MANDATE NEWS Issue 6, Summer 2010
CONNOLLY’S SHOES WORKERS PROTEST www.mandate.ie | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contents Straight Talking with John Douglas
Organising Organising in River Island Mandate’s new Organisers
Campaigns Poor Can’t Pay Campaign Update 06 Mandate, helping to clean up the fashion industry in Ireland 07 Migrant Workers Stage Demonstration 07 Hands off the Minimum Wage 08 10 reasons to defend our minimum wage! 08 Mandate supports the Fair Hotels campaign 09 Social Justice Ireland support Mandate’s call for Refundable Tax Credits 09 Training Skills for Work Training Programme Autumn Training Programme Our voice through training is getting stronger – by Eimear Brogan Industrial Relations Connolly’s Shoes workers won’t be walked all over Mandate member wins €45,000 for gender discrimination case Union News Activist Profile – Brian Mullins Door Supervisors Ireland Website Launched Mandate Conference 2010 - Waking Up, Taking Action
MANDATE NEWS credits: Editor: John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate Cover Photograph: Conor Healy Designed by: Language Printed by: Wood Printcraft
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
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Mandate Membership Week takes place throughout Ireland Mallow activist Margaret O’Donnell retires Workers of the World Silence is complicity, my experience in Gaza Calls for consumer boycott of Israeli goods at Middle East conference Increase in the number of trade unionists murdered in 2009 Trafficking of workers is the third biggest business for organised crime
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The Platform Difficult decisions…but for who? by David Gibney
Letters to the Editor
Other Articles Call for Sexual Orientation Equality in Work Keeping the Roof over your head Incomes of the low paid must be protected Mandate gets active on social networking websites The Wall Win €50 shopping vouchers
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Get Mandate News online! Log on to www.mandate.ie to view and download the online version of this newsletter. 2
Straight Talking with John Douglas
Green Shoots My A _ _ _ ! As our politicians head off on their 3 month
estimated a profit from NAMA of 5 billion
change, for a fairer better way. Parties
paid annual summer holidays they would
– this has now been reduced to 1 billion
of the left, unions, community groups,
have us believe that the green shoots of
and falling. The reality is the ordinary
patient groups, hospital and school groups,
economic recovery are sticking their heads
man and woman in the street is paying to
unemployed groups and all interested in
above the barren economic waste land
keep their little golden circle intact. The
creating a fairer society need to mobilise
which is Ireland. The economic pundits
billions that went into Anglo Irish Bank
as one to make change happen.
and the forecasting agencies who failed to
and other banks would have provided a lot
see the utter economic collapse, now want
of special needs assistants, new schools
us all to believe that they can see the first
and hospitals etc., and in doing so would
signs of recovery with their mantra of “stay
create jobs. But no, this is not their agenda,
on course”, “don’t rock the boat” and “make
more government TDs either voted against
more cuts in spending”. Well we have news
or threatened to vote against proposed
for them, there is no economic recovery,
legislation on stag hunting and dog breeding
the ordinary man and woman in the street
than did so on welfare and spending cuts.
is at breaking point struggling to survive with either less or no income, struggling
The policies of this government supported
to keep a roof over their heads, struggling
by the European Central Bank and the
to educate their children, struggling to
International Monetary Fund are driving
keep some dignity while this Government
the Irish domestic economy down the plug
has imploded over the last four weeks
hole. Ireland currently has the highest
discussing stag hunting, dog breeding and
level of unemployment in our recent
throwing shapes in votes of no confidence
history with over 450,000 workers on
in each other – For God’s Sake, can someone
the live register and projections that
get a grip of the situation and give the
“long term unemployment” will double
ordinary citizens of Ireland some hope.
in 2011. There are thousands of families
So when they call to your door either this year or next year looking for your vote, and they waffle on about the “necessary pain” and the “green shoots” remind them that they gave more time and attention to the stags and the dogs than to the plight of the ordinary man and woman in the street – and if it’s a vote they want, they should ask Rover or Bambi.
with no hope, many in fear of losing This Government is like a frightened rabbit
their homes and thousands of young
caught in the financial headlights of the
educated workers left with no future
gurus in the International Monetary Fund
other than the plane or the boat.
and the European Central Bank. They have traded all social policies and notions
This Government has no moral mandate
of social justice to rescue the banks and
from the people of Ireland for the policies
developers. They have cut back welfare,
which they are now inflicting on
pensions, spending on schools and hospitals
this country. We as citizens
while at the same time accepting that
should demand that they go
the billions put into Anglo Irish Bank will
to the country, let the people
never be seen again. The banks sold them
decide. As citizens we should
a pup in NAMA. Originally, Government
protest, we must stand up for
John Douglas Mandate General Secretary.
Mandate News / Summer 2010
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Inga Sperlina A recent graduate from UCD, Rory joined the Mandate Family in February 2010. Rory’s background is in Youth Politics and he is the current National Chairperson of Labour Youth.
Prior to that role he was in charge of the National Recruitment Campaign for the Labour Party across college campuses in September 2009. He is a former Student Activist and was Secretary of UCD Students’ Union from October 2007 to October 2008. He is also involved in the Arts and spent two years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dublin Youth Theatre.
Inga Sperlina started working in Mandate’s Organising Department in February 2010. She was born in Latvia but has been living in Ireland for 7.5 years. She has a keen sense of social justice and is passionate about the trade union movement and feels that strengthening Mandate is the only way to improve the lives of retail workers in Ireland. Inga worked as an organiser in Unite the Union from July 2007 until December 2008.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Campaigns In the ‘Croke Park Agreement’ the Government offers a commitment to civil servants that they will face no further cuts in their wages in 2011. However, despite repeated questions, the Government is unable to offer those on the lowest incomes the same assurance. Ireland’s economic crisis has required most sectors of our society to face cutbacks and get by on lower incomes. Despite repeated commitments from all sides that Ireland would ‘protect the vulnerable,’ those who live on the lowest incomes have already taken a very substantial part of the burden: • Very many of those on lowest incomes have suffered the enormous loss of losing their jobs; • Many others are working reduced hours or at lower rates of pay; • All social welfare payments were cut by 5% in January 2010: for an unemployed couple with two children this meant a drop of €13.60 a week, leaving them a weekly income of €477 per week. This is €44 per week or 8% below the poverty line. We know that there are more cuts on the way. The Poor Can’t Pay is looking for a recognition that those on the lowest incomes in Irish society have already been asked to carry more than their fair share of the burden and their incomes should not be cut further. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
The Poor Can’t Pay argues that the same commitment that the Government has offered to civil servants can and must be made to those who depend upon the social welfare system to survive. The Poor Can’t Pay campaign is currently asking people to make a personal commitment that they will do everything in their power to ensure that there are no further cuts in social welfare or the minimum wage, and that they ask their Local TDs/ Senators to do the same. If you want to call on your local TD/Senator to make this commitment or if you want to make the personal commitment yourself please visit www.thepoorcantpay.ie Here is a list of TDs and Senators who have made the commitment at the time of going to print: Fianna Fail John Browne TD, Wexford Michael Kitt TD, Galway East Michael Moynihan TD, Cork North West Labour Michael D. Higgins TD, Galway West Brian O’Shea TD, Waterford Jan O’Sullivan TD, Limerick East Emmet Stagg TD, Kildare North Sinn Fein Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Cavan/Monaghan
Mandate Trade Union proud to be a founding member of the Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland (CCCI)
Migrant Workers Stage Demonstration at Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s Office
Photograph by John Chaney
The Government has the power to liberate thousands of workers from exploitation
Mandate representatives at the launch of the CCCI – John Douglas, David Moran, Brian Forbes, Sandra Browne and Joan Gaffney.
Cleaning up the fashion industry in Ireland. In co-operation with ReDress, Comhlamh, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and Trocaire, Mandate has been working for the past number of months towards the establishment of an Irish branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC). The culmination of all this hard work resulted in the launch of the Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland at a packed Greenhouse, St Andrews Street in Dublin on Tuesday 25th May 2010. The evening included a tribute to Neil Kearney the tireless and inspirational trade union leader from the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) who sadly past away six months ago. Speakers at the event included Sally Anne Kinahan, ICTU, Silvana Cappuccio ITGLWF AND Sam Maher CCC. The CCC is the world’s largest alliance of labour unions and NGOs. Its main focus is on the improvement of working conditions in the global garment and industry and to build sustainable livelihoods for workers. The CCC aims to educate and mobilise consumers, lobbies, companies and governments, and to offer direct solidarity support to workers as they fight for their rights. They cover a broad spectrum of perspectives and interests, such as women’s rights, consumer advocacy and poverty reduction.
Mandate, working within the Irish Branch of the CCC, will endeavor to inform and mobilise against global injustices in the clothing manufacturing sector.
On the 2 June over 200 migrant workers from across the country, along with trade union, community sector and employer allies, held a demonstration outside the offices of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe, T.D., calling on him to give workers employed through the employment permit system the right to change employer. The current employment permits system binds a worker to one employer. This is a leading factor in the exploitation of workers. 80% of MRCI’s cases of exploitation involve workers in the employment permit system. Every day the MRCI hears from migrant workers who are unable to leave exploitative working conditions because of the rigid and inflexible employment permits system. The MRCI is seeking an administrative change which would give people the freedom to exit exploitative conditions and find alternative work within their job category, without having to go through an entirely new permit application with its unnecessary costs and delays. Many TDs are saying MRCI’s proposal is sensible and the right thing to do, as do ICTU and employer bodies. “Minister Batt O’Keeffe can change the lives of thousands with a simple administrative change,” says Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director of the MRCI. “Most workers on permits will only come forward to report exploitation if there is a way out that does not put their legal status at risk. The best way to protect workers and prevent exploitation is by giving the right to change employer, which gives them a fair chance to find an alternative and report exploitation.”
“We are here today because we are trying to get Minister O’Keeffe to make the employment permit system fairer,” says Zeno Arumugan, a work permit holder from Malaysia; “Right now it’s impossible for me and 25,000 others in the system to change employer freely. This is causing huge problems. We are not asking for special treatment, just the basic equality and rights that other workers have.”
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Hands off the Minimum Wage Over the past number of months there have been several calls from many employers’ bodies and businesses to cut the National Minimum Wage.
Ibec’s comparison between specifically selected countries for their own purposes is a cynical ploy and should not be entertained by politicians, business owners and most of all, low paid workers.
We don’t hear Ibec calling for the corporate tax rate to be brought back into line with other European These calls are being led by employers countries. Or for income taxes to be group Ibec who say it is necessary increased in order to supplement to bring the national minimum lower paid workers like they do in wage into line with the average in some European countries. Rather they other European countries in order to are calling for the lowest paid sector become more competitive. Mandate in the economy to take further hits says that these calls are unjustified, following increased hospital charges counterproductive and are a further and the withdrawal of dental and attack on low paid workers. optical benefits amongst other public sector cutbacks. At the same time, the Ibec is fully aware that comparing the implementation of the income levy has Irish national minimum wage with already reduced the real value of the that of other European countries is minimum wage to €8.48 per hour from like comparing apples with oranges. Ireland has very different economic and €8.65 and Mandate would hasten to point out that it hasn’t been increased social systems to the rest of Europe. Our VAT rate is higher, our cost of living since July 2007, over three years ago. is higher and our income tax is lower.
Mandate supports Tasc’s view
The National Competitiveness Council published a report in January of this year and it clearly states that the main challenges for Ireland’s competitiveness are in the high costs of utilities – including energy costs, waste charges and commercial rates – which were amongst the highest in Europe. Ibec would be better served focusing their attentions on bringing these charges into line with other European countries rather than going after the easy targets, low paid workers. Danny McCoy, Director of Ibec
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
that cutting the minimum wage will cost more jobs and prove counterproductive by taking money out of the pockets of low paid workers who tend to spend all of their disposable wealth in the local economy unlike many other income brackets. There may be ways of increasing competitiveness for Irish business but cuts to low paid workers income should not and will not be tolerated by Mandate Trade Union.
10 reasons to defend our Minimum Wage 1. A t €8.65 the minimum wage is low. A full time job pays €346 per week and €16,867 per annum but many minimum wage earners don’t get full work or even guaranteed hours. 2. F or those starting their first job the minimum wage rate is even lower (€6.92, 20% lower). For under 18’s the minimum wage rate is lower again (€6.05, 30% lower). 3. T his low level has not been increased since July 2007. 4. The 2009 Income Levy reduced the real value of the minimum wage to €8.48. 5. More women than men depend on the minimum wage. It contributes to gender equality and reducing the gender pay gap. It also protects migrants and other vulnerable workers from exploitation. 6. E ven at the present rate 116,000 or 6.6% of all workers are below the poverty threshold. The working poor make up 24% of all those in poverty and 40% of all households in poverty. Reducing the rate will deepen their poverty and draw more workers into poverty. 7. The minimum wage is not one of Europe’s highest. Compared to EU countries it is 12th highest if measured as a percentage of average monthly wage, 9th if measured in purchasing power parity, 6th if measured as in hourly wage rates. 8. T he minimum wage does not have a major impact on competitiveness; only 4% of workers are on the minimum wage and only 1.2% of industrial workers in export sectors. 9. Rent, gas and electricity, transport costs and waste charges have far more impact on competitiveness. In fact minimum wage legislation protects against unfair competitive advantage by unscrupulous employers exploiting workers. 10. There is already a default opportunity through the Labour Court for employers who need to pay below the minimum wage – this has never been used, indicating the minimum wage level has not problematic.
Social Justice Ireland support Mandate’s long term demand for refundable tax credits…
Annual Income Comparison
Minimum wage €15,700 Average industrial wage €32,000 Ivor Callely’s travel expenses €81,000 TD salary (basic) €100,200 €0
Photo from left: Peter Gaynor Fair Trade Mark Ireland, Paulina Lesniczuk Hotel Worker, David Begg Congress General Secretary at the Fair Hotels launch.
Mandate Supports Fair Hotels Mandate is calling on members to support hotels which give their staff decent pay and conditions. There are over 45 hotels across Ireland which recognise unions and have signed up to a new ‘fair hotels’ scheme.
The union has set up a website www.fairhotels.ie - where consumers can find out which hotels have signed up to the scheme. Some may also offer discounts for clients booking under the scheme. The campaign is based on the principle that hotels that treat staff fairly should be supported by consumers who care about workers’ rights. SIPTU says it hopes to harness the purchasing power of up to 850,000 workers in Ireland, as well as 50 Irish trade unions and 32 non-governmental organisations.
Unions all over the country are urging their members to use these hotels for family holidays, conferences and meetings.
The campaign will also target up to 12m union members in 120 other countries where trade union federations have endorsed the campaign.
SIPTU, who have launched the scheme, believes the scheme will benefit hotel employees, fair employers, and members of the public.
It is hoped the campaign will drum up business for hotels, some of whom have been badly hit by the recession.
Father Sean Healy speaking on behalf of Social Justice Ireland called on the Government to introduce a system of refundable tax credits to assist those on low incomes who currently do not get full benefit from their existing tax credits or increases in tax credits. Each worker is entitled to tax credits which are off set against income tax, the main two sources of these tax credits are personal tax credits and PRSI tax credits. Often these credits are greater than the income earned by lower paid workers, therefore low paid workers are not getting the full benefit of their personal credits, nor will they benefit from any further increases in personal tax credits. Mandate Trade Union for the last number of years has made submissions through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to Government for a system whereby lower paid workers would receive a refund payment from the State of the balance of tax credits unused in any relevant tax year. The department of Finance and Government have consistently rejected our calls with the Department of Finance claiming that such a system would cost €3 billion. But now the Department of Finance figures have been proven to be a gross exaggeration and exposes what is really lacking, the political will to help those on low incomes. Social Justice Ireland commissioned research which shows that the cost of such a scheme is in the region of €140 million, not a huge price to pay when you consider the billions going to bail out the banks. A refundable tax credit scheme would benefit up to 113,000 low income workers at this most difficult time and lift many families out of poverty – it was a right thing to do then and it’s still the right thing to do – so ask them WHY NOT. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Training Mandate’s training centre along with ICTU and the VEC are currently working together in promoting the Skills for Work training programme. The Skills for Work programme offers training in Communications, Maths, Personal Development and Communications through Computers. The courses are available to Mandate members and are delivered in the members’ own time and in their local area. The courses are free and are available to members who may not have achieved a Leaving Certificate or who did the Leaving Certificate a number of years ago.
The training will take place from the beginning of September and will be completed in early December 2010 .Members can, if they wish, achieve a FETAC level 3 award but this is not compulsory. A number of Mandate members have already signed up for this training. Details of the course content are available on Mandate’s website www.mandate.ie . Places are limited so if you are interested in this training please contact Mandate’s training centre at 01-8369699 or your local Mandate official by the 30th July 2010. Mandate will try to facilitate you onto a course if there are places available.
The following is the Mandate Autumn Training Schedule for Union Representatives and Activists: Course Title
Union Representative Introductory Course
Health and Safety – FETAC
Union Representative Advanced Course – Tesco Specific and FETAC
Union Representative Advanced Course - FETAC
Union Representative Advanced Course
Union Representative Introductory Course
Union Representative Introductory Course
Union Representative Introductory Course
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre If you are interested in attending one of these courses please contact your local Mandate official. Aileen Morrissey, National Co-ordinator of Training, Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin3. Tel-01-8369699 • Email to : email@example.com
Mandate News / Spring 2010
Our Voice through Training is Getting Stronger As part of Mandate Trade Union’s ongoing efforts to effect a more just and equitable society and improve the opportunities of all its members, Mandate through its Organising and Training Centre has committed to providing high quality training and learning that gives equal access to learning for all its members. In September 2005 the National Executive Council of Mandate Trade Union commissioned a Strategic Review of the union’s entire structure and modus operandi. The purpose of the review was to assist Mandate to develop a three to five year strategic plan to move from a serving model to an organising model. In doing so, Mandate will transform the organisation at every level to meet the challenges of operating in the economic, social, and political environment of Ireland today. Its objective was to create a retail Trade Union of first choice, which is activist centred, and which also campaigns and organises on issues of importance to all workers in Mandate. This Strategic Review was completed by May 2006 and was agreed by all stakeholders within the union. Currently Mandate is in the process of change, from a servicing based trade union to an organising based union. To achieve this all members of the union need to be aware of their role and responsibility as union members. Overall the need for training has helped promote Mandate’s ethos of being activist based by empowering members to meet employers on a more equal footing. Training has given the skills and competencies to shop stewards and activists when representing and assisting members in their workplaces. Education has become increasingly important to the economic performance in Ireland. This has lead to many people returning to education later in life, but for most returning to education is a daunting prospect with many fears and challenges. Some people find that being out of the school environment for a considerable period as the most challenging. Fear of returning to a classroom can prevent learning new skills and developing themselves further until much later on in life. The current economic climate is at its most challenging for some time and the consensus among economic commentators is that the pace of economic growth in Ireland will be one and a half percent or lower this year. Improving one’s salary or living standards is now one of the many factors why it is more important than ever to further one’s education. The evidence suggests that some of our members feel chronically undervalued and underpaid in their jobs and this negativity can spill over into other aspects of their working and home life. More so than ever before people are advancing in their careers, but with competition from competitors so fierce most employments are now looking at recruiting people with a higher education or qualifications, than recruiting from within. So with this in mind people have begun to return to education and obtain the qualifications needed for advancement. Mandate
Trade Union recognises that social promotion and mobility can be directly enhanced through participation in lifelong learning. Education or furthering one’s education is seen by most as the answer to a better quality of life, personal development, and for some the career ladder been made more accessible. Indications from Fás (2008) suggest that employment in the Irish Economy of the future will be in high skilled jobs or jobs where people need to be further educated. People find that later in life they have more patience, and are ready to take on a commitment for studying. Mandate Trade Union through its Organising and Training Centre is committed to providing high quality relevant training and learning that is accessible to learners in a manner that meets their needs. Courses are offered at times and locations convenient for members. Mandate’s training and learning ethos is learner focused, and through its organising and training centre, it aims to support and enable learners to realise their full potential. The training Centre is a recognised FETAC accredited centre. Courses delivered through the training centre can offer accreditation to the trainees. Mandate’s commitment to training and up skilling their members yielded high dividends this year at the Biennial Delegate Conference in Galway. Many new faces and voices were heard and seen talking on various social and political issues. This was great to witness and a true testimony to Mandates varied training programmes, which members have taken part in over the last two years, working to great effect. Many of the speakers have not for varied reasons spoken at the BDC before and this year because of their new skills and belief in themselves took the opportunity to speak and have their voices heard, all because of the courses they had undertaken in Mandate’s training centre. Some of the speakers spoke passionately about the issue of lobbying the government to provide funding for the roll-out of the Cervical Vaccination Programme for all 12-year-olds in Ireland, completed Mandate’s Train the Trainer Fetac level 6 last year. They, like all the other participants on this course now have the skills and confidence to train other Mandate members and over the last year have delivered sections of training courses to Mandate Shop Stewards around the country. Other speakers had completed the Fetac level 5 Communications course and they too spoke with confidence and clarity because of their newly developed skills. If this year’s standard of speakers at conference is anything to go by I look forward to hearing members’ opinions again at the next BDC, along with new voices that step forward bravely to speak because of their confidence and belief in themselves as a result of undertaking a course through Mandate’s educational programmes. Our voice will only grow stronger and louder with activists and members who have the skills and confidence to make themselves heard.
By Eimear Brogan Morris, National Executive Council Member.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Industrial Relations Connolly’s Shoes Workers Won’t Be Walked All Over!!
Labour Party Leader Eamon Gilmore Supports the Connolly’s Shoes Workers The leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore spoke at a rally Mandate organised in Dun Laoghaire on Friday, 21 May 2010. Connolly’s Shoes Workers Hand Petition to Owner The workers handed a petition with over 5,000 signatures to the co-owner of Connolly Shoes, Aidan Nevin.
The four sacked Connolly’s Shoes workers; Pat Byrne, Damian Keegan, Susan Tonge and John Mulpetre, have shown great resilience over the past number of months following their unfair dismissals. Two of the workers were sacked for failing to sign an undertaking which would have had a detrimental effect of their terms and conditions including their pay and their hours. The two remaining workers were sacked for balloting to go on strike in solidarity with their colleagues.
Bray Town offers Support to Connolly’s Workers Mandate organised a support Rally in the town of Bray where the Connolly’s Shoes owners have another store. This event was supported by the Bray Trades Council and was a huge success.
The workers have been on strike for over 13 weeks and have encountered extraordinary aggression from their employer who has made a series of false allegations against the staff through the media. This is no way to treat workers, two of which have 38 years of loyal service and another with 30 years loyal service, a combined total of over 110 years between the four of them. Mandate has organised several events in order to highlight the injustices done to these long serving members of staff in Connolly’s Shoes. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Permanent TSB told to pay €45,000 to worker for gender discrimination Mandate member, Mary Higgins, who works in Permanent TSB, which is the banking arm of Irish Life and Permanent, was awarded over €45,000 by the Equality Tribunal for gender discrimination in relation to alternative working patterns. Ms Higgins, a mother of five based in Cork, had applied to work part time hours under an alternative working pattern scheme. Permanent TSB denied Ms Higgins her application while at the same time allowing a male co-worker to avail of a four day week under the same scheme. Ms Higgins, through Mandate, referred a claim to the Director of the Equality Tribunal under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 & 2004. The Equality Officer reviewing the case, Bernadette Traynor, found that “…the decision making process in selecting candidates for the award of an alternative working patterns was unfair and lacking in transparency. The process operated to the advantage of a man in that the man was granted an alternative attendance pattern.” Mandate’s Divisional Organiser for the Southern Division, Lorraine O’Brien said, “Ms Higgins is obviously delighted with the Equality Tribunal’s decision following a very long and drawn out process. We referred the claim to the Tribunal nearly five years ago under an indirect discrimination claim on the grounds of gender. However, the Equality Officer in charge of the investigation felt that the actions of Permanent TSB constituted direct discrimination against our member and found in her favour. “We hope this will go some way towards compensating Ms Higgins following the discrimination she encountered and the subsequent stress she has encountered since making the claim.” Explaining the case, Ms O’Brien said that, “When Ms Higgins was told by a letter sent to her by Permanent TSB that her application had been refused, she was given no reason as to why she was not chosen and her male colleague had been. “Permanent TSB, during the hearing, stated that the complainant’s work was satisfactory as was the male employee’s. In relation to the other criteria both applicants Mandate member Mary Higgins were also satisfactory.”
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
According to the Equality Officer, Bernadette Traynor, “When asked during the hearing how the successful applicant was chosen in a situation where both appear equally suitable, the respondent (Permanent TSB) clearly stated that the level of each applicant’s performance appraisal and the attendance pattern requested would be used to reach a decision. As the male employee was selected for alternate working pattern something must have prompted his selection even though the original criteria listed appeared to be satisfied by both applicants.” She continued, “It became evident that at the time the decision was made by the respondent as to who should be granted the alternate working pattern, no appraisal in respect of the complainant for 2004 was in existence. She had been on maternity leave and parental leave for much of the year. “The respondent did not indicate that there were any problems in respect of the complainant’s performance in 2004. Therefore a decision was made in relation to performance in a situation where no appraisal of the complainant existed for the relevant period.” “The second deciding criteria used by the respondent in the event of a tie was the pattern of attendance applied for. The complainant requested to work a part-day, every day. The male applicant requested a four day week. This is not a criteria listed in the original invitation for applications… This criteria was decided upon after the applications were received. In other words a deciding selection criteria was applied by the respondent after it was in possession of the applications.”
The Tribunal concluded that the, “deciding criteria created a situation decidedly lacking in transparency and fairness and that this was compounded by the refusal letter sent to the complainant… I find that the complainant has established a prima facie case of direct discrimination which the respondent has failed to rebut. In this regard the complainant’s allegations of discrimination are successful and I hereby order the respondent to pay her €45,000 for the effects of discrimination.”
Union News Activist Profile – Brian Mullins Division North and Western Division. Can you tell us a bit about your background? My wife Karen and I moved over to Sligo fifteen years ago from South Yorkshire where we worked as residential social workers with young offenders. At that time we were both members of the trade union Unison. My father and his family were all trade unionists working in the coal and steel industries in the UK and I suppose that had an influence on my background. When we moved over I was offered a job in a local nightclub by the owner because he had heard about my experience working with young people. That was back in 2002 and I worked there up until late last year. Why did you become involved in the union? At the time we were working in that nightclub, we were told there were no trade unions in the Sligo area for us. I did a bit of digging around and I heard about Mandate through an incident that happened in Galway with door supervisors down there so I looked into it and contacted the union through head office. At that point I told the guys I worked with I was joining the union and told them we all needed to be in a union. At that point, 16 out of 20 of them agreed to join Mandate. It was around this time that we began having trouble in the company. I’m sure most of your readers are aware of the ENVY nightclub dispute, but the background is that the original owner, who was a very approachable guy died, and as a result, we were dealing with new management who were very aggressive and confrontational with us. Since then the new owner has closed the place down and made all of us redundant. What does your role as a Mandate activist entail? Since we lost our jobs, Mandate gave us great support and helped us in our applications for redundancy payments. As a result of the dispute we’ve had I realised the importance for door security workers to join a union and get organised properly. I have no doubt that had we all been members from an early stage and if we had all stood together as a unit, the outcome would have been different for all of us. It’s because of this that I set up a new website called www.doorsupervisorsireland.net, which is specifically aimed at giving advice to door supervisors and nightclub security staff. I have also taken part in the recent recruitment drive by Mandate and that was actually what gave me the idea of setting up the website in the first place. Mandate is promoted quite strongly as the first choice union for Door Supervisors.
What do you feel are the key issues for Mandate? The most important issue for Mandate and their members at the moment is recruitment and also creating awareness of the situation workers are facing at the moment. For instance, how the Government is allowing workers to be treated and how the law is currently geared up around the employer instead of the employee. By creating more awareness Mandate may be able to encourage more people to stand together as a unit and make society better for workers and their families. Can you tell me a bit more about your website www. doorsupervisorsireland.net? The idea really came from recognition that there are 7,700 registered door supervisors in Ireland so I wanted to set up a forum which they can go to instead of searching through the internet in different areas for jobs, the JLC rates of pay, the PSA or other information. A one stop shop for door supervisors really. You can also buy stab vests on the website because Door Supervisors are experiencing these types of threats more and more.
Why did you set the website up? After the issues we had with Envy nightclub I wanted to give door supervisors a gateway into Mandate so that they can protect their terms and conditions and their rates of pay. For instance, the Labour Court has now ruled that the JLC rates of pay are not applicable to Door Supervisors and this is of course a concern for anybody working in the industry. In essence, Door Supervisors may soon be working for the minimum wage because of this ruling and because we don’t have a strong union presence. What do you see as the key challenges for workers in the next few years? Pay! There’s already been talk of reducing the minimum wage and this will have an effect on almost every family in the country. In Sligo we have hospital issues where patients are having to travel from as far afield as Sligo and even Donegal down on buses to Galway for medical treatment. It must be really hard.
Have you got anything you’d like to add for workers in Sligo or elsewhere? I heard on the news a few days ago about Reid’s furniture whose employees had turned up for work only to be told there and then they were closing. No notice, no anything, and that was only last week. If you are unionised, the employer is not as quick to treat you so badly. They know you will be able to gain advice, support and if the members are strong and stand together they can make a real impact. Just look at what the Connolly’s Shoes workers have achieved so far by standing up for their rights.
Door Supervisors Ireland Website Launched A new website dedicated to door supervisors has been set up by Mandate activist Brian Mullins in order to give workers in the industry a voice and provide them with valuable information on work issues. The website, www.doorsupervisorsireland.net, promotes Mandate as the union of choice for door supervisors. It also has a forum where all door supervisors can come together and discuss different aspects of their work. Workers can discuss issues such as pay, unsociable hours, licensing fees and many other items. Mr Mullins said, “We also have a job vacancies page and training page which we hope to update daily. If people are having difficulties in their workplace as a door supervisor, we have a dedicated union page to give advice on work related issues. Traditionally this industry is not very well unionised and this has led to a significant deterioration of terms and conditions including pay over the past number of years. “Hopefully by providing workers with this website, more people will join the union and we will all have a stronger collective voice which can negotiate better terms and conditions for all door supervisors. At the present time door supervisors seem to have little or no voice, we are hoping door supervisors Ireland will help towards giving us one,” concluded Mr Mullins.
What advice would you give to potential Mandate activists for the future? Keep the faith. Other than that I’d advise them to get more involved in the union. It gives you great satisfaction knowing that you’re playing a part in creating a fairer country. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Waking Up, Taking Action Photography by John Chaney
Mandate Trade Union’s 7th Biennial Conference took place in the Radisson Hotel in Galway from Sunday, 25th to Monday 26th April 2010. This year’s conference was entitled, Waking Up, Taking Action and it proved to be an appropriate name with a record amount of speakers taking part in the conference. Over the course of the conference there were 42 motions discussed with approximately 98 speakers in total. The Biennial Conference is where Mandate forms its policies and it gives members an opportunity to discuss issues of concern for them and their families. At this years conference issues discussed included: • A Decent Living Income for all; • Recruitment and organising; • The minimum wage; • Part time workers hours; • Sunday working, • Erosion of terms and conditions including pay reductions; • Education; • Health – Including the cervical vaccination programme, cancer screening, Breastcheck and dental and optical cutbacks; • Home repossessions; • The mismanagement of the economy; • Social welfare cuts.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Mandate Membership Week Meet the MMW Activist Mandate Trade Union organised a Christine Murphy major recruitment drive throughout Ireland during 24 May – 30 May 2010. My name is Christine and I am a Mandate member and a shop steward in the South Brian Forbes, National Coordinator Eastern Division. I took part in the Mandate of Organising, Recruitment and Membership Week in the new shopping Campaigns for Mandate said the week centre in MacDonagh Junction in Kilkenny. I visited the shops in the centre and spoke to was a great success, so much so that staff explaining about Mandate and what another week is being organised in the union stands for. I had good feedback October of this year. from the people I had spoken to and have managed to get several members to join.
Some of the concerns for members were:
on e Cork Sim €620 for th d e ts. is en ra n Divisio ip Week Ev Southern Membersh e at d n a Mandate’s M f the y as part o Communit
“The success of the week is down to the hard work that all of the Mandate activists and officials put in,” said Mr Forbes. “We had a series of local events which took place from Donegal to Kerry and from Galway to Dublin. It is through activism and the participation of everyone involved that we can achieve a stronger Mandate in the workplace and therefore help to increase standards of living for all our members and their families.”
• Break periods; • Shorter hours over a longer time (i.e. working 15 hours over 5 days); • A lack of confidence; • Being afraid to stand up for themselves;
• Lack of respect from others; • Having nobody to talk over problems with that would understand them.
Now that we are several weeks on after the Mandate Membership Week, I have people saying to me that they have more confidence to speak out more and to talk to their employers and to solve some of their problems.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Meet the MMW activist Ciara Ní Bheoláin My name is Ciara Ní Bheoláin and I work in Boots in the Dublin South West Division. I believe it’s in all of our interests to increase union membership in the retail sector where membership is traditionally low but where the potential gains are huge if a significant increase in membership can be achieved. During MMW I asked non union staff in my own workplace and other workplaces in my division to join Mandate. I encouraged other members to identify and recruit nonunion staff in their workplaces. I also distributed Mandate Membership forms and leaflets advertising events organised in my own division. Unfortunately I feel MMW passed by unnoticed by most retail workers, however, if the importance of recruitment is copper fastened only in the minds of activists who participated in MMW then I would consider it a success. These activists should now consider recruitment a priority and continue to increase Mandate membership into the future. During the next MMW I think events should be organised well in advance to allow more time to advertise. Low cost advertising should be explored. Obviously union recognition is a big obstacle in the long term recruitment ambitions of Mandate Trade Union in the retail sector. We need to achieve union recognition and end the belief among many retail workers that they are not allowed join a union. The message I would give potential members is that being part of a union offers greater protection and job stability. You are less likely to lose your job if you are in a union and unions protect jobs. The more members we have the greater our ability to defend and improve our terms and conditions. The attitudes of workers I met during MMW towards Mandate Trade Union were positive and welcoming. Workers I met who were already members of Mandate were proud to be able to say that.
Thanks for all the hard work Margaret Margaret O’Donnell joined IDATU in the early 1970’s when she was employed by Dunnes Stores in Mallow. Margaret was an energetic shop steward and was actively involved in recruiting members into the Union, not just her work colleagues in Dunnes, but also other retail workers throughout Mallow.
Margaret O’Donnell with Caroline Clifford, Mandate Industrial Officer
Margaret became Branch Secretary of the Mallow Branch in 1975, a position she maintained until her retirement earlier this year. Margaret served on the National Executive for a total of sixteen years both as an ordinary NEC member and also as a Trustee for three terms. In 1987 Margaret received the Member of the Year Award. Margaret was the face of Mandate in Mallow and was always supportive & willing to assist the fulltime officials, in fact, Margaret went that extra mile by calling to stores on a regular basis to keep in touch with members.
We wish to thank Margaret for all her support and help over the many years she has been involved with Mandate Trade Union. We all wish Margaret well in her retirement and thank her for her long service and commitment to this Union.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Workers of the World Silence is complicity My experience in Gaza by John Talbot I visited Israel-Palestine six months after the Israelis launched Operation Cast Lead. The conflict cost the lives of approximately 1,400 Palestinians living in the tiny occupied Gaza Strip. While there I never entered the war-torn strip but I did interview and meet with several NGOs, activists and victims. They all said the same thing – “things are at an all time low.” I went to Israel-Palestine to research a paper I was writing. In retrospect, both my subject and I were hugely naïve. The paper was on the possibility of a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission for Israelis and Palestinians in the future. I quickly realized I was asking the wrong questions.
Now, ask yourself how can you do that every day? That 30-minute trip to the shop just took three hours. Admittedly it isn’t always that bad, but believe me, a lot of the time it’s much worse. As well as witnessing some of the daily checkpoint politics I also bore witness to other sickening traits of the illegal occupation. While in Hebron I saw Israeli settler children throwing rocks at Palestinian traders and witnessed the IDF soldiers do absolutely nothing about it. I took pictures of the mesh fences above the trading streets, put there to protect Palestinians from the boulders, trash and used toilet paper the settlers dropped on them. I saw the slums where tax-paying Palestinians in East Jerusalem lived, with no rubbish collection and no amenities, while their Israeli settler neighbours drove on paved 2-way roads and lived in quite beautiful buildings. I also witnessed the biggest crime of all – the beautiful city and beaches of Tel Aviv roughly an hour from both the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and the apartheid of the West Bank.
You see, to approach someone who works in the field of occupation, death, misery and constant disappointment with a question about hope, is the same as asking an Aston Villa fan if they’re going to win the league – the concept is completely alien! And after only a few days there you begin to understand why. Three terms synonymous with Israeli occupation are settlements, the separation wall and checkpoints. After Israel’s victory over the Arab armies in 1967, they occupied some of their enemy’s land. It was assumed that the land was being used as a bargaining chip. In other words, Israel would give it back in return for peace. The facts on the ground speak differently. Israeli settlements were built almost immediately in the occupied West Bank, proving they were not interested in returning the land. Settlement building has continued unabated since the ’67 War. As well as settlements, Israeli forces have built a wall, which they claim protects them against terrorism. In truth, the wall cuts farmers off from their land, splits people from their friends and relatives and steals land and property that goes beyond the 1967 armistice line. And dotted throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem are the famous checkpoints, manned by young Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons. The best way to illustrate how frustrating life under occupation must be is to think of a simple task. Lets take, for instance, a trip to the grocery store. A fair estimate for most of us is 10-15 minutes by car to our local supermarket. But instead of going direct imagine you have to walk or drive around a wall that has increased the journey from two miles to fifteen. And along this journey you will probably be stopped and asked for papers at one, two or three checkpoints. The checkpoint may be manned by someone just doing his or her job, who sees you quickly and waves you through. Then again, maybe they’ll make you wait. Maybe they’ll humiliate you. Maybe they’ll shove their gun in your face or in the face of your mother or brother or sister. You eventually get to the shop and buy your groceries. Lets just hope you didn’t get any frozen goods because guess what…you’ll probably have to do it again on the way home.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
But lets face it; Tel Aviv is just a metaphor for the rest of the world. While we live comfortably, Palestine fights and Palestine starves. Yes, things aren’t as good as they were for a lot of us; The Celtic Tiger is a distant memory and we have every right to be preoccupied with the daily struggles of our families and ourselves. But this isn’t about donating money, it’s not even about giving too much time, it’s about chatting and getting to grips with what is being done over there in our names. Only last month the OECD welcomed Israel with open arms into their big happy family. The same Israel that is still building settlements, the same Israel that refuses to accept responsibility for the deaths of activists on the Gaza flotilla, that spits in the face of international law time after time and that has repeatedly demonstrated that apartheid is a more attractive policy than peace. A Palestinian friend of mine signs off all his emails with the words “silence is complicity.” Maybe he does it to guilt me into action, or maybe he does it to remind me that everyone who knows has a responsibility. I’ll let you make your own mind up – Silence is complicity.
John Douglas calls for a consumer led boycott of Israeli goods at ICTU middle east Conference Despite losing nine key speakers to the impact of the volcanic ash, the Congress conference on the Middle East went ahead in St Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle on Friday, 16th April 2010 and several hundred union members heard from a wide variety of international speakers on how unions could best assist a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The aim of the conference was twofold: to build support for Congress policy on the Middle East and to learn from other trade union actions around the world; to strengthen relationships with the labour movements in the Middle East and beyond and to assist discussion about how union solidarity can contribute to a peaceful solution that respects both UN resolutions and human and trade union rights.
In November 2007, a Congress delegation which included Mandate General Secretary John Douglas visited the region and met with representatives of all sides, including Israeli and Palestinian trade unions, the Israeli government and civil society activists. Members of the delegation entered the Gaza strip to meet with representatives of the elected Hamas authority. The delegation subsequently published a report of their findings and made key recommendations. In 2009, Congress adopted a motion at its Biennial Delegate Conference, which included support for calls from Palestinian civil society for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. At the conference, Mandate Trade Union General Secretary stressed that any boycott must be a consumer led boycott and retail workers should not be pressured into taking the action themselves.
SIPTU and Congress President Jack O’Connor and Congress General Secretary, David Begg, greet Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland Dr. Hikmat Ajjuri and Mr. Adnan Shabab from the General Delegation of Palestine at Dublin Castle on Friday, 16th April 2010.
“A successful boycott will be the result of a fully informed and educated consumer base which understands what is currently happening to the Palestinian people. The challenge for trade unions is to ensure that their members understand the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and that they in turn inform their families and relatives,” said Mr Douglas. The conference heard from Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin, Omar Barghouti, Palestinian National Committee for BDS; Avital Shapira-Shabirow, Director of International Department, Histadrut (the General Federation of Labour in Israel) along with speakers from the US and Canada.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Dramatic increase in the number of trade unionists murdered in 2009 101 killings - an increase of 30% over the previous year The International Trade Union Confederation’s Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights has documented a dramatic increase in the number of trade unionists murdered in 2009, with 101 killings - an increase of 30% over the previous year. The Survey, released on the 9th of June, also reveals growing pressure on fundamental workers’ rights around the world as the impact of the global economic crisis on employment deepened. Of 101 murdered trade unionists, 48 were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, six in Mexico, six in Bangladesh, four in Brazil, three in the Dominican Republic, three in the Philippines, one in India, one in Iraq and one in Nigeria. Twenty-two of the Colombian trade unionists who were killed were senior trade union leaders and five were women, as the onslaught of previous years continued. The rise in violence in Guatemala and Honduras also followed a trend developing in recent years. “Colombia was yet again the country where standing up for fundamental rights of workers is more likely than anywhere else to mean a death sentence, despite the Colombian government’s public relations campaign to the contrary. The worsening situation in Guatemala, Honduras and several other countries is also cause for extreme concern,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.
Focus on Columbia
The most notable among the 48 trade union murders in 2009 are: Arled Samboni Guaca, a member of the Argelia municipal workers’ campesino association, was murdered on 16 January. He was leaving his house with his six-year-old son when two gunmen approached them and shot the trade unionist seven times. He had been threatened and forcibly displaced with his family in September 2008 by narco-paramilitaries calling themselves “Los Rastrojos”. Walter Escobar, a member of the Valle education workers’ union, (SUTEV), was murder on 21 March. His body was found after he had not been to the school where he worked for eight days. Prison guard and ASEINPEC member José Alejandro Amado Castillo was murdered by hired assassins on 21 March while travelling in an official vehicle. Ramiro Cuadros Roballo, a member of SUTEV, was murdered on 24 March. He had been receiving death threats for years. Hernán Polo Barrera, leader of the education sector administrative workers’ union, (SINTRENAL), was murdered on 4 April. His sixteen-year-old daughter was injured. The trade union leader had led a number of protests in Montería two weeks prior to his assassination.
Columbian Union Leader Visits Ireland Colombian Union Leader Jorge Gamboa visited Ireland during May in order to give union members and the Irish public an insight into life as a trade unionist in Columbia. Mandate had several representatives attending the fascinating talk where Jorge told of how over 2,800 trade unionists have been murdered in Columbia since 1987.
Asdrúbal Sánchez Pérez, a member of the prison workers’ union, ASEINPEC, was murdered on 18 April. Jorge Gamboa with Jim Larkin
Jorge has firsthand experience of how dangerous the situation in Colombia is for those who seek to protect worker rights. In 2008 he survived an attempt on his life by a group of police officers and like many other trade union leaders has since had to resort to travelling with bodyguards. Despite this, his high profile means that he continues to be at great risk.
Jorge who visited Ireland as a guest of ICTU, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, is a member of the National Executive of CUT (the national federation of trade unions) in Colombia. In 2008 whilst in his role as leader of the Colombian Oil Workers Trade Union he led a national campaign against the privatisation of the Colombian State Oil Company and it was during this campaign that the attempt on his life was made.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Jorge said, “Over the past 23 years one trade unionist is killed every three days in Columbia. The only way this is going to change is if people all over the world contact their own governments and request that they take actions. This may be through trade sanctions or it could be through diplomatic measures but it is imperative that something is done fast.”
On 22 April, suspected paramilitaries murdered trade union activist Edgar Martínez in the municipality of San Pablo (Bolívar). Martínez belonged to the agro-mining federation of South Bolívar, which had been receiving threats from paramilitaries and was being harassed by the police. Teacher Víctor Franco Franco, a member of the Caldas education workers’ union, affiliated to the Colombian teachers’ federation, FECODE, was murdered on 22 April. He was stopped on the night of 22 April by two armed men who, after torturing him, shot him dead. Teacher Milton Blanco Leguizamón, a member of ASEDAR, was murdered on 24 April. The murder took place in a completely militarised town, guarded both by the police and the army.
Vilma Cárcamo Blanco, a dentist and member of hospital workers’ union, ANTHOC, was murdered on 9 May. She had been heading protests in support of the demand for the payment of wage arrears and the negotiation of the “List of Respectable Demands”. Pablo Rodríguez Garavito of the Arauca teachers’ union, ASEDAR, was killed on 9 June by unknown assailants who shot him several times. On 11 June, unknown assailants murdered Jorge Humberto Echeverri Garro, a teacher at the school in the municipality of Arauquita and a member of ASEDAR. Rafael Antonio Sepúlveda Lara, a member of ANTHOC, was murdered on 20 June. Gustavo Gómez, a worker at Nestlé - Comestibles la Rosa S.A. and a member of the food industry union, SINALTRAINAL, was murdered in his home on 21 August. The assassination coincided with SINALTRAINAL’s presentation of a list of demands to Nestlé Purina Pet Care de Colombia S.A.
On 22 August, two assailants on a motorbike murdered Fredy Díaz Ortiz, a member of ASEINPEC, after giving him a brutal beating. On 23 August, Abel Carrasquilla was murdered, according to witnesses, by members of the paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos”. The incident took place following Carrasquilla’s efforts to promote affiliation with the Santander agrarian workers’ association, at the company where he was working. Teacher Zorayda Cortés López, a member of the Risaralda education union, was murdered on 13 November. The body of Leny Yanube Rengifo Gómez, a teacher and union activist with the Cauca teachers and education workers’ association, was found on 24 November. She had disappeared on 12 November.
For more on this issue and to see what you can do visit: www.justiceforcolombia.org
New report: Trafficking of workers is the third biggest business for organised crime after the drugs and arms trade More than 12 million people trapped in the different kinds of forced labour. A new ITUC publication released on the 16th of June details the extent of slavery and other forms of forced labour around the world, and sets out practical steps that trade unions can take to boost the global drive to help the more than 12 million people trapped in the different kinds of forced labour. The publication, “How to Combat Forced Labour and Trafficking”, gives examples of some of the most prevalent and severe forms of the practice, ranging from bonded labour in Nepal, child trafficking in West Africa, severe exploitation of farm workers in Italy through to organising indigenous workers in the wood industry in Peru to free them from forced labour. It points to the hidden and isolated nature of the work done by those affected, and the ease with which many of those responsible are able to get avoid detection and prosecution. It also highlights the situation of many domestic workers in particular, showing how trade unions can help to protect them through lobbying, advocacy and awareness raising and campaigning, and by offering services and assistance and organising domestic workers into trade unions. A “world forced-labour map” produced with the report shows the state of ratification of ILO Conventions 29 and 105 on forced labour, explains the most prevalent issues per region and highlights some of the trade 23
union activities already undertaken to fight forced labour. The Global Trade Union Alliance, which is hosted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), also provides quarterly updates on trade union activities on the issue through a newsletter which is available to those who sign up to receive it. “Globalisation and the growing gap between rich and poor countries have boosted migration for work, and with restrictive migration regulations in place, much of it is clandestine and abusive. During centuries past, European ships provided colonial settlements in the Americas with African slaves. Today there are labour brokers who are supplying industrialised labour markets with workers from the developing world who are forced to accept any terms and conditions of transportation and work. Trafficking of workers is the third biggest business for organised crime after the drugs and arms trade,” explains ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.
“The international trade union movement has had an historic role in combating forced labour through abolitionist legislation and international law, organising, social dialogue, and direct assistance. In practice, even though the numbers of forced labourers have significantly decreased, the ending of slavery is still not a reality. The entire global community needs to do much more,” he added. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
The Platform Difficult Decisions… But for who? Over the past number of weeks there have been two financial reports which may have passed you by relatively unnoticed. If it wasn’t for one or two reputable commentators it may have passed the mainstream media by without consequence too. These reports should be of great interest to the majority of Irish workers, especially those who have lost jobs, had reduced terms and conditions imposed on them or are struggling to make ends meet for their families at the moment. Over the past two years ordinary workers have been conditioned into thinking that there is a recession taking place in Ireland. Technically, this may be true, however, the implications and choices available to Ireland and its Government during this recession aren’t as straightforward as we may be led to believe. Many of us may now feel that there is no money in this country and that we have to “take the pain,” as it were, and reluctantly accept cuts to our hours, our pay and our public services. We are led to believe that there is no real alternative. I beg to differ. In early June the Boston Consulting Group published a report, Regaining Lost Ground: Resurgent Markets and New Opportunities, which is about Global Wealth and it revealed some stark facts about the global economy. The report says that Global wealth staged a remarkable comeback in 2009, increasing by 11.5%. Europe remained the wealthiest region with one third of the world’s wealth at $37.1 trillion. You’ll be surprised to hear that the Boston Consulting Group say they expect global wealth to grow at an average annual rate of nearly 6% from the year end 2009 through 2014. MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Sounds like good news, doesn’t it. Unfortunately this doesn’t tell the whole story. You see, according to the report, the wealth they talk about doesn’t affect you or me. In fact, the report says that wealth has become more concentrated as it grew last year. “Millionaire households represented less than 1% of all households but owned about 38% of the world’s wealth, up from about 36% in 2008.” To put it simply, fewer and fewer people are becoming more and more wealthy and the gap between incomes of the highest earners and the lowest earners is increasing. You may wonder whether this report bears any relationship to the Irish situation. Well a second report published in June answers that question. This report is by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and Capgemini, and it said that in 2009, Ireland’s rich grew by 10% with an additional 1,800 Irish people having investable assets of $1 million or more. So in 2009, there were 18,100 millionaires in Ireland, an increase from 16,300 in 2008. So much for the recession. Even better news is that the same report says that in 2009, a further 18 Irish “ultra-rich” were created bringing the total up to 181. These are individuals with investable assets of $30 million or more. 24
So what does this all mean?
• Dental treatment was withdrawn;
Well it means that while we are all in the grip of recession and suffering the extreme consequences, and bearing in mind many of our children will suffer them too as a result of NAMA, the wealthiest people in Ireland are getting wealthier. It doesn’t occur to our Government that rather than take the approach that they have of slash and burn with the resultant persecution of low and middle income families, they could just try to redistribute wealth according to the principles of fairness and equality through proper taxation.
• Social welfare has been cut;
These rich people can easily afford to pay their fair share of the economic burden, so why is it that our government is adamant that it will be low paid public sector workers, those on social welfare and some of the most vulnerable groups in society that suffer all the consequences? In this country we’ve developed a very sophisticated taxation system which gives workers tax credits so that workers only pay PAYE on what they can actually afford to pay. It’s a form of social protection. Instead of utilizing this system our government has ignored it and implemented the crude income levy which impacts hardest on the lowest earners. We also had an increase in VAT by half a percent which again impacts hardest on the lowest income families. It seems that our politicians are determined to maintain PAYE tax rates, which are very favourable towards high income earners, at any cost. Think about it. Instead of adjusting income tax rates for high earners, they’ve taken the following actions: • Medical cards were removed for certain people over 70; • Prescription and accident and emergency charges were increased;
• The pay of public servants earning under €30,000 a year was reduced; • We gave billions to zombie banks at the expense of the welfare of future generations; • Respite care has been withdrawn from parents of children with disabilities. These are only some of the “cutbacks” our government has taken while they fondly remind us that they are taking the “difficult decisions”. They tell us there is no alternative to all these actions but there clearly is. It’s called utilizing the taxation system to create a fairer and more balanced society.
“It says a lot about the society we live in and the people who run it when unemployment and poverty levels in Ireland are increasing at a phenomenal rate and at the same time we are creating more and more wealthy and ultra wealthy individuals.” It appears that these so called difficult decisions taken by our government are only going to be difficult for certain people. I only hope that the Irish voter remembers these choices when the next general election takes place.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Letters to the Editor Do you have an issue? Need to get something off your chest? Tell us about it! Dear Members, As jobs in retail become scarcer and the pool of candidates grows, people with disabilities are often the last chosen. Ireland’s disabled rate of unemployment now stands at around 70% so as a union we must continue to voice our concern at this issue. To highlight this here are some statistics to be aware of: • One in four people in the EU have a disability. • One in three people in Ireland risk poverty because of a disability. The Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) continues to lobby for the 3% employment quota in the public sector in order to create around 7,500 jobs. In 2003, when the politicians took the stage at the Special Olympics, boo’s rang out. Have things changed? Maybe the gloss is starting to chip. Owen Roberts Dear colleagues at Connolly’s Shoes and MANDATE, I’m a union official working for ver.di (Germany’s largest trade union, representing 2.2 million members across the country) in Stuttgart/ Germany. I’m responsible for our local commerce sector. Unfortunately I can’t participate in your rallies, but I’ve been following your activities on MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
facebook. I wish to extend to you my feelings of solidarity for your struggle for justice. Keep up the good work and hopefully it will pay off in the end! In solidarity, Femke Boettger Dear Editor, I was just on the phone to my boss earlier and I told him I was taking 12 weeks holidays this summer. I also told him I was taking expenses for travelling to and from work and this includes travelling from my holiday home in Cork. I then proceeded to tell him that I was taking money from low paid workers to pay for this through an income tax levy and also from social welfare recipients. Lastly I told him I was taking a holiday on the company jet which may cost a fair whack because I need my own pilot and I’ll probably need to get my hair done and an expensive game of golf when I’m away. My boss quickly responded and told me there was only one thing I was taking and that was the p*ss. Oh to be a politician! Dave Dublin North
TELL US ABOUT IT! www.mandate.ie firstname.lastname@example.org
Call for Sexual Orientation Equality in Work by Sophie Gamwell
The union movement in Ireland has a long history of being involved with social movements. From work with the community sector, to anti racism campaigning, unions have long stood for solidarity, equality and human rights.
within and outside of work. In the 2009 â€˜burning issuesâ€™ survey of almost 1200 LGBTQ people, the most important issue was workplace equality. It rated ahead of support in coming out, marriage equality and even personal security and homophobic bullying. This shows that the ability to be open about sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination is a fundamental concern it is for LGBTQ people.
Within Ireland individual union activists have been important within the fight for LGBTQ rights. From the start of the Gay Liberation Movement in 1973, 20 years before the decriminalization of male homosexuality, to pride celebrations today there is a vocal and visible union presence.
The union movement is central to the fight for workplace equality for so many groups. It has long been a part of the LGBTQ fight for rights both within and outside the workplace. It is time for LGBTQ people to take a more active part in their unions, to help their unions define social partnership and collective bargaining objectives that will contribute to our equality. It is time for us to join the union movement in greater numbers, and to get visible within our unions because there is no better vehicle for changing the world of work.
So, why is sexual orientation still relevant to unions in Ireland today? It is clear that despite legal measures to ensure equality LGBTQ people still face discrimination both 27
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Keeping the Roof over your Head
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Many people are struggling to keep up with massive mortgage repayments which they entered into in better times. Many have lost their jobs or are on short time working and are finding it increasingly difficult to manage. The pressure on people in arrears can lead to health and relationship problems and in extreme cases suicide. The Government set up an expert group to look at the issues of mortgage arrears and personal debt and it is this group which recently issued its first interim report. While the report is to be welcomed in that it improves and standardises procedures in cases of mortgage arrears, there is much more to do, in particular the serious question of people who were forced to purchase homes at greatly inflated prices and are now faced with huge mortgage repayments on homes which are not even worth the value of the original loan (called negative equity).
Many of these situations are as a result of the reckless policies pursued by this government and previous governments which caused the property bubble and the reckless lending practices of the banks who tripped over each other giving loans based on unsustainable property values and inadequate incomes so that they could increase their profits and the bonuses of senior bankers. The Government has stepped in to rescue the banks from the massive toxic loans they extended to property developers – these loans have been transferred from the banks to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) at the cost of billions to the tax payer. But what about the toxic loans which the banks extended to householders who had no choice but to enter a financial rat race to get their own home – will there be a NAMA for those unfortunate people who are now in danger of losing their homes? Will the banks or the State write off their debt or allow them to restructure their loans? Will the banks be held responsible for the negative equity?, (as they are in other countries), we will wait and see. These are just some of the important matters which this expert group has yet to consider. But don’t get your hopes up that they’ll do the right thing, the “expert groups” consist of two bankers and four officials from the Department of Finance.
• MABS Helpline: 1890 283 438
• Free Legal Aid Centres (FLAC): 01 8745690 www.flac.ie
Government has real choices to make: reinforcing income inequality must not be one of them
Disposable incomes of the low paid must be protected Speaking in response to the ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary, Anne Costello of the Community Platform stated, ‘while we agree with broadening the tax base we strongly reject suggestions that this should mean bringing the low paid into the income tax net at this time.’ Further reducing the incomes of individuals and families who are stretched beyond capacity must be avoided at all costs. Increasing consumption is being promoted as important to our economic recovery i.e. we need spenders not savers. Low income earners spend all of their disposable earnings. Any cut to the incomes of low earners would lead to an immediate reduction in spending which in turn would reduce tax revenue and economic growth. Cutting high incomes, however, has little impact on economic activity.
In the meantime, their interim report gives some breathing space to those in trouble in that it sets out a standard code of practice/conduct which all financial institutions must follow in cases of mortgage arrears, for example it prohibits financial institutions applying penalty interest and charges to arrears, it extends the mortgage interest supplement to households where one partner is working (previously both had to be unemployed). In order to be covered by the new code of conduct, mortgage holders in arrears must contact their lender and enter the mortgage arrears resolution process.
Ms Costello went on to state ‘not only do low earners pay more than double the proportion of their income on VAT than high earners, they and average income earners are subsidising high earners through the system of tax breaks’.
So, if you are in trouble with your mortgage repayments the advice is to contact your lender as soon as you get into difficulty or know you might get into difficulty (on notice of redundancy) and ask to get into the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process.
Ms Costello concluded ‘The Government has real choices in Budget 2011. They can choose to continue to protect the well off or take action to begin to develop a just, equaitable and sustainable tax system.’
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
The Community Platform is advocating for the abolition of several of those high-cost tax breaks (officially known as tax expenditures) which the wealthiest in society disproportionally benefit from. A three-year programme of phasing downwards to average EU levels would save €1.5 billion a year.
Mandate Gets Active on Social Networking Websites Mandate has launched its online presence on some of the most popular social networking websites. Why donâ€™t you log on to our Facebook, Twitter or Flickr accounts for regular updates and information? You can find these by going to the Mandate website www.mandate.ie and scrolling to the bottom of the homepage.
Mandate launches ezine for members Mandate now has an ezine with information on the union and its campaigns. Over the coming months Mandate intends sending out regular updates to members and other interested parties. You can sign up to the ezine through Mandate Trade Unionâ€™s website homepage, www.mandate.ie and scroll down to the bottom. Stay informed by signing up and tell your colleagues and friends to sign up too.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
. I a bsolutely lov helium filled ba e lloons. I can’t s highly e peak nough a bout them.
The Wall Quiz
1. Where was the Clean Clothes Campaign launched in May 2010? 2. Where was the first Connolly’s Shoes support rally in which Labour Party Leader Eamon Gilmore spoke?
Win a €50 shopping voucher for best caption. This is a picture of Gerry Light, Assistant General Secretary of Mandate Trade Union at this year’s conference. What is your caption for this picture?
3. Which Mandate activist recently retired from the Southern Division? 4. Which country in the world has the most murdered trade unionists? 5. What is the website for the Fair Hotels? 6. What is the new website for security workers? 7. How much was a Mandate member and PTSB worker awarded in her discrimination case?
All correct entries will enter into a draw to win a €50 shopping voucher.
Please include: Name, Division, Contact details Send all completed entries to email@example.com Final date for entry is 31 September 2010.
son cest per a i n e h t s e ultr Who i ital? Th p s o h e in th uy sound g
30MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Who i s th the u e nicest w goes ltra sound hen on ho guy repla liday? The ceme nt gu hip y.
In my grandad’s spare time he races ca rs. I don’t know why, he n ever beats them.
My wife told me that she was se eing someone else b ecause she was fed up with my bad habits. I nearly choked on my to enail.
For answers check out the next issue of our magazine or go to www.mandate.ie/crossword.pdf
I won’t rest unti l I find a cure for insomnia.
Across 2. Capital of Austria. 3. Capital of Hungary. 9. Capital of Serbia. 10. Capital of Poland. 11. Capital of Spain. 12. Capital of Ireland. 13. Capital of Slovakia. 15. Capital of Norway. 16. Capital of Turkey. 20. Capital of Bulgaria. 22. Capital of Romania.
25. Capital of France. 28. Capital of Netherlands. 30. Capital of Luxembourg 33. Capital of the United Kingdom. 34. Capital of Ukraine. 35. Capital of Lithuania.
Down 1. Capital of Croatia. 4. Capital of Bosnia. 5. Capital of Finland. 6. Capital of Czech Republic. 7. Capital of Estonia. 8. Capital of Portugal. 14. Capital of Iceland. 17. Capital of Slovenia 18. Capital of Latvia. 19. Capital of Germany.
20. Capital of Sweden. 21. Capital of Moldova. 23. Capital of Belarus. 24. Capital of Albania. 26. Capital of Greece. 27. Capital of Belgium. 29. Capital of Russia. 31. Capital of Italy. 32. Capital of Switzerland.
Created with the help of Wordsheets - www.Qualint.com
Sudoko Rules Solving a sudoku puzzle can be rather tricky, but the rules of the game are quite simple. A sudoku puzzle is a grid of nine by nine squares or cells, that has been subdivided into nine subgrids or “regions” of three by three cells. The objective of sudoku is to enter a digit from 1 through 9 in each cell, in such a way that: • Each horizontal row contains each digit exactly once • Each vertical column contains each digit exactly once • Each subgrid or region contains each digit exactly once This explains the name of the game; in Japanese, sudoku means something like “numbers singly”. Solving a sudoku puzzle does not require knowledge of mathematics; simple logic suffices. In each sudoku puzzle, several digits have already been entered (the “givens”); these may not be changed. The puzzler’s job is to fill the remainder of the grid with digits –respecting, of course, the three constraints mentioned earlier.
MANDATE NEWS / Summer 2010
Mandate is the third largest trade union in the Republic of Ireland with a growing and increasingly active membership base across the Irish retail and bar trade. Keep up to date with developments: www.mandate.ie
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