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SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

OCTOBER 2012

Have you got what it takes to be a Member Organiser? Step Up and be counted! PAGE 4 Full details BACK PAGE

RE BRACED AS WORKERS A AUSTERITY FOR ANOTHER ATE VOWS D N A M , T E G D BU TANCE TO IS S E R D IL U B TO STAND UP THE CUTS AND LIDARITY... FOR SOCIAL SO

FIGHT BACK WITH US

LOW AN D E COM MIDDLE IN S FAMILIE

thrown up by these tough economic times and is doing this by working alongside progressive and fair employers. “Budget 2013 hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles and will push us deeper into recession – unless we stand up and fight back.” And he warned: “Advances made in pay for our members could potentially be wiped out by this Government with the casual stroke of a pen in December’s budget. “Low and middle income families continue to be targeted unfairly and unjustly with political kites being flown already about possible future attacks on Child Benefit and social welfare.” Mr Douglas insisted unions such as Mandate were fighting “tooth and nail” to protect disposable income in order to boost domestic demand which in turn will help save thousands of retail jobs. He added: “Ours is a progressive message, a message of hope and a message of social solidarity.”

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After years of stagnation in retail workers’ pay, wages in some companies are on the rise once again. Mandate claims this welcome trend shows that collective bargaining and effective representation works. But the union has also warned its members that this Government is intent on further implementing its brutal cuts agenda in the upcoming Budget 2013. earlier this year, more than 3,000 staff at Marks and Spencer received a 2.5% boost to their wages and that was followed up by a 2% pay rise negotiated on behalf of 13,000 Mandate members at tesco Ireland. the union is also engaged in progressive pay talks with Penneys, Boots and Brown thomas – to name but a few – and is hopeful of securing positive outcomes. General Secretary John Douglas said: “In the teeth of an unprecedented recession Mandate is rising to the challenges

BUD GE

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MAN DATE TRADE UNION

Blowing the whistle on IKEA

over its attitude to trade unions

SPECIAL REPORT

CENTRE PAGES


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

New Look sick pay scheme breached REA

With many thanks to Tom Janssen

Shutting up shop Domestic demand plummets (again) By John Douglas

General Secretary, Mandate Who is going to call SToP? The current policies of austerity being blindly followed by the present government at the behest of the Troika are causing deep-rooted damage to the Irish economy. Domestic demand in Ireland has collapsed by more than 25%, this is the largest collapse of any economy in Europe since World War II. Domestic demand is vital to job creation and the collapse in demand and consumer confidence has resulted in more than 440,000 workers without jobs and over 50,000 leaving the country each year for a better life. In the retail sector the collapse of domestic demand has seen some major casualties, the most recent of which are Clerys and Guineys. You just have to look down the main streets and shopping centres of Ireland to see the vacant units and the misery caused to thousands of re-

tail workers and their families. The present government has committed as part of the bailout agreement to further reductions of €3.5 billion in December’s budget. This will further reduce domestic demand and lead to thousands more Irish workers losing their jobs in sectors such as retail. The time is now, the Irish government needs to grow some balls, and stop hiding behind Spain, put Irish workers first and stand up for jobs and decent incomes. In 2009, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions published a report called Shifting The Burden outlining how the FF/PD/Green government was seeking to load the cost of the economic collapse on to those least able to bear it. The report also showed why this course of action would only make things worse.

Three years on and what has changed? other than a change in government. In 2009, the ICTU called on the then-government to adopt the following 10-point plan: 1. tackle the jobs crisis 2. Protect incomes 3. Stop social welfare cuts 4. Protect people’s homes 5. Safeguard public services 6. reform the tax system 7. Protect pensions 8. Protect workers’ rights 9. reform the banks 10. extend the recovering period The 10-point plan was valid in 2009 and is even more valid today. Time is not on our side, Ireland as predicated is being turned into an economic wasteland.

Picture:CC Khairil Zharfri 2

ThE Labour Court has found that a company sick pay scheme run by fashion retailer New Look was in breach of a Registered Employment Agreement because it only allowed payment for up to two days absence at a time. It found that the company had also breached the REA by restricting unused sick pay entitlement from the previous two years, for those employees with five years continuous service, to one period of two days consecutive absence. In its recommendation [Decision No. RE1245], the court called on the company to not only pay monies owed to the worker involved but also to amend its sick pay scheme to reflect the benefits afforded under the REA. It stated: “The Court, by virtue of the powers conferred on it by Section 32 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946 hereby directs New Look Retailers (Ireland) Limited to comply with the Employment Agreement as varied and to ensure that its Sick Pay Scheme shall be in conformity with the terms of the

Agreement by taking the actions outlined above. The Court also directs New Look Retailers (Ireland) Limited to pay Ms Andrews the sum in respect of outstanding sick pay due in accordance with the provision of Clause 9 of the REA.” Mandate Industrial officer Jonathan hogan, an official from Dublin North West Division who took the case, has underlined the significance of the recommendation. he told Shopfloor: “It sends a clear message to all employers who are covered by REA in that the terms of the agreement must be adhered to and that failure to do so will result in the union and its members taking more high profile cases to the Labour Court. “If any member working in the retail drapery and footwear trades within the Dublin and Dun Laoghaire catchment area is in doubt as to whether they are receiving their proper entitlements bestowed upon, then by the REA they should contact their local official.”

Irisa deal review sought MANDAte Divisional Organiser Michael Meegan is seeking a review of a two-year-old agreement brokered between the union and the Irisa Group, which includes leading fashion brands Ann Harvey, Alexon, Dash and Lazy Lu. the 2010 deal saw staff accept a cut in hours after the Irisa Group found itself in a challenging trading position.

Mr Meegan said: “Staff have made sacrifices to assist the company in recent times. However, any concessions made will be kept under constant review. “We aim to ensure that the contributions made by staff are given due recognition and that terms and conditions are restored at the appropriate time.”

Permanent TSB staff benefits targeted AS REPoRTED in the last issue of Shopfloor, Mandate has been dealing under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission with major restructuring plans initiated by management at Permanent TSB. Since then, a further significant staff benefit has been targeted by senior management. Trustees of the main pension scheme have received correspondence pointing out that significant readjustments will have to be applied to the scheme. Management have also indicated that the company will not contribute to the current deficit in the

scheme’s finances. Mandate has pointed out that this approach differs from that taken by the other two main pillar banks in attempting to deal with similar difficulties in their staff pension schemes. The other banks have agreed with unions that the principle of burden sharing will form part of a way of resolving the problem. A Mandate source said: “This latest development can only serve to increase the overall challenge which our members in the PTSB have to deal with in order to arrive at a comprehensive settlement which is acceptable to all.” SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


Clerys buyers must be fair to Guineys staff Retail landmark: Guineys store in Dublin’s Talbot St Picture:Informatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MANDAte has called on Gordon teeth to long-serving and loyal Brothers, the Boston-based venstaff at Guineys”. ture capitalists who acquired It is understood that Gordon Clerys out of receivership last Brothers have also confirmed that month, to “do the honorable they will not take on the liabilities thing” in treating workers “fairly of the Clerys staff pension fund. and equally”. this decision could also mean the Divisional Organiser Michael fund is wound down leaving staff Meegan, of North West Dublin Diwith no – or significantly reduced vision, met with the new manage– pensions. ment on 18th September. Mr Meegan called on Gordon He was informed at the meeting Brothers to “do the honourable that the new ownthing” and treat ers would not Clerys and Guineys take on the liabilistaff “fairly and ties of the staff at equally”. A DeLeGAtION of Guineys Guineys – a He added: “Anyand Clerys workers wholly-owned thing less will be a handed in a letter of subsidiary of failure on their beprotest to Gordon BrothClerys – a move half to recognise ers europe CeO Malcolm that will result in the respect and MacAulay on 2nd October. the talbot Street dedication shown It outlined their anger and business being by the workers to frustration over the priput into liquidatheir employer vate equity group’s decition. over many years of sion to close Guineys and Mr Meegan loyal service.” Clerys three sister stores. said: “the staff at following a genthe group said: “We feel Guineys have a eral meeting of utterly betrayed and implore Gordon Brothers to long history of Mandate and service stretching treat us in a moral and SIPtU members at proper manner. the failure Clerys, it was back over 30 of Gordon Brothers to years. they are agreed members recognise our loyalty to dedicated retail would support the staff who have co- Clerys is deplorable and 2nd October day of we seek that they recogoperated with protest for colnise this by rewarding us their employer leagues from in a proper manner for Clerys with reGuineys as well as long loyal service.” gards to sacrifices satellite Clerys outsuch as pay cuts lets in Leopardand reduced hours in a bid to enstown, Blanchardstown and Naas. sure the ongoing survival of both In the meantime, a joint letter Guineys and Clerys, particularly from SIPtU and Mandate is to be during the current recession.” He sent to Gordon Brothers managedescribed the decision by Gordon ment seeking an urgent meeting Brothers to “cherry-pick” in only to outline members’ concerns and taking over Clerys as a “kick in the to seek a negotiated settlement.

Gordon Brothers CEO given protest letter

October 2012

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John Douglas

LRC plan STRAIGHT TALKING on IASS welcomed Have we lost our WoRKERS employed by the Dublin Airport Authority and Aer Lingus who are members of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action in a bid to force employers to honour their obligations under the scheme. however, the action – which was to begin on 1st october and consist of a series of two-hour rolling work stoppages – was postponed at the eleventh hour by Mandate representatives following the tabling of an independent consultative document by the Labour Relations Commission. Welcoming the LRC document, Divisional organiser Brendan o’hanlon said it represented “one of the final opportunities to reach agreement”. And he urged both Aer Lingus and the DAA to “take responsibility for the situation” and “make meaningful attempts to provide the pension that the workers paid for”. This is the latest intervention involving the LRC in the dispute. Talks at the LRC were adjourned in June to allow consultation to take place with the members of the defined benefits scheme. Later, members voted to take industrial action which had been scheduled for 20th September, but talks restarted earlier that month and the immediate threat of industrial action was postponed. however, despite initially indicating a willingness to demonstrate that they were prepared to address the significant deficit, no genuine realistic proposals from management were put forward. At the time, Mr o’hanlon said: “Workers who have paid into this scheme are extremely angry at the response of their employers. “It follows our acceptance of the some of the principles attached to the employers’ proposal and the employees’ willingness to accept that a defined contribution scheme would cover future service. “Mandate members have again regrettably felt it necessary to serve strike notice in another attempt to ensure that the DAA make serious attempts to address the situation. “We regret the impact that such industrial action will have. however, this situation cannot continue to roll on.”

Why I’m in Mandate...

‘My number one reason to join Mandate was to know my rights and use them’

Clodagh Fitzgerald, Drinagh Coop, Skibbereem

General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

moral compass?

tHe events of the past weeks remind me of the title of the novel and film No Country for Old Men, except in Ireland’s case you can also read Women into the title. There is something seriously and morally wrong when the Irish government can write a cheque for €1 billion on 1st october to unsecured Allied Irish Bank’s bondholders and at the same time cut home help hours for the most vulnerable old people to save €23 million. The financial speculators in Switzerland, Germany and across the world will get their cheque in the post amounting to their original investment in full plus interest for a bet they made in Irish banks at the height of the boom. At the same time tens of thousands of old age pensioners in Ireland – many of whom are frail and in need of personal assistance – will be getting letters telling them there will be no home help calling today, which may mean they have to lock their doors, stay in bed and sort out their personal needs on their own. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the bank guarantee scheme and the debate about the consequences of paying or not paying bondholders, the recent decisions to attack the meagre benefits of those citizens who are old and or disabled is a new low in Irish politics. The decision was not imposed on the Irish government by our masters in the Troika, it is clearly a political policy decision of the Minister for Health and his department, supported by all political parties in government. The subsequent part U-turn in restoring personal assistants’ hours to care for those with disabilities was achieved only after a small group of brave disabled citizens parked their wheelchairs overnight in front of government buildings. All this at time when our disabled athletes were doing this country proud in the Paralympics in London. The health Service Executive (hSE) announced that there are more than 340,000 citizens – many in chronic pain and with deteriorating conditions – who are waiting years to see a consultant doctor as an outpatient in our public health system. At the same time we are bombarded daily by advertisements from private hospitals offering “walk-in” consultant care for those who can afford to pay. We are told that the December 12 budget must find €3.5 billion in cuts and increased taxes, and given that health and welfare are currently the biggest spenders, are we to expect that – once again – those who are sick, disabled, unemployed and in receipt of basic welfare payments will be targeted once more by the political policy choices of our government. Are we really such a sick society that we will put the interests of wealthy financial speculators ahead of the needs of our most vulnerable citizens? Have we any moral compass left? Time will tell!

Picture: John Chaney

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: braziermedia@btinternet.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

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NEWS

Step Up and be counted!

Mandate launches search for Member Organisers “WE must work to build an army of activists” was the cry from the podium at our conference in Wexford earlier this year. Delegates spoke time and time again about the urgent need to tackle those employers who treat workers – and their union – with contempt. our exciting and innovative Step Up Programme is the first in a series of bold initiatives to promote activism from within the union and to demonstrate our intention to place workers at the heart of our union. Member organisers will be deeply involved in our campaigns, in our organising, in our industrial relations strategy and in our training and development.

Purpose of the Step Up programme... Mandate’s member organising programme will provide a development opportunity for activists to be seconded from their job to Mandate for a period of time to help activate our current membership, to work and learn alongside our organising team and to organise and recruit non-union workers. The Member organiser will develop new skills that will help them to be effective workplace leaders, have a better understanding of how their union works and learn why workers gain power at work through forming and/or joining a union. In essence joining our organising department as a Member or-

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

ganiser for a period of time will equip individuals with all the skills needed to help make a real difference in the lives of thousands of undervalued and underemployed retail workers. Why Mandate Member Organisers are important... Member organisers will work on a range of different aspects of organising campaigns. They will spend dedicated time with experienced

union organisers learning the fundamentals of organising before returning to their original workplaces and putting that learning into practice. Members are very effective in helping organise other retail workers. They have the advantage of being able to establish a higher level of trust with non-union workers because they can speak from personal experience. Member organisers will understand and relate to the problems faced by other workers on the job and will learn to explain how being a union member can help make postive changes in the workplace to deal with those problems. This is the first initiative under the Step Up Programme, which is

centred around the principle of building and developing capacity within the ranks of our own membership base.

Get Involved... Mandate would encourage members in the participating companies of Penneys, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Brown Thomas, Shaws and Superquinn to check details of the Step Up initiative on our website www.mandate.ie and if you think you have what it takes to become a Member organiser, then start filing out that application straight away. Mandate wishes to extend thanks to all participating companies for their agreement to facilitate release for successful candidates. fOr MOre INfO - See BACK PAGe

3% Dunnes claim goes before Labour Court A 3% WAGE claim lodged by Mandate on behalf on its 4,000 members who work at Dunnes Stores has been referred to the Labour Court for binding arbitration. The move follows Dunnes management’s refusal to engage with the union on the issue. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “Not surprisingly the company has yet again failed to respond to a reasonable request from the union to meet on a matter which is of significant importance to our members. “This, in itself, is a fundamental breach of procedures agreed between the union and the company as far back as 1996. In 2009, following a complaint from the union, the Labour Court recommended that both parties should adhere to the 1996 agreement and consider a request to meet when required to do so by the other party. “Notwithstanding this clear state-

Why I’m in Mandate... ‘Workers are stronger together because in a union workers have a voice’

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Keith Leonard, Tesco, Castlebar

ment by the court, Dunnes senior management continue to blatantly ignore requests from their workers’ representatives in order to consider matters which are of concern to them.” he added: “The claim for a wage increase at this time is entirely legitimate given what has recently happened in a number of major Irish retailers in that they have conceded claims from the union for wage increases. “It must also not be forgotten that – ironically – many of our members, including those employed in Dunnes, are actually working harder now than they did during the boom years. “This is based on the reality that retailers have dramatically reduced working hours and overall staff numbers, thus spreading the burden among fewer workers.” Mr Light slammed the “intolerable atti-

tude” displayed by senior management at Dunnes towards the union “and, by association, our many thousands of members employed there”. he claimed that members at Dunnes would “in the very near future” reach a breaking point “which will result in an appropriate and meaningful response”. In his letter to the Labour Relations Commission, harry Mullen, who heads up human resources at Dunnes, claimed no discourtesy was intended by the company’s refusal to attend a conciliation conference. Mr Light added: “one can only assume that this comment was directed at the Commission itself because the persistent failure of the company to engage with the union most certainly constitutes a most discourteous and dismissive attitude towards the large numbers of our members who work there.”

TULF exposé on politics of privatisation

ThE Trade Union Left Forum has published an exposé of the political motivation that lies behind the drive to sell off state companies. The booklet, titled Privatisation – Robbing The People’s Wealth, is the group’s first publication and was coauthored by National College of Ireland lecturer Colin Whitson and Jimmy Nolan, who chairs the TULF. Mandate National Co-ordinator Brian Forbes described the publication as “essential reading” and a timely analysis. he told Shopfloor:

“The ideas outlined in the pamphlet take on greater significance with the present government stepping up its drive to privatise key state companies and to further commercialise vital public services. “As we know from the experience of other countries where

Dunnes Stores head office in Dublin Picture:Informatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)

privatisation has taken place, the result will be increased profits for private corporations, increased charges for citizens, reduced services, and heavy job losses, which in Ireland can only add further to the deep economic crisis of the system.” The publication on the politics of privatisation is the outcome of a TULF seminar and contains case study on the ESB and the

impact of Government privatising policies over the last decade and a half. The Trade Union Left Forum was set up in 2011 and brings together activists from all levels of the trade union movement to debate issues facing the movement from a workingclass viewpoint Mr Forbes added: “This booklet is essential reading for those on the left who care to understand more about the insidious privatisation agenda of this government.” www.tuleftforum.com SHOPFLOOR

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We’re NOT the problem

Picture: RCN

‘I am a public employee. I keep you healthy and safe. I educate your children. I did not crash the economy... I did not accept bailout money and then give myself multi-million pound bonuses. I am not the problem’

Picture: CC hfabulous

‘I am a private sector employee. I serve you in shops, hotels, supermarkets and bars. I clean your hospitals. I work for low wages. I did not crash the economy... I did not accept bailout money and then give myself multi-million pound bonuses. I am not the problem’ October 2012

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CAMPAIGN

Children first!

Children’s Rights Alliance chief Tanya Ward on why we need a ‘Yes’ in next month’s children’s referendum

ThE Government is holding a children’s referendum on Saturday, 10th November. For anyone working with vulnerable children, this is long overdue. If you care about children, you should go out and vote, and encourage your union colleagues to do likewise. here’s why. This referendum is a chance to bring our laws in line with our values as a society – and how we now view children. The amendment will help the courts and the child protection system work better, make better decisions on behalf of children and help Ireland move beyond its damning history of child abuse. In total, there are 17 official reports that catalogue the way Irish society robbed thousands of children of their childhoods. The Constitution has been flagged as part of the problem. We believe that the amendment wording deals with critical problems around children in the Constitution. It replaces Article 42.5 which provides that the State can intervene for ‘physical or moral reasons’ in exceptional circumstances to ‘supply the place of parents’. The new provision modernises this article and will act as the foundation for our child protection system. What it does is essentially set out the basis for how the State intervenes to protect children. It empowers the State by ‘proportionate means’ to intervene when the safety or welfare of a child is likely to be ‘prejudicially affected’. This would, in our view, move the State’s emphasis to the child and should provide more support to families at risk. It refocuses this provision on the child instead of the parents’ failings. Intervening earlier can bring significant savings (both financial and human) by keeping families together, reducing the numbers of children who are abused or are taken into State care. It will also allow us to reform our adoption laws. Presently it is practically impossible to adopt children in long-term foster care. Also, married parents cannot give their consent for adoption and there are hundreds of children being denied a second chance at family life. The amendment will allow the oireachtas to address this long-standing concern. The amendment will also mean that the oireachtas must legislate to ensure that the ‘best interests’ will be the decision-making basis for judges in care and family law proceedings. Written in 1937, the Constitution unintentionally undermines what is in the best interests of children and what will keep them safe. A judge, in a custody battle for example, doesn’t have to put the interests of children first or listen to their views, when making life-changing decisions for the children involved. This can also happen in cases of child protection and access cases,

Earlier this year the CRA gave Ireland a far from satisfactory C+ report card on children’s rights

Picture: CRA/ Marc O’Sullivan

leading to bad decisions that do not put the best interests of children at their centre. The amendment also means that the oireachtas will have to legislate to ensure that the views of children are taken into account by judges in care and family law proceedings. The Ryan Report, which exposed the systemic and horrific abuse of children in industrial schools, clearly shows the devastating consequences of institutions putting their interests first and not listening to children.

For decades, vulnerable children tried to complain about neglect, abuse and starvation, but no one listened. Listening to children, bearing in mind their age and maturity is critical, if our courts are to make good decisions for children. We can’t take away the abuse of the past. And we can’t protect every child from abuse. But we can draw a line in the sand and insist that our Constitution respects, protects and listens to children. Vote ‘YES’ on 10 November. our children are counting on you.

Watch this space

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THINKING OUT LOUD...

CLAIMING our Future recently brought together a group of senior trade unionists, environmentalists, community activists and global justice activists to look at the future. It seems a logical task for an organisation called Claiming our Future and yet it was the first time such an exercise had been undertaken. It wasn’t easy. Strange that it should be so hard to shape up scenarios for the future. But then, we don’t really have much tradition of that. We are rooted in the struggles of the here and now. We don’t have time for dealing with something as vague as the future. however, we do need to give some definition of what type of society we seek to build if we are to make sense of and give direction to these daily and more immediate struggles. This focus on the future is something that stimulated the establishment of Claiming our Future in the first place. In a context of economic, social and political crisis, it is important to establish what type of society we want to emerge from the crisis. We need to be clear what we are for in the longer term so we can more accurately and effectively challenge what we are against in the short term. The futures workshop addressed the question ‘What will be the economic model in 2030 to serve a society based on equality, environmental sustainability, participation, accountability and solidarity?’ Participants explored drivers for change and key uncertainties around which the future might be constructed. These uncertainties were grouped to develop four scenarios for the economic model in 2030. A more detailed report will go up

Pictures: CC Illustir; CC Takver

Which future is ours? Conjuring up differing visions of the Ireland of 2030 – a market-driven, deregulated society, above, or a country where social and environmnental concerns are prioritised

By Niall Crowley on www.claimingourfuture.ie, but a brief outline of these scenairos captures the day: 1. A neoliberal model of economy in a context of global fragementation. Multi-lateral organisations and agreements would collapse, wars would be more predominant and the market would dominate with the planet left to adjust. Ireland would witness wealth inequality, deprivation, increased policing, deregulation and the dismantling of public services. Local currencies and increased community engagement might emerge. 2. A neoliberal model of economy in a more integrated world. A federalised Europe would emerge but a social Europe would be killed off. The influence of the IMF and World Bank and the BRIC economies would increase. Environmental and financial regulation would be weakened. In Ireland the economy would be

based on foreign direct investment, tourism, green food and a fossil fuel boom based on fracking. The welfare state would be undermined. There would be legitimacy risks with civil society awakening and climate change would come to the brink of irreversibility. 3. A new model of economy based on social values and taking climate change into account in a context of a more fragmented world. Global disintegration, the break-up of the EU and the end of the euro would leave Ireland isolated. In Ireland the economy would focus on making things over financial dealing. Education, culture, food growing and sociallyuseful work would be prioritised. Deindustrialisation would occur. There would be more leisure and an emphasis on meeting basic needs. Equality, social solidarity and democracy would be the value base. 4. A new model of economy based on social values and taking climate change into account in a context of a more integrated world. Economic decision making would be ceded to be a more democratic and social Europe. There would be

increased social, environmental and economic regulation. In Ireland the state would play a bigger role with increased publicly funded services. The economy would be more balanced. Indigenous enterprise would replace foreign direct investment. Selfsufficent local economies would be developed. The low tax model would be changed. Enhanced redistribution would contribute to income equality and people would have access to adequate minimum levels of income. The values of equality and environmental sustainability would inform decision making. Claiming our Future will explore how to further expand this type of activity. These debates across the different sectors of civil society enable new understandings of and perspectives on strategic questions that face us. They encourage working perspectives along longer-time horizons and support new relationships between and across sectors of civil society. These outcomes are central to a more effective civil society response to our current situation.

NEWS

Licensed Trade members to meet in Dublin A GENERAL meeting of members in the Licensed Trade in the Dublin North Division is to be held over the next few weeks. It comes after the results of a survey of Licensed Trade terms and conditions were presented at the Mandate Annual Delegate Conference earlier this year. The data highlighted significant challenges within the industry as well as the on-going diminution of terms and conditions of employment. A Mandate source told Shopfloor: “As a follow up to the survey, the Dublin North Division believes there is a pressing need to directly engage with members in the pub trade to improve communication, ensure that our members get the full benefit of the training programmes we provide and to further our organising agenda in this industry.” It is understood the union is also seeking a meeting with the Licensed Vintners Association to discuss the results of the survey. The source added: “As the only representative organisation that deals with workers in the pub trade, we are best positioned to further grow and strengthen our presence in an industry that employs more than 50,000 people and generates €2 billion in tax and €1 billion in export revenue.”

Why I’m in Mandate... ‘You’ll never feel alone or without help when you have a problem at work. Join Mandate’

Jane Crowe, Debenhams, Henry St

Adult Education Courses for the Workplace

Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:

Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness

For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations

Maths

Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.

Communication through Computers

This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online. Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email mandateotc@mandate.ie Closing date Friday 2nd November 2012

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Name

Address

Workplace Location Phone

Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


VIEWPOINT

Tax wealth not the poor Introducing a wealth tax can be both economically right and socially just

Picture: Labour Party

WhILE many in Ireland have suffered from unfair charges and slashed services over the last four years, many readers will be surprised to learn that Ireland takes in far less money from its taxation system than almost all of our European neighbours. Ireland’s overall tax to GDP ratio – that is, the amount of money that the government raises in tax each year as a percentage of the total size of the economy – is the third lowest in the European Union at 28%. In an attempt to address this, the government has made serious mistakes in increasing VAT, introducing an unfair household charge and reducing tax credits for workers. This approach is both economically and socially unfair. I believe that the government must reverse this policy and, instead, impose a wealth tax on the rich. In attempting to get the country's finances back in order, both the previous and current governments have concentrated on spending cuts rather than changing our tax system. Despite years of these cuts, which we were told were essential in order to regain economic sovereignty, there is an ever-increasing acceptance among experts that we will need to enter into another funding programme when the current IMF-

October 2012

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By Patrick Nulty TD EU deal runs out. This is evidence of a giant policy failure. The policy of austerity has failed and if it hasn’t worked so far, it is unlikely to somehow miraculously start delivering now! The current policy is not just failing economically, it is also failing the Irish people socially. Recent CSo and ESRI figures have shown, as most union members will know from personal experience, that low and middle income earners have borne the brunt of austerity to date and that Ireland is becoming a radi-

cally more unfair society as a consequence of this policy. The first step in a major effort to tilt the balance back in favour of workers would be the introduction of a wealth tax. Such a tax is levied on the wealth held by a person or entity. The tax rate is typically a percentage of the taxpayer’s calculated net worth, but it can vary depending on total net worth. A progressive tax such as this should not be viewed as a radical or unrealistic suggestion. The Fine Gael/ Labour coalition government intro-

duced a wealth tax in 1975. We taxed annually at a rate of 1% the net market value of the taxable wealth of individuals, discretionary trusts and non-private trading. When Labour left office in 1977, Fianna Fail abolished the tax. At present, France and Luxembourg both operate a wealth tax. Unfortunately, although once common across Europe, wealth taxes have been another casualty of the neo-liberal consensus and euro-wide decline of left wing politics. These two countries do, however, provide a good example of how much revenue could be raised in Ireland with the introduction of this tax. In France, the tax is worth €4.4 billion a year. In Luxembourg it is worth €8 billion. In June 2011, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan admitted in the Dail that a wealth tax applied along the French model would raise €400 million to €500 million a year if introduced in Ireland. It is essential that this policy is introduced. The fiscal policy pursued during the boom of slashing taxes, depending on an inflated property market and a model of development that was unsustainable cannot be repeated. It would be tragic if these lessons were lost on us. There is now a clamour calling for growth measures. The new mantra is “not just cuts, but

growth too”. The problem is the cuts are killing the opportunities for growth. The cuts in the capital budget alone in Budget 2012 cost 10,000 jobs according to the Department of Finance. The ever increasing volume of research relating to inequality and economic performance tell us that the sort of inequality that is deepening in Ireland will be damaging to economic growth in the long run. Unless we respond to the continuing crisis with measures on the revenue side which can help drive investment in the economy, we will be ignoring opportunities to confront the crisis. In the absence of political will, it may very well be left up to citizens to demand a wealth tax that is both economically right and socially fair. This movement in Ireland would be following in the footsteps of the tax justice movement elsewhere. Groups such as the debts and development coalition, the Community Platform and Claiming our Future have led the charge on this issue to date. They need now to be joined by others, including public representatives, to build a movement which will have to be listened too.

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PERSONAL VIEW

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The granny of all agitators...

Mandate Lead Organiser Kathy McQuillan reflects on the profound legacy Irish-born workers leader Mother Jones has had on the trade union movement in her native USA

Mother Jones’ grave in Mt Olive Cemetery

that I would eventually visit the city of her birth, they could have won a large bet with me on that day. So on the evening of 31st July I found myself at the Maldron hotel in Shandon, Cork, attending the official Irish premiere of the film Mother Jones, America's Most Dangerous Woman. Later, the Cork Singers Club provided an evening’s entertainment in honour of the great woman I had so long admired. The following day, I went to 10am Mass at the city’s North Cathedral followed by a talk beside the very font that Mary harris was baptised in. I later saw a copy of her baptismal record was on display in the church museum. Members of the Mother Jones Cork Committee as well as Americans with an historical interest in Mother Jones took part in the celebration.

KNOWN affectionately to generations of US labour activists as “Mother Jones”, Mary Harris was born in Cork’s northside in 1837. She emigrated, aged 14, with her family to toronto, Canada, before moving on to the United States. Mary first worked as a teacher in Michigan before marrying Memphisbased union organiser George e Jones, with whom she had four children. However, tragedy struck in the 1860s when she lost her husband and all her children in a Yellow fever epidemic. Moving to Chicago to rebuild her life, Mary opened a dress shop but again lost everything in the Great Chicago fire of 1871. Despite these terrible setbacks, she persevered and later joined the Knights of Labour, the predecessor to the Industrial Workers of the World, known as “the Wobblies”. Chicago in the 1870s and 1880s was a hotbed of union agitation – marked by the 1877 railroad strike and aftermath of the 1886 Haymarket riot. During this time, Mary rose to prominence not just in Illinois but across the US. Now associated with the United Mine Workers, her forte was organising demonstrations involving the wives and children of striking workers. A gifted storyteller, she was a fiery speaker at meetings but always laced her oratory with humor. from the late 1890s on, Mary – now in her 60s – was called Mother Jones by her adoring supporters. the bosses, however, were not as impressed and dubbed her “the most dangerous woman in America”. She was also denounced from the floor of the US Senate as the “grandmother of all agitators”. Mother Jones played a key role in a series of landmark labour disputes in mills and mines across the States. In 1903, she organised the “Children’s Crusade” – a march of workers’ children from Philadephia to Oyster Bay, New York, the home of President teddy roosevelt, demanding they be educated and not sent down mines. Mother Jones continued as a union organiser for the UMW into the 1920s and spoke on union issue almost until she died, aged 93, in 1930. She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside miners – who she called “my boys” – who died in the Battle of Virden in 1898.

Picture: CC Library of Congress

Me and Mother Jones... Picture: CC Genista

I FIRST learned about Mother Jones – a legendary figure in US trade unionism – when I attended a workshop at a summer programme for union women in Michigan in 1994. Mother Jones was born Mary harris in Cork in 1837. And despite experiencing much personal tragedy, she rose to become one of the greatest women organisers of all time. At the time, I myself was a volunteer member organiser/steward for my union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), helping on recruitment campaigns in my home state of Wisconsin – work I found both rewarding and interesting. It gave me an insight into what union organisers and officials did behind the scenes. I heard first-hand what workers experience when they try to organise in their workplace. Finally a position opened up on staff and I was encouraged to apply. I have now worked for labour unions since 1997. over the years, I have educated myself about important events in US labour history and the enactment of various labour laws – and in different ways they seem to tie back to the valuable work carried out by Mother Jones. In 2000, I was driving back from a labour conference with my family along a highway in Illinois when I saw a sign for Mt olive Miners Cemetery – where Mother Jones is buried. Without hesitation, I pulled off the highway to the disgust of some others in the car who did not want – or did not care – about this particular diversion. I found myself explaining who Mother Jones was and why they should care as we drove the few miles to the cemetery (I admit it took the promise of an ‘ice cream stop’ to quieten them down). After arrival, as we walked towards the Mother Jones monument – the largest in the cemetery – I noticed that the gravestones marked the burial places of union miners whose union credentials were displayed on their headstones. This was something I had not seen before – everyone buried there was either a union miner or a relative of a union member. Even though we were there just long enough to take pictures and be inspired, I remember how lucky I felt that I had seen that sign and could visit the burial place of this great woman organiser. The following year, I learned more about her life’s work when Prof Elliott J Gorn published his biography, Mother Jones. Fast forward to 2011 and I find myself marrying an Irishman and relocating to Ireland. Then in January this year, I applied and was offered the role of Lead organiser with Mandate. A few months later I became aware of that the 175th anniversary of Mother Jones’ birth was going to be marked with a festival in Cork, the city of her birth. Not only was I excited at the prospect of learning more about her origins but I have to admit the thought that I now found myself living in Ireland as a union organiser made my head spin a little. If someone had told me after visiting Mother Jones’ grave back in 2000

I later attended the official opening of the Mother Jones exhibition at the Firkin Crane. There were other events during the early afternoon but I choose to take a break and head to the local Mandate office to visit some of our own women leaders. It struck me as I strolled through a shopping area how many stores were Mandate stores but also how many stores are not. To keep the standards up for current members, it is essential we keep recruiting and organising – and I think that view would have been shared by Mother Jones also. Later that evening, I attended a lecture and discussion, introduced by SIPTU General Secretary Joe Flynn. There were a series of interesting contributions by biographer Prof Gorn, Rosemary Feurer, who produced and directed the Mother Jones documentary, and labour activist Marat Moore, a member of the

Daughters of Mother Jones society. Following their talk, there were a number of questions from the audience. What concerned me was the number of questions outlining how trade union leaders should do more to make the unions better as well as encouraging the involvement of younger people. I had my hand in the air but was never called to ask a question before time ran out. So I will take the opportunity now to make points I would have made at the meeting. If you read about Mother Jones, you learn how she spent her time not only fighting for union members but fighting for improvements for the whole family. She also gave working people the vision of how things could be different and that they already had the power – all they needed to do was to stand up and become part of the fight. Mother Jones was not successful SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Court sorts issue over wrong name put on redundancy form Inspirational: Some of the titles detailing Mother Jones’ fight for workers’ rights in the US

AN appeal alleging that an airport convenience store employee was selected unfairly for redundancy is set to go ahead later this month after a side issue about who was her employer was settled in Circuit Court proceedings. In october 2009, Cathereen Fitzpatrick, who worked at Wrights airport convenience store was informed that she was being made redundant and was sent a statutory notice of redundancy (Form RP50), which stated that her employer was Simro Ltd, trading as Wrights of howth. Mandate Industrial officer David Miskell subsequently lodged unfair dismissal proceedings at the Employment Appeals Tribunal, naming Simro Ltd as her employer and alleging unfair selection for redundancy. Simro Ltd was informed of the development and the notice of the hearing. having satisfied themselves that the company was properly on notice and having heard sworn evidence from Ms Fitzpatrick, the EAT found in her favour and awarded her €25,892 compensation (Fitzpatrick v Simro Ltd UD 2319/2009). It later transpired that Simro Limited had not been her employer as

A plaque, above, was unveiled in Mother Jones’ honour in Cork – a fitting recognition in her native city. Marat Moore, below left, of the Daughters of Mother Jones society spoke at one of the events. Folk legend Andy Irvine, below right, was a festival highlight

Pictures: Mother Jones Festival Cork

N UNIO P RE

simply because of what she did on her own but by organising those who then became involved. That is why she was called ‘the most dangerous woman in America’ because of the hundreds of thousands who stood up with her, and began to fight and get organised. I would challenge those union members in the audience that night to consider this – what have they done to educate their children about the important history of unions and what have they done this year to forge a stronger union? That is how I think we can best honor the memory of Mother Jones in Ireland. other musical events at the festival included the Shandon Bells ringing in celebration of Mother Jones and music from the Butter Exchange Band, followed by an evening concert with folk legend Andy Irvine. It is hoped the festival will become a yearly event. October 2012

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had been incorrectly stated on the RP50 document in what the company described as an administrative error. Simro Ltd sought to avoid the Tribunal’s determination based on it not being the employer and made an application to the Circuit Court to have the determination against it set aside. Mr Miskell then made an application to the Employment Appeals Tribunal based on the organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to amend the employer’s name on the grounds that the RP50 had been incorrectly stated and that any amendment would not result in the employer suffering any prejudice. however, the Tribunal declined to change the name. An appeal of this decision was taken to the Circuit Court by Tony Kerr, BL, instructed by Mandate. It was agreed between the parties that the identity of Ms Fitzpatrick’s employer would be tried as a preliminary issue together with her appeal.

After hearing legal submissions as to his jurisdiction, Judge Matthew Deery directed that the name of the employer be amended to record that the employer was Wrights Airport Convenience Store Ltd in the manner envisaged by David Miskell’s original application and he listed the substantive appeal on the unfairness of the dismissal for hearing on october 15, 2012. The costs of the Circuit Court proceedings to date were awarded against Simro Ltd. David Miskell told Shopfloor: “There is an obligation on proposed respondents to enter a defence to a dismissal claim in line with statutory guidelines and to complete redundancy documentation correctly. “It is regrettable that the Employment Appeals Tribunal did not amend the name of the employer. however, we are satisfied that justice is done in relation to the preliminary point and preparation can now commence for the substantive matter.”

Get unionised... join Mandate We’re just a click away...

www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx

Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace.

The last event I attended – the one I was most looking forward to – was the unveiling on 1st August of a limestone plaque, made by Cork sculptor Mick Wilkins, to honour Mother Jones. As I drove home reflecting on this great women organiser, I had a chance to think about all the great workers I have been lucky to meet and work with over the years. I know many of you have stood up for your union, whether you filed a grievance or recruited someone to sign an application for membership or took a class so you could deal with health and safety issues in your workplace. have you marched in a rally in support of some injustice? Well, I guess it shows the spirit of Mother Jones lives on in all of you. or in her words: Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living.

Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.

If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 9


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Distribution Centre staff OK proposals Fashion victims... Sandblasting process is killing garment workers

By Brian Forbes

In 2011, oxfam put the issue of sandblasting jeans into perspective when they stated: “Sandblasting denim causes the fatal respiratory disease silicosis and has been linked to over 45 deaths in Turkey since our research began.” Because the health risks aren’t taken into account and the silicarich sand is inexpensive, the production process is very cheap. And so it would appear are the lives of those carrying out this deadly work. Many companies have

banned the use of sandblasting in their clothing lines but a new CCC report reveals that regardless of whether a brand has “banned” sandblasting or not, sandblasting – both manual and mechanical – is still commonly used. one factory owner stated it was impossible to produce some of the designs requested without the use of sandblasting. other factory owners carried out production at night to avoid detection by inspectors and auditors. Mandate members – who have a close, while indirect, affinity with workers in the global supply chain – will empathise with those forced to engage in working practices that are, at best, dangerous and, at worst, deadly. As a proud founding member of CCCI, Mandate calls on the support of all workers to get behind the Deadly Denim campaign and other urgent appeals launched by CCCI. Information can be found on www.cleanclothesireland.org Check out Facebook: Facebook.com/cccIreland and Twitter: @cleanclothesIRE An injury to one is an injury to all.

Pictures: CCC

Mandate National Coordinator CLEAN Clothes Campaign Ireland (CCCI) is to launch a major new campaign to highlight the deaths and illnesses suffered by workers in the garment industry from a commonly used garment finishing process called sandblasting. Sandblasting can lead to silicosis – an incurable lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust. This condition is irreversible – amd in its later critical stages can become disabling. It is often fatal. Silicosis was a disease most commonly diagnosed after 20 to 30 years of exposure in the mining industry. however, In Turkey sandblasting workers have fallen ill after as little as six months exposure. Silicosis is classified as an occupational disease. Why sandblast jeans if it is so dangerous? The answer is simple. Jeans with the vintage look that sandblasting achieves can be sold at a higher retail price – up to triple the value of a regular pair of jeans. In short, workers are dying because of a simple fashion choice and because of the increased demand for profit.

DAA Distribution Centre workers have voted in favour of LrC proposals aimed at resolving a dispute over the company’s plans to outsource the operation of its Distribution Centre. It follows Dublin Airport Authority’s decision taken earlier this year to outsource operations from 1st October. this decision was taken without agreement with the 21 staff involved and Mandate was left with no alternative but to ballot its members for industrial action to protect their interests. Members unanimously voted in favour of taking action if the transfer of operations was imposed and strike notice was served on the company. In the meantime, ICtU had also written on behalf of the unions in the DAA urging the company to engage in meaningful negotiations. However, despite the tabling by Mandate of a range of possible options in June, the company’s only response was to advise that a transfer would still take place on 1st October. the issue was then referred to the Labour relations Commission and a series of conciliation conferences were held in September. following these discussions, a set of proposals were agreed and accepted by the workers at a general meeting on 26th September. the proposals contained a number of options, including voluntary severance based on six weeks pay per year of service. those staff opting for the VSS could also avail of a €10,000 education allowance. Other options included redeployment to alternative positions within the company with compensatory

payments or transfer to Masterlink under the transfer of Undertakings Directive. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon pointed out that, notwithstanding the real anger felt by workers about the situation, he welcomed the fact that “options other than the transfer to a private operator” were now being considered. He told Shopfloor: “Workers’ fears regarding the proposed transfer are compounded by the fact that the private operator Masterlink had failed in its statutory obligations under the european Communities (Protection of employees) on transfer of Undertakings 2003 in that it had not even contacted the staff or their representatives as it is obliged to do under that legislation – hardly a very reassuring act.” Mr O’Hanlon added: “the workers now at least have some realistic alternatives to consider.”

Brendan O’Hanlon: ‘Realistic alternatives’

Heatons paid release deal MANDATE has agreed revised arrangements with heatons to cover the paid release of shop stewards to attend shop steward training courses. Describing the move as a “welcome development”, divisional organiser Bill Kelly told Shopfloor: “The company said it would pay shop stewards

their normal wages for two days of the three-day courses – the third day would be regarded as the day off for that week.” The training courses are to be held at the Mandate Training Centre in Dublin and at other locations across Ireland.

Why we’re in Mandate...

‘With union support it will always be easier to fight for equality and fair play’

10

‘I would tell anyone unsure whether to join a union about their rights and all the help we can give them as union stewards’

Mary Burke, Eason’s •Marie Dignam, Debenhams, Blanchardstown SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


STATESIDE

Gerry Light

the SHOPFLOOR VIEW from

Unions mobilise for Obama poll By Michael T Bride

UFCW’s Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies ‘DECISIoNS are made by those who show up’. This is a quote attributed to everyone from President harry S Truman to Woody Allen. In the US, Mandate’s sister union, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) takes the sentiment behind this quote very seriously. The UFCW is putting 250 of its members who normally work in meat processing plants and supermarkets on full-time release so they can help with the campaigning in the run-up to the 6th November poll. And the union is also mobilising dozens and dozens of UFCW staff. Such is the importance of US elections to workers, UFCW has negotiated full-time release for these workers in their employment contracts. They are to be deployed in 12 battleground states, including Wisconsin and ohio, to talk to other UFCW members in their homes, at worksites and over the telephone. The approach adopted by UFCW of promoting member-to-member contact is due to numerous studies which show that a voter is more likely to be influenced by a co-worker or a friend than any other factor. And this includes the expensive TV ads that run in an almost continuous loop on US TV before any election. While US unions can’t compete with the corporate money put up by the Right, they can provide members who can assist in a way pure cash resources never can. The primary reason why UFCW – and indeed all US unions – are investing so much in this election is because of the enormity of what’s at stake. The philosophy of the two candidates and the political parties that they represent could not be more different. on the one hand, you have Governor Mitt Romney, who believes in austerity as a way to get the economy moving and that tax cuts for the rich are more important than fairness for the poor. Governor Romney’s worldview was never more evident than in the now infamous recording in which he was heard speaking to a room full

of rich businessmen. he told them that 47% of the country did not pay income tax and that his “...job is not to worry about those people”. The facts of the matter of course are very different. According to CBS News, two-thirds of the people who paid no federal income taxes did pay payroll income taxes, which is another type of income tax. Many of the people who Governor Romney says it is not his job to worry about are not paying income tax because they are exempt because they are too poor. one could conceivably argue that these are the people for whom a President should be most worried. And as to the austerity policies as championed by Governor Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, the idea that job creation can be spurred by cutting back seems as likely Stateside as it is in the EU. The contrast to the policies and outlook of President obama could not be more stark. The President believes that demand must be stimulated in order to jump-start the economy. Many economists criticised the current administration for promoting a $787bn stimulus which was too small to stop unemployment breaking the 8% barrier. Those same economists, however, also concede that but for the President’s actions on the stimulus, the recession would have been much worse, and may have even led to an economic depression. The Washington Post reports that many people don’t know that, at its peak, the Recovery Act directly employed more than 700,000 Americans on construction projects, research grants and other contracts. Governor Romney famously stated that the Detroit car industry should be allowed to go bankrupt, whereas the President stepped in – amid much criticism – and saved the jobs of millions of workers with the provision of emergency loans to the car companies. And of course we have healthcare. President obama passed the Affordable Care Act which eliminated many of the cruel anomalies in the US healthcare system, including the practice whereby insurance compa-

nies could deny someone coverage based on them having a “pre-existing condition”. In other words, if you’ve been sick before, then it was harder for you to get health insurance. The obama administration have changed this situation for the better but “obamacare”, as it’s being called, is opposed by Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he passed a similar piece of legislation at State level when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney is now is distancing himself from this fact as as forces in his party pull him to the right. Then there is the issue of labour and workplace rights. Governor Romney has endorsed a push to remove organising rights from workers on a national level, hence making it harder for workers who want the union to be able to make a free choice to get a voice on the job. President obama on the other hand supports workers who want to stand up and be union. The UFCW has found that its members don’t necessarily like to be told how they should vote – but, who does? They do, however, welcome the union giving them relevant information which can inform the voting decision that they will make. Those on the right typically want to utilise divisive social issues in the US to persuade voters – the so-called potent cocktail of ‘God, Guns and Gays’. The UFCW believes that if the election is decided on economic issues, then it will be clear who it is in the interests of workers to vote for. Economic growth must be prioritised over austerity and delivering jobs for the middle class are more important than tax cuts for the wealthy. If these are the issues that decide the election, then there can only be one winner – President Barack obama. And the UFCW, along with the rest of the US labour movement, is more than happy for its members to play their role in the outcome. If decisions are indeed made by those who show up, then democracy can never be allowed to become a spectator sport for the masses.

Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

We won’t forget the other 40%...

IN the last edition of Shopfloor I gladly reported on the positive progress which the union has recently achieved for our members across a number of major retail employments. the cumulative effect of this reality is that by february 2013 approximately 60% of our members will have received some form of a pay increase. While obviously this in essence is a good news story that hopefully brings to an end for many of our members years of wage stagnation, we must not forget those who have not been fortunate enough to receive such increases. In recognising that there is a job of work still to be done for them, it is appropriate that we start to fully understand and expose the realities behind why this is the case. Clearly there are a number of businesses which are not currently in a position to countenance claims for pay increases because of the indisputable fragile nature of their trading position. In these circumstances we are forced to adopt a more pragmatic approach while at the same time advancing where we can the interests of our members in areas that are essentially cost neutral in the immediate term but have the potential to create an environment that will deliver a range of more strategic-type benefits over the longer run. These include measures such as the enhancement of access to training and development for our activists, the strengthening of various procedural arrangements and the introduction of structured employee consultative and participation frameworks. Significantly, we will not allow in future, and hopefully more prosperous years, these employers to easily forget the value of the mature and constructive attitude adopted by the union and its members in the struggle through these difficult economic times. The other reason for a lack of positive progress is down to the basic reality that there remains a significant group of employers who steadfastly refuse to recognise this union for the purpose of collective negotiating. Some of these businesses have weathered the economic storm relatively well. Below are samples of some recent letters received from these types of employers that openly display the dogmatic and dismissive attitude adopted towards their workers efforts to have Mandate collectively represent them. Sadly some of the new kids on the block – such as New Look – are displaying an ability to follow in the footsteps of Dunnes Stores in blatantly ignoring the legitimate demands of their respective workforces when highlighted by this union. In response these employers need to know that our determination to continuously expose and ultimately defeat this archaic view of industrial relations is as strong as ever. We will not stand idly by and watch their employees who are Mandate members be treated as second class workers. If we are to succeed in this, we must foster and channel a strong commitment to activism – not only by those members directly affected but by all Mandate members. For obvious reasons this breed of employer must be kept in the minority and the test of our collective achievements over time is to ensure that the degree and impact of their influence is reduced to such a level that renders it insignificant. Elsewhere in this issue of Shopfloor you will read about union-led initiatives which in the near future will produce plans that will target the likes of Dunnes Stores and introduce the concept of a Fair Shop campaign. This is evidence yet again that your union is prepared and will proactively act without hesitation in the interests of its members at every appropriate opportunity.

What they said...

UFCW members take to the streets of Tar Heel, North Carolina, in support of the Obama campaign

October 2012

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Pictures: UFCW

river Island has implemented a process of direct engagement between management and employees, which has successfully served the interests of our employees for the last 18 years... this will remain our approach in future. New Look: I would like to... confirm that we do not intend to engage with you on this or any other matter. Dunnes: the company would not be prepared to attend at such a [conciliation] conference [at the LrC]. 11


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Pruksakasemsuk: Campaign launched

Thailand govt urged to free jailed activist By Clare Nally

Free at last! Mohammed is mobbed by family and friends after his ordeal in an Israeli prison. Tearful Mohammed, right, is moved by the welcome

Irish campaigners’ joy as Mohammed is released after 7 years in Israeli jail By Keivan Jackson

IRISh supporters were overjoyed to hear of the release of young Palestinian theatre performer Mohammed Sameh hashash on July 27th after seven long years in an Israeli prison. There is a strong sense of solidarity with Palestine generally in Ireland, but Mohammed’s plight evoked a special interest here – clearly heightened by a direct Irish relevance to his case. As detailed before in Mandate’s Shopfloor (Winter 2011) and Ezine (Issue 14), Mohammed – who was then only aged 15 – was part of a Palestinian youth theatre group travelling to Ireland in 2005 to perform at local festivals. his journey was cut short when he was arrested. Israeli soldiers interrogated the teenager for more than two months before he was sentenced by a military court to seven years in an adult prison on spurious charges. organisers of the theatre tour in Ireland wanted to show Mohammed he had not been forgotten and so compiled a benefit CD, Lost Youth – Songs of Solidarity, which was launched in 2011. Now released, Mohammed has sent a message of heartfelt thanks to all those who supported him throughout his ordeal. he finds it hard to talk about de-

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tails of his experiences but did manage to give a short telephone interview. Remembering his 2005 trip to Ireland, he described it as “the culmination of a dream for me”. he said he had never wanted to leave Palestine until he heard about Irish tour and he and his friends became very excited. It would have been his first trip outside of Palestine and his first time

water for the first few days. I was beaten repeatedly, humiliated and taunted.” Mohammed admitted that once he had been placed in the general prison population after the interrogation, there were fewer beatings “but still a lot of humiliation and psychological abuse”, adding that “it was tough”. having been so young when arrested, Mohammed is now finding it difficult to adjust as an adult to life on the outside. he said: “I had seven

Songs of freedom

Lost Youth - Songs of Solidarity is still available direct from lostyouth2011@live.ie Each sale represents a practical act of solidarity and helps shine a light on the broader Palestinian child prisoner issue.

on a plane. he would even get to see the sea – a pleasure denied to West Bank Palestinians, despite the coastal heritage of many of them. Speaking of his arrest, he added: “I felt that I was like a caged bird about to fly for the first time, but then the door was slammed shut in my face. “It was the height of summer and they did not allow me to bathe or wash when I was in the interrogation centre. They denied me food and

years robbed from me. I was taken away as a boy, but now I need to find my feet as a man.” Mohammed claims that his experiences have strengthened his resolve to act as a defender of Palestinians through cultural resistance. It is still a huge part of his identity. he would like to return to his love of traditional dancing and theatre and hopes to re-involve himself in arts projects.

Mohammed also dreams of studying to become a journalist, reporting on the story of his people. he said that knowing of the solidarity being shown by supporters on the outside gave him the strength and courage to endure the challenges of his incarceration. And adds that he feels a special bond with those people who stood by him. “Thank you so much. I feel so much love for people who remembered me in Ireland. I feel like I have brothers and sisters there.” Each year hundreds of Palestinian children – some as young as 12 – are arrested, ill-treated and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The most common charge is stonethrowing. The overwhelming majority of these children are detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Commonplace absence of family contact also violates Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Earlier this year, Professor Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, condemned Israel’s abuse of international human rights law and, in particular, the use of extended solitary confinement against Palestinian children.

ThE Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland has launched an urgent appeal to secure freedom for jailed Thai trade union activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. The rights and advocacy group wants the Irish public to sign a letter addressed to the Thai Prime Minister calling for his release. Pruksakasemsuk, who has long campaigned for the empowerment of workers and the setting up of democratic trade unions in Thailand, has now been imprisoned for 17 months. The 50-year-old, who has just had his 10th bail application refused, was arrested in April 2011 for violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code – a law known as lèse majesté. Lèse majesté is the crime of insulting senior members of the country’s royal family and can carry a sentence of up to 30 years. Pruksakasemsuk is alleged to have allowed the publication of two articles – which he did not write – in the Voice of Taksin. It is believed the articles contained negative references to the monarchy. The case has attracted international attention from a range of organisations, including human Rights Watch, Protection International, International Federation for human Rights, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the UN. Last December, Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN high Commissioner for human Rights, called on the Thai government to amend these “vaguely worded” laws. She said: "We are concerned about the ongoing trials and harsh sentencing of people convicted of lèse majesté in Thailand and the chilling effect that this is having on freedom of expression in the country." human Rights Watch and Amnesty International point out that no one has yet been convicted for the deaths of 98 people during anti-government demos in 2010, yet the authorities continue to persecute Thai activists peacefully expressing their opinion by applying lèse majesté laws. More information can be found at www.cleanclothescampaignireland.org CCC Ireland has also asked people to share information through social networking sites such as Facebook www.facebook.com/CCCIreland and Twitter @cleanclothesire SHOPFLOOR

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THINKING OUTLOUD...

It’s NOT working...

Mass joblessness is built into capitalism By Ed Teller

IN A month when we saw more firms closing down throwing even more workers on the dole, a deeper look at unemployment within the system globally as well as unemployment trends over the last number of decades is needed. The view pushed by the establishment is that the system works fine for a long period of time but then – for unknown reasons – hits a crisis leading to some workers losing their jobs. The argument goes that with a bit of belt-tightening, the crisis will be overcome and new jobs found leaving everyone happy again. The reality, however, is that the system is in deep crisis in terms of its own growth never mind the genocidal human and environmental costs. There are currently 2.4 billion people – 65% of the potential global workforce – unemployed. Unemployment in France and Germany on average each decade since the 1960s has remained at about 9%. There are now 2.9 million unemployed in Germany. In Japan, the unemployment rate has almost doubled over the last two decades. In Ireland, it averaged 16.9% in the 1980s, 12.2% in the 90s, went down to 5.1% during the ‘bubble’ years, but is now back up to the 1980s level. October 2012

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Unemployment continues to grow across the euro area with the EU ‘jobless’ rate for July at 11.3% for those countries within the currency. All of this suggests, rather than the system being highly dynamic and creative and all those cool buzzwords we hear, it is actually in serious crisis. This is because if workers create all value but the system continues to invest in technology to replace workers for competitive reasons, then their own profit ultimately suffers and unemployment continues. And this is proving to be the case. In the US, average growth in GDP each year in the 1960s was 4.6%; this declined every decade, to 1.6% on average in the 2000s. In Britain, it was 2.8% in the 1960s, 2.3% in the 70s, 2.4% in the 80s, 2.5% in the 90s, and a mere 1.9% in the last decade. In France, GDP grew by an average of 5.5% each year in the 1960s but again – like the US – declined every decade, to 1.3% on average each year in the 2000s. or take Germany, the “engine room” of the euro zone. Its economy grew by an annual average of 3% in the 1970s, 1.9% in the 80s, 2.1% in the 90s, and a mere 0.8% in the last

decade. Japan, the long-time dominant capitalist economy in Asia, averaged a mighty 10.3% in the 1960s, only to see this decline each decade, to 4.5% in the 70s, 3.6% in the 80s, 1.4% in the 90s and only 0.6% in the 2000s. And how does Ireland’s economy compare? As a peripheral economy it “benefited” from the structural shift in production to cheaper economies. of course, our corporate welfare state that continues to privatise and give away valuable public assets to prop up this failing system. Annual growth in GDP averaged 4.8 per cent in the 1970s but still has declined to an average of 3.3 per cent in the last decade. This structural shift continues. Production continues to move to cheaper areas in a global race to the bottom as monopolies scramble to secure profits at all costs but Ireland will no longer benefit from it sufficiently to mask our internal economic weaknesses. And just to bring us right up to date, the ECB estimates that the eurozone will record negative growth this year with the economy estimated to shrink by 0.1% for 2012. Added to that, the crisis is very

much hitting at the German heart of the euro. Germany’s private sector shrunk for the fourth month running in August. This is the reality of the capitalist economy. Far from a buzzing entrepreneurial hub of invention and ingenuity it secures growth and profits by increasing the exploitation of labour – using less and cheaper labour more intensely. The perversion of all this is that there has never been so much wealth in the system, but it is hoarded or invested speculatively by a tiny global monopoly elite who see no other avenue for securing a return. This is contradiction at the heart of capitalism. We live in a world of unprecedented productive capacity and potential but technology makes workers unemployed. This is a system where farmers are paid grants NoT to grow food despite mass poverty and starvation, and where fish is thrown back into the sea because it is the “wrong” type of fish. Competition for executives means big pay increases to attract the best in the boardroom but for workers, this means a cut in their wages to compete with cheap Chinese labour.

‘We live in a world of unprecedented productive capacity and potential but technology makes workers unemployed’

And the establishment’s response to several decades of global mass unemployment and record levels of those currently unemployed is to reduce the ‘incentive’ of being unemployed! This means cutting social welfare in order to encourage unemployed workers to take any available job. has a government ever been so out of touch with working people than this one? You may rightly ask what is the solution if these problems can be identified. There are plenty of experts who will suggest tweaking this tax or introducing a new levy – but the reality is there are no solutions within capitalism to the problem of mass unemployment and declining growth. They are features of the modern system. A solution to unemployment can, however, be found in a planned economy – an economy that retains its wealth as public wealth and reinvests it in its people. There will not be a need for private investment with strict conditionality attached because wealth will be retained as public. This, however, is not capitalism and can only be achieved when working people stop seeking solutions to the cause of the problem and start mobilising around demands for a new economic system – one that meets our needs. 13


SPECIAL REPORT

Irish and Turkish IKEA workers...

United in struggle MANDATE has given its full backing to workers campaigning for the basic right to organise at IKEA stores in Turkey, telling them “our struggle is your struggle”. General Secretary John Douglas praised the workers for taking a principled stand on the issue. It follows reports that local management in Turkey had been putting pressure on employees not to join Turkish union Koop-Is and encouraging those who had done so to leave. Mr Douglas told Shopfloor: “It is reported that tactics such as intimidation and threatening workers’ family members at their homes have been used. Along with such threatening visits, workers have reported receiving threats and harassment in the workplace. “Indeed, some workers have been fired after management suspected they were union members.” These actions have also been slammed by UNI IKEA Global Union Alliance, which is seeking to develop global and local labour relations with the Swedish retail giant. Turkey’s IKEA stores, employing about 2,000 employees, are run by local franchisee Mapa Mobilya. But UNI IKEA Global Union Alliance insist that global standards must still apply to the five Turkish IKEA stores. Alke Boessiger, head of UNI Commerce, said: "It doesn't matter who owns or runs the stores. It says IKEA on the door and the firm respects workers' rights and collective bargaining, and we expect them to apply that to all IKEA operations worldwide – no matter who runs it. “We are demanding that IKEA global management intervene immediately to stop this harassment of workers and their families. “It is completely unacceptable that IKEA management in Turkey would monitor or intervene in their employees’ family life and it raises a troubling spectre of the company’s attitude towards workers’ privacy and personal rights.” The UNI IKEA 14

John Douglas: Solidarity message for workers

Global Union Alliance has urged IKEA Turkey to sign a joint social dialogue agreement with Turkish union KoopIs which already represents hundreds of IKEA workers. Koop-Is has claimed management is seeking to prevent the union recruiting a majority of workers it needs to secure collective bargaining rights. A former IKEA Turkey worker and union organiser has described the increasing pressure he and colleagues

Now you see them... WOMeN – and most girls – have been airbrushed out of the Saudi Arabian version of an international IKeA catalogue. Sweden’s Minister of trade ewa Björling pointed out that though this was easily possible with modern digital software, women could not be so easily “retouched away in reality”. faced when IKEA Turkey managers found out about organising drive. he said: “The employer started putting different kinds of pressure on us, including threatening us and telling us not to join the union or to resign from the union. “Managers said if we didn’t resign from the union we would be dismissed without compensation and, if we fought the dismissal, our court case would last two to three years and we would suffer during that period. Some union members were

forced to work in difficult departments or on bad shifts. Because of this, many union members quit their jobs.” John Douglas sent a letter to the under-threat workers last month, assuring them of Mandate’s continued support. he wrote: “Trade union rights are human rights and no employer can be allowed to strip away your basic human right to join a trade union. We commend your brave stand against the bullying tactics of IKEA management and we resolve to highlight the shameful actions of IKEA to the Irish public “In IKEA Ireland we too are facing a similar battle for union rights; our struggle is your struggle. “We will not allow IKEA to trample on the workers of Turkey or Ireland, together we will stand and together we will win against injustice.” In his reply, Koop-Is President Eyup Alemdar thanked John Douglas and Mandate members for their “solidarity and support”. on September 8th, more than a thousand workers and supporters blowing whistles, brandishing Turkish flags, and carrying banners with the slogan ‘oppression won’t daunt us’ took part in a rally outside one of the IKEA stores in Istanbul. Demonstrators spilled out on to the road stopping traffic outside the flagship store in a clear statement of intent they would resist any attempts to trample on their rights. Ms Boessiger, who was one of several speakers at the demo, said that marchers had gathered to protest against IKEA Turkey’s “unbearable attitude” towards “its employees, their families and their union”. She vowed that the UNI IKEA Global Union Alliance would not rest until IKEA Turkey had stopped its anti-union activities and started to treat its workers with respect. Eyup Alemdar told the crowd that across Turkey thousands of workers risked losing their jobs because “they are faithful to the fight” for organising rights.

Organised and determined: Koop-Is members at last month’s IKEA Turkey demo. Koop-Is chief Eyup Alemdar

No turning back: Koop-Is march stewards, below, at the September 8th demo. More than a thousand workers

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Double standards! Retail giant’s flat pack approach to labour relations By Brian Forbes

Mandate National Coordinator

reply, right, to the Mandate message of solidarity

s, above, took part. A young Koop-Is whistle-blower, below right, at protest Pictures: Koop-Is; UNI Global Union

October 2012

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TRUMPETED with much media fanfare and celebrated by the great and the good, IKEA arrived in the Republic in 2009 opening its first store south of the border in Ballymun, Dublin. Since then, IKEA Dublin has outperformed many of its European counterparts and continues to make huge profits for its bosses and shareholders from the pockets of Irish shoppers. But also since entering the Irish market, IKEA has consistently frustrated Mandate’s efforts to forge a professional relationship with the union. This would involve a shared understanding of each other’s roles – of the union’s desire to organise workers and IKEA’s need to run a profitable business without unnecessary interference from the union. But building a relationship with IKEA in Ireland has become extremely frustrating – it’s like trying to put together one of its pieces of furniture without the help of an instruction manual. You think you have it sorted but then you realise pieces are missing and it’s back to the drawing board every time. Regrettably, IKEA is now considered to be a hostile anti-union employer by Mandate. We see it as an employer keen on ensuring that access to all workers is frustrated and deliberately withheld. Internally constructed committees are used to replace the role of a union and are consistently deployed as a mechanism to keep a union from representing its members. IKEA, privately owned by a myriad of interlocking foundations and companies, is a complex business empire with companies controlling the brand and the assets of the founding Kampard family. Recent revelations about its tax structure – too complex to go into in any detail here – and an exposé in a book, The Truth about IKEA, by a former top manager Johan Stenebo have prompted Chief Executive Mikael ohlsson to promise more openness. Stenebo – who had worked for the company for 20 years – had claimed it was controlled by a “cult-like dictatorship”. his words, not ours. According to a recent report by The Economist, IKEA “ingeniously exploits the quirks of different jurisdictions to minimise exposure to tax and disclosure”, thus handsomely rewarding the founding family and making IKEA immune to a takeover. Mandate can also report that IKEA ingeniously exploits the quirks of draconian anti-union laws here in Ireland while having a completely different approach

to its UK stores. In the North of Ireland, IKEA has agreed a recognition and procedural agreement with our sister union USDAW. Both sets of Irish retail workers are separated by a mere 100 miles of motorway but they might as well exist on different planets. That is how IKEA treats the two respective trade unions – one rule for the UK and the North of Ireland and another for the Republic. A recent report on IKEA commissioned by UNI commerce Global Union gave an interesting insight into the behaviour of IKEA internationally: “Findings on negative practices fall mainly in the categories of anti-union behaviour and working conditions (e.g. health and safety, wages and hours) They include violations of trade union and workers’ rights as well as company misconduct in relation to these rights that may fall short of legal violations but is indicative of an overall pattern of anti-union behaviour.” It goes on to report: “In Ireland, the USA (Swedwood/Danville) and Malaysia, the company has denied access to, or recognition of, unions, even where workers have clearly demonstrated a desire to form a union and submitted a formal request for recognition.” It is Mandate’s assessment that IKEA is arguably taking advantage of the situation in Ireland where they can legally deny union access to workers, despite making public statements that its employees are free to choose whether to join a union. It is clear that while this form of “union avoidance” does not break any laws in Ireland, it goes against both IKEA’s own code of conduct and stated commitments as well as international labour standards. At the time of going to press, Mandate had not received a response from IKEA to a written claim served on the company by the union on behalf of our hard-working members in IKEA Dublin. Mandate is seeking a 3% wage increase for our members in line with recent progressive developments from profitable companies across the Irish retail sector. IKEA has an idealistic creed “of creating a better life for people”. Unions are the largest civil society organisation on the island of Ireland and our members and many union-minded consumers across this country would be dismayed to know how IKEA treat Mandate in comparison to how they treat unions in other countries – including our nearest neighbour up the road and across the Irish Sea. IKEA should open up the flat pack of common sense and start building a relationship with Mandate using the instruction manual of best international practice before all the nuts and bolts – of teaming profitability with ethical treatment of workers – are irretrievably lost.

15


PLATFORM THE PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT

Frank Keoghan charts the moves afoot for a new EU Treaty and Constitution as well as yet more bad news for workers...

Recasting Europe’s big idea Pictures: European Parliament; WEF

GERMANY is pressing for negotiations by the end of the year on a new EU Treaty to drive on European integration and to announce a date for the opening of a new European convention to debate its contents. For a new treaty to be drafted, a convention comprising representatives from national governments and parliaments, the European Parliament and the European Commission has to agree on a final text. Chancellor Angela Merkel's push is in line with her demand for a true political union in return for debt being pooled in the eurozone. But this latest attempt to reopen EU treaties has met with a lukewarm response from member states who feel it would reshape the EU in Germany's image. Ireland in particular is not enthusiastic about any treaty changes that would require ratification by referendum. The issue of treaty change is likely to dominate the autumn agenda of the EU but Merkel is supported by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso. he said: “Europe and the principles of the Treaty need to be renewed. We need more integration. The crisis has made it clear that we must not only complete the economic and monetary union, but also pursue greater economic integration.” A few days later Barroso confirmed that he believes there is a need for “further political and institutional integration” and a consolidation of “a truly political union” through a change of the EU Treaty. Meanwhile, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has become the latest in a line of politicians calling for a referendum on handing over more powers to Brussels as part of a new EU constitution. he said: "I hope that we have a real European constitution and that there will also be a referendum on it.” The idea of holding a referendum on what Chancellor Merkel sees as the only way out of the crisis – the formation of a true "political union" – has gained momentum in Germany. She said recently: "We need a political union. That means we have to give up further competencies to Europe, step by step, in an ongoing process.” And, new EU Commission proposals known as the Monti II Regulation, on the right of union members to go on strike could lead to the right being undermined and is probably in contravention of ILo conventions. The rationale behind these proposals was supposedly to repair the damage

Chancellor Merkel is pushing for the drafting of a new EU Treaty in return for a pooling of debt

done by the Laval, Viking and Rueffert judgments from the ECJ. The aim was to provide for binding legislation to ensure “economic freedoms” respected fundamental social rights, such as the right to strike. however the Commission's regulation would undermine this right by according economic freedoms and competition rules priority over fundamental social rights. The EU Court of Justice ruled in the Laval and Viking cases in favour of limiting the right to strike, arguing that the free movement of goods and services is more important. The EU’s trade unions have disagreed

with these rulings which undermined the use of collective action to protect their pay, conditions and the jobs of workers. however, the proposed EU regulation is designed to protect the interests of employers and makes the right to strike less effective. Commission documents underline that it never had any intention of correcting the negative consequences of the ECJ rulings. It believes that the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment represent a higher value than the rights of workers. So much for ‘Social Europe’ and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Making its way to a town near you. 16

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VIEWPOINT

Thatcherism on the prowl

f o m o d s i W s t n e i c n the A By Joe Jitsu

By Brian Forbes

Norman Tebbit: Dole-ing out the advice...

unfair and inequitable tax system? It is undeniable that many individuals reaped disproportionate riches during the so-called Celtic Tiger years yet have not been disproportionally stripped of their fair share in taxes. Again, it’s the working poor, the sick, the unemployed, disabled people, the home helps and the terminally ill who are suffering. our society inflicts pain after pain on those who can ill afford it while a bastardised version of the Celtic Tiger is reconstructed with the elite and powerful in Ireland and in Europe maintaining the wealth, control and future destiny of our country. The big idea is to look after the rich in the hope that they will manufacture jobs. It’s a flawed and doomed concept but one our political masters seem inextricably linked to.These Thatcherite policies of protecting the rich at the expense of everyone else as their cuts continue to screw the economy and stifle domestic demand will only lead to the destruction of confidence in spending and impact heavily on jobs and growth. It’s a neo-liberal economic suicide of the worst kind and we citizens respond with a miasma of ideological neutrality and confusion. In other words, we collectively fart around not knowing what to do about it. Directionless and leaderless! If we really are being governed by the inheritors of Thatcher’s and Tebbit’s brand of Conservatism, then the rich will continue to reap the sullied rewards of austerity imposed on low and middle income families while those most in need of a decent and fairer society will continue to be the sacrificial lambs on the evil altar of Thatcherism. Time to fight back before it’s too late!

Tebbit picture:James Robertson Photography (English Wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Thatcher badge picture: CC Danny Birchall

October 2012

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For a fuller account, check out http://cadtm.org/The-Long-Tradition-of-Debt; Pictures: CC Library of Congress; Mandate

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FEBRUARY 2012

Sir Alex phones Vita Cortex workers with this advice...

Picture: CC braveheartsports

Mandate National Coordinator IT WAS in the dark days of early 1980s Britain just after the handsworth and Brixton riots but long before harry Potter author JK Rowling had conjured up the evil Lord Voldemort, that a man – who many on the left think is cut from the same cloth – gave some infamous advice to jobless workers. Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit, later Lord Tebbit, delighted the Tory faithful at the 1981 party conference in Blackpool with this line: “I grew up in the 1930s with an unemployed father. he didn’t riot, he got on his bike and looked for work.” It was an “on yer bike!” kick in the behind to the three million people out of work at the time. No doubt Lord Tebbit would cheer on Labour/Fine Gael coalition’s current “work for free” invention called Jobsbridge. Unemployed? At a loose end? Want to save Ireland? Then “on yer bike” and we’ll provide you with workplace “training” on how to stack shelves, answer phones or brush floors which will help to keep multinationals profitable and you off the unemployment figures. All this and no guarantee of a job at the end of your Jobsbridge bondage. It is claimed that Margaret Thatcher once told British oAPs to “knit mitts” for themselves so they wouldn’t freeze to death in their own homes during winter. That piece of warm advice came just before the explosion of greed, capitalism and shoulder pads that characterised the Yuppie years of her second term in office. Now our own political elite in Ireland seem to be going over the same ground ploughed by Thatcher back in the 1980s – just to see how far they can get away with attacking our pensioners, young people and the most vulnerable in society. Public Sector Reform Minister Brian hayes – or as Gene Kerrigan recently dubbed him “the Minister for Attacking Pensioners” – has set his sights on so-called “wealthy” oAPs. he wants to make sure they pay their fair share. But what about the multi-generational rich people that crashed our economy and who continue to be protected and molly-coddled by an

MANCHESTER United manager Alex Ferguson made a surprise phone call to the Vita Cortextell workers on February 13 to and them he supported their fightseto “stick in there” until they cured victory. The sporting legend expressed the his admiration and backing for workers' stand for justice. inHe told them he had been at volved in the apprentice strikes and the Clyde shipyards in 1961 going understood what they were through in their battle to secure agreed redundancy terms. SIPTU organiser Anne Egar described it as a “magical moment”

Perseverance and team work will win out in the end

came two days after more than so I'm delighted but everyone 5,000 people marched in solidarity to hear Sir Alex endorse the them here – even the Liverpool FC with the Vita Cortex workers Last workers’ stand and reassure guys – are saying 'fair play'." acthrough the centre of Cork. that they would succeed if they is month, veteran human rights the Speaking at the rally, organised stick together and fight for what tivist Noam Chomsky emailed for by the Cork Council of Trade just. workers to voice his suppporton in Unions, Anne Egar praised the She said: “When someone like their “determination to carry workers’ “stamina and principle” Alex Ferguson tells you perseverthe face of suffering and oppresyou and vowed they would not sucance and teamwork will see sion”. huge a cumb. win out, it is of course His January 19 email concluded: The Vita Cortex workers are and boost." “I hope that your courageousmodel entering their third month occupyVita Cortex worker Jim Power, the actions will be a honourable deing their former workplace on to who spoke to Mr Ferguson, that will inspire others as well Kinsale Road, Cork. scribed the phone call as a "masact instead of succumbing passively, The facility was closed on sive boost". the greatest success you wish and December 16 with management "He spoke about his involvein this just and crucial campaign strike claiming they could not honour ment in an apprentice boys' for basic rights.” in agreed redundancy terms. in Glasgow and told us to 'stick The call from the Man Utd boss there’. I'm a Man United supporter

‘demand deficit’ Congress: Jobs plan fails on

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WORKERS’ JOY AS EPIC SIT-IN ENDS Page 2

CONGRESS general secretary David Begg has praised the tude and resilience” of Vita “fortiworkers following the end Cortex of their epic 161-day sit-in. The 23 workers ended occupation of the Kinsale their plant in Cork at 2.30pm Road The sun was shining and on May 24. were cheers from family there members and supporters as they walked out together for the last time.

It came after company bosses paid the staff an agreed sum as a final settlement to the dispute. David Begg told The Union “The extrordinary fortitude Post: and resilience shown by the workers in securing this deal is an example to trade unionists everywhere. “SIPTU – and its organisers – should also be justly proud of the role they played in supporting members at Vita Cortex.”

Shop steward Sean Kelleher, a Vita Cortex employee for said: “Five months was a 47 years, time but I’m just glad wevery long never decided to walk away.” He said the workers wanted to thank SIPTU, the people “and those further afield”of Cork for their solidarity and support. SIPTU organiser Anne Egar said the Vita Cortex dispute should show workers “that if you stay to-

gether and never give up, justice can be achieved.” Jack O’Connor, the union’s general president and past president Congress, added: “The courage of and determination shown by the workers has provided inspiration people in Ireland, and abroad,to are struggling against unfair who ment. I wish to congratulatetreatfor maintaining their resolve them and achieving a successful outcome.” Picture: Courtesy TV3 News

www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/category/unionpost/ 17


BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES

MUSIC Q&A POL McADAIM INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

What price a TO JOIN 10 MANDATE pair of jeans? REASONS

1. An organising and campaigning union:

2. Modern and effective training:

Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.

3. Campaigning for success:

Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.

4. Protection at work:

Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.

5. Safety at work:

Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.

6. Better pay:

Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.

7. Legal protection:

Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.

8. Mandatory pensions:

Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.

9.You’re less likely to be discriminated against:

Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.

10. You’re less likely to be sacked:

Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.

Together we’re stronger

JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx

18

By John Douglas

General Secretary, Mandate BooT cut or straight cut? Stone washed or original? To be honest, this is as about as much thought most of us put into buying a pair of jeans, or indeed any item of clothing. But the deadly reality behind the brand names, the slick advertising and the double speak of major retailers is that many of our clothes are stained with the blood of workers and violations of their human rights. Workers in China, India, North Africa and Bangladesh pay a high price so that we can dress ourselves in cheap and not-so-cheap clothes. Bangladesh – famously described by henry Kissinger in the 1970s as a “basket case” and irrelevant to the global economy – is now an exporting powerhouse, second only to China in global clothing exports. These exports are worth more than $18 billion to the Bangladeshi economy. Vast international industrial zones have been created in the country where brands such as Tommy hilfiger, GAP, Calvin Kline, h&M, and clothes for global retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Primark, Marks and Spencer, are manufactured. The ‘Made in Bangladesh’ label can be found in stores across Ireland, Europe and America. There is a simple formula for Bangladesh’s export success story – it has the lowest labour costs and crushes any signs of worker organisation or protest. The minimum wage for a garment worker in these industrial zones is about $37 a month. Most of them are women and young girls working on vast production lines with their every move monitored. These industrial zones housing huge manufacturing units are anything but free. They operate just like a country within a country – a country where workers’ rights are sus-

Picture: BCWS

Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.

Bruised: Aminul pictured after he was beaten up during his detention in 2010. The young activist was abducted and killed in April

pended on entry. Each industrial zone boasts its own police/security force as well as regular national security forces. The rules of decency and fair play do not apply, any protest is quickly and violently crushed and unions and union organisers are hunted and harassed. Any threat to this system of cheap labour and exploitation is seen as a threat to the country and is considered treason. Recently in Ishwardi, western Bangladesh, the police and the Private International Industrial Zone Militia attacked protesting workers with rubber bullets and beat them with long canes. Many of the young seamstresses involved in the protest were hospitalised with head wounds inflicted in the brutal police action. For the workers in Ishwardi there was a lot at stake in standing up for their rights – they were fighting against a cut in their already small wages of less than $50 a month. In April, the body of Aminul Islam,

a young labour and union activist, was found in a shallow grave. he had been tortured and killed – his only crime was to be a voice for his fellow workers. The police and the special private security forces in the industrial zones regularly “lifted” Aminul, raided his union office, threatened his family, and tapped his phone. But he refused to be silenced. From his small office surrounded by the giant garment factories in the industrial zone, Aminul helped workers fight back against bullying, nonpayment of wages and exploitation. Each day, workers sought him out after they finished their shifts making jeans and polo shirts for brands such as GAP and Tommy hilfiger. Aminul was not a big man; he was only five foot four. he started his working life at the Shasha denim factory situated in one of the many industrial zones that surround Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. Like the hundreds of thousands of his colleagues in the garment industry, he earned about $30 a month to support his wife and three children. In 2005, he was elected shop steward by his fellow workers, but within a year the company had sacked him. Despite winning his case Shasha Denim refused to give him his job back. To learn how to become a more effective union organiser, Aminul attended workshops at the Solidarity Centre in Dhaka; which is supported by the American trade union movement. In 2010, Aminul was involved in agitating for an increase in the minimum wage when he was abducted and tortured by a gang with links to the national security intelligence agency. Despite this, the workers won a small victory when the minimum wage was increased to $37 a month. The garment bosses and the government vowed that they would never be wrong-footed again and set up a SHOPFLOOR

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Arriving for work: There are 2.4m garment workers in Bangladesh – 80% of whom are women

new agency called the Industrial Police, charged with collecting information on union organisers and making pre-emptive strikes against workers and protestors. In March 2012, Aminul was again “lifted” by the security forces along with the garment bosses’ private militia. They accused him of attempting to organise a strike among 10,000 workers in the industrial zones. At the same time workers protested at the Shanta Denim factory which makes clothes for NIKE, Tommy hilfiger, American Eagle and other major multinational brands.

on his release, protesting workers again sought Aminul out for advice and help. however, on the day they returned to work, Aminul was reported missing. Two days later, his body was found in a shallow grave and identified by his wife. he had been beaten and tortured. A hole had been drilled below his right knee causing him to bleed to death. Aminul Islam’s death was not an accident, it was not a once-off, it was planned, it was part of the system, a system supported by the Bangladeshi government, the major fashion

brands and – by extension – major global fashion retailers. Aminul’s only crime was that he refused to be silenced and would not lie down and surrender to big businesses and profit. For that, he paid the ultimate price with his own life. There are hundreds more men and women like Aminul Islam in Bangladesh who need your support. So, the next time you ponder the question ‘boot cut or straight cut’, ask yourself are these jeans stained with the blood of Aminul Islam? For further information go to: www.cleanclothescampaignireland.org www.solidaritycentre.org

Rights Commissioner involved in B&Q issue MANDATE members at B&Q have refused to accept company-imposed changes to their terms and conditions and have taken the issue to the Rights Commissioners Service. It comes after the DIY retailer – a subsidiary of the highly-profitable Kingfisher group – announced at the start of the year that it was going to introduce a number of cost-cutting measures. This included the immediate scrapping of a winter/summer bonus for all 800 staff nationwide and the ending of a zone allowance since April 2012, worth 41c per hour, paid to all staff working at the Dublin stores Tallaght, Liffey Valley and Swords. Company representatives also revealed proposals to bring in revised rates for new starts and the enforcement of a recruitment ban designed to cut staff by 5%. New starts would also see their Sunday and public holiday premiums reduced. B&Q bosses had offered a buyout to staff for bringing in the changes, but a union source described what was on offer as “service based” and “well below the norm”. Mandate official Jonathan hogan, who represents members at the Liffey Valley store,

said workers there had refused to accept the changes to pay and T&Cs. he pointed out that these pay cuts amounted to more than 6% of salary paid to those who had started working for the company before March 2009. Mr hogan told Shopfloor: “Mandate advised management in writing that these unilateral deductions were unacceptable and would be referred to the appropriate industrial relations bodies”.

The first case was heard on 20th July. The Rights Commissioner informed both parties that a failure to resolve the issue over the following eight weeks would result in a recommendation being made. The second round of claims for the zone allowance and the June summer bonus are currently being processed. Mandate has since called on B&Q to take part in LRC’s conciliation service but the company has so far refused to do this.

Mandate contacts B&Q tallaght Keith Pollard, Joe Donnelly B&Q Liffey Valley Jonathan Hogan, Michael Meegan tel 8746321 B&Q Swords Willie Hamilton B&Q Naas Mandy Kane ..................................................... fax 8729581 B&Q Athlone & Galway John Carty ........................................................... tel 091562750 fax 091562559 B&Q Cork robert McNamara, Lorraine O’Brien ........................................................... tel 0214270101 fax 0214272188 B&Q Limerick Karen Wall, Caroline Clifford ........................................................... tel 061310010 fax 061314648 B&Q Waterford Bill Kelly, Betty Dillon ........................................................... tel 051874631 fax 051870830

Health & Safety FETAC Level 5

This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course:

• Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health

Poorly-paid garment workers have little choice but to live amid insanitary conditions in Dhaka’s squalid slum districts Pictures: Taslima Akhter/CCC October 2012

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Saf e firs ty t wor at k!

• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 19


VIEWPOINT SINN FEIN

Screen grab: TV3

To even a casual observer in industrial relations in the last 12 months, the abiding memory is of workers being forced to engage in sit-ins and long-term campaigns to achieve even the most basic entitlements. The nation followed the heroic Vita Cortex workers every step of the way during their gruelling five months-long campaign. Likewise the sympathy of the public was clear as regards the appalling way in which the workers at Game, Wilsons Publishing, La Senza, and in recent weeks, Target Express, were treated – and they took to organising sit-ins. The success of the Lagan Brick workers in the last month in obtaining a fair settlement highlights the fact that companies, and management have a responsibility to these workers. Redunancy payments, and other entitlements are essential to workers. Not only in monetary terms, but also in terms of dignity, and being shown respect by an employer they had served so well.

Picture: Sinn Fein

This Government’s inaction on redundancy law unacceptable By Senator David Cullinane In most of these situations, companies and management failed miserably in their responsibilities. They treated them with minimal concern, and – indeed – contempt. however, the reality is that they behaved as they did, as they are permitted to do so. There is also a responsibility on the Government to act. Since the loss of the Talk Talk jobs in Waterford, and the shabby way they were treated, there has been a growing clamour for reform of the legislation governing redundancies. There have been countless debates on the matter in Leinster house, with representatives from several parties demanding action. In the face of Government inaction, I brought forward

A video still of Vita Cortex workers – who enjoyed widespread public backing – exiting the factory and taking the salute of supporters following the end of their historic 161-day sit-in

– along with Deputy Peadar Toibín – the Protection of Employees (amendment) Bill 2012. The Bill would not have solved all the issues relating to redundancy.

Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience.

Course content:

• Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model

• • • • •

Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.

If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

however, it would have improved the process and speed at which these issues were dealt with. It would have increased protections for workers, particularly those workers in compa-

SPOTLIGHT

nies effectively insolvent, but not formally placed in liquidation. It also was an attempt to put additional pressure on the Government to tackle this significant issue. Regrettably, the Government voted the legislation down, and refused to allow it past second stage. Worse still, they have no plans to bring forward any legislation of their own. There are numerous options that could be considered. I believe the German model should be given consideration. whereby workers have the option of being paid a payment approximating their wages for a fixed period, complemented by training provided by the state. Notice periods and ease of access to the insolvency should also be considered. Either way, it is untenable for the Government to simply wash their hands of the issue, while workers have to endure hardship and frustration as they are denied what they are simply entitled to. Inaction is not acceptable – workers deserve better.

EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY ACT

Act’s ‘disabled’ definition covers many conditions By Bill Kelly

Divisional Organiser, Mandate tHe employment equality Act affords protection for workers against discrimination on the grounds of gender, civil status, age, race, religious belief, sexual orientation and membership of the traveller community. It also protects disabled employees. Under its provisons, employers are obliged to support disabled employees to allow them to stay in the workplace by making reasonable accommodation for them. this is important as many disabled workers find it very difficult to get employment in the first place and if they lose their job, they may find it almost impossible to get another position. However, what many workers don’t realise is that they may fall within the definition of “disabled” contained in the equality equality Act and as a result may be entitled to protection under the law. the Act defines anyone suffering from a

chronic ongoing illness as disabled. examples of chronic diseases and health conditions include ulcerative colitis, lupus, Crohn's Disease, Celiac disease, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pain, diabetes and fibromyalgia. Many employers have also failed to identify workers with ongoing illnesses as disabled and have thus failed to provide them with the support they need to stay in work. In fact many employers opt to discipline workers for absence directly related to their disability. As a result, there is a need for a far greater understanding of the management of long-term illness, particularly on the part of employers. Absence procedures must be amended to take into account the effects of trying to live and work with a long-term illness and the legal and moral obligation to support workers in these very difficult circumstances. for further information, contact your local Mandate official.

Get unionised... join Mandate 20

We’re just a click away...

www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


SPOTLIGHT

EROs AND REAs

Wages Non-wage elements

(PRSI, recruitment, training uniforms)

Labour costs in Europe

Don’t be blindsided by media’s claims By Rory O’Farrell

NERI economist DURING the summer new legislation was passed that ensures that sector-wide agreements (REAs and ERos) remain a part of the industrial relations landscape. Part of the legislation refers to economic matters such as employment and competitiveness. So just where do Irish retail workers stand? People often hear that Ireland has the highest wages in Europe. This is one argument used to try to drive down wages and also renegotiate collective agreements (such as ERos and REAs). In fact international comparisons is one criteria against which REAs and ERos can now be judged. Are Irish wages high? Luckily the European Union’s agency responsible for statistics, Eurostat, keeps track of such things. It shows that in 2010, the most recent year data is available, Irish retail and wholesale workers come ninth in terms of hourly wages. however, this is not the whole picture. The cost of hiring workers is not just a matter of wages; there are ‘non-wage costs’. These include factors such as training, recruitment, perhaps free or subsidised uniforms. The most important however are ‘social contributions’, such as PRSI. So if Irish workers aren’t the highest paid, perhaps Irish employers have to pay the highest non-wage costs? In fact, as a percentage of labour costs, Ireland is third lowest. only Denmark and the UK have a lower rate of nonwage labour costs. Combining wage and non-wage labour costs, the only western EuOctober 2012

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ropean countries that are cheaper to hire a worker are the UK, Spain and Portugal. of course, it is also cheaper to live in those countries than in Ireland. The new legislation says that for any international comparison we must take account of this. This is very important. Even though it costs more to hire someone in Ireland than in Portugal, retailers also charge more for their goods in Ireland. Why should landlords or employers keep the extra money? But do higher wages force retailers to increase prices for everyone else? The latest data (from 2006) shows that in Ireland for every €1 in mark-up in the retail/wholesale sector, only 19c went to workers. only Bulgaria, Poland and Italy are lower. Wages were never the cause of high prices in Ireland. high profits, rents and other costs to businesses were the cause. Another aspect of the new legislation on REAs and ERos states that the potential impact on employment of an agreement must be considered. There is no consensus among economists as to whether minimum wage agreements increase or decrease employment. however, the vast majority of studies show that any reduction in employment is likely to be small. In fact, even if there were to be a fall in employment, the higher wages would more than compensate for this. Workers would be receiving higher pay for working slightly fewer hours. overall the new legislation poses a challenge. But it is important for workers not to be blinded by incorrect claims made in the media.

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

National deals welcomed MANDATE has welcomed the securing by SIPTU – pending a ballot – of two new national collective agreements covering more than 10,000 contract cleaners and security guards. SIPTU has recommended its members back the deals which – if endorsed in the vote – will be registered under the newly-enacted Industrial Relations Act 2012. Security guard Christy Waters, a SIPTU NEC member who is endorsing a Yes vote, said: “Without a national legally enforceable collectively bargained agreement our industry would go back to the Dark Ages

whereby cowboy security firms could exploit security officers and drive standards down. “With this agreement we have restored some key central elements of the previous ERo and have made some real gains for the industry and our members as a whole.” The proposals protect and enhance the minimum conditions of employment in both industries. In contract cleaning, the minimum rate of pay of €9.50 has been protected. In security, the minimum entry rate of pay has been enhanced by a 7.5% increase, now at €10.75 an hour. Mandate Assistant General Secre-

tary Gerry Light described it as a very welcome development, coming more than a year after the shock high Court ruling that struck down Employment Regulation orders (ERos) and Registered Employment Agreements (REAs). he told Shopfloor: “This is a significant development for all workers and SIPTU negotiators should be congratulated for the hard work done in brokering these deals. “our members in retail know only too well how vitally important ERos and REAs are in securing a living wage and decent terms and conditions of employment.”

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21


PLATFORM LABOUR PARTY

Dignity of work is central to us

DID YOU KNOW?

UNION BO FFIN

With 14.8% of workforce unemployed, Labour TDs Gerard Nash and John Lyons defend their party’s record on jobs WITh 14.8% unemployment in Ireland, it is entirely understandable that politics and the media are focussed on the extent of the problem and the myriad number of ways we can tackle joblessness. It is crucial, from both a social and economic perspective that Ireland, and the EU, comprehensively tackles the scourge of unemployment. however, it is also vital that we recognise the importance of keeping people at work and ensuring that taking a job is worthwhile for citizens and their families. The Labour Party was founded a century ago on the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Community. These are not abstract notions, but a vision of a fair society where everybody matters, where everybody makes a contribution to social solidarity. Central to our philosophy is the dignity of work. having sufficient jobs in our economy is the challenge of our time. Job retention and supporting people in work in these unprecedented tough economic times has been a cornerstone of our 18 months in government. Above the daily noise in politics and the simple certainties espoused by some in opposition, it is worth taking a closer look at some of the ways in which Labour in government has supported lower paid workers. From our very first day in government, we committed to protect the rights of workers and to stand up for the low paid in

NEWS

particular. This work is continuing every single day. So far we have: l Restored the National Minimum Wage – one of our top priorities was to reverse the despicable cut imposed by Fianna Fáil. Within months, we raised the minimum wage from €7.65 to €8.65 l Taken 330,000 people of the Universal Social Charge net – This measure benefited low paid, part-time and seasonal workers and helped more people move into jobs. l Safeguarded community employment (CE schemes) – We remain committed to supporting those who are out of work to get real training through work with vital community services. More than €315 million will be spent on CE this year alone. l Delivered for temporary agency workers – Labour in government is making sure that temporary agency workers are given equal treatment to their co-workers in terms of their basic terms and conditions. These protections cover areas such as basic pay, working time, rest periods, overtime, annual leave and public holiday entitlements. l Defending the Croke Park Agreement – We support the Croke Park Agreement because it is delivering much needed reforms in the public service against the backdrop of trust and industrial peace. Croke Park protects low paid workers across the public service. l Protected fair pay and conditions for low paid workers in the private sector – Labour has delivered on its promise to protect the rights of low paid workers. When the Courts struck down the entire Joint Labour Committee (JLC) system, it was Labour, working closely

with colleagues in the labour movement and civil society who brought in new legislation to restore these cherished rights. Mandate members in retail and those who work in areas such as contract cleaning, hospitality, security and hairdressing will have their pay and conditions protected under this system. Mark our words, these systems would not be in place if Labour were not in government. Neither would we have had a scenario where core social welfare payments were protected in last year’s budget. To help those who are in work but struggling to make ends meet, payments such as the Family Income Supplement (FIS) are available. The Revenue Job Assist (RJA) scheme exists to help people who are returning to work and in receipt of certain type of social welfare payment. Remember that it is also possible to get back to work while retaining some benefits such as a medical card, fuel allowance and other such supports. Radical responses to supporting the low paid also need to be considered if people are to take the plunge from welfare to work, and if we are to change the mechanics of the taxation system to provide decent take home pay in certain sectors of the economy and to make work pay. For example, it is our opinion that work needs to be done around refunding unused tax credits for the lower paid as part of a structural reform of the tax system which would help make work, and its innate dignity, real and sustainable.

Gerald Nash is a Labour TD for Louth & East Meath and is Chair of the Labour Party’s Policy Committee John Lyons is a Labour TD and is Vice-Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education

Up and atom, Albert!

Picture: CC Rafeal Estrella Flickr

ALBert einstein was a proud charter member of Aft Local 552 at Princeton University. In 1938 he spoke about why he joined a union... “I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.”

Domestic demand collapse ‘frightening’ tHe collapse in domestic demand in Ireland caused by austerity measures is among the worst in post-war european history, Congress has warned. ICtU Chief economist Paul Sweeney said: "Alarm bells should be ringing in every quarter of Government following the news that domestic demand has suffered a further fall and has now collapsed by a staggering 25.7% since 22

2008. Coupled with the latest disastrous job figures – showing the numbers in work down by 33,400 – the fall in demand is clear confirmation that austerity is squeezing life from the economy. "the collapse in domestic demand since 2008 is truly frightening and must rank among the worst economic performances in europe since the end of World War II, almost 70 years ago,"

Mr Sweeney added. “Domestic demand is crucial in employment creation and retention and is also an indicator of Irish consumers' welfare. “the Budget adjustment must be scaled back and accompanied by a far greater investment programme for jobs. We need an urgent focus on growth. We need to create a virtuous circle of job creation that boosts demand and break free from the current spiral of destruction."

Why I’m in Mandate...

‘Workers are stronger together because there is strength in numbers’

Dan McSweeney, M.D O’Shea’s, Killarney SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


ANALYSIS

Budgets ARE about choices!

ThE budget debate is already starting. Do we cut social protection payments, Child Benefit, public sector wages; do we increase income tax or introduce a property tax? In other words, what choices will the Government make? And that’s the point – budgets are about choices, political choices. Let’s first deal with one misconception. The Troika does not dictate to the Government what spending cuts or tax increases to make. They do not tell the Government the mix of taxation and spending measures to take. how do we know this? Because the Finance Minister, IMF and EU spokespersons have told us. All the Troika insists on is that the deficit be reduced in a sustainable manner. how that is done is up to the Government. Therefore, the Government can choose to continue subsidising private fee-paying schools while cutting resources for children with special needs. It can choose to allow expensive tax breaks for the well-off while increasing taxation on low-income workers. It can choose to cut front-line services while refusing to introduce a wealth tax. There are any number of choices the Government can make. So what kind of choices would be best for the economy? First, let’s look at what is happening. The CSo reported that in the first six months we lost 33,000 jobs. That’s 1,200 jobs destroyed every week. Every job lost means less spending in the economy (which workers in the retail and services sectors need to protect their own jobs and wages), less tax revenue and more unemployment payments. The CSo also reported that growth in the domestic economy is still falling. This means more jobs lost, more businesses under pres-

‘Troika does not dictate which cuts to make... how they are made is up to the government’ sure and less tax revenue for the Government. The Government’s claim that the economy is recovering is just so much spin. More tax increases on low and average paid workers, and more spending cuts will only make things worse. So what should the Government do? The first thing is to substantially increase investment and put more people back to work. This will increase the economy’s capacity to grow while reducing dole queues. This is important for retail and service sector workers. More jobs in the economy means more spending in, among other things, shops, restaurants and pubs which can protect jobs, wages and working hours in those sectors. Next the Government should stop cutting the overall level of spending. of course it must continue to achieve efficiencies in the way that public services are delivered. But the savings they make should be re-invested back into the economy. If the Government cuts

By Michael Taft public sector employment, or wages, or social protection payments, or grants to community groups – all it is doing is driving down spending in the economy. This is what got us in this mess in the first place. The final thing the Government should do is increase taxation – but only on high-income groups. Increasing taxes on workers will force households to, again, cut back on their spending. There is also an equity issue. Low and average income households have already taken the brunt of past tax increases – USC, increased VAT, household Charge, reductions in personal tax credits. Doing this again will put ordinary households under even more pressure. But if we increase taxes on high income groups, they are not likely to respond by cutting back on their spending. This is because they save a lot. So the impact on economic growth will be minimal. These are the three steps the Government should take. If they did, more jobs would be created, not destroyed; we’d have growth – not more recession; and we’d have a smaller deficit – not a larger one. It all comes back to a matter of choices. We should demand that the Government make the right ones. Michael Taft is a research officer with Unite

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

TRIBUNAL

Store assistant was ‘unfairly dismissed’ ThE Employment Appeals Tribunal has found that Ariana Marginean, a general assistant at Wrights airport convenience store, was unfairly dismissed from her job in 2010 after selling alcohol to a customer before a time she was legally able to do so. Mandate Divisional organiser Brendan o’hanlon – who filed the proceedings for unfair dismissal on Ms Marginean’s behalf – welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a good outcome”. Ms Marginean sold the alcohol before 10am which contravened both the Intoxicating Liqueur Act 2003 and company policy. The Tribunal heard she was summoned to a meeting and dismissed within the hour. An internal appeal was later held but no outcome was communicated to Ms Marginean. Mr o’hanlon argued that no account had been taken by the company of Ms Marginean’s unblemished work record – this was her first offence – and the fact that she had worked a long shift the night before the incident happened. Wrights also did not ensure that the area of the shop in which alco-

UCD

hol was displayed was cordoned off and that this had put employees in a difficult position at a busy time of the morning – a fact Mr o’hanlon established by analysing aircraft movements in and out of Dublin Airport before 10am. In addition fundamental breaches of the firm’s internal procedures were identified. The Tribunal agreed with Mr o’hanlon’s arguments and found that the dismissal was unfair. It is understood the claimant had secured a new job immediately after her dismissal and as such was at no loss. Accordingly the Tribunal decided to award the maximum compensation allowable under the Act in those circumstances. Welcoming the decision, Mr. o’hanlon told Shopfloor: “Ms Marginean made an honest mistake in circumstances where the extent of the training she received is questionable. “In addition it is imperative that fair procedures are followed in effecting a person’s dismissal and that sanctions are proportionate.” he added: “This ruling represents a good outcome for Ms Marginean.”

Bar strike deferred after redundancy pay received MANDAte has deferred strike action at UCD Students’ Bar, Belfield, after members of staff received the first of two redundancy payouts as had previously been agreed. Mandate Divisional Organiser Joe Donnelly told Shopfloor: ” We received a commitment that the money due to our members will be paid in two tranches – the first of which they have received today [2nd October]. the second payment is due within the next 10 days. “We have consequently deferred strike action until the second payment has been made. We will continue to monitor this situation.” explaining the background

to the dispute, Mr Donnelly said: “After being informed of the bar’s closure we entered into negotiations. However, the terms that we agreed upon on 15th August were not honoured and our members had not received their redundancy payments and outstanding wages.” As a result, strike notice was served on 21st September and this action was due to start on tuesday, 2nd October. Mr Donnelly added: “We are glad that the workers have received their first overdue payment. Mandate will continue to be committed to making sure our members receive their entitlements.”

It makes sense. Spend your money where workers count. October 2012

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23


COLOMBIA

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore vowed support for Colombian peace process

Picture: Labour Party

Peace hopes By John O’Brien

Justice For Colombia (Ireland) JUSTICE for Colombia (Ireland) is heartened by Tánaiste Eamon Glimore’s pledge of support for the fledging peace process in Colombia. Mr Gilmore made his feelings clear during a recent meeting in Leinster house with a delegation led by JFC (Ire) President Jack o’Connor, of SIPTU, and which included Mandate Divisional organiser Willie hamilton. Noting the long and difficult road ahead, Mr Gilmore assured the delegation that the human rights situation in Colombia was a major priority for the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade. As a starting point, he said he was committed to requesting a full report on the current political and human rights situation in Colombia from the Irish consulate in Mexico. he also suggested that Universal Periodic Review of Colombia – being conducted by the UN human Rights Council next year – would present another forum for keeping the conflict high on the international agenda. other issues discussed related to the EU Free Trade Agreement with Colombia which is coming before the European Parliament later this year. JFC (Ire) has underlined the absolute need to have a robust social chapter incorporated to protect human rights, labour rights and the environment, as required by a resolution passed by a large majority of MEPs in June. Also, referring to the commitment received from Minister Joe Costello when he met the Colombians for Peace delegation in May, Mr Gilmore suggested a joint statement from both houses of the oireachtas in support of the Colombian peace process could be done through Foreign Affairs Committee. Meanwhile, on 27th August Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos confirmed media reports that the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had started preliminary peace talks in havana, Cuba. he also confirmed that the government and FARC have signed an agreement to begin negotiations on 24

a six-point agenda in october. The Norwegian, Venezuelan and Cuban governments have assisted exploratory talks and discussions will begin officially in oslo on october 5th, before returning to havana. It is also suggested that another guerrilla movement, the National Liberation Army (ELN), will join the negotiations. Colombian civil society organisations have welcomed the talks while highlighting the need for increased international vigilance and support to ensure the negotiations succeed. While this news brings renewed hope that the end 50-year plus conflict is in sight, we must be aware that many peace processes of the past have spectacularly failed, leading to yet more violence. As if to highlight the fragile nature of the process, it has been reported that Andres Gil, a national spokesperson for The Patriotic March movement, was illegally detained on 13th September at Bogota airport, as he was about to leave on a European tour. This action is seen as part of a growing wave of persecution against activists involved in the new political movement which brings together indigenous, peasant, trade union and other civil society organisations. More seriously, earlier in August, Claudio Esterilla, the AfroCaribbean leader of the Committee for the Development of the Black Community, was discovered with a serious head wound after being shot in the municipality of Santiago de Cali. he was taken to hospital and is currently in intensive care. Death threats, attacks and intimidation of local people have become increasingly frequent since the start of the year. Meanwhile, JFC (Ire) have also announced the latest political prisoner campaign on behalf of omar Alfonso Combita. omar is a teacher trade unionist, who has been detained since october 2011 without being convicted of any crime. Full details on www.ictu.ie/globalsolidarity Justice for Colombia is a campaign network for the ICTU Global Solidarity Committee. For further information contact jobrien@into.ie SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Dunnes worker was ‘dismissed unfairly’ MANDATE Divisional organiser Michael Meegan has claimed a recent case brought before the Employment Appeals Tribunal by a former Dunnes Stores worker highlights the unacceptable conditions that some employees at the national retailer are being subjected to. he made the comment after Christina Knowles was awarded €10,000 in compensation after the Tribunal found her dismissal in July 2009 from the Ilac Centre outlet for so-called “grazing” while on duty to have been unfair. Mr Meegan said: “This case again highlights the unacceptable conditions some Dunnes Stores employees are subjected to and the blatant refusal of Dunnes management to afford some of its staff fair procedures as outlined by the Tribunal.” At the Tribunal, Mandate had argued that as a restaurant worker, it was common practice for employees, such as Ms Knowles, to taste food to check out its quality. But Dunnes management maintained this was against procedure. The union further argued that Ms Knowles was unaware of this and that management should have warned staff that such actions were against company rules and if they continued the practice should face disciplinary action up to dismissal. Management failed to issue such a warning but instead decided to dismiss staff, including Ms Knowles. Mandate claimed Dunnes management had breached their own procedures by not giving Ms Knowles’ proper hearings and not informing her of the purpose of such meetings. She was not allowed the right of trade union representation at her hearings and was denied the right of appeal. The Tribunal was told Ms Knowles was not informed that the CCTV used in the store had been updated and would be used to monitor staff. In its determination, the Tribunal found Dunnes had failed to abide by

BRASS TACKS

Bankers’ ATM

By Eugene McCartan

Michael Meegan: ‘Unacceptable’

its own handbook and procedures by not warning Ms Knowles that her actions were wrong and, if continued, could lead to disciplinary action up to dismissal. It stated that “such failure was unfair and unreasonable and constitutes a failure on the part of the respondent to adhere to its own procedures in undertaking a proper and thorough investigation of the situation”. The determination continued: “… that the claimant’s behaviour in ‘grazing’ on food, whilst clearly reprehensible did not amount to misconduct in circumstances wherein the manager of the cafe failed to ensure the implementation of company policies in relation to hygiene and staff sales. Therefore, the respondent ought to have issued a verbal or written warning…” The Tribunal found the dismissal to be unfair and awarded compensation of €10,000. Mr Meegan added: “I would reiterate the importance of Dunnes staff and all other employees working in retail to join a union such as Mandate who have the expertise to represent such members within the retail sector.”

ANOTHER BILLION TO THE BONDHOLDERS...

Repudiate The Debt Campaign ThE national media are whipping up a storm and piling on the pressure about what the next budget is going to heap upon us all, creating a smokescreen behind which the government will have quietly handed over on october 1st another €1 billion of your money to unsecured, unguaranteed AIB bondholders. The government plans to cut €3 billion or more in spending yet will hand over to bankers almost a third of all the combined extra taxes and cuts proposed for the 2013 budget. Not a dicky-bird from the same media about this robbery of the people. our country has become one big ATM machine. Workers load their wages into the back of the machine, and the bankers take the money out of the front of it. They win, we lose. By the end of 2012 we will have paid about €7 billion – 11% of current spending – just servicing this debt, as well as paying another €3 billion or €4 billion over to bondholders. So all the cuts in health, education, social welfare, pensioners’ allowance and home helps are to pay a debt that does not belong to us in the first place. We are being fleeced,

threatened, and bullied, told that we have no choice but to pay it. Working people are being picked off, one group at a time. Right now public sector workers are in the firing line. Yet if we look at wage levels, 40% are paid less than €40,000 a year, and 75 % are on less than €60,000. In all branches of the economy, and not just industry, the average wage fell by almost €8 a week— from €36,179 in the first quarter to €35,767.68 in the last figures, a drop of 1.1%. So the majority of workers, whether in the public or the private sector, are not overpaid. And we have to ask the question, overpaid in relation to what? If you are up to your neck trying to pay a mortgage on a house that you will never be able to sell, and have little money left to pay other bills or to feed your family, then you are not overpaid. This is all about getting workers arguing among themselves about who is being paid too much or too little, while the government moves in and hands over more and more of your wages to foreign bankers, and we are too busy arguing to notice. one of the latest moves is not to cancel the debt or burn the promissory notes and tell the rich and powerful to go jump – no, the clever

lads and lassies of this government are talking about extending the period of debt repayment to 40 years. So not only you yourself but your children and your grandchildren will be paying it. This is a bankers’ dream. They will have a constant flow of additional profits from the wage packets of Irish workers for generations to come. We have a choice to make – continue to live under the constant stress and threat that we are all under, and see little prospect of moving forward, or liberate ourselves and simply tell the government we have had enough. This debt is simply not payable – it is too big. All this suffering is simply unnecessary, and unsustainable. We have all been in situations where we have worried about something and what may or may not happen if we do this or that. But once you have made the decision, you feel the weight lifting off your shoulders and you can see light ahead. This is what we have to do – lift the bank debt off our shoulders by telling our politicians and the EU that we are simply not prepared to pay it any more.

Why I’m in Meeting with Mandate... Clearwater ‘We need to make Mandate a stronger union and only together can we stop employers taking advantage of workers’

Elaine O’Reilly, Boots, Grafton St, Dublin October 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

MANDAte has sought a meeting with management at Clearwater Pharmacy in finglas after it was announced the firm was proposing changes to rosters and pay. Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor the union was committed to “constructive engagement” on the issue but warned any unilateral changes to terms and conditions would “not be entertained”. He added: “Industrial relations in the community pharmacy sector have been difficult in recent times but Mandate trade Union will always strive to ensure members’ interests are best protected.”

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TRAINING

The challenges facing women Mandate’s team at Women’s Voice seminar: (from left) Aileen Morrissey, Doreen Curley, May Mulhall, Aideen Carberry, Sandra Stapleton, Helen Griffin, Linda Tanham and Inga Sperlina Pictures: John Chaney

By Sally Ann Kinahan

Assistant General Secretary, ICTU ThE financial crisis has brought about dramatic changes to the labour market. Everyone is aware that there are fewer jobs and greater job insecurity as unemployment has soared and the effects of the economic collapse and ill-conceived austerity measures hit home. Less discussed impacts of the continuing crisis on work include the shift from workers being employees to becoming self-employed, the rise of part-time working, the reduction of working hours and increased flexibility sought by bosses – particularly in services sectors such as retail – which has led to reduced incomes

LETTERS

Sally Ann Kinahan

and pushed many families to the edge in terms of their ability to cope. The deteriorating situation in relation to the world of work and how it is impacting on working women was just one of the areas discussed at the recent 'Women's Voices' seminar organised by unions, including Mandate, and Skillnets, which attracted a full attendance of women activists from across the trade union movement. The seminar participants considered many of the challenges facing women at work. one of the interesting 'crisis' outcomes discussed is the fact that for the first time on record, there are now more women employees than men due to the collapse of employ-

ment in construction. A total of 52% of jobs are now held by women – although over a third of those are part-time jobs. The other BIG FACT is that women workers earn significantly less than men. The gender pay gap – the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women – is a problem that refuses to go away and is a clear indication of deep-rooted inequalities in the world of work. on average, women are earning almost 13% less then men per hour. When this is looked at in the context of women dominating in the lowest paid jobs, working fewer hours and taking time out to have children and rear families, a much worse picture emerges of women's incomes

and – importantly – entitlements to benefits, including pensions. how the trade union movement is addressing the persistent inequality experienced by women received much attention, as did how unions are responding internally to the challenge of an increasing female membership. The view of speaker after speaker at the Women's Voices seminar is that much more needs to be done by unions to engage women at work, involve them in union organisation and in supporting them to take on positions of responsibility within their unions. There is a broad consensus that the more women are actively involved at every level of their union, the greater the emphasis is on the

We must stand firm Empowering women activists to fight this injustice Dear editor, I WAS struck – and moved – by the great passion shown by our activists and shop stewards in their contributions at conference earlier this year. And I left Wexford energised by our union’s fighting spirit in defence of members’ rights. As we all know a few employers are using the recession as a tool to dismantle terms and conditions – but we all have to be strong and not give in to their demands. We also have to fight our own government over how it is turning us all into the working poor – even on retirement. We are not safe. 26

Legislation passed in 1997 but which only came into effect last April – with no announcement or warning from the government – will leave tens of thousands of women with dramatically reduced incomes in their old age. The new rules will disproportionately affect women who took time out from work to raise children in the 1970s. Is there no end to the disregard being shown to the young, old and the sick? We will all have to stand firm to fight this injustice. Joan Gaffney Mandate President

Dear editor, I RECENTLY attended a day long course run by Trade Union Skillnet entitled Women’s Voices – Is the Trade Union Movement Listening? Initially the answer in the room was a resounding and forceful “No!” But during the course of the day a wonderful thing happened: as we listened to the speakers share their experiences and challenges with us, the mood in the room notably changed. The result was a challenging debate on what we have been doing both right and wrong in our various capacities as women advocating other women within the trade union movement. For me the most powerful message I took away is that it is time to move outside our comfort

zone. It is time to challenge ourselves and other women around us to start making personal changes, become motivated to move forward with intent and purpose. We have a voice but we also have a responsibility to use it. Every member is important. Everyone has the capacity to do that little bit more within their own environment. We all need to be supportive of individual members to encourage them to be more active within our union, to become shop stewards and if it’s their aim to enter into step-up programmes, to train as union officials. I believe that we must follow their example and rekindle that passion within ourselves and start to believe in what is possible for us! The tools

are there! There is the Trade Union Skillnet and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills. What I got from attending that seminar was a renewed and passionate message that YES women have a voice and YES it will be heard because now more than ever what we have to say is pertinent and there is the commitment to make it happen. I hope this is the first of many days where like-minded women come together to listen, encourage and support one another. Sisters united! Mise le meas Helen O’Keeffe

SHOPFLOOR

y October 2012


at work... Linda Tanham, former Mandate AGS, now worker member with Labour Court

‘For the first time on record there are now more women employees than men due to the collapse in construction’

Mandate’s Sandra Stapleton listens to one of the contributions at seminar

issues that matter most to them and on inequality generally. Interestingly, research undertaken by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has identified that women now hold at least 50% of shop steward/workplace representative positions within unions – undeniably the most important role in union organisation. Research also shows that women are willing to take on more responsibility within their unions – they just need to be asked and then given the training and support to equip them to undertake the task with confidence. Women in trade union leadership is the big challenge for all of us to take action on.

PICTURE THIS...

FETAC awards success for many members

A “SIGNIfICANt number” of Mandate members and staff who have taken part in Mandate training courses have successfully achieved a fetAC award, it has been revealed. Aileen Morrissey, the union’s National Co-ordinator of training, told Shopfloor: “Many of our members were apprehensive starting their courses but they soon settled in and enjoyed the experience. “Members attending a training course often speak about the friendships they make, how they support each other and how they want to attend other courses in the future.” Ms Morrissey said that several members had now completed three or four courses and were “well on their way” to gaining a major award. She pointed out this was especially significant since some of these members “may not have attended training since they left school.” Courses on offer include: l the trade Union representative course, which gives Mandate shop stewards the skills and competences that they need to carry out their role in the workplace. the advanced course can lead them on to a fetAC level 5 award, l the communications course takes the learners into the areas of media, advertising, personal communications, group communications, presentations and social media, l the computer courses helps learners use a PC, send emails and surf the web with the advanced courses leading on to further packages, and l the Maths course explains how to make use of maths in everyday life. Ms Morrissey added: “Congratulations to all Mandate members who attend training as you have taken time out to invest in yourself. “It is the time of year that a large number of Mandate members have taken a giant step forward into training.” If you would like to follow in their footsteps, please contact Mandate’s training centre at 01 8369699.

AND FINALLY...

A look at profit motive in an age of austerity... By Ciaran Campbell

Mandate Industrial Officer reCeNt reports of high-profile individuals falling victim to the collapse of financial investment firm Custom House Capital seems like the outer skin of that unravelling onion, the so-called Celtic tiger. On reflection, it seems obvious that many of Ireland’s richest people were charmed by the lure of lucre during the boom years. Some no doubt may have used their privileged position to influence our political classes on economic policy. Who knows? While the bankers, property developers and many politicians have been rightly lambasted for orchestrating the country’s economic collapse, it is not lost on the more acute observer that they represented but a small section of those who eagerly jumped on the financial gravy train. Many others in wider Irish society sought to accumulate yet more wealth and make a quick buck by investing in a plethora of financial products available on the market. And of course the building of this house of cards – in an Ireland dubbed “a growing and prosperous country” and “one to do business with” – was encouraged by our political masters, no matter what their political hue! there is no doubt that even when in opposition

Ireland’s political parties failed to police a system that was clearly rushing head-long into a brick wall. In doing so many of them must share the complicity for what has happened. As Ireland’s economic woes continue we will no doubt read more and more reports of top salary earners facing ruin when complicated financial products hit the buffers. Many of the professional elite have massively contributed to Ireland’s economic misery by doing what they do best – making lots of money. the question is where was all the judicial and financial oversight that could have stopped this happening in the first place – thus protecting or, at least, cushioning all of Irish society from the resulting economic bankruptcy? Some claim there was only ‘light touch’ policing of this crass clamouring for more and yet more wealth (and the creation of more and yet more debt). Others even suggest there was no oversight whatsoever! Whatever the truth, it is evidently clear that all of these failed financial indulgences have disproportionately impacted on those in Irish society, who now have to anxiously wait for future successive austerity budgets that will carve a swathe through their disposable and necessary incomes. the price of profit!

A Mandate statement made it on to this ‘strapline’ in this recent broadcast in next to no time... congratulations to the quick-thinking Vt editor!

October 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

Big-hearted Mandate delegates who attended the BDC earlier this year in Wexford raised €3,000 for local charities. Cheques were handed over to the charities AWAre, St Vincent de Paul and the rNLI at Whites Hotel, Wexford, on 28th August. each organisation received a €1,000 cheque. Mandate members were thanked by the charities for their generosity and were assured that the donations would be put to good use. Pictured above (from left): Jim Goggin, AWAre, NeC member Cathy O’Connor, who is secretary of the Wexford Local Council of Mandate, Wexford LC chairperson George Lacey, Kitty Hynes, of St Vincent de Paul, Betty Dillon, Divisional Officer, South eastern Division of Mandate and rNLI representative eithne Coulter

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DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A MEMBER ORGANISER? Mandate is providing members with a unique development opportunity for a period of up to 3 months to be part of our exciting and innovative Step Up programme. This is an initiative open to Mandate members only in the following participating companies: Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Penneys, Shaws, Superquinn and Brown Thomas.

Applicants must be available to attend an Organising Assessment Day on Saturday 17th November 2012 in Mandate’s Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate their commitment to union values and the ability to organise workers. These positions are based in our Head Office in Dublin and successful applicants must commit to working unsocial hours when the needs of the Organising Department dictate. Go to www.mandate.ie for details of the Step Up programme and to download an application form.


ShopFloor October