and take greater care of their appearance. High fashion is like Russian roulette; trends turn around so fast you can be hopelessly out of date in the blink of an eye. Fortunately for men, male fashion trends are never as dramatic as women’s. Anyway, the age of disposable clothing is over for the next few seasons at least.
Stockists: Debenhams plc: J by Jasper Conran pinspot silk dress scarf £15.00/€23.50. J by Jasper Conran blazer £80.00/€124. J by Jasper Conran grey polo top with pockets £28.00/€43, J by Jasper Conran black belt £22.00/€34. J by Jasper Conran black trousers £40.00/€62. J by Jasper Conran black brogues £75.00/€116.
If you invest in a good jacket it can be worn formally with a shirt and tie then at the weekend with jeans and a tee shirt. Think Jose Mourinho and George Clooney, who always look smart, even when they’re casual. The secret is to invest in designer/high street combinations. See what top designers are coming up with for the season ahead. Buy it if you can afford it. If not, imitate. Use the high street for everything else, like shirts and accessories. If you’re smart you can make your clothes work for you . If you invest in a good jacket it can be worn formally with a shirt and tie then at the weekend with jeans and a tee shirt. Think Jose Mourinho and George Clooney, who always look smart, even when they’re casual. Jackets this spring verge on the formal and are teamed with comfortable light weight trousers. They are slightly shorter and slimmer-fitting than recently. Giorgio Armani favours Prince of Wales checks and chalk stripes in fabrics that may seem traditional but actually emphasise the precise structure of the garment. Wear with a double breasted waistcoat. Blazers are also on trend with these same designers, with lots of detail in stitching and edge binding (John Galliano). Chinos are easier to get right than jeans but avoid overly baggy. Superfine wool, shantung, cotton and linen (if you can live with the wrinkles) are dominant fabrics with all designers, with high waists, and pleats.
Suits you sir! At Milan week, menswear for spring/ summer 2009 featured oversized, unstructured suits with a forties gangster influence, plus nerds in bow ties (Dolce and Gabanna, Giorgio Armani and Bottega Veneta). Three piece suits are everywhere and they’re here to stay. Think Bond! Grey is the colour – the new black. Combine with different shades of grey and add one accent colour to add interest. Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent use grey in their collection
for spring. Jean Paul Gautier also has very well cut three piece suits and raincoats as part of his collection. Maybe draw the line at the cowboy hats, unless you want to take his western theme to the extremes! TK Maxx is great for last season’s suits, with prices to match.
Cardigan club Cardigans get a lot of bad press and often times are deemed fit only for pensioners with a paunch. It’s a myth though, because they are very on trend and look good on men of all ages, from eight to 80. They are one of the most popular items around, but best suited to slim-framed men. Worn with a fitted shirt, narrow tie and under a sports jacket they look really good for work. Wear it with a check shirt or polo shirt for casual off duty look. Debenhams have a great selection, including one by St. George by Duffer, priced €54.00.
Accessorise Clever accessorising is one tried and tested way to update your wardrobe and many stylists consider accessories as important as clothes when it comes to expressing your individuality. Start with some decent shoes. On the catwalks, brown is worn with every colour. But go black if you don’t like the sound of that. Two-toned brogues in soft leather looked slick but effortless in the Jean Paul Gautier collection. Debenhams have brown loafers and brogues by John Rocha, priced €116.00. Again, try TK Maxx for great bargains in leading designs. Right now shirts are neat with starched collars and cuffs or with a contrasting white stripe on the collar, sometimes with tiny silvered buttons and a high pleated edge.
Ties are skinny and getting skinnier. But if that’s too punk for you, French Connection has a great selection of colours in more conservative styles. Ties are skinny and getting skinnier. But if that’s too punk for you, French Connection has a great selection of colours in more conservative styles. And don’t forget your straw hat, finished with brightly coloured ribbon!
Think pink! No really! And pastel blue (Versace, Burberry Prorsum) and bright sky blue (Gucci and Versace). Use sparingly, picking colours that suit you, and you will have brought your working wardrobe right up to date. Giorgio Armani uses subtle colours including a green that is almost grey, a grey that approaches beige, putty and twine with little hints of violet and rust. Emporio Armani’s collection revolves around stormy hues of grey to navy blue. School uniforms spring to mind. Just wait for the compliments from your female colleagues G WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 25
Travel and trips
Photo by Perry Ogden, courtesy Hugh Lane Gallery and the Estate of Francis Bacon.
Messtastic! Bacon’s studio.
World class art on your doorstep Forget the mad two-hour dash around the Louvre, Prado or Uffizi. The great thing about seeking out art at home is that you can go back again and again, and really take a proper look at the treasures on display. BERNARD HARBOR checked out one Dublin gallery. CHRISTMAS IS over, the bank account is empty and your next holiday seems a long way off. The good news? You don’t have to leave Dublin to see some great works of art. The Dublin City Council-run Hugh Lane gallery is just one of many collections in Irish cities that are waiting for you on a free Saturday, a relaxing Sunday afternoon, or even for a quick lunchtime visit. 26
The Hugh Lane just got a big boost when two of its works appeared among the Guardian newspaper’s list of ‘1,000 artworks to see before you die’. It was good news for locals and day trippers looking for a cheap treat too, because everything in this world-class gallery is free to view. I went behind the scenes at the museum with IMPACT member Jessica O’Donnell, who’s head of the gallery’s
permanent collection. Like her colleagues, Jessica was thrilled that Guardian critics had ranked two of their works up there with the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The first one we looked at was Dubliner Harry Clarke’s Eve of Saint Agnes. Along with his Geneva Window (located a big-budget trip away in Florida) this 1924 14-panelled stained glass win-
dow is considered the local master’s masterpiece. You don’t see too many secular works in stained glass and most are in churches so, with the best will in the world, it’s hard to appreciate the detail. What makes this special piece so accessible is its well-lit, eye-level setting that allows you see all the genius of Clarke’s beautiful colouring and intricate etching.
Jewel Perhaps the jewel in the gallery’s crown, though, is the amazing Francis Bacon Studio – transported from London piece by piece and faithfully reconstructed after being donated by Bacon’s friend and sole heir John Edwards. You genuinely won’t see anything like this anywhere in the world.
“Look out for the slashed canvasses and paint spattered on the door and walls.” A first view of this seemingly chaotic mess will leave you wondering how any coherent work was ever produced there. A bit like my desk. But a small collection of unfinished paintings, excellent touch-screen micro-gallery, photo exhibition and recorded Melvyn Bragg interview help you navigate the space and understand its significance. Look out for the paint spattered on the door and walls (Bacon preferred to test his colours on the wall rather than use a palette) and slashed canvasses; evidence that he was a demanding editor of his own work.
Bacon was very anti-abstract and might not have approved of the gallery’s Sean Scully room. But you shouldn’t leave without spending some time in this beautiful, naturally-lit space, which is home to paintings by Ireland’s most important abstract artist. The room is a quiet, contemplative space where you can sit down, look at a painting and let your mind wander. Expect the works to provoke the emotional response that Dublin-born Scully aspires to and, if you live or work nearby, this gem of a room certainly rewards a number of visits. The Scully room was arguably a contender for the Guardian’s list and is certainly a major pull for the thousands of tourists the gallery draws to Dublin’s north side each year. (Incidentally, I think the National Gallery of Ireland has a right to feel a bit miffed that its two biggest crowd-pullers – The Taking of Christ and Woman Writing a Letter with her Maidservant – failed to make the list. Maybe it was just down to the sheer numbers the artists had listed – 15 Caravaggio’s and nine Vermeer’s, respectively). Opened in 1908, the Hugh Lane collection was built around 39 French paintings, including masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Degas and Renoir, bequeathed by the collector Hugh Lane. It also includes works by important Irish artists like Roderic O’Conor and Jack Yeats. Check out the amazing colours in my favourite, Monet’s Lavacourt Under Snow. The recently-extended gallery now includes a good collection of more modern art too.
Time to eat
“Children just love the chaos, the colours, the textures and the mess,” says Jessica. And the workshops, where kids can make a ‘mini Francis Bacon studio’ are just one of many means the staff have developed – lectures, drawing classes, publications and website – to help you get the most out of the fantastic collection.
When you’ve had your fill of culture and fancy a bite to eat, turn left out of the gallery’s main entrance and left again into North Frederick Street, where you’ll pass Harry Clarke’s old studio at number seven (it’s currently home to drug addiction service Soilse, staffed by IMPACT members. Unfortunately, apart from a plaque, no evidence of Clarke’s presence remains).
In another half a minute, you’ll be at the Loving Spoon café (no.13) which offers great food at very reasonable prices until late afternoon, Monday to Saturday. The all-day (meat or veggie) breakfast is the best in the city centre and, although the menu is limited, a main course for around a tenner will be the only meal you need that day. Great
Next year is the centenary of the Dublin-born artist’s birth and the gallery is celebrating with a joint exhibition of works by Bacon and the Dutch-born American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning next autumn. Certainly one to watch out for.
soup and sandwiches too, and interesting art works to boot! Or, if the weather’s against you, try the gallery café; it’s pleasant and not too pricey. The Hugh Lane is within walking distance of any Dublin city centre location and it’s well-served by public transport, including all the hop-on-hop-off tourist buses. Finally, no prizes for guessing that the third Irish work in the Guardian’s top 1,000 was the exquisite Book of Kells, which you can see (though not for free) in Dublin’s Trinity College. Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1. Free, but contribution of at least €2 encouraged. Closed Mondays. www.hughlane.ie. National Gallery of Ireland: Merrion Square/Clare Street, Dublin 2. Free but donation encouraged. Open late on Thursday, closed Sunday morning. www.nationalgallery.ie G
Also Showing The Chester Beatty Library is a priceless collection of texts, prints and (some) paintings with strong representation from Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu culture. The former European museum of the year arguably attracts the best visiting exhibitions to our shores – recent years have seen a rare overseas trip for Leonardo da Vinci’s Leicester Codex and worldclass exhibitions of prints by Dürer and Rembrandt. Great café too. Free entry but donations encouraged. www.cbl.ie The Irish Museum of Modern Art or IMMA has a decent permanent collection and also hosts excellent visitors (last year’s Cecil King exhibition was brilliant). Check out its Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection too. Inspired by the mind-blowing Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, it’s made up of works by untrained artists from outside the mainstream. Rarely influenced by art history, movements or traditions, many ‘outsider artists’ suffered from psychiatric conditions. Free entry but donations encouraged. www.modernart.ie.
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 27
Be good to yourself
KAREN WARD outlines a holistic approach to dealing with the winter blues.
Daily habits to lift SOME OF us are more prone to bouts of mild depression than others and it can range from feeling down for a few days, weeks or months to manic mood swings, chemical imbalances and clinical conditions.
We all have a weak point in our body, which plays up when we’re upset, worried if there’s something wrong in our lives. We are all familiar with certain physical symptoms, which our body gives us as a ‘red flag’ to let us know something is up. We learn that we need to step back and deal with the problem. We can talk about these symptoms with friends and family fairly easily. However mild depression is a mental ‘red flag’ – a bit more exotic but still a sign that something needs to be seriously looked at in our lives. We don’t often talk about depression – still a bit of a taboo subject – and that means it’s more widespread than you might think. The thought that “sure they’ll think I’m a bit mad,” often comes to mind when we think about mentioning feeling down to family and close friends. Thankfully we are now becoming more aware of our mental health and, more importantly, how to look after it. Here are some tried, trusted and often surprising holistic ways to prevent mild depression. They also work with and help relieve the more serious clinical conditions, which usually require longer-term medication.
Mental health Depression is not a symptom as such. It’s a sign of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Once that is remedied, the effects of mild depression will abate. The problem may be obvious – the end of a relationship, a
bereavement, a job loss. Some may not be so visible such as a mid-life crisis, unresolved issues from childhood, boredom, feeling that life is passing you by. With the help of a good, listening friend or family member, or the confidential professional help of a counsellor, these issues can be unearthed and dealt with. Many people make the decision to go to a counsellor for a neutral perspective if they see their loved one as part of the problem. Seeking help like this is often a very private matter and many tell no one that they are going. Later, when all is well, they may choose to share the fact that they’ve sought outside help. Our mental health is key to a well-rounded and healthy life. The best way to ensure this is to regularly ‘check in’ with ourselves to see if there is anything bothering or unduly worrying us. Life will always have ups and downs and we should take time to figure out what is wrong, talk it over with a trusted friend or family member (this may or may not be your partner), then make an action plan and follow it through. The problem being solved means the anxiety or worry will stop. Food and drink has an enormous effect on mild depression. Stimulants like coffee, tea and fizzy drinks put the adrenal glands under stress and dehydrate the body, adding even more stress. Sugary and processed foods which have little nutritional value will give a temporary sugar ‘high’ to elevate our mood, which will plummet half an hour after. When we’re depressed the last thing we want to do is eat healthily and the temptation to comfort eat is strong. That is why it’s essential when feeling unwell or on temporary medication to get your diet sorted to sustain us as a way of overcoming mild depression.
your spirit Eating omega essential fatty acids from fish oils (linseeds for vegetarians) will replace vital oils in the brain and body which coat the nerves and soothe our systems. Avocados, bananas, wheat germ, porridge oats and brown rice are terrific as they increase serotonin, the natural brain chemical that makes us feel happy in ourselves.
Avena Sativa (from oats) is rich in B vitamins that are essential for a healthy nervous system. The Scots knew a thing or two about long dark nights and oats for breakfast! These are all from the Bioforce range and are available from any good health food shop. But check the compatibility with your doctor if you’re on medication.
It’s important to stay hydrated with plenty of water and herbal teas, because dehydration puts a strain on the body and depletes us of energy. Alcohol will exacerbate feelings of depression. The sugar content will give temporary mood highs followed by slumps and dehydration. Cut down or cut it out completely.
Exercise Exercising is the last thing we want to do when we feel depressed, yet it’s vital for recovery. We need to try to get as much fresh air as we can and plan our exercise around the daylight hours. This is especially the case if we are susceptible to seasonal activated disorder/depression or SAD. This occurs when we feel depressed in the winter months due to lack of sunlight. A ‘full spectrum light therapy box’ simulates daylight (visit www. outsidein.co.uk). You can also get a version from Argos or buy daylight simulation light bulbs from a health food shop to help. Good brisk movement produces endorphins - natural chemicals in the body that make us feel good. Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are excellent practices, which not only sooth, but also boost our energy by stimulating the body’s endocrine (hormone) system.
A key preventative measure is to keep a regular daily healthy routine. If we are prone to mild depression when there is a problem in our lives then we need to know the warning signs. These may be a withdrawal from family life, moodiness, comfort eating, excess drinking or lethargy. This is the time to stand back and assess the situation and identify why the depression has occurred. Then seek help while checking that the above tips are in place. A good relationship with your GP will help so that temporary medication is available to help you get back on track, if it’s needed. Waking up and going to bed at the same time with a slight variation at the weekend really helps our body and brain function optimally. Moderation in food and alcohol intake is important.
Spiritual help Those of us with spiritual beliefs can find great solace and refuge from our problems in knowing that we are not alone. Whatever our beliefs are - from a formal religion to an eclectic mix to a love of nature - we can harness them to help us help ourselves l
Herbal remedies Saint John’s Wort or Hypericum, which is available from your doctor, is well known for its mood-lifting abilities. Passiflora is a gentle sedative that alleviates nervous tension, mild depression and anxiety.
Karen Ward, holistic therapist from RTE’s Health Squad, is co-author of The Health Squad Guide to Health and Fitness. www.karenwardholistictherapist.com.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
From the kitchen
Cooking up a better you 1
Knock it back
MARGARET HANNIGAN suggests five easy changes that really will help you look and feel better this year. And not a celebrity diet in sight!
All the research suggests this is very important because your kidneys can’t function properly if you’re dehydrated. And here’s the thing; you’re already dehydrated by the time you feel thirsty.
INSTEAD OF making half a dozen New Year’s resolutions that you forget halfway through January, why not make just one and stick to it? Or, if you prefer safety in numbers, let’s apply the rule of three. Take the two main health resolutions for granted. They are, of course, get more exercise and get more sleep. Now we can move on to the ungrammatical but directly challenging third step – get better at food!
Your liver helps out if your kidneys can’t cope, which means it can’t devote as much time to burning up fat for your energy needs. That means weight will stick, not fade away.
Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day will improve your digestion by providing your body with fibre, as well as loading you up with vitamins. But, more importantly, the five-a-day plan is believed to help the body fight against cancer-causing agents. Go for variety, and avoid the starchier foods like peas and sweet corn if you’re dieting. Remember potatoes don’t count as they are classified as a starch food.
Water helps suppress the appetite, metabolises fat, and protects organs and tissues. And in most workplaces, it’s free! Top up one of those sports bottles or get a nice carafe and glass, and aim for at least a litre of water every day.
There’s no shortage of advice when it comes to diet and nutrition. So avoid anything that’s endorsed by a soap star, or which “guarantees” miraculous results within weeks, or replaces real food with pills and drinks. Instead, try these specific changes.
If you just can’t face another apple on a cold day, remember that fruit juices, shakes and soups are handy ways of boosting your intake.
The Big O Why go organic? Do you have to look any further than the recent pork products crisis? Or the BSE crisis of the 1990s? Or simply eat an apple that’s all crunch and no taste?
It’s not that much more expensive anymore but
Stuffed squash Leave out the meat for a vegetarian dish.
You will need: • 1 butternut squash • 100g pancetta/bacon diced • Tbsp olive oil • 1 stalk celery, chopped • 1 red onion, chopped • 1 knob butter • Sprig rosemary • Pinch dried chilli • Pinch nutmeg • Salt and Pepper • 1 egg, beaten • Zest of an orange • 1 handful cooked chestnuts/ pecans/pine nuts, chopped • 2 handfuls breadcrumbs
Slice the squash in half, discard the seeds. Using a teaspoon, scrape and hollow out most, but not all, of the squash. Heat the oil, and crisp the pancetta, then add the celery, onion, butter, rosemary, nutmeg, chilli, and squash. Cook slowly for about 5 minutes without colouring too much. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then season well to taste. Stir in the egg, zest, nuts and enough breadcrumbs so the stuffing is not too sticky. Fill both halves of the squash, stick them back together, and wrap in a double layer of foil. Bake at 180C for around one and a half hours, until a knife will easily pierce it. Unwrap, slice and serve as a side dish.
Julie Powell did it with Julia Child’s Classic French Cooking and turned her daily blog into a best-seller. (Julie and Julia, Penguin). Take a cookery course, and see how the professionals do it, or better still, take a cookery course abroad and feel the virtuous glow of selfimprovement while eating rings round you.
it is much better for your soul, if you’ll pardon the expression. By choosing organic you’re turning away from mass-produced, homogenised produce, towards smaller producers who actually get their hands dirty. It will take you into farmers’ markets and all sorts of interesting artisan shops, where people are enthusiastic about food and more than happy to talk to you. They’ll even offer you a taste of all kinds of goodies. A wonderful change from that soul destroying supermarket queue.
Learn to cook Start with the basics. If you can already do the basics, pick your weakest area and improve it. You could pick up a cookbook and resolve to cook every recipe from beginning to end and see where that takes you. Richard Corrigan sums it up in his book The Clatter of Forks and Spoons (4th Estate): “Seek out good ingredients and learn to cook simply again. Really, that’s it.”
“Personally I’d give anything to do with snakes or testicles a miss!”
Give it a go This year, promise yourself you’re going to try something new every week. I’m not necessarily advocating puffer fish, which if not cooked properly could kill you. And personally I’d give anything to do with snakes or testicles a miss. But in the broader scheme of things, move out of your comfort zone, and try a new flavour. So, it’s almost springtime already. What are you waiting for? Stuffed squash is a recipe to get you going. It’s very easy and can be adapted to suit vegetarians. Yes, it does use pancetta – or streaky bacon to you and me – but hopefully by the time you read this, we’ll know where to buy some G
Top tips for the new you 1. Be realistic. If you’ve never even scrambled an egg, avoid anything gourmet. Look for Delia Smith instead. 2. Carry a bottle of water in the car, and sip away the gridlock. Just make sure there’s a loo at the other end! 3. Instead of adding, swap. Have soup at lunch instead of coffee, or a smoothie instead of a scone. You’ll be amazed how ingenious you can be. 4. Enlist a friend. It’s always good to have your own personal support group, and someone to taste the results. 5. Avoid pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. They go stale much more quickly. 7. Pick a cook book you can understand, as well as just loving all the pretty pictures. (This tip doesn’t apply if the book is absolutely beautiful and reduced to half-nothing in the sales). 8. Cookbooks by Irish cooks will be based on readily available ingredients – always an advantage. 9. Look behind the price to the history of the food, and decide if it’s one you’re happy to absorb. Remember, consumer patterns determine what goes on the shelves. 10. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, so if you can concentrate for three weeks, you’ve probably cracked it.
Get more out of your bottle
Why not try a wine appreciation course? It will help you get more from your bottle but, be warned, it might steer you towards the more expensive end of the market. The wines featured here are inexpensive reliable varietals from Peter Lehmann’s vineyards in Australia’s Barossa valley. Peter Lehmann Barossa Grenache. A soft fruity red, slightly sweet and very drinkable. It has none of the harsh tannins of some New World Cabernet Sauvignons, but has more depth than a Bordeaux or claret. Lovely when slightly warm so leave it on a high shelf near the cooker. Peter Lehmann Barossa Riesling. A crisp white, less popular than the ubiquitous chardonnay and all the more refreshing for it. Gooseberry and melon flavours, very good chilled, as an aperitif, or with lighter dishes. Both are available in Supervalu and Dunnes, as well as various off licenses, for around €8. WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 31
Leaping from winter This is one of the busiest times in the garden, according to JIMI BLAKE.
GARDENING IN mucky January and Febuary soil makes me think of emigration to sunny places. So I am heading to India for January and will be back in February for the start of the new growing season in Wicklow. By then life will be peeping through again, with the snowdrops, crocus and Helleborus reminding me why I truely love my garden. Snowdrops open the door from winter into spring, bringing a welcome burst of brightness to the January and February garden. Polyanthus and winter pansies are another brave group of flowers who cheer up the chilly early spring.
Their particular appeal is in flowering at a time when there is not much else about, erupting out of the soil around Christmas time and flowering defiantly through the depths of winter. Modern hybridisation has resulted in a mouth-watering range of colours and, at times, very high prices. Hellebourus will grow in sun or shade as long as they are fed well by digging in lots of garden compost and manure when planting and also when they finish flowering. I use chicken manure pellets and well rotted manure and recommend you remove the old leaves in January.
Now is a good time to keep an eye out for other plants that flower early in the year. Garden centres are temptingly stocked with shrubs such as hamamelis (witch hazel) with its spider-like yellow scented fowers which appear on the normally leafless branches from December to March. They can be on the expensive side because propagation is slow and difficult. My favorite flowering shrub for this time of year is daphne ‘jacqueline postill’ which has the most gorgeous and powerful scent of any plant I know. It’s worth buying a decent size plant as they are very slow growing.
For me, the real star of the show at this time of year is the helleborus. If you don’t grow helleborus in your garden, you must. They’re available in any garden centre at this time of year when the colour of the flowers can be seen.
Removing the leaves reduces the risk of leaf diseases infecting the new season’s growth and allows the flowers to be fully appreciated in all their glory. For those who tend not to venture out into the garden at this time of year, they also look delightful when picked and floated in a bowl of water on the kitchen table.
Your vegetable garden FROM NOW on I’m going to write regularly about growing veg. I am trying to look at the positive side of things during this economic downturn, and growing your own food is definitely one of them. The sale of vegetable seeds has shot through the roof because people want to see where their food is coming from and reduce their shopping bills at the same time. For me, sowing seeds, watching them grow, digging them and cooking straight away is the real reward.
Find the plot
Make sure the soil is not frozen or water logged when planting anything at this time of year. Be kind and use your best garden compost in the planting hole. There comes a time in early spring when you just can’t take any more of the winter look. Brown seed heads and decaying skeletons of last summer’s flowering perennials need to be cut back to make space for the cycle of life to start again. This dead plant material is a wonderful ingredient for making garden compost.
After cutting back the dead foliage, add a layer of compost or manure onto the beds to feed the plants through the summer and hold in the moisture if we get a dry one. One of the questions I’m asked most is how to remove moss from a lawn. My reaction is often, why bother? I think it’s beautiful looking, thrives in our rainy climate and reduces the need to mow so often. But of course if one insists on a war on moss, you can apply a sprinkling of sulphate of iron every six weeks from September to March (5 to 10 grams per square metre). It’s a fine salt-like material that kills moss on contact, turning the moss growthblack without causing damage to the grass l
Get out in the garden in January and February. There’s plenty to be done! • Finish planting bare-rooted trees and shrubs – a good option if you’re looking for value for money. • Sow sweet pea seeds in pots now for planting out in late spring. • Prune late summer flowering shrubs before new growth begins. Check out the Royal Horticultural Society pruning book. • If shrubs or young trees are in the wrong place, they can be moved now while still dormant. • Keep on top of weeding. It will save a lot of time later in the season.
All gardeners have to compromise. A south-facing level piece of land, sheltered from the worst of the wind, with rich, finely textured soil will get you off to a flying start. But few of us are blessed with such growing conditions. For most it’s more a question of avoiding some obvious negative factors. Light is vital, and a patch that is nearpermanent shade is simply not going to work. If your plot gets direct sunlight for more than half of daylight hours you should be able to grow well on it. To get some extra light you might have to be courageous and cut a tree or two down just to make growing vegetables possible.
Ideally I would suggest covering the plot with manure and black plastic or mypex for at least six months to kill the weeds. However, if you’re like me, I’m sure you just want to get started. Dig over your patch, removing all the grass and weeds you can. If the ground is very difficult to dig, you may need to hire a rotivator for the job. Another idea would be to grow vegetables in an existing flower bed in the garden, removing shrubs and flowers to another area. Whichever option you choose, digging in well-rotted manure is the real secret of success. Then you need to work over the soil with a rake, breaking up the larger lumps, until you get a fine tilth at which point the soil is ready for planting.
What to grow?
This might sound like common sense, but grow what you like to eat! February is the start of the vegetable growing season. Get organic seed compost, modular trays and small pots for sowing seeds. I’ll be covering sowing and planting of the main crops in the next issue l
THERE’S GROWING demand for allotments these days. They enable you to grow your own veg on a plot that you hire, normally from your local council. For instance, South Dublin county council have four sites with over 240 plots – but a waiting list almost as long. Hunting Brook also has allotments available. Each one measures approximately 45 square yards and can be rented on an individual basis or by a group of friends. They cost €280 and will be ready for planting in the spring. For more information go to www.huntingbrook.com or phone 087 285 6601, where you can also find out about our vegetable growing classes. Hunting Brook is located four miles on the Dublin side of Blessington, Co. Wicklow
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
At the movies
Big names vie for Oscar glory MORGAN O’BRIEN expects the Oscars to please the big studios. But there might be one or two surprises this year.
oon s g n i Com While the big Oscar contenders will dominate the screens in early 2009, there are some other notable releases over the coming months:
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire could cause an Oscar night upset.
Che: The Argentine (2nd January)
Che: Guerilla (20th February) Steven Soderbegh’s ambitious biopic of Che Guevarra is real-
WHILE THE role of the Academy Awards as a definitive marker of what is best in contemporary cinema is open to question, the Oscars retain pre-eminence in an increasingly cluttered awards season. In recent times, the awards have become the subject of feverish speculation about which films will be nominated and who will walk away with the coveted statuette. Even a cursory glance at the column inches and internet space dedicated to discussing the awards months prior to the ceremony taking place demonstrates its hold over public consciousness. The cultivation of this intense interest is part of what helps the Oscars retain its position of prominence, demonstrating how they remain a touchstone for debates amongst film fans about their personal preferences. This year’s event is scheduled to take place on 22nd February with Australian actor Hugh Jackman the somewhat surprising selection as host, a departure from the usual choice of big-name comedians such as Billy Crystal and Jon Stewart. In keeping with tradition the nominations, which are announced in lateJanuary, look set to privilege ‘worthy’ dramatic pieces. It also looks likely that the awards will retain their preference for bestowing honours on big-budget studio productions alongside smaller-scale independent films. As is customary, a shortlist of films looks set to dominate the principal categories: Best picture best director, as well as the screenplay and acting categories. The majority of the films touted for the top honours will only hit Irish cinema screens in January and February, meaning the opening months ised as an epic four-hour double bill. Benicio del Toro takes on the title role of the iconic revolutionary.
Role Models (9th January) Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star in this knockabout comedy about a couple of energy drink salesmen sentenced to community service mentoring kids.
Seven Pounds (16th January) Will Smith, reunited with The Pursuit of Happiness director Gabriele Muccino, plays a depressed IRS agent attempting to redeem himself by changing the lives of seven strangers.
of the year look set to offer a rich array of films to satisfy audiences. Amongst these is Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which recent speculation suggests will cause an upset by scooping the top prize of best picture. Set and shot in India, the film, made on a relatively small $15 million budget, is a love story involving a participant on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But the film faces stiff competition from a number of high-profile releases. David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in an adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story about a man who ages backwards. Sean Penn is the eponymous Milk in Gus Van Sant’s biopic of the gay activist and politician, who was assassinated in 1978. In the acting categories, Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio have racked up a combined eight Oscar nominations without winning. They will be hoping that Revolutionary Road, directed by previous winner Sam Mendes and dealing with domestic breakdown in 1950s suburbia, will bring them a change of fortune.
nods is Ron Howard’s adaptation of Peter Morgan’s acclaimed play Frost/ Nixon. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella reprise their stage roles as the journalist and former president, respectively. Other outside shots include Jonathon Demme’s family-drama Rachel Getting Married, which should at least secure an acting nomination for Anne Hathaway, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, which offers a potential Oscar night ‘fairy tale’ for a resurgent Mickey Rourke G
Anne Hathaway stars in family drama Rachel Getting Married.
Kate Winslet also features, alongside Ralph Fiennes, in the post-World War Two drama The Reader about a law student who learns that a former lover has been accused of war crimes. Another film hotly-tipped to get Oscar Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio together again in Revolutionary Road.
Valkyrie (23rd January)
The Soloist (6th February)
Based on a true story, Valkyrie stars Tom Cruise as German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944.
Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), The Soloist stars Jamie Foxx as a musical prodigy living homeless in Los Angeles. He’s befriended and championed by a journalist played by Robert Downey Jr.
Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (30th January) A romantic comedy in which Nick (Michael Cera) and Nora (Kat Dennings) are brought together over one night in New York through their shared love of music.
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 35
Play it loud
You think you know people RAYMOND CONNOLLY explores the secret windmills of our musical minds. “January, sick and tired you keep hanging on me. You make me sad with your eyes. You’re telling me lies. Don’t go, don’t go.” THE ABOVE extract is taken from a major irritant by a happily-forgotten band called Pilot rolled in at No.1, ironically, in February 1975. Recalling this post-festive season 1970s low point, it dawned on me that, secretly, songs of this nature are retained fondly in the hearts of many. So I decided to investigate some of our most guilty musical pleasures. Granted, admitting to being partial to a bit of Agadoo (no matter how safe the company) is maybe a bridge too far. But I know there are those among you who secretly love it. You know who you are.
I’ll come clean. The Floaters 1978 hit ‘Float On’ is viewed by many as a laughing stock. Well I won't have it! It’s a piece of astrological genius. ®
Guilty pleasures revealed
I readily admit to shedding my snarling early teen angst and placing the needle right on the said track on my sister’s K-tel ‘Midnight Hustle’ compilation. Whenever the family was out, of course.
RAYMOND CONNOLLY uncovers some sinister secret musical habits among IMPACT people. Shaky all over
“These are men of substance who summoned up the moral courage to admit their guilt.”
IN THE summer of 1981, when most of my mates were still getting over the untimely death of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, I donned my serious look and industrial-grey raincoat and sneaked down to Woolworths to buy ‘The Green Door’ by Shakin’ Stevens. By the time I got home, checked the coast was clear, and put the seven inches of green vinyl on the dansette, Shaky was winging his way to a four-week residency at the number one spot.
“Leo, and my name is Paul.” Where would you get it? “Cancer, and my name is Larry. And I like a woman who loves everything and everybody.” Hats off Laurence, old son. That’s what I call keeping your options open. And a ripping disregard for standards that is all too rare in our modern world of political correctness.
Shaky went on to become even more uncool (remember ‘Oh Julie’, ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ and the awful ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’?) but ‘The Green Door’ still gets a shake each time I’m tipsy enough to dust down the singles box. That’s the first time I ever told anyone that! Bernard Harbor, National Secretary: Communications. RAYMOND SAYS: Sounds like you have the box set!
If further proof of the secret of the guilty pleasure is required, next time you’re in company check out the nervous ‘chair dancing’ which takes place when Paul Evans’ car crash caper “Hello this is Joni” comes on the radio.
Pull of disco I’M INTO Kings of Leon and Jane’s Addiction so it wasn’t always easy when I realised my uncontrollable liking for Londonbeat’s 1991 hit ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You Baby’.
While exploring this terrain, I learned you can find out a lot about people you may have assumed you knew. For example, when I placed Mrs C on the spot, she revealed a hidden fetish for power ballads when admitting that Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin’s ‘Separate Lives’ was to her liking.
Growing up in Ballymun, the need to maintain street credibility left no room for such an admission even though secretly at disco’s I always wanted to strut my stuff to it.
To develop my project, I chased down some IMPACT luminaries to establish their guilty pleasures. As a certain Mr Dunphy might opine: “These are men of substance who summoned up the moral courage to admit their guilt, Bill.”
WITHOUT A doubt it’s got to be ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ by Baccara, a 1977 offering from the RCA label. Bacarra were a couple of Spanish flamenco artists, Mayte and Maria, whose visual aspect made a big impression on me. It was pre-multicultural Ireland and nobody could go to the Mediterranean at that time.
Dave Hand, IMPACT member from highly rated-Dublin outfit Bright Light Fiasco. RAYMOND SAYS: You’re street cred’s gone the same way as those high-rise blocks.
Stephen O’Neill, Assistant General Secretary. RAYMOND SAYS: Don’t come on all Equality Authority! You sound more like Butler from On the Buses to me.
What I did learn was that IMPACT now has a sixth Division called ‘Joy’ (aka the Communications Office) and that country and blues buff Stephen O’Neill has a touch of the Are You Being Served approach to selecting his secret favourites. Read on! G
Spring 2009 Soduko Solutions (From page 48.)
1 2 3 6 7 4 9 5 8
5 6 7 9 8 1 4 2 3
4 8 9 5 2 3 6 7 1
3 4 1 7 5 6 8 9 2
6 7 2 1 9 8 3 4 5
8 9 5 3 4 2 7 1 6
7 1 4 8 3 5 2 6 9
9 3 6 2 1 7 5 8 4
2 5 8 4 6 9 1 3 7
7 2 5 3 8 1 6 4 9
1 3 6 4 7 9 8 5 2
8 4 9 5 6 2 1 3 7
IT HAS to be ‘If’ by Telly Savalas of Kojak fame. I was six years old when this song was out. Listening to it now it’s hard not to laugh at how incredibly cheesy it really was, but it’s hard to beat as a song that evokes time and place. Telly delivers the song in a manner best suited to chatting up the ladies: Barry White without the melody. This is superimposed over some fairly twee strings and horns reminiscent of the supermarket muzak of the era. But it’s the contrast of his deep voice and reedy accompaniment that actually makes it work. You can watch the video on You Tube, as he lights up a cigarette with his shirt open to the navel revealing a big gold medallion. Lip synching was not a skill on Telly’s CV, but you can see he means every word he mimes. A true classic and genuine guilty pleasure for a Joy Division fan like me. Niall Shanahan, Communications Officer. RAYMOND SAYS: Niall, you’ve far too much hair for the part, mate! 9 1 3 8 2 5 4 7 6
5 7 4 1 3 6 9 2 8
6 8 2 9 4 7 3 1 5
2 5 1 6 9 3 7 8 4
4 6 7 2 1 8 5 9 3
3 9 8 7 5 4 2 6 1
Winter 2008 Crossword Solutions
See page 48 for the competition winners from Issue 3
Across: 1.Parnell 5. Moses 8. Roche 9. Indiana 10. Stilted 11. Irene 12. Tremor 14. Harass 17. Endue 19. Alabama 22. Belgium 23. Priam 24. Ewing 25. Shannon. Down: 1. Paris 2. Recline 3. Event 4. Lairds 5. Madeira 6. Slane 7. Shavers 12. Tremble 13. Opening 15. Arabian 16. Cadmus 18. Delhi 20 Alpha 21. Amman WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 37
From the author It’s about Lou Suffern, a man who battles with the clock and the multiple demands on his time. Befriending a homeless man called Gabe, Lou gives him a job and becomes unsettled by Gabe’s ability to be in two places at once. “The idea came to me while I was touring the US last year, promoting the movie and the re-publication of PS I Love You. Each day involved lots of meetings and press events, and somebody invited me to a reception. I told them: ‘Only if I can be in two places at once!” From this seed of an idea The Gift began to take shape, a process that Ahern says happens with all of her work.
Photo: Courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers
“It usually starts with one small idea, and I just allow it to grow. I don’t really start writing until it begins to take shape. Sometimes it’s like pieces of a jigsaw fitting together. I keep a notebook handy if a line comes to me. It might be something I really want a character to say on the last page. But I don’t really sit down to write until that process has happened,” she says. “I don’t really do a nine-to-five day. I go with the flow, and that can mean starting late at night and working into the small hours.”
It’s all about
timing NIALL SHANAHAN caught up with blockbuster novelist CECILIA AHERN as she promoted her latest novel. I NEARLY blew this interview with Cecilia Ahern because I got stuck on another phone call. As it happens, her latest novel, The Gift, is about a character who also needs to be in two places at once. It already feels like I’ve had practical demonstration of what inspired her to write the book. Ahern needs no introduction. She published her debut bestseller PS I 38
Love You six years ago and her career has maintained an enviable trajectory ever since. The book was turned into a film starring Hillary Swank, and Ahern has produced a healthy clutch of novels and short stories since. More recently she developed the concept for US sitcom Samantha Who? for which she is also credited as executive producer. The Gift is her sixth novel.
I ask if she writes with her intensely loyal readership in mind. “I’m lucky to have such a great relationship with my readers. People are very supportive and that gives me a confidence in what I’m doing. But I write for myself. I have to ‘feel’ the book and have an emotional connection to it, rather than trying to second guess the readers,” she says. Many of her characters start out in turmoil, but the chaos is eventually resolved. “That’s exactly what I do! I like to begin with characters who are in a place of darkness and at a low point, but then I catch them before they fall. I’m intrigued by the idea of taking a character from a place of darkness towards the light.” Ahern has at least one fairly good political contact; has she ever considered writing a political novel? To her credit, she doesn’t groan! “I don’t know. It’s never occurred to me before, but I have learnt to say ‘never say never’. I’m not sure I would want to go down that route as I’m sure it would attract a lot of study by other people, and I’m not sure I’d want that!” And with that our time is up, and the busy young author ventures into a room full of flashing cameras and banks of microphones, as another bestseller takes off G
A day in
It turns out there’s room on your shelf for one more Beatles book. JOHN LENNON: THE LIFE Philip Norman (Harper Collins, £25.00).
JOHN LENNON arrived in this world during a 1940 bombing raid on Liverpool and departed it a scant 40 years later in a hail of bullets from a stranger’s gun in New York city. In between, he and Paul McCartney founded The Beatles, and changed the world forever. It wasn’t just about the music. The Beatles’ music fuelled the creation of an entirely separate youth culture. Their unprecedented worldwide fame gave Lennon a platform for all his passions and made him a modern icon. Always the outspoken, opinionated one in the group, he had quotable views on everything from politics to poetry. In this book, Philip Norman concentrates on the musician’s personal life and explores the man rather than the music. He pays particular attention to Lennon’s turbulent early childhood. His unpredictability, violent outbursts, acute neediness, and mercurial wit are thoroughly documented too, but they are also put in context. He had, as they say, issues. It would be easy to think that more than enough had already been written about John Lennon and the Beatles. But Norman has produced the definitive work. Neither hagiography nor hatchet job, and with a combination of meticulous research and balanced reporting, this book illuminates and revives an already welldocumented life. A must for fans and music geeks everywhere. Margaret Hannigan
Pacy thriller sounds familiar ROUGH JUSTICE Jack Higgins (Harper Collins, £6.99). HARRY MILLER is one of those agents so popular in political thrillers; outwardly a well-educated and sophisticated Member of Parliament, but unofficially a fearless ex-soldier who does what others don’t dare to do. And because his work doesn’t officially exist, he can go to the troubled spots of the world, dispense arbitrary justice and walk away. In Kosovo, he shoots dead the ringleader of a group of
marauding Russian soldiers, makes other baddies disappear in Washington and Beirut, and gets home to London in time for the theatre. There is a lot of political intrigue in the plot, some of which is a bit disconcerting. Is the world really run by tough people behind the scenes of diplomacy? The tension builds well as the undercurrent indicates that Harry cannot seriously annoy so many bad people and actually get away with it. The writing is spare and pacy and the pages keep turning. On the negative side I couldn’t help
feeling I’d heard all this before. And there’s nothing likeable about Harry Miller, who certainly doesn’t deserve his beautiful and talented actress wife. Fans of the genre won’t care though; it’s action that matters here. Kathryn Smith
More reviews on page 40 ®
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 39
More book reviews
Lost the plot THE FIRE Katherine Neville (Harper Collins, £18.99). 1993 IN RUSSIA and ten-year-old Alexandra sees her father shot dead during a chess tournament in which she is taking part. Ten years later she answers a summons from her mother to join her birthday bash in a mountain hideaway in Colorado. When Alexandra arrives mum has vanished completely. Her aunt Lily, also a chess champion, is invited too and realises the mysterious disappearance is linked to a famous chess set which dates back to the court of the Emperor Charlemagne in AD782. The set is rumoured to contain a secret of great power and its pieces have been much coveted through the centuries. While the premise for the story is quite interesting, this book tries to do far too much. From the art in a Russian museum, to the Ottoman sultans or Islamic culture, everything is recorded in miniscule detail. Even Shelley, Keats and Lord Byron make an appearance. Reading is a great way to learn, but a coherent plot matters in a novel too. It’s too easy to lose the plot amid this much clutter. Kathryn Smith
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DIPLOMA COURSE IN SOCIAL STUDIES By Distance Education. Home Study - One Academic Year The International Foundation for Adult Education is a non-profit forming Educational Foundation and is providing a Diploma Course in Social Studies with individual tuition which allows you to qualify for a Diploma in the comfort of your own home. No classes attended. Tutors will assist the student throughout the course by distance education. No previous standard of education is stressed. Social Studies brings together material from Sociology, History, Social Psychology, Social Economics, Human Geography, Cultural Anthropology and Counselling. Grants available for people on benefit. For immediate information, please contact Barbara on Tel: (022) 29358 or 0818 365 305 IFAE Information Office PO Box 93, Eglington Street, Cork. Or write to International Foundation for Adult Education Department of Social Science Postbus 47910, The Hague 2504 CE, The Netherlands. Email: email@example.com
Union business EDUCATION
Seminar to tackle educational disadvantage
Fergus Finlay to speak at IMPACT seminar.
AVIATION BERNARDOS CHIEF executive Fergus Finlay will be the keynote speaker at a special IMPACT seminar on equality and disadvantage in education on Thursday 29th January. The seminar, which takes place at Dublin’s Helix, will address fears that equal access and opportunity in education may be sacrificed to plans for a high skills economy as the Government wrestles with economic uncertainty and budget cuts. The event will bring IMPACT members in education together with others working in the sector. It will also consider how recent education cuts will impact in the long term, how staff will be affected, and how the union can meet these challenges.
Aer Lingus deal agreed AER LINGUS cabin crew have backed a deal that will save the airline’s Shannon base and retain Irish cabin crew on transatlantic routes. It also substantially reduces the number of proposed job cuts among cabin crew, but at the cost of new productivity measures, deferred pay increases and job losses. Union officials said the deal contained a lot of sacrifice for cabin crew, but reduced the number of proposed job cuts. The deal also means the deferral of pay increases under the Towards 2016 pay deal until July 2010 and deferral of pay increments for two years. It also commits cabin crew to in-
Other speakers include IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan and Paul Downes, director of DCU’s Educational Disadvantage Centre. Participants will also hear from senior representatives of LOCAL AUTHORITIES Youthreach, the adult learning organisation Aontas, the Children's Rights Alliance, and Michael Moriarty of the IVEA.
creased productivity measures. The company had originally planned to cut 420 cabin crew and replace almost all Irish-based long-haul crew with US-based staff. Under this deal, job losses are reduced to 94, plus a separate reduction of 60, which is due to schedule changes out of Shannon airport. Meanwhile, the union said it remained firmly opposed to a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus after the anti-union firm launched a second bid for the national carrier last December. IMPACT derided Ryanair claims that union recognition would be safe in its hands.
Pressure over budgets
The seminar is open to all members working in the education sector, but registration is essential as places are limited. The seminar will run from 10am to 2pm, and lunch is included. To register, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or get more details from www.impact.ie.
IMPACT WANTS local authority management to admit that any significant staffing cuts will affect services. It is also seeking assurances over work-life balance arrangements, travel and subsistence, and the protection of staff who have rights to permanent contracts. Following the union’s success in convincing national management that any proposed cuts should be discussed with the union, it has
been agreed that this should be done through the ‘handling significant change’ protocol of the partnership process. In other words, there should be local discussions on the impact and handling of any proposed cuts. Peter Nolan, the union’s top local government official, said: “We think this is the most effective strategy to defend local services and our members in very challenging times.” WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 41
Union business PUBLIC SERVICES
Job cuts relegate reform
Taoiseach seeks partnership response
IMPACT HAS said that any significant cuts in public service staffing are bound to result in reduced public services. The union was responding to the Government’s November 2008 establishment of a ‘special group’ to make proposals on the reallocation and rationalisation of public service staff.
THE TAOISEACH met union, business and community leaders in December to seek their engagement in the development of economic recovery plans. As the economic crisis worsened by the day, Mr Cowen said the recession had cut Government income to 2005 levels while spending remained at 2009 levels.
The new four-person ‘special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes’ is to “examine the current expenditure programmes in each Department and make recommendations for reducing public service numbers” with the aim of eliminating the budget deficit by 2011. Nicknamed An Bord Snip Nua, it is chaired by economist Colm McCarthy and will make a final report to the Minister for Finance by the end of June 2009. It is understood that this will take the form of a series of recommendations rather than a ‘take it or leave it’ cuts package. The group is going to recommend staff cuts in different parts of the public service and examine the scope for greater efficiency. It is also charged with making recommendations on the reallocation of staff and expenditure between public service organisations, and further rationalisation of state agencies. Its terms of reference do not include pay or pension issues. The announcement came as the Government published the report of a task force set up last year to make recommendations on the implementation of an earlier OECD report into Ireland’s public services. IMPACT spokesperson Bernard Harbor said the emphasis on cutting public service jobs was mainly due to the need to cut costs because of the recession, not a desire to improve services. “The OECD’s April study did not call for staff reductions because it found Ireland spends proportionately less on its public services, and employs proportionately fewer staff, than similar countries,” he said. Get full details of the report from www.impact.ie. 42
His strong endorsement of social partnership was followed by the publication of a framework for economic recovery, which called for an integrated social partnership approach to tackle five main challenges: G Private sector solvency, competitiveness, and employment G Fiscal stabilisation G Incomes policy G Public sector reform, and G Social policy and the labour market. IMPACT general secretary Peter McLoone, who has been calling for a social partnership approach to the downturn since last summer, welcomed the development, although he said it would be challenging for everyone including workers and their unions. He also identified an important sixth challenge – putting Ireland back at the centre of Europe. Contrary to speculation before the meeting there was no discussion of, or proposals for, a renegotiation of the recently-endorsed national pay deal, under which most public servants are due a 3.5% increase in September 2009. But IMPACT leaders believe that if the economic indicators – including inflation – keep heading downwards, speculation about pay, pensions and other public service costs is likely to continue. The union’s position is that the 11-month public service pay pause and stringent ‘inability to pay’ safeguards in the private sector make it unreasonable to call for more delays in pay rises. Social partnership played a big role in turning the ailing 1980s economy around. At that time unions placed a huge emphasis on saving and creating sustainable jobs, and a similar approach is likely now. But Peter McLoone said things looked even tougher in 2009 than 20 years ago. “Irish infrastructure and skills levels are far higher, but the sheer scale of the global downturn and the collapse of the financial system mean we’re in new territory. It’s impossible to see how we can simply return to the old way of doing things,” he said.
Minister blamed in equality row IMPACT HAS blamed justice minister Dermot Ahern for the resignation of Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley in December. The union said Mr Crowley’s position was made untenable when the minister slashed the Authority’s budget by 43% and refused to listen to alternatives.
The row provoked widespread condemnation and accusations that the government had effectively abandoned its anti-discrimination responsibilities. Mr Crowley argued that the cuts rendered the Authority “unviable,” an assessment backed by IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell who is also a member of the Equality Authority’s Board. She called Crowley a “totally dedicated and thoroughly professional champion of equal opportunities” and said his organisation had been targeted because it had occasionally been an irritant to some ministers and senior civil servants. “In response, and under cover of the recession, they have taken the opportunity to render the Equality Authority unviable. The price will be paid by tens of thousands of people who depend on an effective equality body for protection against unlawful discrimination,” she said. Many believe the attack on the Equality Authority is part of a wider targeting of organisations involved in equal opportunities and social inclusion work. Pobal, which works with area partnerships and other groups tackling social exclusion, will also see its administration and development budget cut by 33% this year rising to 50% in 2010. “We are facing the dismantling of Ireland’s equality infrastructure and safeguards for ordinary citizens. The Government is effectively issuing irresponsible or careless employers and service providers with a license to discriminate,” said Louise. But a large number of equality groups, NGOs and trade unions are campaigning together to stop the cuts, which have also been condemned by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Health unions seek budget accord IMPACT and other health unions have sought a meeting with the Government, aimed at finding alternative savings to preserve jobs and services. Meanwhile, meetings continue with HSE management in a bid to agree an accord to deal with the current budgetary situation. The unions want to prioritise services to the most vulnerable and protect jobs and working conditions, amid expectations of almost €1 billion in cuts this year. The fast-deteriorating public finances could mean even deeper cuts later in the year. In a related development, the three main health service unions – IMPACT, Siptu and the Irish Nurses Organisation – said they would help identify savings to preserve the cervical vaccination programme for 12 year old girls, which has been postponed as part of Government spending cuts. At the unions’ request, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also sought meetings with Government to deal with issues that need resolution at a political level. IMPACT believes that tackling such issues, including charging the full cost of private beds in public hospitals, would ease the pressure on hard-pressed public health finances.
IMPACT MEMBERS voted to accept the new Towards 2016 transitional pay deal by a margin of 91%-9% on a 40% turnout. The agreement, which allows for pay increases worth 6% over 21 months with an extra 0.5% for low paid workers, subsequently got a huge endorsement by unions at a special ICTU delegate conference in Dublin. You can read full details of the agreement and see how your branch voted on the IMPACT website – www.impact.ie.
Working time victory TRADE UNIONS won an important victory at the end of last year when the European Parliament rejected proposed amendments to working time laws. Prior to the vote, IMPACT wrote to all Irish MEPs to urge them to reject the proposed changes, which would have led to weaker protections for workers in Ireland and elsewhere. The changes would have preserved an existing opt-out, which is known to have led to workers doing excessive hours in Britain and elsewhere. It would also have brought adverse changes to the way on-call working time is determined as well as extending the period over which employers could average working time.
Your AGM MANY IMPACT branches will be holding their annual general meetings in January, February and March. This is your chance to find out what the union’s been doing and put forward your own views. Check out or website – www.impact.ie – for details of forthcoming meetings. Or contact your branch secretary.
IMPACT national secretary Kevin Callinan said he believed a positive understanding could be reached with the HSE, but that there were outstanding issues including the protection of temporary staff jobs. “The unions are working together to protect services and staff conditions in a very difficult financial situation in 2009 and beyond,” he said.
IMPACT members get news quicker
Meanwhile, IMPACT members working in the HSE and HSE-funded agencies have voted by a margin of almost 90% to accept a Labour Relations Commission-brokered settlement of the last year’s dispute over staffing and broken agreements. The settlement covers working conditions, vacant posts, development posts, work-life balance, the use of agency workers, the introduction of a new job evaluation scheme, temporary employees, the National Employment Monitoring Unit, and psychology services.
IMPACT members can sign up for full access to our website – plus a monthly emailed news bulletin – via www.impact.ie.
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 43
Your money The finance industry is rocked by change and you’re personal circumstances are probably changing too. The New Year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your personal finances, says COLM RAPPLE.
Time for a financial makeover Savings and investments Saving is essential to achieve many of your financial goals. At its simplest it involves holding onto some money to meet the occasional expenses that arise less regularly than pay-days – a holiday or car insurance for instance. Saving may also be essential to achieving longer term objectives like providing a pension, saving a house deposit or paying for a child’s education. Rates of return and risk are important considerations and there is a wide range of options from basic deposit accounts to investment funds. Ensuring that you have ready access to adequate funds in an emergency is a reasonable first goal. It provides the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that may arise and provides the security of knowing you have sufficient funds to tide you over an unexpected expense or shortfall in income. Questions to consider • How much money could you access at short notice? Would that be enough to cover most emergencies? • Have you got overdraft permission? Have you a good enough relationship with a bank to get one? • Is your credit card limit adequate? Actions to take • Save to build an emergency fund, ensuring that some of your savings can be accessed reasonably quickly. • Develop a good relationship with a bank to ensure speedy access to overdrafts or loans. • Get an increase in your credit card limit if you can be sure of using it for short-term emergencies and not for getting into long-term debt.
Actions to take • Set targets for your savings in terms of amounts and timescales. • Undertake regular reviews to make sure you’re getting the best rate of return. Investments Your mix of investments reflects a series of past decisions. They may have been the right decisions at the time but they need to be assessed in the light of your present circumstances, your future needs and changes in the financial environment to ensure that you are getting the best possible return.
Questions to consider • What are you saving for? • How much can you afford to save? • Are you getting the best rate of return consistent with your need for access to money? • Have you too much, or not enough, money in relatively lower return short-term savings?
Questions to consider • Examine each investment in the light of what you want from it; when you might have to realise it in cash; the prospects for its growth over that time frame; its riskiness in the light of your current attitude to risk, and the alternatives. • Is your mix of personal use assets (house, holiday home, boat or caravan) appropriate to your needs? Should you be
You also need to look at your savings. There is a wide range of options and the boundary between saving and investment is far from clear cut.
The starting point has to be the present, not in the past. In the case of shares all that counts is the current price and future prospects. The price you bought at should have no place in the decision making. The share is currently worth a certain amount of money. If that money can yield a better return elsewhere then it should be switched. The loss has already been incurred even if it hasn’t been realised.
financial loss that you or your dependants would suffer as a result of serious illness, disability or death. With life insurance policies it is important not to confuse saving for the future with actual life insurance which only pays a benefit in the event of death.
thinking of selling some of them or converting them into investment assets by, for instance, by renting them? Are you making the best possible use of investment tax incentives like those on pensions and some property investments?
Actions to take • • •
List all your investments. Assess each one as outlined above. Make the appropriate adjustments. If in doubt take professional advice.
Sensible borrowing can play a beneficial role in your financial planning. There is, of course, a cost involved but that can often be justified. The benefits can outweigh the costs. Interest is not the only cost, of course. There is a reduction in financial flexibility if only because of the need to meet the repayments on the loan. Questions to consider • Are you paying over the odds for your loans? Are there savings to be made by switching lenders? • Have you got the optimum mix of loans in terms of interest payable and risk? Could you increase your mortgage, for instance, and pay off some more expensive loans. That’s not a decision to be taken lightly since you are increasingly the risk of losing your home in the event of default. But the options are worth considering. • Are you relying too much on expensive credit card debt? • Have you spare cash that would be better used in reducing your debt? • What capacity have you got to borrow more? Could you use extra money to finance projects that would yield benefits more than enough to offset the cost? Actions to take • • • • •
Questions to consider • What events could cause me and my family to suffer significant financial loss? • What financial loss would my family suffer in the event of my suffering illness, disability or death? • How much of that potential loss should I insure against? • What cover have I already got, including cover through company schemes? • If my partner or I were to lose our jobs, would the impact be sufficiently severe to justify taking out some insurance protection? • Have I sufficient cover on my house and other assets?
List details of all your loans. Check out the interest rates charged by the competition. Work out the savings that could be achieved by switching, taking account of any penalties for early repayment. Obviously the bigger the loan the greater the potential saving. If you are constantly in debt on your credit card get a term loan to pay it off. If you go into long-term credit card debt again take the scissors to your card. Work out the cost and benefits of borrowing to finance new projects where you think the benefits may outweigh the costs.
Insurance Every financial plan should contain some provision for insurance against the unexpected. That includes protection against the
Actions to take • If you need additional cover, shop around for the cheapest option. Term insurance rates differ greatly from company to company for exactly the same cover. Take advice. • Check out your general insurance policies. Shop around when they come up for renewal.
Wills and inheritances Everyone over 18, or younger if married, should have a will drawn up. It’s particularly important where there are dependants. A will ensures that your estate is distributed in accordance with your plans. Once drawn up, wills should not just be put away and forgotten. They need to be reviewed from time to time. Personal circumstances change and so does the tax code. Questions to consider • Have you drawn up a will? • Does it still reflect your wishes? • Do you need to change the executor? • Have you considered the inheritance tax implications? • Have you drawn up an enduring power of attorney? Actions to take • Consider all the questions above and take the appropriate actions as soon as possible seeking professional advice if you have any doubts over the impact of what you are doing l
Colm Rapple’s annual personal finance guide Family Finance 2009 is available in booksellers priced €11.95. This year there’s an added emphasis on surviving the downturn.
Work & Life: The magazine for IMPACT members
Sport As 2009 gets underway, it’s time to look into the crystal ball to see what the year holds for sports fans. So with his Mystic Peig hat on, KEVIN NOLAN looks forward to what lies ahead on the domestic and international field. IN RUGBY, the tenure of new Irish head coach Declan Kidney got off to a mixed start. While Ireland guaranteed a top-eight ranking with their victory over Argentina in Croke Park last November, the performance of his Irish team in the games against New Zealand and the Pumas raised more questions than answers. Ireland’s play was predictable and one-dimensional in attack, and will not have unnerved their six nations opponents ahead of February’s campaign. Kidney’s men begin their six nations schedule with a Croke Park clash against France (7th February). England play Ireland at home too (28th February) and Martin Johnson is sure to bring his big English pack to Croker determined to avenge their humiliation at the same venue in 2007.
Everything to Despite the record nature of England’s defeats to both New Zealand and South Africa, there were signs of hope in their encounter with the all-conquering All Blacks. Perhaps the most encouraging sign was the performance of full back Delon Armitage who looks to have the required assurance and pace to deliver. Last year’s six nations champions Wales are building towards a serious tilt in this year’s competition too. Their victory over Australia will have filled them with confidence. They open their six nations campaign against Scotland in Murrayfield, have England in the Millennium stadium, and eventually conclude their programme against Ireland at home. So the scheduling of games looks set to strengthen their hand. For the Irish it looks as though Kidney will have to loose some of the chains which his team seemed to operate under in their most recent international challenges. The kicking game deployed by Ronan O’Gara may have led Munster to Heineken Cup glories, but the boys in green will need to show greater off-the-cuff potency if they are to unlock the best defences. So our money is on Wales to take six nations honours.
Gaelic Closer to home, in the Gaelic football and hurling fields, we can expect more of the same in 2009. Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody is always looking for angles to motivate his team and the competition for starting places drives the men in black and amber. But at this stage they are within touching distance of immortality. The Cats surpassed Cork in the roll of honour for senior titles when they won the Liam McCarthy cup last September. They’ve now claimed the coveted prize on 31 occasions, one more than their rivals by the Lee. A successful defence of their All-Ireland crown this year would mean four titles in a row. They would also put another chapter in their illustrious history book by becoming the first Kilkenny team to win four All-Ireland senior hurling titles in succession. So where will the competition come from? It’s impossible to see Cork raise any sort of a gallop in either Munster or AllIreland qualifiers as long as the current impasse is in place. In
Although they have won three All-Irelands this decade, Tyrone have never won back-to-back Sam Maguires. Manager Mickey Harte will be privately setting that as the target for his side. Dublin have a new man at the tiller in Pat Gilroy. He has the coaching talents of Mickey Whelan by his side, backed up by the sports science know-how of Niall Moyna and his team in Dublin City University. If Gilroy can solve the Dubs’ defensive frailties then they could go close to ending their famine. With Alan and Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly firing on all cylinders, their attack will pose problems for any defence in the country. But it is at the other end of the field that Dublin must shine. Armagh and Tyrone have invested thought and time to come up with defensive systems that work. Dublin must do the same if they are to experience the atmosphere of an All-Ireland final.
play for effect the Rebels will be fielding a ‘C’ selection. Even Kilkenny lack that strength in depth! Tipperary can improve on 2008, but their Munster rivals Waterford may find that the opportunity to claim the county’s first All-Ireland success has slipped away. Galway’s inclusion in the Leinster senior hurling championship will add a bit of spice to the eastern province’s tournament. But, apart from attracting a greater number of neutral supporters to a Leinster final between the Tribesman and the Cats, they don’t look like they will shock the system in 2009. So no change in 2009 – Kilkenny to reign supreme.
Kerry gold? Jack O’Connor’s return to the bridge in charge of Kerry’s footballers will fill the county’s supporters with hope. O’Connor obviously feels he has unfinished business and you can expect that, with him in charge and fitness guru Pat Flanagan back by his side, the Kingdom will be an even more potent and disciplined force in 2009.
Kop on Few stand as high as Liverpool in the ranks of sporting enigmas when it comes to trying to explain why the Scousers have not been crowned league champions since the season of 1989-90. Liverpool have won 18 league crowns, a milestone that Alex Ferguson has in his sights. So far this season The Pool have held strong, and if Steven Gerrard and Fernarndo Torres can inspire their team until the end of the season they could end their long wait. The destiny of the title this season will run under the final few weeks and at that stage Rafa Benitez could hold the upper hand over his direct opponents with a run-in that concluded with games against Newcastle, West Ham, West Brom and Tottenham. So it’s Liverpool to finally return to the top in the Premier League l
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1. What did you think of the articles in the spring 2009 issue of Work & Life ? Excellent
Comments ________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ 2. What did you think of the layout, style and pictures in the spring 2009 issue of Work & Life?
3 __________________________________________________ 5. What subjects would you like to see in future issues of Work & Life ? 1 __________________________________________________ 2 __________________________________________________ 3 __________________________________________________ 6. What did you think of the balance between union news and other articles? The balance is about right
I want more union news
I want less union news
7. Any other comments? ______________________________
Comments ________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ 3. What were your favourite three articles?
Name ________________________________________________ Address ______________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________
IMPACT branch ______________________________________
The small print* You must be a paid-up IMPACT member to win. Only one entry per person (multiple entries will not be considered). Entries must reach us by Friday 6th March 2009. The editor’s decision is final. That’s it!
WORK & LIFE: THE MAGAZINE FOR IMPACT MEMBERS 49
Commercial membership services MPACT has facilitated the provision of a number of national membership services and discount schemes on behalf of its members. These include Additional Voluntary Contribution Schemes (Pensions), Life Assurance, Salary Protection in the case of illness and Car, House and Travel Insurance Schemes. A number of local discount schemes are also negotiated by local branches.
The Union uses the size and composition of its membership base and, where possible, competition between the various service providers, to seek the best possible deals for the widest possible sections of our membership. It is probable that the majority of members will get better value from these schemes than if they sought the same service individually. However, this will not be true in all cases and there will be occasions where individual members may, because of their specific circumstances, be able to get better value elsewhere. It is not possible always to ensure that all schemes will be accessible equally to all members and the scheme underwriters will not depart totally from their normal actuarial or risk assessment procedures and rules. IMPACT does not make any claims as to the quality or reliability of any of these products/services and while advising members of the availability of the National Membership Services and Discount Schemes does not endorse or recommend any particular product or service. IMPACT's role is that of facilitator to ensure that such schemes are available to its members. All contracts are directly between the product/service provider and the individual member. IMPACT is not in any way a party to these contracts and will not accept any responsibility or liability arising from any act or omission on the part of the product or service provider. Neither IMPACT nor any member of its staff receives any fees or commissions or other rewards from these product or service providers arising from such schemes. While IMPACT does occasionally provide such product/service providers with limited information regarding IMPACT branch and/or workplace representatives for the purpose of advertising such schemes, the Union does not make any personal data relating to individual Union members available to them for any purpose. The Union requires that product/service providers agree to ensure that all such schemes comply with all lawful requirements including the Equal Status Act 2000. Advertisements for agreed membership services will have an
logo on them.
Some of the companies providing agreed membership services may offer other products or services (that are not as a result of any agreement or arrangement with IMPACT) directly to IMPACT members. The Union has no role whatsoever in relation to such products or services. Likewise, other product or service providers may make offers directly to IMPACT members through advertisements in the Union newspaper or otherwise. These do not arise as a result of agreements or arrangements with IMPACT and the Union does not ask members to consider availing of such products/services and accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any such offers. The product/service providers with which IMPACT has agreed the provision of membership services and/or discount schemes are as follows: Brassington & Co. Ltd.
Cornmarket Group Financial Services Ltd.
Travel Insurance – all Divisions.
Car Insurance – all Divisions. Salary Protection and Life Assurance –
Local Government and Health Divisions only.
Group Insurance Services (GIS)
Marsh Financial Services Ltd.
Car Insurance – all Divisions.
AVC Schemes – all Divisions excluding Municipal Employees.
House Insurance – all Divisions.
Salary Protection and Life Assurance – Civil Service and Services & Enterprises Divisions only.
DISCLAIMER (Approved by CEC 10th December 2004) 50